Rule of Law in the pre-constitution era and its development in the post constitution period

Rule of Law means the supremacy of law or to put it according to A.V. Dicey, who for the first time in 1885 gave a systematic analysis of the rule of law in the context of British Constitution represented the rule of law in three approaches firstly, absence of arbitrary power: secondly, Equality before the law and lastly, constitution a consequence of individual’s right.

If one studies the history of India prior to the advent of the Indian Constitution the rule of law has its groundings from the very beginning of its civilization. It has been asserted by our ancient lawgivers and thinkers, time and again, that the law was above everyone, including the King.

There have been illustrations where the kings have been punished for the violation of the laws of their own kingdom. To mention King Bimbsar had to go to exile for having violated the law of his own kingdom: King Venu was killed for assuming on himself the power of a lawgiver and the example of King Harishchandra, though in a different context, who did not relax obedience to law even in favour of his grief-stricken wife.

Islamic legal system also recognises the supremacy of law and accordingly there is an instance in which Jahangir is said to have given a decision in murder case on the complaint of the widow of a washer man whose husband, by mistake, had been killed by the wife of Jahangir- Nurjahan.

However this concept of rule of law in ancient times did not resemble the concept as it developed in the West during the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was only after the post constitution period in the case of A.D.M. Jabalpur V. S.K. Shukla, Ray CJ., said that ‘the Constitution is the rule of law and that ‘no one can rise above the rule of law in the Constitution. This view treats the rule of law as synonym of the supremacy of law.

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