Supreme Court on Rule of Law – Quotes

Articles 14, 19 and 21 represent the foundational values which form the basis of the rule of law. These are the principles of constitutionality which form the basis of judicial review apart from rule of law and separation of powers.

Supreme Court
I.R. Coelho vs State of Tamil Nadu – (2007) 2 SCC 1

Before we discuss the merits of the arguments it is necessary to take a conspectus of the constitutional provisions concerning the judiciary and its independence. In interpreting the constitutional provisions in this area the court should adopt a construction which strengthens the foundational features and the basic structure of the Constitution. Rule of law is a basic feature of the Constitution which permeates the whole of the Constitutional fabric and is an integral part of the constitutional structure. Independence of the judiciary is an essential attribute of Rule of law. Articles 124(2) and 217(1) require, in the matter of appointments of Judges, consultation with the Chief Justices. These provisions also ensure fixity of tenure of office of the Judge. The Constitution protects the salaries of Judges. Article 121 provides that no discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the Judge as hereinafter provided. Articles 124(4) and 124(5) afford protection against premature determination of the tenure. Article 124(4) says “a Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except” etc. The grounds for removal are again limited to proved misbehaviour and incapacity. It is upon a purposive and harmonious construction and exposition of these provisions that the issues raised in these petitions are to be resolved.

Supreme Court (Justice B.C. Ray)
(1991) 4 SCC 699,719 – Sub-Committee on Judicial Accountability v. Union of India

It is now a well settled principle of law that the rule of law inter alia postulates that all laws would be prospective subject of course to enactment an express provision or intendment to the contrary.

Supreme Court
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3492 OF 2006

In our constitutional system, the central and most characteristic feature is the concept of the rule of law which means, in the present context, the authority of the law courts to test all administrative action by the standard of legality. The administrative or executive action that does not meet the standard will be set aside if the aggrieved person brings the appropriate action in the competent court. The rule of law rejects the conception of the Dual State (2 ) in which governmental action is placed in a privileged position of immunity from control by law. Such a notion is foreign to our basic constitutional concept.

Supreme Court
1969 AIR 33 1968 SCR (3) 655

Equality is a dynamic concept with many aspects and dimensions and it cannot be “cribbed, cabined and confined” within traditional and doctrinaire limits. From a positivistic point of view, equality is antithetic to arbitrariness. In fact equality and arbitrariness are sworn enemies; one belongs to the rule of law in a republic while the other, to the whim and caprice of an absolute monarch. Where an act is arbitrary, it is implicit in it that it is unequal both according to political logic and constitutional law and is, therefore, violative of Article 14.

Supreme Court
E.P. Royappa v. State of T.N. (1974) 4 SCC 3, 38

If there is one principle which runs through the entire fabric of the Constitution, it is the rule of law and under the Constitution it is the judiciary which is entrusted with the task of keeping every organ of the State within the limits of the law and thereby making the rule of law meaningful and effective.

Supreme Court
S.P. Gupta vs Union of India AIR 1982 SC 149, 223-224

It has to be borne in mind that the principle of non arbitrariness which is an essential attribute of the rule of law is all pervasive throughout the Constitution; and an adjunct of this principle is the absence of absolute power in one individual in any sphere of constitutional activity….The rule of law envisages the area of discretion to be the minimum, requiring only the application of known principles or guidelines to ensure non-arbitrariness, but to that limited extent, discretion is a pragmatic need. Conferring discretion upon high functionaries and, whenever feasible, introducing an element of plurality by requiring a collective decision, are further checks against arbitrariness.

Supreme Court
(1998) 7 SCC 739, 754

In interpreting the constitutional provisions in this area the court should adopt a construction which strengthens the foundational features and the basic structure of the Constitution. Rule of law is a basic feature of the Constitution which permeates the whole of the Constitutional fabric and is an integral part of the constitutional structure.

Supreme Court
(1991) 4 SCC 699,719 – Sub-Committee on Judicial Accountability v. Union of India

Now if we look at the various Constitutional provisions including the Chapters on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, it is clear that the rule of law permeates the entire fabric of the Constitution and indeed forms one of its basic features. The rule of law excludes arbitrariness; its postulate is ‘intelligence without passion’ and ‘reason freed from desire’. Where we find arbitrariness or unreasonableness there is denial of the rule of law. That is why Aristotle preferred a government of laws rather than of men. ‘Law’ in the context of the rule of law, does not mean any law enacted by the legislative authority, howsoever arbitrary or despotic it may be. Otherwise even under a dictatorship it would be possible to say that there is rule of law, because every law made by the dictator howsoever arbitrary and unreasonable has to be obeyed and every action has to be taken in conformity with such law. In such a case too even where the political set up is dictatorial, it is law that governs the relationship between men and men and between men and the State. But still it is not rule of law as understood in modern jurisprudence, because in jurisprudential terms, the law itself in such a case being an emanation from the absolute will of the dictator it is in effect and substance the rule of man and not of law which prevails in such a situation.What is necessary element of the rule of law is that the law must not be arbitrary or irrational and it must satisfy the test of reason and the democratic form of polity seeks to ensure this element by making the framers of the law accountable to the people….There are three Fundamental Rights in the Constitution which are of prime importance and which breathe vitality in the concept of the rule of law. They are Articles 14, 19 and 21.

Supreme Court
Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab 1982 Indlaw SC 195 at paras 196-197

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