Difference between Law and Ordinance

Key Difference: Laws are actually rules and guidelines that are set up by the social institutions to govern behavior. These laws are made by government officials that in some countries are elected by the public to represent their views. In simple terms, laws are basically things that a person can and cannot do. Ordinances are laws that are passed by lower-level jurisdictions in a country such as municipal government. The municipal governments include city, town, village, borough and county governments. Municipal governments have been provided with the power to enact laws through a statute and state constitution.

In order to establish a society it must follow a set of rules and laws that help govern its smooth running. The laws and rules are established to ensure that everyone is treated as the same. The laws and rules ensure that each individual must follow a set of guidelines and if/she ends up breaking any of those rules they must accept the consequences no matter their social standing or position. The laws and rules used to maintain smooth and efficient functioning of the society. Imaging a society with no rules, where a person will be free to do as he/she wishes. It will unleash chaos and the society will fall. Laws and rules go hand-in-hand causing much confusion over their definitions. To many people, including in legal terms, laws and rules are the same and can be used simultaneously. However, these are different words and used in different contexts.

Laws are actually rules and guidelines that are set up by the social institutions to govern behavior. These laws are made by government officials that in some countries are elected by the public to represent their views. In simple terms, laws are basically things that a person can and cannot do. It is enforced by government officials such as police officers, agents and judges. Laws are ideas that must go through the process of checks, balances and votes in order for them to become a law. However, the enactment of a law varies based on the government. In an autocracy, the leader has the power to pass any law he wishes. In a democracy, the bill to enact a law must be voted on by the different parts of the government. Laws must be obeyed by all, including private citizens, groups and companies as well as public figures, organizations and institutions. Laws set out standards, procedures and principles that must be followed. A law is enforceable by the judicial system, i.e. those responsible for breaking them can be prosecuted in court. There are various types of laws framed like criminal laws, civil laws, and international laws. Breaking a law is a punishable crime and has drastic consequences such as hefty fines, jail time and community service time.

Dictionary.com defines ‘law’ as:

  • The principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.
  • Any written or positive rule or collection of rules prescribed under the authority of the state or nation, as by the people in its constitution.
  • The controlling influence of such rules; the condition of society brought about by their observance.
  • A system or collection of such rules.

Ordinances are laws that are passed by lower-level jurisdictions in a country such as municipal government. The municipal governments include city, town, village, borough and county governments. Municipal governments have been provided with the power to enact laws through a statute and state constitution. Ordinances constitute the subject matter of the enacted law. In some cases, these laws can also take precedence over the state and federal laws depending on the law. However, if the law is contradictory to the federal and state law, the law can be challenged in court and can be null and void. These laws only apply to areas that are under the jurisdiction of the municipal government. Most of these ordinances deal with public safety, health and moral codes and general welfare. The ordinances can include fire and safety regulations, noise levels, littering, etc.

The term ordinance means a different thing when applied to country such as India. The ordinance also takes a different shape when it is applied through the president. In India, according to a provision in the constitution, the president has the power to enact an ordinance if he believes it is required during that time. The ordinance that is enacted by the president holds the same power as a statutory law that is enacted by the parliament. However, the president can only enact the ordinance when the parliament is not in session and the force is also enforced until the parliament is back in session. Once the parliament is in session, it can choose to turn in to an act or discard it completely.

Image Courtesy: ccicanada.org, mennonite.net

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