Dicey's concept of Rule of Law | What is Rule of Law | Dicey Concept

Dicey Concept of Rule of Law

The rule of law refers to the idea that everyone in a society agrees to be governed by and follow the laws of a society. The Rule of law is the political philosophy that all citizens and institutions within a country, state, or community are accountable to the same laws, including lawmakers and leaders
Dicey's concept of Rule of Law | What is Rule of Law | Dicey Concept


According to dicey two important characteristics of British constitution or the sovereignty of parliament and the Supremacy or rule of law. Law is above all. None can claim am exception from it. Dicey, in his “law of the constitution”, give three meanings to the rule of law. 

They are as follows:

Absence of arbitrary power on the part of the government: - ''No man is punishable or can be lawfully made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land. ‘It denotes an absence of arbitrary authority.

Equality of all Persons Before the Law:- The second meaning of the rule of law, according to dicey, is  that, '' every man whatever be his rank or condition, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary  tribunals.'' this means that every person is equal in the eye of law. A private individual enjoys the same protection of law as any high official of the state.

Case Law 1

(Danby’s case) No person may plead Kings Command in defense of his illegal act; nor may he defend his act under cover of the soothing phrase Public Interest.
Case law 2

(Enticle v. Carrinaton) The king's messengers were sued for illegally breaking into the house of the plaintiff and seizing his papers

The third meaning of the expression rule of law is that the rules of the Constitution are the result of judicial decisions: - Rule of law is that the rules of the Constitution are the result of the judicial decisions determining the rights of private persons in particular cases brought before the courts. They don’t depend for their observance on the constitutional guarantees as in certain Federal constitutions. English constitution is a judge made constitution. With us the law of the constitution, the rules which in foreign countries, naturally form part of a constitutional Code, are not the source but the consequence of the rights of individuals, as defined and enforced by the courts, that, in short, the principles of private law have with us been the action of the courts and Parliament so extended as to determine the position of the Crown and of its servants; thus the constitution is the result of the ordinary law of the land.

EXAMPLE In Great Britain, the rights of the citizens depend on a large number of decided cases which have given shape to the English constitution. There is no right without a remedy or, rather, there is no wrong without a remedy Ubi Jus Ibi medium.

Merit and Demerits of the Dicey Concept:


  • Help in making limits to the power of administrative authorities.
  • A major role in growth and recognition of administrative law.
  • Act as a scale for the test of administrative action.
  • It reverses the tyranny and anarchy.
  • It puts legal barriers to governmental arbitrariness.
  • It provides safeguards for the protection of individuals.
  • It gives freedom to the judiciary to control executive who exceeds their jurisdiction.
  • Public welfare should be the dominant consideration.


  • His theory was not fully accepted during that era also.
  • Failed to distinguish between discretionary and arbitrary power.
  • He misunderstood the concept of Droit administration which was actually successful in France.

Basic features of rule of Law as per Dicey

  • Law does not recognize any special rights for any individual or group of individuals.
  • Law does not recognize any distinction between one individual and the other on the basis of religion, race, sex, etc.
  • None is punished without proper trial.
  • All will be tried by the same court under the same law.
  • The rule of law does not give scope to absolute and arbitrary powers to the executive.

Criticism on Dicey's concept :-

Sir Ivor Jennings, In the law and the constitution, has criticized dicey's concept that the rule of law was inconsistent with the use of discretionary powers by the reflected, institutions of the family attire, so far as this is practice able.

Jennings also argued strongly that dicey’s second point ignored the particular responsibilities public officials held by virtue of their roles. In addition, he ignored the special immunities certain categories of individuals have, for example foreign diplomats with diplomatic immunity.

Finally, Dicey third point completely ignored the role of statutes in the constitution. Even in respect of the examples he gives- personal liberties and the right of public meeting-- there are many Statues giving white protections and imposing significant constraints.


Article 4 of the constitution of Pakistan 1973, commands that all the citizens without any discrimination shall be dealt in accordance with law, so enforcement of law leaves no room for creating any distinction between the citizens, except a particular class, on the basis of the intelligible differentia. “Intelligible differentia” means in the case of the law differentiating between two sets of the people or objects, all such differentiations should be easily understood as logical and lucid and it should not be artificial or contrived. “Intelligible differentia” distinguishes persons or things from the other persons or things, who have been left.

Case Law

(2010 SCMR 1899) “Each and every authority under Article 4 of the constitution of Pakistan 1973 are mandated to act in accordance with law. Constitution also obliges every citizen to obey the command of constitution.”

Absence of Arbitrary Power on the Part of the Government: - No action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law;

  1. No extra judicial act
  2. Due process of law


Executive authority has to exercise powers in accordance with law in view of article 4 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 which has prescribed duty on each and every public functionaries to act in accordance with law and not in derogation thereof.

Case Law

(2000 CLR 1422) It is the duty and obligation of public functionaries to redress the grievance of citizens as is envisaged by article 4 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 without fear, favor and Nepotism.


The right of access to justice to all is a well- recognized inviolable right enshrined in article 4 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973.  This right is equally found in the doctrine of due process of law. The right of access to justice includes the right to be treated according to the law, the right to have a fair and proper trial and the right to have an impartial Court or Tribunal.  The term Due process of law can be summarized as follows:

  • A person shall have due notice of proceedings which affect his rights.
  • He shall be given reasonable opportunity to defend.
  • That the tribunal or court before which his rights are adjudicated is so constituted as to give reasonable assurance of his honesty and impartiality
  • That it is a court of competent jurisdiction.


No one is above the law, law does not differentiate between the rich and the poor, if someone violates the law he will be punished without the discrimination.


Article 4 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 explains that equality before the law that means everybody is equal before the law. No body above the law.

No person shall be prevented from or be hindered in doing that which isn't prohibited by law.

No person shall be compelled to do that which the law does not require him to do.


The American democratic system is not always based upon simple majority rule. There are certain principles that are so important to the nation that the majority has agreed not to inforce in these areas. For instance, the Bill of rights was passed because concepts such as freedom of religion, speech, equal treatment, and due process of law were deemed so important that, barring a constitutional amendment, not even a majority should be allowed to change them.

All Persons, Institutions, and Entities are Accountable to Laws:-Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are:-

  • Publicly Promulgated
  • Equally Enforced
  • Independently Adjudicated
  • And Consistent with International Human Rights Principles

The courts play an integral role in maintaining the rule of law, particularly when they hear the grievances voiced by minority groups or by those who may hold minority opinions. Equality before the law is such an essential part of the American system of government that, when a majority, weather or acting intestinally or unintentially, infringes upon the rights of a minority the court may see fit to hear both sides of the controversy in court. 

Article 4 of the constitution of Pakistan 1973.

Right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc.

To enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.

In particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law;

No person shall be prevented from or be hindered in doing that which is not prohibited by law; and

No person shall be compelled to do that which the law does not require him to do.

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Dicey's Concept

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