Law and Morality

Ritesh Kumar


Morality is an internal force. Morality appeals to the conscience, while law acts externally through sanctions.[1] A morality is a system of principles and values concerning people’s behaviour, which is generally accepted by a society or by a particular group of people.[2] Morality speaks of a system of behavior in regards to standards of right or wrong behavior. The word carries the concepts of:

·         Moral standards, with regard to behavior;

·         Moral responsibility, referring to our conscience; and

·         A moral identity or one who is capable of right or wrong action. Common synonyms include ethics, principles, virtue, and goodness. Morality has become a complicated issue in the multi-cultural world we live in today. Let’s explore what morality is, how it affects our behavior, our conscience, our society, and our ultimate destiny.[3]

However, for the proper understanding of the concept of morality, it is necessary to discuss its relationship with law and its difference with law.


Law and morality are intimately related to each other. Laws are generally based on the moral principles of society. Both regulate the conduct of the individual in society. They influence each other to a great extent. Laws, to be effective, must represent the moral ideas of the people. But good laws sometimes serve to rouse the moral conscience of the people and create and maintain such conditions as may encourage the growth of morality.[4]

C.K. Allen make following observation on relationship between law and morality: “Our Judges have always kept their fingers delicately but firmly upon the pulse of the accepted morality of the day. H.L.A. Hart says that there are many different types of relations between law and morals and there is nothing which can profitably be singled out for study as the relation between them. Instead it is important to distinguish some of the many different things which may be meant by the assertion or denial that law and morals are related.[5]

Roscoe pound stated that there are four stages in the development of law with respect to morality[6]:-

·         The first stage is the pre-legal stage in which law and morals were the same thing. They were the two faces of the same coin.

·         The second stage is that of strict law, codified or crystallized which in time is outstripped by morality and has not sufficient power of growth to keep abreast.

·         The third stage is that of infusion of morality into the law and reshaping it by morals. In that stage, both the ideas of equity and natural law are potential agencies of growth.

·         The final stage is that of conscious constructive law-making, the maturity of law, in which morals and morality are for the law-maker and that law alone is for the judge.

However, the relation between law and morality (morals) can be understood by dividing it into three parts:-

·         Morals as the basis of law.

·         Morals as the test of law.

·         Morals as the end of law.

Morals as the basis of law:- As regards morals as the basis of law, there was no distinction between law and morals in the early stages of society. All the rules originated from the common source and the sanction behind them was of the same nature which was mostly in the nature of supernatural fear.[7] Though law and morality are not the same and many things may be immoral which are not illegal, yet the absolute divorce of law from morality would result in fatal consequences.[8]

Morals as the test of law[9]:- In the 17th and 18th centuries, when the natural law theory was as its peak, it was contended that law must conform to natural law. According to them, any law which does not conform to natural law is to be disobeyed and the government which makes such law should be overthrown. But in modern times, this view that law must conform to morals and if it not in conformity with the morals it is not valid and binding, does not hold good.

Morals as the end of law:- Morals have been often considered to be the end of law. Law is defined in terms of “justice” by many jurists. According to them, the aim of law is to secure justice which is very much based upon morals.[10]


There is a distinction between law and morals. Vinogradoff writes: “Law is clearly distinguishable from morality.[11] Arndts writes that there are four points of difference between law and morals:-[12]

·         In law, man is considered as a person because he has a free will. In morals, we have to do with determining the will towards the good.

·         Law considers man only insofar as he lives in community with others; morals give a guide to lead him even if he were alone.

·         Law has to do with acts insofar as they operate externally, morals look to the intention-the inner determination and direction of the will.

·         Law governs the will so far as it may by external coercion; morals seek a free self-determination towards the good.

However distinction between law and morality should be noted in the following points:-[13]

·         Laws regulate external human conduct whereas morality mainly regulates internal conduct.

·         Laws are universal; morality is variable.

·          Laws are definite and precise while morality is variable.

·         Laws are upheld by the coercive power of the state; morality simply enjoys the support of public opinion or individual conscience.

·         Laws are studied under Jurisprudence but morality is studied under Ethics.



[1] Dr. Avtar Singh and Dr. Harpreet  Kaur, Introduction to Jurisprudence 141 (LexisNexis, Haryana, 4th ed., 2013).
[2] Definition of Morality, available at, (Visited on April 19, 2018).
[3] Available at, (Visited on April 19, 2018).
[4] Ankita, “Relation between Law and Morality or ethics”, Preserve Articles, available at, (Visited on April 20, 2018).
[5] Dr. V.D. Mahajan, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory 90 (Eastern Book Company, 5th ed., Reprint, 2014).
[6] Ibid. p. 91.
[7] Ibid. p.91.
[8] Ibid. p. 92.
[9] Dr. Avtar Singh and Dr. Harpreet  Kaur, Introduction to Jurisprudence 148 (LexisNexis, Haryana, 4th ed., 2013).
[10] Ibid. p. 148.
[11] Dr. V.D. Mahajan, Jurisprudence and Legal Theory 86 (Eastern Book Company, 5th ed., Reprint, 2014).
[12] Ibid. pp. 86-87.
[13] Distinction between Law and Morality, available at, (Visited on April 21, 2018).


Constitution and morality Parliamentary Contradictions Over FDI

By AmbaCharanVashishth

THE illustrious framers of our Constitution were men of character, morality, intelligence and farsightedness in their own right. Their singular consideration was the interest and future of the nation, and nothing else. Although more than 80 per cent ~ maybe even more ~ of the members of the Constituent Assembly belonged to the Congress, yet they never even for a while thought about the interests of their party. The same can be said of the leaders of other parties and non-political celebrities.

But things are totally different today. Whichever party may be ruling at the Centre or in the States, the uppermost priority and objective of the political rulers are centred on promoting and protecting the interests of the party and catering to the sectoral interests of their constituency of voters who provided them the edge over the opponents to win. The electoral benefit any programme and policy may fetch to the party in power acts as an accelerator. In fact, ‘opposition for opposition’s sake’ is the guiding star of every political party, both ruling and the Opposition. The latter opposes a government policy only because it is likely to swell the vote- bank of the ruling party which, in turn, is not willing to entertain any suggestion from the Opposition even if it is in the interests of the people or the nation. The party in power wants to prevent the Opposition from deriving any political and electoral mileage in the event of acceptance of a policy emanating from the other side.

Every political party has a right ~ constitutional and moral ~ to its stand on any issue and to vote accordingly. At the same time, the stand and voting on any issue cannot be contrary to each other. The two cannot be separated, from each other. Otherwise, it turns out to be hypocrisy in all its manifestations.

In its winter session in December 2012 the LokSabha presented a unique case-study. While participating in an Opposition motion calling for the withdrawal of the government’s decision to allow 51 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the retail trade, certain parties adopted a stand that was totally at variance with their stated position on the issue. This was reflected in the voting, abstention and the walkout. When it came to voting, some of them supported the government’s decision and others devised a strategy to indirectly bail the government out on an issue they otherwise opposed. Some staged the drama of a walkout in protest against the reply and explanation of the minister concerned.

They were obviously trying to fool the people with their strident public opposition to FDI; simultaneously they were helping the government in an indirect manner to achieve its objective. Their action was in stark contrast to what they had said in the House.

The conduct of these legislators may not be against the word of law and the Constitution, but it certainly destroys the spirit of both. One doesn’t know whether it pricked their collective conscience. Their attitude places the Constitution in direct conflict with the tenets of ethics and morality.

In the discussion in the LokSabha with an effective strength of 544 members, a total of 261 MPs representing various political parties were with the Opposition, appealing to the government to withdraw the decision to introduce FDI in the retail sector.
Some of these groups belonged to parties which were either part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) or were supporting it from the outside. But when the Opposition motion was put to vote, only 218 stood for it while 253 stood by the government. Some political groups (43 MPs), which had opposed the move tooth and nail in the House, tactically preferred to stage a walkout.

The political groups opposing the government were actually playing politics which has, over the past 65 years, come to be acknowledged as the deft art of fooling the people. On the one hand they were vociferously telling the people that they were against the move but, on the other, they staged a walkout to facilitate the Bill being passed to save the face of the government.

The Constitution does stipulate a voting pattern on a confidence or no-confidence motion; in the case of a Constitution Amendment Bill, there is a clause of two-third of the members present in the House and voting. Those who had framed the Constitution could not visualize a situation where politics would stoop so low that this provision of “those present in the House and voting” would be exploited to vote for a government or vote it out by taking recourse to a walkout or not voting in violation of their own stand spelt out in the House. This contradictory conduct makes a mockery of both the spirit of the Constitution and the sanctity of the words and views expressed in the House.

A walkout is a mark of protest and a virtual vote against the issue under debate and voting in the House. On moral grounds, it amounts to a vote against. Would it be constitutionally and morally right if a government adopts a strategy to create conditions provoking the Opposition to walk out in protest and, later, in the absence of the Opposition, getting the approval of the House with a near unanimity of those “present and voting” on certain controversial issues?

The Constitution may not have stipulated as much in so many words; yet it would be equally wrong to construe the absence as putting its seal of approval on the duality of the conduct in opposition to the words and opinion expressed on any issue in the House.

The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst and commentator
(Courtesy: The Statesman)