Law is the system of rules established by a society and enforced by its government or other controlling authority. It can include both custom and policies, or it may be a codified body of rules such as the Constitution of a country. It can also refer to a body of rules that are based on judicial decisions. Law is also the discipline and profession that studies this system of rules.
The law enables individuals to live in an orderly way. For example, when two people have competing claims to the same piece of property, the courts can settle the dispute. They can determine who has the right to own the property and what duties they owe to one another.
Another purpose of the law is to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. This includes police officers and public officials who are required to carry out their duties according to the law. It also imposes certain responsibilities on private businesses that offer public services such as water, electricity and gas.
Legal systems vary around the world and serve a range of different purposes, including keeping the peace, maintaining the status quo, preserving individual rights, protecting minorities against majorities, and promoting social justice. Some legal systems are more effective than others in fulfilling these functions.
In a democracy, the law can be used to protect citizens’ freedoms and liberties by punishing criminals or protecting the environment. It can also regulate economic activity and provide protection for the weaker members of society, such as children or the elderly. In autocratic countries, the law can be used to maintain power by limiting the rights of opposition groups and suppressing free speech.
A law may be divided into several fields, such as civil law and criminal law. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals, for example, a lawsuit over an automobile accident or defamation. Criminal law, on the other hand, involves offences against the state or local community, such as terrorism and murder.
The laws of a country are made by its legislature, and the rules that govern it are derived from that legislation as well as previous judicial decisions. This legal framework is referred to as the common law.
Other important laws may be administrative, criminal, or tort laws. Administrative laws are those that govern a specific area of activity, for example, the tax law. Criminal laws deal with crimes that violate the moral and ethical standards of a society. Tort laws, on the other hand, provide compensation when someone suffers harm through no fault of their own.
In addition, there are many specialized laws that address particular areas of legal practice. These include: