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Chapter: 11th 12th std standard Political Science History goverment rule laws life Higher secondary school College Notes

Meaning, Definitions, Sources Of law

In the most widely understood sense, the term 'law' refers to a body of rules enforced by the courts.



In the most widely understood sense, the term 'law' refers to a body of rules enforced by the courts. There are as many social laws and physical sciences laws, which are connected with the behaviour of man in a society.


Students of political science are not concerned with physical laws or social laws but with political saws or positive laws.


These positive laws command the individuals to do certain things and not to do certain things. If this is violated, it will be punishable. Thus, the concerns of political or positive laws are control and regulation, as said earlier. The study of law is called jurisprudence.


'Without law, there is no order, and without order men are lost, not knowing where they go, not knowing what they do' - Mac. Iver. 'Law is the system of rights and obligations which the state enforces' - T.H. Green. 'Law is any general rule which desires to do or abstain from doing a class of acts, and for the disobedience of which some penalty may reasonably be expected by the person disolbeying '-Sidgwick.



Sources of law indicate those factors that might have attributed for the origin and evolution of law. In the words of Mac Iver, 'the state is both the child and the parent of law.' Of the three organs of the government, namely, the legislature, executive and the judiciary, legislature is the organ empowered to make laws, while the executive and judiciary branches implement and interpret the laws respectively in the context of a fully developed state. Apart from legislature, there are other sources of law as well. They are,

1. Custom or Usages :


By custom, it is meant that a practice followed repeatedly by people generation after generation. It is formed in much the same way as a path formed across a field. They were the laws know in early states. As long as social relationships were simple, and common interests few, all knew and followed the accepted customs, which were handed down through oral tradition by the elder members


To the sanction resulting from immemorial custom was often added religious authority, since law and religion were not distinguished, and all rules were supposed to have a supernatural sanction.


Many of the customs grew out of religious practies, and superstitious fear of angering the Gods or of arousing evil spirits gave powerful support to all early rules.

 2. Judicial Decisions :


These are also called adjudication. Under changing conditions, such as resulted from new environment, new methods of life, or contact with other people, several difficulties arose. Numerous controversies led to doubt as to the relative validity of conflicting customs and many cases arose concerning for which custom furnished nor rule.


The evils of uncertain public opinion and the injustice of the strong, when customary rules were absent, led to an additional source of law, namely adjudication, or judicial decision. The decisions of the Roman Practor and of the English Chancellor were examples of laws thus created.

3. Scientific Commentaries :


The writings of great jurists have sometimes contained legal principles, which have been incorporated into law. Lawyers and judges attach importance to their carefully considered opinions.


Unlike judges whose decisions apply to particular cases, the commentators deal with abstract principles; and what the law makers and courts deal within legal science in a piecemeal fashion, legal science views as a complete system capable of scientific treatment.


The influence exercised by the jurists in Rome, and by Coke, Blackstone in England and Kent in America are modern times examples.


4. Legislature :


This is the direct source of law at present, and the most important one. Legislatures are regarded as 'law making factories.'


New laws are framed, the old ones amended and the existing laws abolished. In spite of the decrease in the influences of other sources of law, the legislator bears in mind the customs, religious practices, judicial decisions etc.

5. Equity :


Equity means fairness or justice. It is also one kind of judge made law. It is a non - conventional method of adopting old laws to new conditions. It supplements the existing law and makes an addition to it. Sometimes the courts maybe confronted with the disputes about which the law is silent. Under those circumstances, the courts decide the dispute taking recourse to equity.


Obviously, as a source of law, equity arises from the fact that as time passes and new conditions of life develop, positive law becomes unsuitable either the old should be changed or adapted by some informal method. Thus equity enters to fill the viod. In the absence of a positive law, judges decide the cases on general principles of fairness, reasonableness, common sense and natural justice. The principles of equity thus supplement the premises of law, where they are subject to specific terms by the state.

6. Religion :


     Allied to the source of custom is that of religion. It finds sanctions in the religious scriptures of the people. Since times immemorial, people have reposed their faith in the power of some supernatural agencies and tried to lay down rules for the regulation of their behaviour. The words of priests and the contents in holy books also provided some sources to law making.

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11th 12th std standard Political Science History goverment rule laws life Higher secondary school College Notes : Meaning, Definitions, Sources Of law |

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