Law is a set of rules imposed by social or governmental institutions to govern behavior and shape politics, economics, history and society in different ways. The precise definition of “law” is a subject of debate but it generally covers a broad range of legal principles and guidelines. It is enforceable by government agencies and courts, and is designed to ensure fairness and safety. It has four main functions: establishing standards, maintaining order, resolving disputes and protecting liberties and rights.
The first function of law is to establish a standard of acceptable behaviour in a society. For example, it is a crime to injure another person without justification, as society has determined that this behaviour is not acceptable. The second function is to maintain some semblance of order in society. This is important because a society cannot function without some degree of stability. This is achieved through the laws that impose sanctions on people who break the rules and provide mechanisms for dealing with these violations.
In a society made up of persons with diverse needs, views, values and beliefs, disputes are unavoidable. Law provides a formal way to resolve them by providing a court system that judges must follow. This can prevent violence from occurring and allow justice to be served.
Some scholars argue that the purpose of law is to protect society’s shared values or social norms. They believe that a well functioning society requires a shared set of values or norms that people must agree on in order to live together peacefully. However, this view is controversial because it implies that there is a definitive list of values and norms that constitute the common law and no room for individual interpretation.
Other scholars argue that the law should be left to a judge’s discretion because it is best able to adapt to social change and new circumstances by way of judicial interpretation and creative jurisprudence. This can be seen in the common law system of the United States where judges follow precedent based on previous case law. This differs from other countries that use a civil law system in which judges follow predetermined codes of conduct. This can cause significant differences in the law that is enforced, for instance adultery is a criminal offence in India under section 497 of IPC but not in America where it is not. This is because of the cultural and religious influences that influence how a country’s laws are interpreted.