Kinds of Law

Laws are classified in various ways, because writers have adopted different principles of classification, such as, the content or source or object of laws. We will here enumerate all kinds of laws without adopting any specific principle of classification. They are as follows:

National Law

All the political or positive laws made by the State are called national laws. They are also called municipal laws. They are the result of the sovereignty of the State and are enforced within its jurisdiction or national boundaries. All kinds of laws, except international law, are included in the national laws. It is further divided into constitutional law and ordinary law.

Constitutional Law

The body of laws which determines and regulates the powers and functions of the various organs or departments of the State, the relations between the governor and the governed and their rights is called the Constitutional Law. It may be written or unwritten. It may grow by itself, as in England, or it may be specially framed and adopted by a constitution- making assembly, in which case it is called the constitution, as in Pakistan, India and other countries. Constitutional law is a public law, but every public law is not a constitutional law.

Ordinary Law

All other national laws which are not constitutional laws are included in the Ordinary Law. There is an important distinction between the two. Constitutional law organises the structure of the State, while the ordinary law is-made by the State. “The State is both the child and the parent of law” .It is the child of the constitutional law and the parent of the ordinary law. Ordinary law defines and regulates the relations between private citizens or between a citizen and a public body. Courts recognise only the ordinary law and enforce it in their decisions. It is further divided into Public and Private Laws.

Public Law

It includes all the laws which regulate the relation between the State or its departments and the citizens. It protects the rights of the citizens Cf. Harold D Lass well. The Future of Political Science, pp. 199-200 London. 1964. (Italics by the author) against the State. Some jurists include constitutional law also in public law. It is subdivided into administrative and general laws.

Administrative Laws

In some States, like France, there are special laws and courts to try the offences of the State officials which they have committed in the discharge of their official duties. The laws which regulate the relations of the government officials and employees to private citizens are called Administrative Law or Droit Administratif. This law is administered by special courts called the administrative courts. In U.K., Pakistan and British Dominions the Rule of Law prevails.

General Law

It determines the relations of private citizens to the State. It is further divided into Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure.

Private Law

It regulates the relations between private citizens. It defines their rights and duties. The State creates this law and guarantees life, property and honour of its citizens. Private law consists of the Civil Law and its various branches, like the law of inheritance, transfer of property, of contract, torts, civil procedure, etc.

Substantive and Procedural Law

Laws can also be classified according to their contents or rights. Laws which create, define and describe rights are called Substantive Laws. Laws which provide a method of protecting rights are called Procedural or Adjective Laws. So, the Criminal and Civil Laws are substantive laws, while t,he Criminal and Civil Procedure Codes are procedural laws.

Criminal Law and Procedure

The State maintains peace and order as its primary duty and function. Any attack on the life, liberty and property of any citizen or person is regarded by the State as an attack on itself, because it is an offence against peace and order it maintains. Such an attack or violation of rights of the citizens is called an offence or crime against the State. The laws which prohibit such violations of peace and order and punish the crimes and offences constitute the Criminal Law.

The method by which the State brings the offenders to book is called the criminal procedure. The idea of the criminal law is a modern one. In earlier ages, crimes, such as murder, etc., were regarded as private acts to be avenged by the injured party and could be settled by money payments. But now the crimes are regarded as offences against public peace and order and are punished by the State, i.e., by the judges. Formerly, the State was a third party in criminal cases, now the injured party is a third party. That is why such cases are described as “The State vs. So-and-so” or “Crown vs. So-and-so”.

Civil Law and Procedure

Civil law describes and protects the civil rights, e.g. regarding property, debts, inheritance, etc. Civil procedure lays down the method or procedures by which civil rights can be protected by the State, which stands as an umpire in the disputes between private citizens.

Laws can also be classified on the basis of the source or authority which has made them: such as statute, law, ordinance, etc.

Statute Law

The ordinary law of land enacted by its legislature is called a statute or statutory law. Statute law includes both civil and criminal laws, public and private laws, constitutional and administrative laws. Statutes are written in a Statute Book. The British Parliament or the legislature in Pakistan passes many statutes every year.


Temporary injunctions issued by the executive for dealing with some emergency are known as Ordinances. In Britain the executive also issues another kind of laws called the Orders-in-Councils. According to the strict democratic theory, the executive should not make laws, because it endangers liberty of the individual. But the ordinances are justified on the ground of an emergency during which the legislature may not be sitting, and also on ground of its temporary duration.

Common Law

It is derived from the customs which have been adopted by the courts as the laws of the land and enforced like the statutes. In England, the Common Law is an important part of the English Law.

International Law

It determines the relations and conduct of the States in their dealings and intercourse with one another. Strictly speaking, it is not a law, because it is not made by a sovereign authority. It consists of rules and conventions of international relations.