The rule of law meaning

Omobolanle Spaine

1. Drawing upon the constitutional and democratic models you have studied, explain the range and effectiveness of attempts to constrain arbitrary power. (500 words)

Arbitrary power is an act of will or discretion not governed nor limited by any fixed rules or laws. This is a characteristic of mostly absolute governments such as that of Idi Amin of Uganda, Arbitrary power on its own is as a result of democratic deficit within a country or state, thereby giving authorities the chance to exercise unlimited powers within the state according to Hobbes who emphasized a "general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after that ceaseth only at death.

One of the major and most effective constraints of arbitrary power over time is the development of democracy especially direct democracy which originated from ancient Athens the word democracy originated from the Greek words "demos meaning people and "kratia meaning power so it meaning ruled by the governed, this is a major constraint on arbitrary power because by giving the demos a greater say in the matters of the state it reduces the chances a person or a group of people having absolute power, it helps develop individuality within a country, also by enhancing liberty of individuals and a more accountable government it reduces of corrupt use of power and authority and by making the government more accountable to the people due to mediums such as elections were the people pick their leaders it reduces the chances of corrupt practices and abuse of power by government individuals.

Another clearly effective means of limiting absolute power is the principle of the rule of law meaning that no one is above the law. The rule of law also makes it clear that the rights and liberties of individuals are determined by legal rules and not arbitrary authorities. It also states that no one can be punished under the law except with the courts conclude that the law has been breached a good example of the work its success is in Entick v Carrington . Everyone is seen as equal under the law regardless of their social status or their position in the state, M v Home office showed that government officials are subject to the law, A.V dicey used this point as one of the key foundation of the UK constitution when compared to that France were disputes with government are seen in administrative courts separate from civil court cases. The use of the rule of law to reduce arbitrary power is very effective as it ensures the protection of the rights of individuals rather that of governmental power.

Another very ancient doctrine which till now is still been used is the Separation of powers, although this doctrine can be traced as far back to the time of Aristotle, it was best described by French jurist Montesquieu who created the notion that government should be split into three distinct functions Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary and these functions should be vested in three separate bodies in order to reduce excessive power been concentrated in one body. Examples of the effectiveness of this doctrine is in France where there is a complete separation of powers the judiciary is incapable by law to question the validity of law set by the legislative .Although in the UK the three organs of government are not as defined as that in other countries it has a separation to some extent such as judicial independence or judicial refusal to intervene in legislative and executive matters such as parliamentary privilege. In Duport Steels Ltd v Sirs(1980) Lord Denning stated that British constitution was "firmly based on the doctrine "parliament makes the law and the judiciary interprets it.

All the methods are very effective in the limitation of arbitrary power although democracy is the most effective because it gave rise to both separation of powers and rule of law.

2. Evaluate whether individual rights can contend with profound inequalities. Use at least one example in your answer. (500 words)

Individual rights simply speaking are rights of individuals these are the rights which guard citizens against discrimination in contrast to profound inequalities which are situations whereby a particular group is treated unequally based on social status, ethnicity, financial status, age etc these inequalities are generally created by a group or set of people who exercise a some extent of power in a country could be economic or political, thus giving them the power to treat groups unfairly.

The idea of liberal democracy reduces the inequalities in a state because according to Bentham and Mill, liberal democracy is associated with a political ideology that would ensure the duty of those been governed and the governors .It was believed that only through democratic government would there be an adequate means for generating political and economic decision that would be accepted and in the interest of the masses and not a group.

Liberalism as an ideology got from the Latin word liberalis " freedom worthy of a free man. Has helped to protect individual rights from political oppression be it by a monarch, the elite or a group that see themselves as more superior with the help of these ideologies individual rights can contend with profound inequalities because by reduces the power concentrated in a particular group it indirectly reduces the inequality. However profound inequalities has been since ancient Athens, because although Athens was the first democratic state there had a wide range on inequalities based on gender and ethnicity as free men born of Athenian parent had more rights and a greater say in politics that women, who themselves were treated better that non Athenian citizen, so democracy has been able to protect individual rights but not fully.

The Introduction of Human rights and the human rights act 1998.The act which was introduced in 2000 incorporated the ECHR into the domestic laws of the country thereby making it enforceable by UK courts Rights such as the right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal protects the presumptions of the innocent it is not based on gender, age class etc . The Human rights acts protects individual rights from public authorities section 6 makes it unlawful for a public authorities to act in a way that is incompatible with convention rights. The human rights act promotes individual liberty this therefore reduces inequalities in a state Article 5 provides everyone has the right to liberty and security and it also provides that a person can only be deprived of this right in only limited circumstances and in accordance to the law. Examples of cases were individual rights have prevailed Price v UK the condition of detention in both police stations and prisons for disabled people violated article 3.

It is evident that it is not in all circumstances that individual rights can contend with inequalities in situation like voting were people are separated by age because it is only people above the age of 18 that can vote in any kind of elections. Another example in the UK by law the country cannot be run by a catholic that is indirect discrimination based on religion.

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