What are the different classifications of law?


Law is intertwined with the lives of people.It governs the conduct of people from cradle to the grave and the influence of law in one’s life even extends from before birth to even after death. In this society,there is a complex body or set of rules which are made to control the activities of members of the society. Different laws are available for different situations like laws to govern working conditions, laws to control leisure pursuits and laws to regulate relationships of personal nature.



A binding custom or practice of a community : a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.[i]

A rule, usually made by the government of a country, that is used to order the way in which the society has to behave.[ii]

The law is a set of rules that are laid down to regulate the government of the state and control the relationship between the state and its citizens and also to govern the relationship between one citizen and another which is enforceable by the courts.

Classifications of Law:

Law may be classified in various different ways but the most important classifications are as follows:

  • Public Law and Private Law
  • Criminal Law and Civil Law
  • Substantive Law and Procedural Law
  • Municipal Law and International Law
  • Common Law and equity

Public Law and Private Law:

Public law:

Public law is the law that is concernedwiththerelationship of the citizens and the state. This consists other different specialist areas as follows:

Constitutional law:

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

Administrative law:

Administrative law is the law that is brought to for better and convenient administration of the government and the government bodies. There has been a stark increase in the activities of government over the pastfew 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 lawhas been developed to deal with the problems of such persons against the decision of  administrative agency.

Private law:

Private law is the law that is predominantly concerned with the rights and liabilities of individuals towards 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 gets started 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.

Criminal law and civil law:

Legal law sare classified usually into two different types: criminal and civil law. It is important to note here that the nature of thisclassification is because there are major differences in the purpose, procedures and terminology of every branch of law.

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 prosecution.

In criminal cases there is a prosecutor who prosecutes the defendant for the offence 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 a criminal conduct need to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecution successfully proves the guilt of the defendant, hemight 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.[iv]

Civil law:

The civil law deals with the private rights and duties which arise between individuals in a country. The object of a civil action is to correct the wrongdoing that has been committed. Enforcement of civil law is the accountability of the individual who has committed the wrong and the state is responsible to provide for the procedure to resolve the dispute. In case of civil proceedings, the person who claims sues the defendant in the 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 bemade liable for his actions. 

Substantive and Procedural 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 a proper substantive legal right or status or to impose the nature and extent of any sort of legal duties or obligations.

Substantive law, with regard 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 persons or the state against another will hold him liable to the othersaccordingly. 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. 

The law of procedure is that branch of law thatdeals 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 is substantive law, and procedural law has always been a matter of concern only to those who preside over as judicial officers or those advocating law. But, over a period of time, the courts developed a system of evidence and procedure, that fall within the purview of procedural law relating to the fairness and transparency of such process.[v]

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

Municipal Law and International Law: 

Municipal or Domestic law is that facet of law that springs from and has an effect on the members of a particular state. An example of a municipal law is the Constitution of India that applies only in India.

On the other hand,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 law include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights etc.[vi]

Common law and equity:

Law may further be classified as per the nature as to whether they form part of the common law or equity. The distinction between the systems of common law and equity rises from far long in history and could be understood properly by an examination of the origins of English law. The common law is the law followed and gained by the Crown of England. It could be traced back to 1066 when William of Normandy obtained the crown of England by defeating King Harold in the Battle of Hastings. Before the Normans arrived there was no such thing known as English law. The Anglo-Saxon system of law was based on the local community. Each and every area possessed its own system of courts whereinthe local customs were applied as common law. The Normans were great administrators and they undertook a process of centralisation that created an accurate climate for the evolution of a uniform system of law for the entire country which is equally applicable as a rule of law.


Therefore, 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 into every aspect of human life and it is imperative to classify law so as to follow them for the benefit of the society.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje



[ii]Meaning of the term Law https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/law

[iii]Indian Constitution: Parts, Schedules and Articles at a glance  https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/indian-constitution-parts-schedules-and-articles-at-a-glance-1473768121-1

[iv]Classification of Law http://catalogue.pearsoned.co.uk/assets/hip/gb/hip_gb_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/1408278839.pdf

[v]Meaning of Substantive Law and Procedural Law http://egyankosh.ac.in/bitstream/123456789/43764/1/Unit-2.pdf

[vi] Municipal Law and International Law as classifications of Law https://djetlawyer.com/types-classifications-law/

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I Reshmitha G. Sarma, a student pursuing IV Year, B.Com,LLB (Hons.) in SASTRA Deemed University. My areas of interest in law include Criminal law, Taxation laws and Intellectual Property Rights. I am always inclined towards doing every work with perfection and being an extrovertI always try to work with comfort when it comes to being a leader. I believe in team-work and my socializing skills help me work with people better. I love talking and hence I am always open to debates and group discussions on any persisting legal, social or other issues. My hobbies are writing poems, eating, singing and watching movies preferablycrime and thrillers.