Lex Bona Fide – Law Journal


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A particular classification of law encompasses all types of law but it distributes them according to particular unique characteristics.

Before understanding the classification of law we need to understand the definition of law from different angles. Some of the definitions of law are as follows:

  1. The Vedas: Law is the king of kings and more powerful and rigid than they: nothing can be mightier than law, by whose aid, as by that of the highest monarch, even the weak may prevail over strong.
  2. John Erskine: Law is the command of a sovereign containing a common rule of life for his subjects and obliging them to obedience.
  3. Hobbes: Law is the speech of him who by right commands somewhat to be done or omitted.
  4. Hegel: Law is the abstract expression of the general will existing in and for itself.
  5. Sir Henry Maine: The word law has come down to us in close association with two notions, the notion of order and the notion of force.
  6. Austin: Law is the aggregate of rules set by men as politically superior, or sovereign, to men as politically subject.
  7. Holland: More briefly, the law is the general rule of eternal human action enforced by sovereign political authority. All other rules for the guidance of human action are laws merely by analogy, and proposition which is no rules for human action are laws by metaphor only.
  8. Justice Holmes: Law is a statement of the circumstances in which the public force will be brought to bear upon men through courts.
  9. Cardozo: A principle of the rule of conduct so established as to justify a prediction with reasonable certainty and it will be enforced by the courts in its authority is challenged is a principle of rule of law.
  10. Salmond: Law is the body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice.


Classification of Laws:

Law may be classified in a various different way but the most important classification is:

  • Public Law and Private Law
  • Substantive Law and Procedural Law
  • Municipal Law and International Law
  • Civil Law and Criminal Law.


Public Law: Public law is the law that is concerned with the relationship of the citizens and the state. This consist of other specialist areas as follows:

Constitutional Law: Constitutional law is concerned with the Indian constitution. It covers within its twenty-five parts and twenty schedules the composition and procedures of Parliament, the functioning of central and local government, citizenship, and fundamental rights and liabilities of the citizens of the country.

Administrative Law: Administrative law is the law that is brought to for better and convenient administration of the government bodies. There has been a stark increase in the activities of government over the past few years. Many schemes have been introduced by the government for helping to ensure a proper standard of living for everyone. A huge number of disputes arise out of the administration of different schemes and a body of law has been developed to deal with the problems of such person against the decision of the administrative agency.


Private Law: Private law is the law that is predominantly concerned with the rights and liabilities of individuals toward each other. The involvement of the states in this area of law is restricted to providing a proper method of resolving the dispute which has arisen. Therefore, the legal process starts to start by the citizen who is aggrieved and not by the state. Private law is also known as ‘civil law’ and often it is in contrast with criminal laws. Subdivision of private law or common law is; Contract law, Law of Torts, Property law, Labour law, Commercial law, Corporations law, and Competition law.



Public law affects society as a whole and includes administrative law, constitutional law, criminal law, municipal law, and international law. Private law affects the rights and obligations of individuals, families, businesses, and small groups and exists to assist citizens in disputes that involve private matters. Example: Smoking indoors is a classic example of public vs private law regulation.

As a public law, smoking indoors is prohibited in certain countries. However, people formed membership clubs where the agreement between the member and the property owner is a private law which the government has no regulation over. Covered by this private law, the members are then allowed to smoke indoors.



Substantive Law: The law which defines rights and liabilities is known as substantive law. It is called so since it lays down a proper and precise substance of subject matter which is enforceable in the courts. The purpose of a law that is substantive is to define, create or confer proper substantive legal rights or status or to impose the nature and extent of any sort of legal duties or obligation. Substantive law, with regards to a specific subject, defines the legal rights and relationship of people between themselves or between them and the state. Any wrongdoing of an individual, group of person, and the state against another will hold him liable to the others accordingly. For the purpose of any substantive law, the wrongs could be either civil or criminal. Substantive law refers to all forms of law both, public and private including the law of contracts, property, torts, and crimes of all kinds.


PROCEDURAL LAW: The law of procedure is that branch of law that deals with the process of litigation. It embodies the rules and procedures pertaining to the institution and prosecution of any kind of civil or criminal proceeding. Procedural law consists of a set of rules by which a court hears cases and decides the proceedings. Historically, the law that many know the substantive law, and procedural law has always been a matter of concern only to those who preside over as judicial officers or those advocating laws. But, over a period of time, the courts developed a system of evidence and procedure, that fall within the purview of procedural relating to the fairness and transparency of such process.

The Indian Evidence Act, the Limitation Act, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Code of Criminal Procedure are instances of procedural law.


Procedural law provides the process that a case will go through( whether it goes to trial or not). The procedural law determines how a proceeding concerning the enforcement of substantive law will occur. Substantive law defines how the facts in the case will be handled, as well as how the crimes are to be charged. Example: An example of substantive law is how the degree of murder is defined. Depending upon the circumstances and whether the murderer had the intent to commit the crime, the same act of homicide can fall under different levels of punishment. This is defined in the statute and is substantive law. Examples of procedural laws include the time allowed for one party to sue another and the rules governing the process of the lawsuits.



Municipal Law: Municipal or  Domestic is that facet of law that springs from and has an effect on the members of a particular state. An example of municipal law is the constitution of Indian that applies only in India. In other words, we can say that municipal law is the law specific to a particular city or country, and the government bodies within those cities and countries. This can cover a wide range of issues including everything from police power, zoning, education policies, and property taxes.

Municipal law includes many levels of laws; not only national law but also state, provincial, territorial, regional, or local law.

International Law: International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in the relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and common conceptual frameworks to guide states across a broad range of domains, including wars, diplomacy, trade, and human rights. International law is the law that governs laws between different countries. It regulates the relationship between various independent countries and is usually governed by treaties, international customs, and so on. Examples of international laws include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, etc.


Municipal law governs the domestic aspects of government and deals with issues between individuals and administrative apparatus; international law focuses primarily upon the relations between states.



Criminal Law: Criminal law is the law that is connected with the act of forbidding particular forms of wrongful conduct and imposing punishment on those who engage in such acts. Criminal proceedings are usually brought in the name of the State and are known as ‘prosecutions’. It should be noted that prosecutions may be assessed by a private individual or other bodies, such as the trading standards department of the local authority but cannot undertake the case of the prosecutions.

In criminal cases, there is a prosecutor who prosecutes the defendant for the offense committed. The consequences of being proved guilty are so extreme that the standard of proof is higher in criminal cases as compared to civil scenarios. The allegations of criminal conduct need to be improved beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution successfully proves the guilty of the defendant, he might be punished by the court respectively.

Punishments that are available to be imposed on the convict are imprisonment and fines. If the prosecution is unsuccessful in proving the guilt of the accused defendant, he is acquitted.


Civil Law: Civil law deals with the private rights and duties which arise between individuals in a country. The object of civil action is to correct the wrongdoing that has been committed. Enforcement of civil law is the accountability of the individual who has been committed the wrong and the state is responsible to provide for the procedure to resolve the dispute. In the case of civil proceedings, the person who claims sues the defendant in civil court and asks for a remedy. The claimant will be successful in his claim if he is able to prove his case. If the claimant is not successful, the defendant will not be made liable for his actions.



Criminal law deals with behavior that is or can be construed as an offense against the public, society, or the state-even if the immediate victim is an individual. Civil law deals with behavior that constitutes an injury to an individual or other private party, such as a corporation. Example: The example of criminal law are murder, assault, theft, and drunken driving. Examples of civil law are defamation( including libel and slander), breach of contract, negligence resulting in injury or death, and property damage.



Therefore, the law could be classified into different types and every form of law emerged over a period of time to form a set of rules that we use to govern the society on the whole. According to the various functions governed by law, it is classified as different forms of law to avoid chaos or confusion in administering such laws. Laws are involved in every aspect of human life and it is imperative to classify laws so as to follow them for the benefit of society.



1-Meaning of the term law https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/law

2-Classification of Law www.lawtimesjournal.in>BLAWG

3- Distinction between public and private law http://www.quora.com>what-are-the-distinction-between-public-and-private-law

4- Difference between procedural and substantive law http://criminal-law.freeadvice.com>difference-between-procedural-and-substantive-law

5- International law versus municipal law-paper in the SSRN http://papers.ssrn.com>international-law-versus-municiple-law

6- Foundation of Law- Civil Law vs. Criminal Law http://lawshelf.com>civil-law-vs-criminal-law