Introduction to Law for Non-Law/Pre-Law Students by Rohan Pratap Singh | Law Notes | Legal Methods


Law is a rule of conduct developed by the government or society over a certain territory. Law follows certain practices and customs to deal with crime, business, social relationships, property, finance, etc. The Law is controlled and enforced by the controlling authority. According to different schools and thoughts, Law is different in a slightly different fashion. few of them can be seen below-

1. According to Natural School

In the natural school of thought, a court of justice decides all the laws. There are two main parts of this definition. First, to understand a certain law, an individual must be aware of its purpose & second, to comprehend the true nature of law, one must consult the courts and not the legislature.

2. Positivistic Definition of Law

John Austin's law definition states "Law is the aggregate set of rules set by a man as politically superior, or sovereign to men, as political subjects." Thus, this definition defines law as a set of rules to be followed by everyone, regardless of their stature.
Hans Kelsen created the ‘pure theory of law'. Kelsen states that law is a ‘normative science'. In Kelson's law definition, the law does not seek to describe what must occur, but only defines certain rules to abide by.

3. Historical Law Definition

Friedrich Karl von Savigny gave the historical law definition. His law definition states the following theories.
·     Law is a matter of unconscious and organic growth.
·     The nature of law is not universal. Just like language, it varies with people and age.
·     Custom not only precedes legislation but it is superior to it.
·      Law should always conform to the popular consciousness because of customs.
·     Law has its source in the common consciousness (Volkgeist) of the people.
·     The legislation is the last stage of lawmaking, and, therefore, the lawyer or the jurist is more important than the legislator.

4. Sociological Definition of Law

Leon Duguit states that law as "essentially and exclusively as a social fact."
Rudolph Von Ihering's law definition. – "The form of the guarantee of conditions of life of society, assured by State's power of constraint."
This definition has three important parts. One, the law is a means of social control. Two, the law is to serve the purposes of the society. Three, law due to its nature, is coercive.
Roscoe Pound studied the term law and thus came up with his law definition. He considered the law to be predominantly a tool of social engineering.
Where conflicting pulls of political philosophy, economic interests, and ethical values constantly struggled for recognition.
Against a background of history, tradition and legal technique. Social wants are satisfied by law acting which is acting as a social institution.

5.Realist Definition of Law

The realist law definition describes the law in terms of judicial processes. Oliver Wendell Holmes stated – "Law is a statement of the circumstances in which public force will be brought to bear upon through courts."
According to Benjamin Nathan Cardozo who stated "A principle or rule of conduct so established as to justify a prediction with reasonable certainty that it will be enforced by the courts if its authority is challenged, is a principle or rule of law."
As the above law definitions state, human behavior in the society is controlled with the help of law. It aids in the cooperation between members of society. Law also helps to avoid any potential conflict of interest and also helps to resolve them.


Establishing Standards
The law is a guidepost for minimally acceptable action in society. Some activities, for example, are crimes because society (through a legislative body) has determined that it will not tolerate specific behaviors that injure or damage persons or their property. For example, under ordinary state law, it is a crime to cause physical injury to another person without justification—doing so normally constitutes the crime of assault.
Maintaining Order
This is an offshoot of establishing standards. Some semblance of order is necessary for civil society and is therefore reflected in the law. The law, when enforced, provides order consistent with society's guidelines.
Resolving Disputes
Disputes are unavoidable in a society formed of persons with different needs, wants, values, and views. The law provides a formal means toward resolving disputes—the court system. There is a federal court system and each state has its court system.
Protecting Liberties and Rights
A purpose and function of the law are to protect these various liberties and rights from violations or unreasonable interventions by persons, organizations, or government.


law justice and morality are often used interchangeably in layman concepts. Though they all are part of the same system and have a lot of common factors, it cannot be ignored that they connote different meanings in the Legal term.

Law and Justice

"Justice according to the law" is the of justice in society. Dicey has named this principle as "Rule of Law". This includes that everyone is equal before the law and there should be no arbitrariness and law should apply particularly to everyone without any differentiation. ‘No one is above law'

Law and Morals

Morals look into the motive behind the action of the person. The obedience of morals is a matter of individual conscience. Morals are usually universal.
Roscoe Pound stated " As to the application of moral principles and legal percepts respectively, it is said that moral principles are of individual and relative application; they must be applied regarding circumstances and individuals, whereas legal rules are of general and absolute application"


(i) Public and Private law

Public law - Public law is concerned with the constitution & functions of various organs of government including local authorities, their relations with each other and citizens. it consists of those fields or branches of law in which the state has an interest as a sovereign.
ex- Criminal law, constitutional law, Administrative law.
Public law asserts state sovereignty and power.
Private law - private law consists of those fields or branches of law in which the state has no direct interest as the sovereign. it is concerned with day to day transactions of legal relationships between the person. It defines the right and duties of parties.
ex- Law of contracts, Law of Property, Law of succession

(ii) Substantive and Procedural law

Substantive law consists of written statutory rules passed by the legislature that govern how people behave. It creates the right and duties of parties. It provides remedies when the rights are violated as it defines offense and prescribes punishment. ex - Indian penal code
Procedural Law determines how proceedings concerning the enforcement of substantive law occur. it consists of steps or guiding principles or rules of practice to be compiled with or followed in the administration of justice or in the application of substantive law. ex - CrPC, CPC
(iii) Municipal and International Law
International law is a body of rules that regulates the relations between countries/states and other international persons. it is generally based on international agreements of treaties and customary practices of states and general principles.
Municipal law is the law specific to a selective city or county (known legally as a "municipality"), and the government bodies within those cities or counties. This can cover a broad range of issues, including everything from police power, education policies, and property taxes e.t.c

(iv) Civil and Criminal law

Civil law deals with the disputes between the individuals, organizations, or between the two, in which compensation is awarded to the victim. "Preponderance of evidence" The burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. One must produce evidence beyond the balance of probabilities. Civil litigation usually involves some type of compensation for injuries or damages as well as the disposition of property and other disputes.
ex- Landlord/tenant disputes, divorce proceedings, child custody proceedings, property disputes, personal injury, etc.
Criminal law is the body of law that deals with crime and legal punishment of criminal offenses. "Beyond a reasonable doubt": Burden of proof is always upon the state/government. A guilty defendant is punished by incarceration and/or fines, or in exceptional cases, the death penalty.
ex- Theft, assault, robbery, trafficking in controlled substances, murder, etc.

Mr. Rohan Pratap Singh is a Student Editor at MyLawman, who can be reached at [email protected] alert-info

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