What is Law?


Law is a set of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. Its precise definition is a matter of longstanding debate and it has been variously described as a science and as the art of justice. It serves four principal purposes: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.

Legal scholars distinguish between three types of law: legislation, case law and common law. Legislation is the body of rules imposed by a sovereign power in the form of statutes or regulations. Case law is the body of decisions by courts on the interpretation of other laws, usually statutes or constitutional provisions. Common law is the body of legal principles developed over time through the decisions of courts and jurists.

A key feature of law is its generality. It is general in terms of the behaviour it governs and in terms of the persons governed. It is a rule imposed by authority upon those under it, commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong. This means it must be permanent as to time and uniform with respect to all persons (not favouring nor disfavouring any).

Laws are applied by a variety of processes, including legislative, administrative and adjudicative. They are transparent and publicized, consistent, fair, enforceable, and reflect the diversity of the societies they serve. They are based on internationally accepted norms and standards. They are enforced by representative, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals who are accessible, competent and have appropriate resources.