Definition of Law

What is the definition of law?

The Definition of Law: – Law is a rule of conduct developed by the government or society on a certain area. The law follows certain practices and customs to deal with crime, trade, social relations, property, finance, and more. The law is controlled and enforced by the governing authority. Let us explore in detail the various definitions of law by different authors.

definition of law

The term law is commonly used for three things: –

  1. At first it is used to make “legal orders”. It represents the rule of adjustments of relationship and order conduct by systematic application of force of organized political society.
  2. Secondly, law means the entire legal body which exists in one politically organized society.
  3. Third, the use of law means official control of politically organized society. This gives rise to the real administration of justice and official content to guide judicial action. Law at its narrowest or strict sense is civil law or the law of the land.

Various Definitions of Law by Different Authors

There are broadly five definitions of Law. Let’s walk through each of them briefly: –

  1. Idealistic Definitions of Law: – Rome and other ancient jurists defined law in its idealistic nature. Roman Laws defined in light of Justinian’s idealistic nature.
    1. Salmond’s Definition of Law: – According to Salmond “the law may be defined as the body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of Justice”.
      1. Criticism by Keeton: – Salmond did not define Expression justice. Keeton states that what is believed to be just at one time is often not considered at another time.
      2. Criticism by Dean Roscoe Pound: – Dean Roscoe Pound has criticized Salmond’s definition that it only applies to law and not to statute. Despite criticism, Salmond’s definition is considered as a workable definition.
    2. John Chipman Gray’s Definition of Law: – According to Gray, the law of the state or the law of any organized body of men is composed of the rules which the courts, that is the judicial organ of the body lays down for the determination of legal rights and duties.
      1. Criticism of Gray’s Definition of Law: – Gray’s definition of law is criticized that he focused more on the purposes and ends of the law and not on the nature of laws. Further it does not take into account the statute law.
  1. Positivists Definition of Law: –
    1. Austin’s Definition of Law: – John Austin (1790-1859) An English Jurists expounded the concept of analytical positivism, making law as a command of sovereign backed by sanction. He developed logically, a structure of legal system in which he gave no Place to values, morality, idealism and Justice.
      1. Criticism of Austin Definition of Law: – Austin’s definition of law is subject to criticism on grounds that he completely ignores the fully moral and ethical aspects of law and undeniably emphasized the essential character of the law.
    2. Holland’s Definition of Law: – Thomas Erskine Holland, a reputed Jurist, who followed the Austin’s concept and nature of law attempted to define law as law is a General rule of external human action enforced by a political sovereign. Holland also measures or defines law with preference to sovereign devoid of moral, ethical or ideal elements which are foreign to law and Jurisprudence.
    3. John Erskine Definition of Law: – Law is the command of a sovereign, containing a common rule of life for his subjects and obliging them to obedience.
    4. Hans Kelsan’s Definition of Law: – According to Kelson, legal order is the hierarchy of the norms, every norm derives its validity from the superior norm and finally there is highest norm known as grundnorm.
    5. H.L.A. Hart: – According to Hart Law is the combination of primary rules of obligations and secondary rules of recognition.
  1. Definition of Historical School of Law: – The principal exponent of the Historical School is Von Savigny. Historical Jurisprudence examines the way or enhancement of a legal system and it deals with general principles govern the origin and development of law and also the origin and development of legal concepts and principles found in philosophy law.
    1. Savigin’s Definition of Law: – Savigny says that law is not the product of direct legislation but is due to the silent growth of custom or the outcome of unformulated public or Professional opinion. He says that law not as a body of rules set by determinate authority but as rules consist partly of social habitat and partly of experience. He says law is found in the society, it is found in custom.
    2. Sociological School of Law: – The sociological school commenced in the middle of nineteenth century, according to sociological school the common field of study of the Jurist is the effect of law and society on each other. This approach takes law as instrument of social progress.
    3. Ihering’s Definition of Law: – Ihering defines law as the form of Guarantee of the conditions of life of society, assured by state’s power of constrain. He says law is a means to an end and end of the law is to serve its purpose which is social not individual.
    4. Dean Roscoe Pound’s Definition of Law: – Pound defines law as a social institution to satisfy social wants. He says law is a social engineering, which means that law is an instrument to balance between the competing or conflicting interests.
    5.  Dias’s Definition of Law: – Law consists largely of “ought” (normative) propositions prescribing how people ought to behave the “ought” of laws are variously dictated by social, moral, economic, political and other purposes.
  1. Realist Definition of Law: – It is branch of sociological school. It studies law as it is in its actual working and effects. It has been summed up by its exponent professor K. Llewellyn as “ferment”.
  1. According to Georges Guroitch the neo-realistic school represents a violent reaction against the dominantly theological and moralizing orientation of “sociological Jurisprudence”.

What are the functions of law?

Jurists have expressed different views about the purpose and function of law. It is well known that law is a dynamic concept, which keeps on changing with time and place. It must change with changes in the society. Law, in the modern sense, is considered not as an end in itself, but is a means to an end. The end is securing of social justice. Almost all theorists agree that law is an instrument of securing justice.

According to Holland, the function of law is to ensure the well-being of the society. Thus it is something more than an institution for the protection of individuals’ rights.

Roscoe Pound attributed four major functions of law, namely: –

  1. Maintenance of law and order in society;
  2. To maintain status quo in society;
  3. To ensure maximum freedom of individuals; and
  4. To satisfy the basic needs of the people. He treats law as a species of social engineering.

The Realist view about the purpose and function of law is that for the pursuit of highest good of the individuals and the state as such controlling agency.

Salmond’s opinion about the act of law seems sound and logical.The term “law” refers to a wide variety of rules and principles. Law is an instrument that regulates the human conduct. Law means justice, morality, reason, order and authority from the point of view of society. Law means laws, acts, rules, regulations, orders and ordinances from the point of view of the legislature.

Law means court decisions, decrees, judgments, orders of courts and injunctions from the point of view of judges. Therefore, law is a broad term that includes acts, laws, rules, regulations, orders, ordinances, justice, morality, reason, righteousness, rules of court, decrees, judgment, orders of courts, injunctions, tort, jurisprudence, legal theory, etc. Since the fall of human civilization, mankind has had some sort of rule or that they themselves ruled in societal laws, setting the standard in which we must live if we want to be a part of society.

Law set up rules and regulations for society so that we can have freedom, gives justice to those who were wronged, and it set up that it protects us from our own government. Most importantly, the law also provides a mechanism to resolve disputes arising from those duties and rights and allows the parties to enforce the promises in court (Corley and Reid 1986 PA).

Law is a body of rules of action or authority determined by governing, and a legal binding force. Laws are made because it helps preventing chaos from occurring within the business environment and society.

In business, the law sets out guidelines regarding employment regulatory, compliance, even inter-office rules.

Laws fulfill many functions, but four main functions of laws are: –

  1. Laws Protect Individual Rights and Freedoms: – The Bill at Rights was added to the US Constitution to guarantee many important protections. These laws provide protection to individuals, from other persons, from organizations and even from the government. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibited government law which would interfere with a person’s right to free speech.
  1. The Laws provide a Framework and Rules to Help Settle Disputes Between Individuals: – The laws create a system where individuals can bring their dispute to an impartial tactic, such as a judge or jury. There is also ore legal option where individuals work together to find a solution, such as by using alternative dispute resolution (ADR). There are courts at every level, stranded from local to federal. To decide who should win in a dispute.
  1. Without Law there will be no way to Set the Standard: – It is fairly easy to see why murder and theft are crimes, but laws also provide a framework for setting other types of standards. Without the Federal Code of Regulation, it would be difficult for individuals or businesses to conduct transactions using banks. Federal regulations provide enforceable rules and protections regarding taxes, commercial transactions, and employment laws, insurance and other important areas.
  1. Laws Help Societies to Maintain Order: – What will be the situation if there is no rule of law? You may need to provide your protection as there will be no police force or army. Disputes are un avoidable in the life of society and it is the role of the law to settle disputes. Thus, disagreements that are justiceable will be resolved by law in court or out of court using alternative dispute settlement mechanisms.
  1. Social Change: – A number of scholars agree about the role of law in modern society as instrument to social change. Law enables us to have purposive, planned, and directed social change. Flexibility of law provides some measure of discretion in law to make it adaptable to social conditions. If law is rigid and unalterable, it may not respond to changes spontaneously which may lead to resentment and dissatisfaction among the subjects and may even result into violence or revolution. Therefore, some amount of flexibility is inevitable in law

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