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Law and its Types:

Law is that set of principles and rules which under specific conditions ensure uniformity in the behaviour of an object or individual.

Laws are of two types:

  1. Descriptive/Scientific Law
  2. Prescriptive/Stipulative Law

Descriptive or Scientific Laws are the laws of nature. They are inevitable and unchangeable. The classic example of Descriptive Law is the 'Law of Gravitation'. The Earth pulls the falling objects towards itself because it has strong gravity.

The test of scientific laws is 'true' or false' e.g a stone dropped from the window will fall down. True.

The terms 'right' or 'wrong' are only used to judge factual accuracy. Inertia is directly proportional to the mass of the object. Right.

It is this understanding of these scientific laws that have encouraged human civilization to make advancements in the technological sphere. We are still exploring the various possibilities provided by nature and its laws to further our interests.

Prescriptive or Stipulative Law:

These are man-made laws. For example, rules set by the management of a company for its employees. Sovereign legislative authority makes laws for its community. Such laws are often backed by force or sanctions. Should a member defer from abiding by the laws set by his organization, the organization may punish him.

The test of 'prescriptive law' is its validity. Thus, the question of its 'rightness', 'fairness' and 'reasonability' is raised. What makes descriptive laws distinct from prescriptive laws is that they are beyond our control and they exist outside our will.

All Doomed in a Lawless World:

It is a common tendency that we tend to justify our actions. So, in a lawless world, a criminal will justify his crime. Thomas Hobbes envisages that in the absence of the State, the world is but a lawless land, where there is total chaos and fear prevails in everybody's mind.

Thus, the reason behind man-made law is that just like natural laws maintain order in the universe, prescriptive laws ensure order in the behaviours of humans.

State and its Laws:

It was our social nature that we decided to live in a community instead of isolation. Each community experiences some common problems one of them being want for justice. Thus, a community consolidates itself in some form of system to tackle the common problems. One of the common problems is the want for justice and so various communities live in an amalgamation in a larger organisation called State.

While all sorts of associations, can prescribe rules, it is only States that is empowered to make laws and to punish the offenders for the breach of laws.

The Inter-relationship between Morals and Laws:

Morality is the sense of right and wrong.

Ideally, all laws must have a moral background to them. For when there is a conflict between moral and legal obligations within individuals, they may protest. Thus, immoral laws may encourage strong public protests.

Thus, we see although the sovereign authority may devise laws for its subjects the subjects give legal conformity to the law. Here, comes the principle of legitimacy. O.P Gauba defines legitimacy as

"the quality of an act or arrangement which is regarded as lawful by those affected by it. In other words, they regard it reasonable and beneficial for themselves as well as for the larger society."

Do Laws Really Make Us Moral?

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." - Plato

According to Earnest Barker, laws cannot force a person to become moral or immoral. To Plato, good and sensible people do not require laws at all. It is for the bad people, that State makes law. So, the fear of punishment may deter the individuals from committing crimes and if a person is determined to commit an offence, he will.

Furthermore, not all moral activities can be covered under the law. The state will not make laws which will compel you to do charities or respect your elders. It is often the desire for praise or fear of shame that encourages people to perform such moral activities. If you act disrespectfully to the elderly, society will look down upon you. Thus, such acts which aren't backed by legal sanctions are often backed by social sanctions.

Law and Liberty: How Long are the Arms of Law?

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Liberty is one of the most cherished ideals of democratic states. Liberty means 'absence of restraints'. Law may restrict us from doing certain activities.

Democratic States maintain that it is for the sake of people that laws are made. To curb certain freedom of the individual for a greater cause. Almost all democratic States give you the "Right of freedom of thought and expression", but if an individual misuses it to defame another individual the latter may approach the court, and the former may be tried and punished under the given laws. As the saying goes, "Your freedom ends, where mine begins."

However, in a dictatorial regime, the laws may be harsh and tyrannical and force people to surrender their liberties. The rule of a tyrant is often looked at as unjust as the exploited public loses its voice and the idea of legitimacy becomes questionable. Because tyranny appears illegitimate in the modern age. Many thinkers believe that the State should refrain from making too many laws for it diminishing to the individual liberty and for the development of the individual himself, some substantial amount of liberty should be provided by the State. Thus, most States provide some civil liberties to the citizens.

Rule of Law:

The discussion of law is incomplete without bringing into notice, the famous concept of 'Rule of Law'. A.V Dicey in his book Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution' elaborated the phrase 'Rule of Law'. He said that everyone stands equal before the law. Ordinary Laws are the same for all citizens irrespective of their social or economic status.


Natural laws are beyond the question of legality or illegality. We, humans, are bound by certain State Laws. If we do an activity which is in accordance with the law it is legal otherwise it is illegal. A good citizen will abide by laws a good plus intellectual citizen will go one step beyond and analyze the law and it's impacts. A good plus intellectual plus brave citizen will protest against the laws which unjust or tyrannical in nature. 

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