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Law and morality

In primitive society law and morality were hardly distinguished. In ancient India the term Dhama denoted both law and morality. The Greek thinkers Plato and Aristotle identified the moral with the political. Such close identification of the two was a common feature of the ancient societies. But with the growth of the state as a distinct political organization, law began to be proclaimed by the sovereign and came to possess a character different from that of morality.

Law and morality now differ in their scope and content as well as their sanction and their precision. Law is concerned with external acts of man and not motives where as morality is concerned both with the external acts and internal motives. Law is the concern of the state whereas morality is the concern of conscience. Violation of law is punishable by the state where as moral violation is not punishable by the state.

Force is the sanction behind laws where as moral conscience is its sanction. Law is precise and certain. There is no vagueness or ambiguity surrounding it. Morality on the other hand is subjective and is therefore vague and uncertain. It differs from man to man and is a matter of conscience and opinion. In the words of Maclver there must be one legal code for all but moral codes vary as much as the individual characters of which they are the expression. The sphere of morality can therefore never be coincident with the sphere of political law. Morality is always individual and always in relation to the whole presented situation of which the political fact is never more than an aspect.Inspite of these differences there is an affinity between law and morality. In origin they were identical both arising as the result of habit and experience of that primitive social life when moral and political ideals were not separated. Law as a uniform rule of action establishes a common measure of conduct for all. It ensures conformity to code of behaviour.Law cannot afford to ignore altogether the moral ideas of the people. Laws which are not in conformity with the prevailing ethical standards will be difficult to enforce. A law that seeks to introduce a new concept of legal justice not in keeping with the prevailing social consciousness may be opposed by the people. Only such laws as are in accord with the social consciousness of a people are likely to be observed willingly by them.