The term Act and Law are often used interchangeably or synonymously by a layman. However, this is not correct, and there are substantial differences between the two. For a brief overview, it is important to understand that the Act is passed by a competent law-making body (legislation) whereas law is a much wider term that includes Acts as well as rules and regulations framed by our executive as well as a judicial organ of the government. By making an Act, the parliament is empowered to amend or repeal the existing Act, but the laws are framed to protect the rights of its citizens. Act and law are very important for us.
In this article, we will figure out the difference between Act and Law. Further, we will delve into how an Act becomes law.
Act vs Law
Comparison between Act and Law
|Basis of Comparison||Act||Law|
|Meaning||An act is a decree passed by appropriate legislation (parliament or state legislation)||Law refers to a system of rules and regulations which must be followed|
|Scope||The scope of the Act is quite narrow and it is a sub-set of law||Law is much wider in scope as it involves the law framed by the legislature, executive and judicial organs of the government|
|Nature||Acts are quite specific in nature||Laws are a bit generic in nature|
|What is it||An Act becomes a law when it is passed by both the houses of parliament.||Law is the ‘law of the land’|
|Objective||The objective of an Act is to make people aware of specific rules and regulation||The main objective of the law is to maintain harmony and public order in the society|
|Outline||Acts inform what, why, and how laws need to be followed||Laws are a clear indication of what needs to be done and what does not|
What is an Act?
An Act can be understood as a decree or law passed by a competent legislature. In our country, the central Acts are framed by the parliament, and the state Act is framed by the state legislative assembly. In Schedule 7 of the constitution, there is a clear demarcation of subjects on which the central and state government can make the laws. The subjects on which the central government can make an Act are known as the central list and the subjects on which the state government can make an Act are known as the state list. There is also a concurrent list on which both the center and state governments are empowered to make an Act.
A bill is introduced in the parliament, which is followed by voting by the legislators. Normally, all the bills require a simple majority of all the members present and voting. The party, which is the majority, decides the fate of the bill. After obtaining the requisite majority, the bill is sent to the governor (for state Acts) or President (for central Acts) for giving consent. The governor or president can remand back the bill to the parliament for reconsideration. The moment a bill receives the assent of the president, it becomes an Act. All the Acts are published through a notification through an official gazette.
The Acts are framed keeping in mind to deal with special circumstances. There is also a difference between Act and code. A code is self-sufficient and exhaustive in itself, all the provisions relating to the subjects are provided in a single code. For instance- the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is a code wherein all the provisions pertaining to punishment and offenses are clearly provided.
What is Law?
Laws refers to a set of rules and regulations which are designed to control the behavior of its member in society. Law is the backbone of a successful democracy as it ensures that all the people shall be subject to equal treatment, and there shall be no discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, sex, etc.
The term law has a very wide scope, and it includes the Act passed by the parliament and the laws framed by the executive. It is a misconception among the masses that only the legislature makes the laws. Earlier, the work of the executive was limited to enforcing the law, but with the passage of time, the legislature got overburdened, and it became essential to delegate the law-making power to the executive. This power of the executive to make the law is called delegated legislation.
In addition to the executive organ of government, our judiciary also makes law. As per Article 141 of the constitution, our judiciary makes law through binding precedent and statutory interpretation. When there appears any vacuum in the statutory provisions, our judiciary steps in and makes laws accordingly by framing appropriate guidelines. In Vishakha vs the State of Rajasthan, the Hon’ble apex court framed guidelines to prevent sexual harassment at workplaces.
How an Act becomes a law?
There are three stages of making an Act into a Law. At the outset, a bill is presented in either of the houses of parliament. The bill can be introduced by a minister or by a private member. This is also known as the first reading of the bill. If someone opposed the bill, the speaker may permit a full discussion thereon. After the introduction, the presiding officer of the house may refer the bill to a standing committee for examination and preparation of the report. This report carries a persuasive value.
After this, there happens a clause-by-clause discussion on the bill in the house. The discussion is followed by voting. Normally, all the bills require the majority of two-thirds of members to present and vote. The bill goes through a similar procedure in the other house of parliament as well. The last stage in this process is obtaining the assent of the president. As soon it is received, an Act becomes law.
Key differences between Act and Law
- Law refers to a system of rules and regulations which must be followed whereas an Act is a decree passed by appropriate legislation (parliament or state legislation)
- Law is much wider in scope as it involves the law framed by the legislature, executive, and judicial organs of the government whereas the scope of the Act is quite narrow and it is a sub-set of law.
- Laws are a bit generic in nature whereas the Acts are quite specific in nature.
- An Act becomes a law when it is passed by both the houses of a parliament whereas a law is the ‘law of the land’
- The main objective of the law is to maintain harmony and public order in the society whereas the objective of an Act is to make people aware of specific rules and regulation
- Acts inform what, why, and how laws need to be followed whereas the Laws are a clear indication of what needs to be done and what does not.
The Act and Law are integral elements of our justice system. Acts can be understood as a decree passed by both the houses of parliament which later on receives the assent of the president. The law can be understood as systematic rules and regulations which are intended to govern the rights and liabilities of its citizens. The scope of the law is quite broad and it includes the law framed by the legislature, executive, and judicial organs of the government.
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