Law is a collection of rules and customs established in a society to guide its members in their interactions with one another. The discipline that studies these laws is called jurisprudence. Law applies to everyone, no matter their status or wealth. It is used to resolve conflicts, ensure a safe and well-ordered society, protect privacy, guarantee freedoms and rights and punish bad behaviour.
The laws that govern a country are set by its government. These are usually written in a constitution or statutes that are passed by parliament. They are enforced by the police and courts. A legal system that is transparent, accountable and respectful of its citizens is essential to its sustainability.
A nation’s laws determine what types of businesses can be conducted, how public services are provided and the level of protection offered to its citizens. They can also determine whether citizens have the right to own property, access education and health care or work where they want. They can even decide who owns a particular piece of land, and how to deal with disputes that arise over ownership.
But the most important role of law is to protect citizens. For example, a person who commits a crime is subject to the criminal law and may face prison terms or fines for their actions. The law can also help to prevent crimes from happening in the first place by setting minimum standards for people working in the public sector, and creating mechanisms to deal with those who do break the law.
The core subjects of law are:
However, the study of law extends far beyond these three areas and covers virtually every aspect of human activity. For example, labour law deals with the tripartite industrial relationship between worker, employer and trade union. It includes collective bargaining regulation and the right to strike. Individual employment law deals with a worker’s right to job security and safety, and may involve the right to a fair trial or hearing in court. Civil procedure, criminal procedure and evidence law all concern the rules that courts must follow as a case is tried and appealed. They include the constitutional guarantee that a citizen will receive a fair trial, and the rule of law that all decisions must be based on evidence presented in court.