Sunday, December 30, 2012

Without law a society would be in chaos. Law lays down the rules which will govern the society and establishes order within the society.

Law is needed to control crime. If people are allowed to murder, rape and steal as they wish many innocent persons will suffer and have no means of relief. Those who are strong physically, financially or by being in positions of power, will constantly be able to win and have their way. Law and punishments imposed for breaking the law deter persons from harming others at will and make sure that those who do break the law are suitably punished Law further ensures that public officials use their powers properly and fairly . Thus law is essential to preserve the rights and liberties of the individual.

The different branches of civil law provide frameworks for regulating and setting disputes in different spheres of human activity. Commercial law increases business efficacy and certainty, and makes business transactions and their outcome more predictable. It provides a method of redress for parties who have unfairly suffered loss. As business increases internationally and becomes more complex the law has to enter and regulate more and more areas. Family law similarly provides a system for resolving person disputes. In this way the other categories of civil law also play an important role in people’s interactions with each other.

Law is a code of conduct which a particular society has chosen to comply with. In therefore encodes some of the important values of the society. If one goes back in time and looks at the state of the law fifty or hundred years ago, one will see the values of those periods reflected in the laws, and they may be very different from our values today.
In this context one should also note that sometimes the law expresses standards which society should aspire to even though they may not be effectively enforced. Particularly in developing countries there is often inadequacy in the enforcement of laws, due to a variety of factors such as lack of resources and well-trained personnel as well as legal knowledge amongst the general public. The environment is an illustration, where there are many laws to minimize pollution but which are rarely effective. This results in a divergence between what is on the statute books and what happens I practice. In such situations the laws operate more as policy statements than as living tenets of behavior. It has however been pointed out that there must not be too much of a gap between the law and people’s behavior, since that would lead to disrespect for the law as reflecting unrealistic norms of conduct which can be ignored with impunity.

The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act passed in 2005 is a good example of legislation also acting as a clear policy message from the State, on a social problem on which a clear position had not previously been taken. “Cultural” reasons are often cited for the prevalence of domestic violence in Sri Lanka and many countries. Its human cost, spreading through the affected family to the health system which must cope with this unnecessary burden, and finally to the entire community, is often hidden and underestimated. The enactment of the law was the result of concerted efforts on the part of the government and civil society organizations to address this issue, and sends out a strong message that any “cultural” justifications for violence within the home are overridden by State policy as embodied in the law.