Author: Manav Duggal, Student at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat
In a common parlance, the terms law and morality are often used synonymously. In the earlier stages of society there was no distinction between law and morality. However, a deeper analysis of these terms leads to a conclusion that the terms are distinct but are intimately related to each other. Law refers to the set of rules and regulations which governs the conduct of members in a society. On the other hand, morality denotes the values and principles of conduct which are socially accepted.
Although, the existence of these terms is not dependent on each other but there is an existence of necessary nexus between the two. Law and Morality together serve to channel our behavior.While focus of morality is both on the thoughts and inner conduct of human beings, law almost exclusively focuses on the outer conduct. For example: it is considered immoral to even consider to harm others, whereas, from a legal point of view the act of thinking about causing harm to someone (mens rea) constitutes no violation in itself.
In ancient times, when natural law used to prevail, the terms were often used synonymously. Over a period of time, various scholars had different assessments about the constitution of natural law. Aristotle, who is viewed as the father of natural law argued that what is “just by nature” is not always the same as “just by law”. St. Thomas Aquinas discussed about the religious aspect of natural law and further posited that the fundamental principal of natural law is that we should do good and avoid evil. Although, natural law is a subject of many interpretations but its main objective is having a moral law. Natural law is law as it ‘ought to be’. Whereas, legal positivists define law as the command of the sovereign. They are an ardent supporter of the notion that ‘law is divorced from morality’. Therefore, the discussion about the association between Law and Morality isn’t novel.