The term law is a species of various things in different societies. Many authors, jurists, academicians, etc., have given different definitions to exemplify and explain the meaning of the law. It is erstwhile law that has been equated to the concept of Dharma under the Hindu system. Dharma means duty in different contexts according to Hindu jurisprudence. It derives from the Vedas and is inclined to moral values and a way of life.
In Roman law, the term law is ‘Jus’; in the Islamic system, it is ‘Hukum’; in German, it is ‘Richt’ and in French, it is ‘Droit’. The idea and meaning of these terms are not identical or the same, although similarities can’t be denied.
Law is considered a set of rules applicable to all actions without discrimination. It is a body of rules and regulations based on general principles like fair play, convenience and justice enforced by the State to regulate human activities to foster an organised society. In the widest sense, it involves uniformity of behaviour and actions for civilised society.
Even though there is no general definition of law, however, there are a few definitions given by notable jurists and law dictionaries. They are-
As per Austin, positive law has three main features: Command, Sovereign and Sanction. He states-
“Law is the command of Sovereign.” Rules laid down by political superiors to political inferiors. In other words, body of command by a sovereign member or members of an independent society wherein the author of law is supreme.
Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, said-
It (perfect law) is inherent in the nature of man/woman and can be discovered through reason. It is immutable, universal and capable of growth.
A.V. Dicey gives a precise and compact definition-
“Law is the reflection of Public opinion.”
According to Webster’s New World Law Dictionary, law is-
“The complete body of statutes, rules, enforced customs and norms, and court decisions governing the relations of individuals and corporate entities to one another and to the state. The subset of such statutes and other rules and materials dealing with a particular subject matter. The system by which such statutes and rules are administered.”
Since the law is an elementary part of a civilised society and plays a quintessential role in the daily life of a particular society, many jurists, academicians and legal luminaries have attempted to define and exemplify the term law. This makes it necessary to understand what is the law and its various aspects.
II. Webster’s New World Law Dictionary, Published by Wiley, Hoboken, NJ (2006).