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Rule of Law Index: India Ranks 77 Out of 140; Higher than China But Not Nepal

But what is the rule of law? How is it related to rising authoritarianism? And what does the data for India show?

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Law
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Rule of Law Index: India Ranks 77 Out of 140; Higher than China But Not Nepal
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The 2022 World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index, released on Wednesday, 26 October, indicates that the ‘rule of law’ has declined globally for the fifth year in a row. 

In addition to this, Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of WJP has pointed out:

“Authoritarian trends that predate the pandemic continue to erode the rule of law...Checks on executive power are weakening and respect for human rights is falling.” 

India, with a score of 0.50 on the 'rule of law' index, has ranked 77 out of 140 countries. Meanwhile, China has scored 0.47 and ranked 95,  Pakistan has scored 0.39 and ranked 129, and Bangladesh has scored 0.39 and ranked 127.

Interestingly, Nepal is the best performing country in the neighbourhood, scoring 0.52 and ranking 69. 

But what is the rule of law? What does the data for India show? And how is the 'rule of law' related to rising authoritarian trends?

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WHAT IS THE RULE OF LAW? 

As per World Justice Project’s definition, the rule of law is “a durable system of laws, institutions, norms and community commitment” that delivers the following universal principles:

  • Accountability (of government as well as private actors under the law)

  • Just law (ie law which is clear, publicised, stable and applied evenly; and ensures rights)

  • Open Government (ie accessible, fair and efficient processes by which the law is adopted, administered, adjudicated, and enforced)

  • Accessible and Impartial Justice (ie timely justice delivered by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutral parties who are accessible, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve)

The index examines these four universal principles through the following eight factors:

  • Constraints on Government Powers

  • Absence of Corruption

  • Open Government

  • Fundamental Rights

  • Order and Security

  • Regulatory Enforcement

  • Civil Justice

  • Criminal Justice

A BREAK-UP OF INDIA’S PERFORMANCE

As per the WJP’s press release: “India’s overall rule of law score decreased by less than 1% in this year’s Index.”

While India’s score remains unchanged from 2021 — 0.50, we had scored 0.51 in 2020.

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However, in the press briefing Ted Piccone, Senior Advisor to WJP, noted: 

"Since 2015, we have seen major drops in criminal justice in India.” 

Piccone also added that India has been privy to “big declines in fundamental rights and checks and balances.”

And India’s performance on individual factors does not look very promising either. 

Globally, India ranks 94 out of 140 as far as adherence to fundamental rights are concerned, 111 out of 140 in civil justice,  89 out of 140 in criminal justice and 93 out of 140 in absence of corruption.

Here’s a full break up of India’s performance on a global scale (along with comparison to past year’s scores):

  • Constraints on Government Powers — 0.58 factor score (with a dip of 0.01) — 52/140

  • Absence of Corruption — 0.40 factor score (no change) — 93/140

  • Open Government — 0.59 factor score (with a dip of 0.01) — 43/140

  • Fundamental Rights — 0.47 factor score (with a dip of 0.01) — 94/140

  • Order and Security — 0.64 factor score (with an improvement of 0.05) — 105/140

  • Regulatory Enforcement — 0.47 factor score (with a dip of 0.01) — 88/140

  • Civil Justice — 0.43 factor score (with a dip of 0.01) — 111/140

  • Criminal Justice — 0.39 factor score (no change) — 89/140

This essentially translates to a dip of 0.01 in constraints on government powers, open government, fundamental rights, regulatory enforcement and civil justice. Meanwhile, order and security has seen an improvement of 0.05, and India’s performance on factors pertaining to open government and criminal justice remain unchanged since 2021. 

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INDIA, CHINA, NEPAL: COMPARING WITH THE NEIGHBOURS

China, which ranks significantly lower than India on the global scale, has performed better than India in terms of Absence of Corruption (0.53), Order and Security (0.81) and Civil Justice (0.51) and Criminal Justice (0.45). However, their fundamental rights score is far lower than ours (0.26) and Constraints on Government Powers is also significantly less (0.32). 

Thus, China is definitely not some gleaming example of effective rule of law. Needless to say, it also performs poorly on factors associated with an increase in authoritarian tendencies (fundamental rights and constraints on government powers). 

But Nepal is a good example, given that this other neighbour of ours is scoring better than us on several key parameters. These include: Fundamental Rights (0.52), Order and Security (0.73), Constraints on Government Powers (0.59) and Civil and Criminal Justice (0.46 and 0.45 respectively). 

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GENERAL GLOBAL STATISTICS

The top-five highest ranking countries on the general adherence to rule of law scale are:

Denmark — with a score of 0.90
Norway — with a score of 0.89
Finland — with a score of 0.87
Sweden — with a score of 0.86
Netherlands — with a score of 0.83

The bottom five are:

Haiti — with a score of 0.35
Congo, Democratic Republic — 0.34
Afghanistan — with a score of 0.33
Cambodia — with a score of 0.31
Venezuela — with a score of 0.26

Myanmar, since the coup, has seen a devastating decline, scoring 0.36 and ranking 132. We will refrain from revisiting past ranks as the total number of countries recorded by WJP have increased over the years, but a look at past scores might as a fair indicator of this decline:

In 2020, a pre-coup Myanmar had scored 0.42. This is 0.6 points higher than the present score and a significant difference on WJP’s scale (which is from 0 to 1). 

Going by broad global statistics, the index also reveals:

  • • Rule of law declines were less widespread and extreme in 2022, than those recorded in 2021 — “when COVID shutdowns dramatically disrupted justice systems and governments exercised emergency powers”

  • However, two-thirds of the countries that recorded a decline in 2021, declined again in 2022

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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CRUMBLING 'RULE OF LAW' AND RISE IN AUTHORITARIANISM

In the forward to the index, Dr Alejandro Ponce, Chief Research Officer, World Justice Project, noted that globally, the rule of law has “continued to crumble”. Thereby, he added:

“Violence, corruption, and impunity are affecting millions of people globally. At the same time, a growing number of governments are embracing authoritarian tendencies.”

What this essentially means is that an increase in authoritarianism parallels a deterioration in rule of law. That rule of law and authoritarian tendencies have an inversely proportional relationship: while one increases the other dips and vice versa. 

And what does this lead to?

“Together, these circumstances reflect the weakening of institutional mechanisms needed to uphold accountability, to ensure the just enforcement of laws, and to protect human rights,” Ponce adds. 

As per the report, the Index factors associated with rising authoritarianism — respect for ‘fundamental rights’, and ‘constraints on government powers’ — have seen the most dramatic declines.

“Rule of law is also a key underpinning of democracy, which is faltering in many countries around the world,” Anderson notes. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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