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Rule of Law

Rule of Law

A prerequisite for democracy

After the ouster of former prime minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, in Panama Case, there has been a lot of hue and cry both for and against the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Given this state of affairs, it is important to understand the most basic requirements of a true democracy. Most people in our country think that democracy is merely the selection of national executive by means of elections. But it actually is not so because the most important requirement of democracy is the rule of law. 

The World Justice Project’s definition of the rule of law is comprised of the following four universal principles:

1. Accountability

The government as well as private actors are accountable under the law.

2. Just Laws

The laws are clear, publicized, stable and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property and certain core human rights.

3. Open Government

The processes by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced are accessible, fair and efficient.

4. Accessible & Impartial Dispute Resolution

Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals who are accessible, have adequate resources and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

We may conclude in the words of Christian Fleck that “[t]he Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy.”

If we go into the history of the democracy, we would find that people in Britain started demanding the same rights as were available to lords and feudalists in their country. The first success in this regard came in the form of Magna Carta which was the royal charter of political rights given to rebellious English barons by King John in 1215.

The British parliament comprises two houses: House of Lords and House of Commons. Initially, most parliamentary powers rested with the House of Lords but with unrelenting efforts of the people, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom has become the supreme legislative body and even the Prime Minister is elected from amongst the members of the House of Commons.

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