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What is the rule of law? 

The rule of law is a difficult concept to describe and the scope of the rule of law is wide. The rule of law touches every aspect of life from societal to political and from economic to jurisprudential. 

It is this generality that makes the rule of law a difficult concept to pin down and it is the same generality that makes the rule of law essential to the ideals of democracy.  


The late Tom Bingham defined the primary features of the the rule of law in his publication The Rule of Law as;   


“all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly made, taking effect (generally) in the future and publicly administered in the courts” 


Bingham continues his definition and outlines 8 key ingredients that logically stem from his definition;   


  1. Accessibility of the law (that it be intelligible, clear and predictable)  

  2. Questions of legal right should be normally decided by law and not discretion  

  3. Equality before the law  

  4. Power must be exercised lawfully, fairly and reasonably  

  5. Human rights must be protected  

  6. Means must be provided to resolve disputes without undue cost or delay  

  7. Trials must be fair, and   

  8. Compliance by the state with its obligations in international law as well as in national law  


The concept to be "bound" by the law means that the law is applicable not only to individuals like you or me but to public officials, the executive, the legislative and every other institution or entity. Under the rule of law every entity within the state must follow the law and in order to ensure this is so the judiciary plays an important role.  


Judicial independence is where the rubber meets the road. It through the judiciary that the rule of law is given life and the binding nature of the law is guaranteed. 


It is essential for any functioning democracy to have an independent and impartial judiciary capable of ensuring all are equal before the law and that the concepts of justice can thrive in our societies. Although discretionary power is necessary at times it is important that the arbitrary use of power is prohibited and balanced against the law.   


This is why the rule of law is so important and this is why I write about the rule of law; to help others understand why they should care about the rule of law and why it is relevant to you. 


It is through the rule of law that your freedom is secured.   

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