All law must apply the principle of equality before the law.

OVERVIEW

Equality before the law, also known as equal protection of the law, is an ancient legal principle thought to be the very foundation of the modern Western liberal democratic system. In general, this principle means that everyone, regardless of their station in life, whether they be aristocrats, politicians, business magnates, or ordinary citizens, are bound in the same way by the law.

ELEMENTS OF THE IMPERATIVE

Principle – The principle of equality before the law is however subject to certain well-recognised exceptions. These exceptions are restricted to only those cases that are universally recognised to be legitimate. So, for example, infants and minor children are subject to different legal rights and obligations to those of full legal capacity (adults). Adults of diminished mental capacity do not have the same legal status (either by way of rights or obligations) as those who are not so disadvantaged.

Equality before the law – This principle is central to the Rule of Law notion that the law is the supreme authority. Those who make and administer or enforce the law, are equally subject to the law with those who are seen to be subjected to its command.

RELEVANT JURISPRUDENCE

Core – Sections 7(1), 9(1) of the Constitution.

Supporting – Sections 1(a), 36, 39(1)(a) of the Constitution.

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The Rule of Law Project is an initiative of the Free Market Foundation (www.freemarketfoundation.com) and is dedicated to giving substance to section 1(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which provides for the supremacy of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.