Rule of Law vs Rule by Law – Difference Between Rule of Law and Rule by Law

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The difference between Rule of Law and Rule by Law is that rule of law provides and guarantees the liberty of the people following it whereas the rule by law does not focus on the liberalization of the common people. In rule of law, the statutes of law form the base for governance and maintaining civic order.

Difference Between Rule of Law and Rule by Law PDF

Law is considered supreme in rule of law. Whereas law made in rule by law favoring area, the interpretation of it by the ruler of the land renders it favourable or hostile for the people subjected to it. Here, we will see the difference between Rule of Law and Rule by Law based on various parameters along with a discussion on Indian perspective.

Difference Between Rule of Law and Rule by Law

The difference between rule of law and rule by law arises from the fact that in rule by law, residents are forced to abide by the rules made by the governing body whereas in rule of law, if majority of the residents agree with the rules, then only it gets implemented.

The Major Difference Between Rule of Law and Rule by Law have been summarized in the table below.

Rule of Law vs Rule by Law

Rule of Law and Rule by Law


Rule of Law

Rule by Law


During the English ruler King James I’s reign, this doctrine was promulgated by the then Chief Justice, Edward Coke.

The term ‘rule by law’ had first originated during King James I rule when he emerged victorious in the fight against the Church and common judicial position bearers.


The government leverages fair and just principles of law to dispense justice and maintain order.

‘Rule by law’ is the exercise of absolute power by the ruler of the land who suspends the just rights of other residents and rules by whim.


All law-abiding citizens of a country come under the purview of the rule of law.

All residents of the area ruled by the tyrant forcefully have to abide by the unconstitutional rules imposed on them.


Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.

Law courts guarantee liberty to people and safeguard their just rights.

People are oppressed and subjugated by dictators or tyrants who assume the position of supreme lawmakers.

The mechanism for handling breach

Legal proceedings can be initiated, or punishment can be meted out to anyone for breaching the law only in approved courts of the country through trial proceedings approved by the Constitution.

Dictators and tyrants enjoy unbridled power; breach of law by them cannot be challenged in any court of law.

Rule of Law and Rule by Law

In India, before independence, the Britishers used to rule by law. However, after India became a sovereign state, the rule of law was established, and legal rights were enshrined in the Constitution.

During the emergency imposed by prime minister Smt. Indira Gandhi’s rule by law had again taken predominance.

Rule by Law and Rule of Law UPSC

Rule of Law and Rule by Law hold important places regarding expected concepts to be asked in the UPSC exam. The UN also follows the rule of law for its functioning, which means all will be accountable to the laws. Rule by law is the type of governance that uses psychological and other ways to persuade citizens to accept the decisions.

What is Rule of Law?

The rule of law is an approach where regulations govern and not men. Rule of law means all rules are applied equally to all country inhabitants. Any offence or breach of law has a distinct penalty, but no individual shall be subject to cruel, uncivilized or prejudiced punishment.

Exemption from Rule of Law

In the Constitution, various articles have been specified to grant exemption to dignitaries and people’s representatives from the ‘rule of law’. These have been discussed below:


People Enjoying Exemption from Legal Proceedings


Members of Parliament (for saying or voting for something in parliament or parliamentary committees)


Members of state legislatures (for saying or voting for something in the legislature or legislative committees)


Indian President and State Governors (for exercising powers during discharging of official duties)


Indian President and State Governors (immunity from criminal proceedings during official term)


Indian President and State Governors (cannot be arrested or imprisoned during their official term)


Indian President and State Governors (exempted from civil proceedings during the official term for actions conducted in a personal capacity, before or after assuming an official role, until two months have expired after delivery of notice).


Laws enacted by State legislatures for the implementation of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) are specified in clause (b) or (c) of Article 39, even though they violate Article 14 (upheld by the Supreme Court of India).

What is Rule by Law?

Rule by Law can evolve a mechanism of pressure. It can give rightfulness to the implementation of laws which may outrageously disobey fundamental human rights. Rule by Law is implemented unequally in the groups, with diverse rules preferring a few community sections.


Rule of Law vs Rule by Law – Key Differences

The key Difference Between Rule of Law and Rule by Law can be analyzed with examples. During the Nazi rule in Germany and, more recently, in North Korea, one can understand the severity of ‘rule by law’, where rulers could mount atrocities on selected communities or people without fear of supreme law.

The rule of law must be preserved under all circumstances to uphold the dignity of human rights.

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