Definition, Nature, Purpose & Kinds of law


The term ‘Law’ refers to a set of rules and regulations which are created by the government or any social institution to regulate the behavior of a nation or society. The law of a country shapes it’s politics, history, economics and society and also serves as a mediator between the people. Salmond defined law as “The body of principles recognized and applied by the state for the administration of justice”. Salmond’s definition was criticized on the ground that he did not define justice. Various other scholars have different definitions of law and every other layman has their own way of interpreting the law.

The legal system varies from country to country. Sometimes, the law gets it’s origin from age old customs which is called as customary law or a country’s laws can be based on other country’s laws or custom. Law also raises important and complex concerns regarding equality, justice and fairness. In a country, it is the legislature that makes laws according to societal requirements, the executive which executes these laws and the judiciary which interprets these laws and protects these laws from time to time.


The study of law is called Jurisprudence. The primary motive of law is to maintain law and order in society and also to regulate human conduct. Thus, we can say that law is a social science. Law also depends from country to country and thus, law can also be called as territory specific as one thing which may be considered legal in one country may not be considered legal in the other. Law is dynamic in nature as it continuously changes as and when society undergoes a change. Thus, to keep up with the current times and changing society the laws also have to amended and new laws must be enforced to create fairness in society.

The answer to the question of what is law, has two approaches. The traditional approach links law with morality and justice while the modern approach is based on legal positivism which was ascertained by Austin which said that law is the command of the sovereign which is backed by punishment.


Laws are very essential to maintain societal order and manner. Without laws there would be chaos, uncivilized and injustice and inequality would prevail. Laws ensure equality and protect the citizens from all harm. In a society, laws are made in order to provide stability and it acts like a guideline which helps to bring out the greater good in society.

The law also provides a formal way of sorting put various disputes which arises in a society. The law also protects rights and liberties provided to the citizens. It sets a standard for the behavior which is accepted in society and which is not.


Salmond classified law into different categories which go as follows-:

  1. Imperative law- This kind of law refers to a set of rules and regulations which are set and enforced by a ruler, a government or a statutory body which the citizens of that particular area have to adhere to. If a person commits a breach of these laws, there are repercussions which are to be faced by that person.
  2. Physical or scientific law- Salmond defined this law as the laws which govern the working of the universe like the law of gravitational force or the law of rotation and revolution etc.
  3. Natural Law- Natural laws are based on principles and ideals which showcase the basic idea of what the law should actually be. It originates from wisdom.
  4. Customary Law- These laws arise from customs and traditions which were followed by our ancestors. Salmond stated that customary law meant that any kind of action or rule which was observed by men and was done voluntarily. These customs have well defined laws which stand that test of time and are reasonable.
  5. International Law- This law is considered as one of the important branches of law as it consists of laws which are universal in nature and also consists of laws which are territory or country specific.
  6. Civil Law- Civil law means the law of the land. It is further divided into private law which deals with laws concerning with individuals. It relates with the citizens and their behavior towards each other. These laws help settle disputes between individuals. The other part is public law which deals the public or society in general. It determines the relation of the state with it’s citizens. Public law can be classified into administrative law, constitutional law and criminal law.


Author: Vaishnavi Menon,
MIT WPU School of Law, 1st year

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