For imperial Britain, it has often been stated, the introduction and maintenance of the rule of law was a cardinal responsibility and indeed the great achievement of empire. But this is a view that has also been strongly challenged. For example, it has been argued that often at times of crisis, maintaining the rule of law collided with the primary responsibility of the colonial state to secure social order, with the state then turning to emergency measures, forsaking the rule of law and legal process. In the early 1930s, the colonial state in Burma faced a major rebellion, and indeed emergency measures were introduced to try the large number of rebels captured. However, this article, drawing on a substantial collection of files created by the trials and the appeals that arose from them, argues that, within that emergency regime, long-established legal processes were retained to a striking degree. In fact, the article concludes, at a time of severe challenge to the colonial order, maintaining the rule of law and legal process became still more critical in the colonial mind, for were it to be forsaken, those charged with running the colonial state would be forced to question its – and their – very purpose.