Problems of the Rule of Law
The rule of law is defined as the supremacy of law over everybody in a political system. Rule of law is seen as a provision made by the constitution with emphasis on supremacy of the law, equality before the law and the presence or inclusion of the principle of individual rights.
The law should be able to guide every individual and activities in a state. According to Professor A.V. Dicey, the political leaders that are entrusted with the affairs of the state should abide by the rule of law and govern the people according to the provisions of the constitution of that particular countiy.
He maintained that when this is respected, there will be absence of arbitrary government. In addition, powers in government, should not be concentrated in the hands of a few individual but should be exercised by different institutions to make for good governance.
Problems of the Application of the Rule of Law
A number of factors limit the application of the rule of law.
- Where there is military government, it is difficult to apply the rule of law.
- The maintenance of the rule of law may be threatened under emergency conditions. There are three conditions for declaring a state of emergency, namely:
- As a result of natural disaster or under any intemal disorder.
- Any situation which is likely to put the lives of individuals in danger.
- Where there is the need to ensure the security of the country from: extemal attack.
During emergency situations, the law enforcement agencies appear to have been given unlimited powers to trample on the liberty of the individuals.
- Ignorance of the law may inhibit the application of the rule of law. You can only assert what you know. But given the low literacy level and high level of poverty in many developing nations, it is difficult for people to enforce their rights m the court.
- The high cost of litigation and delay in court processes may even discourage an individual from enforcing his rights.
- The lack of judicial independence may hinder the application of the rule of law.
- Where judges lack integrity, the rule of law may be wrongly applied.
- People who enjoy diplomatic immunity are exempted from prosecution for breaches of the law.
- Local customs and traditions may run counter to the rule of law. What happens to the rights of the sellers and buyers?
- Delegated legislation may also hinder the application of the rule of law.
- The regulations are so many that many people may not even know of their existence. Yet they have to be enforced like laws made by the legislature. The result is that many people are punished for breaking laws whose existence they are not aware of. This may be unfair to the ordinary citizens who are not directly connected wi the bodies, which make the rules.
- Administrative tribunals which are usually established by the executive tend to make the executive both a prosecutor and a judge.
- The criminal justice system may hinder the application of the rule of law especially in developing countries where injunctions are sometimes granted to pervert the course of justice. Similarly, many people are held in prison for several years without trial.
- Total neglect or disobedience of the fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution may render the rule of law ineffective.
- The control of the press by the government may adversely affect the application of the rule of law.