18. The Rule Of Law
From "The Rule Of Law" by LJM Cooray

The rule of law is fundamental to the western democratic order. Aristotle said more than two thousand years ago, "The rule of law is better than that of any individual." Lord Chief Justice Coke quoting Bracton said in the case of Proclamations (1610) 77 ER 1352

"The King himself ought not to be subject to man, but subject to God and the law, because the law makes him King".

The rule of law in its modern sense owes a great deal to the late Professor AV Dicey. Professor Dicey's writings about the rule of law are of enduring significance.

The essential characteristic of the rule of law are:

  1. The supremacy of law, which means that all persons (individuals and government) are subject to law.
  2. A concept of justice which emphasises interpersonal adjudication, law based on standards and the importance of procedures.
  3. Restrictions on the exercise of discretionary power.
  4. The doctrine of judicial precedent.
  5. The common law methodology.
  6. Legislation should be prospective and not retrospective.
  7. An independent judiciary.
  8. The exercise by Parliament of the legislative power and restrictions on exercise of legislative power by the executive.
  9. An underlying moral basis for all law.