Hobbes defined laws “as the commands of him or them that have coercive power.” Austin followed him “A law is a rule of conduct imposed and enforced by the sovereign.” Salmond substituted the definition by observing that “Law is the body of principles recognised and applied by the State in the administration of Justice.”
It consists of the rules recognised and acted on by courts of justice. According to Salmond, all law, however made, is recognised and administered by, the courts and no rules are recognised and administered by the courts which are not rules of law. It is, therefore, to the courts and not to the legislature that we must go in order to ascertain the true nature of the law.
On the other hand, Blackstone maintained that a rule of law made on a pre-existing custom exists as positive law apart from the legislature or Judge, and Maine pointed out that there is law in primitive societies. Saving recorded law as itself subject to evolution and as no arbitrary expression of will of the lawgiver.
The above is not the definition of ‘a law’ but of the law. In fact the term ‘law’ is used in two senses, which may be characterised as the conceit and the abstract. In the concrete sense we speak of “a law” or “laws”. “A law” means a statute, ordinance, decree or an Act of a Parliament.
In this sense we say that parliament has enacted or repealed a law. It is a source of law in the abstract sense. In the abstract sense we speak of “law” or “the law”, ‘e.g., the law of England, the law of libel, criminal law, etc. Law here denotes the entire body of legal principles prevailing in a particular system.
This ambiguity is a peculiar feature of English speech. In Continental languages there are distinct words for the two meanings found in the English term ‘law’. Law in the concrete is lex loci and law in the abstract jus, droit, reheat. Lex meaning a statute is a source of jus.
The following are a few other concepts of law as given by eminent writers, which will enable us to have clear perspective of the different notions of law.
According to Hindu ideas, Dharma contained the sanction of law. It applied to all alike whether he is a king or a poor citizen. In this sense law is Dharma and Dharma is law.
“Law is the king of kings, far more powerful and rigid, than they; nothing can be mightier than law, by whose aid as by that of the highest monarch, even the weak may prevail over the strong.” The Vedas.
Every law is a gift of God and decision of sages.” Demosthenes.
“Law is not right alone or might alone, but a perfect combination between the two.” Salmond.
“Law is the command of a sovereign, containing a common rule of life for his subjects and obliging them to obedience.” John Er- skin.
“A law is a command which obliges a person or persons to a course of conduct.” Austin. ‘
“Law is the body of principles recognised or enforced by public and regular tribunals in the administration of justice.” Pound.
“Law is the system of rights and obligations which the Stale enforces.” Green.
“The law of the Slate or of any organised body of men is composed of the rules which the courts that are the judicial organs of that body lay down for the determination of legal rights and duties.” Gray.