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Rule of Law Index

Published: 22nd Jun, 2020

The Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea seeking a direction to the Centre, states and UTs to set up expert committees to improve India’s “pathetic” 69th global ranking on the Rule of Law Index (RLI).


The Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea seeking a direction to the Centre, states and UTs to set up expert committees to improve India’s “pathetic” 69th global ranking on the Rule of Law Index (RLI).


  • The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index is the world’s leading source for original, independent data on the rule of law.
  • Covering 128 countries and jurisdictions, the Index relies on national surveys of more than 130,000 households and 4,000 legal practitioners and experts to measure how the rule of law is experienced and perceived worldwide. 
  • It is based on a nations'' performance on factors such as government openness, fundamental rights, civil and criminal justice and containing corruption.
  • The World Justice Project defines the ‘rule of law’ system as one in which the following four universal principles are upheld:
    • The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law
    • The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property
    • The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, efficient, and fair.
    • Justice is delivered by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

Rule of law in India

  • The concept of Rule of law is of old origin and is an ancient ideal. It was discussed by ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle around 350 BC.
  • The phrase ‘Rule of Law’ is derived from the French phrase ‘la principe de legalite’ (the principle of legality) which refers to a government based on principles of law and not of men.
  • In India, the concept of Rule of law can be traced back to the Upanishads. Even today, the scheme of the Indian Constitution is based upon the concept of rule of law. 
  • The doctrine of Rule of Law as enunciated by Dicey has been adopted and very succinctly incorporated in the Indian Constitution. The ideals of the Constitution are enshrined in the Preamble itself (which is part of the Constitution)-
    • Justice
    • liberty
    • equality
  • The Constitution of India has been made the supreme law of the country and other laws are required to be in conformity with it.
  • Any law which is found in violation of any provision of the Constitution, particularly, the fundamental rights, is declared void.
  • Rule of law in a plain language can be defined as a situation in which the law of the land is superior than the government ruling the land. 

The plea

  • The plea had sought constitution of expert panels “comprising at least one renowned jurist, people representative, public servant, economist, educationist, social activist and journalist,” to suggest steps to improve India’s pathetic 69th international ranking in Rule of Law Index”.
  • India has never been ranked even among top 50 in the Index, but successive governments did nothing to improve international ranking of India.
  • The plea said: “Injury caused to the public is large because India ranked 69 in the Rule of Law Index. It confirms poor performance across eight factors: constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, public order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.”
  • "Poor Rule of Law has devastating effects on right to life and liberty. It also offends rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21”.
  • The nation’s ranking in the Index “confirms poor performance in eight sectors-
    • constraints on government powers
    • absence of corruption
    • open government
    • fundamental rights
    • public order and security
    • regulatory enforcement
    • civil and criminal justice

Court’s views

      • As per the Supreme Court, this was not an “appropriate case” for the court and a representation to this effect can be made to the government for taking action.
      • The government can take a decision on setting up of the panel to improve India’s RLI ranking within six months.

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