Legal Article

Positive Law and the Indian Legal System: A Study

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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Published on: 21 Aug, 2023


Positive law is a concept in jurisprudence that refers to laws that are explicitly laid down or enacted by a governing authority. This contrasts with natural law, which posits that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature. In the Indian context, positive law can be found in the form of legislations passed by the Parliament or State Legislatures, administrative rules, and judicial decisions that have the force of law. This article explores how the concept of positive law applies within the Indian legal system.

Key Features of Positive Law

  1. Codified and Explicit: Positive laws are typically written and codified, making them accessible and understandable to the public.
  2. Authority-Driven: They are enacted by a legitimate governing authority like a legislative body or an executive decision-maker.
  3. Variable: Unlike natural law, which is considered universal and unchanging, positive law can vary between jurisdictions and can be changed by the governing authority.
  4. Punitive: Positive laws often come with specified sanctions or penalties for non-compliance.

Positive Law in the Indian Context

  1. Constitutional Framework: The Constitution of India serves as the primary source of positive law in the country. It not only lays down the framework for governance but also enumerates the fundamental rights and duties of citizens.
  2. Legislative Enactments: Laws passed by the Parliament (Central Laws) and the State Legislatures (State Laws) constitute a significant part of positive law in India.
  3. Judicial Precedents: Decisions of the Supreme Court and High Courts also form a part of positive law when they lay down principles (doctrines, interpretations) that have the force of law.
  4. Administrative Rules: Various ministries and departments issue rules and regulations that have the force of law, such as the Income Tax Rules, Motor Vehicle Rules, etc.
  5. Legal Codes: The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) are examples of codified positive laws in India.

Criticisms and Controversies

  1. Rigidity: Positive laws can sometimes be rigid and may not cover all the nuances or ethical dimensions of an issue.
  2. Relevance: As societal norms and values evolve, certain positive laws may become outdated.
  3. Access and Awareness: The complexity and sheer volume of laws can make it difficult for the average citizen to be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
  4. Conflict with Customary Laws: In India, customary laws (like tribal laws, or religious laws in personal matters) often come into conflict with positive laws, raising questions about legitimacy and applicability.


Positive law in the Indian legal system serves as an essential framework for governance and societal regulation. It complements other forms of law and social norms but has the distinct feature of being explicitly enacted and enforced by a governing authority. While it offers the advantages of clarity and enforceability, it also faces challenges like rigidity and the need for periodic updating to stay relevant to societal changes.


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