Instrumentalities that influence Social Behavior and Law Making Process

The topic of this lecture is bit odd. It aims at exploring the influences of Education, Media, Religion, Morality, Economic Structure, Political Structure, Social Structure and Societal Value system on the law making process. It seems the intention is to study the influences on law rather than the law making process. It is hard to imagine how the law making process can be influenced by morality. The course assumes law making process in a democratic society, where legislature makes law. Therefore, in our lecture we are going to focus on the influences of the above instrumentalities on law, while also touching upon their influence on the law making process, when possible.


Barely universal or coherent notion. Some may regard something moral while others may regard very thing immoral. And even when a universal principle of morality is discovered, there may be disagreement as to their status or relation to the rest of human knowledge and experience.

Hart: apart from Primary Rules identified through official system with the help of secondary rule, other rules also continue to exist in society, which are termed as non-legal rules including moral rules.

  1. are arbitrarily and subjectively created by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience.
  2. ideal code of belief and conduct which would be preferred by the sane “moral” person, under specified conditions.
  3. is synonymous with ethics.

Issues of morality are normally decided by conscience and instinct. So morality is something that comes natural to a person, of course society, values, norms on which that person grows and matures can have big role.

Lon L. Fuller

Attempted to distinguish ‘the morality of aspiration and ‘the morality of duty’. The former is concerned with the desired norm of human conduct, independent of human activity; the latter involves the standards followed by human beings in social relations in particular circumstances. Fulfillment of the morality of aspiration necessitates a legal system which will assist in this task by the recognition and maintenance of social order. The morality of duty will involve the creation of acceptable codes of conduct which the law will seek to enforce. Further, law itself must have its own morality.

Positive and Critical Morality

Positive Morality are those social conventions that created by man. So positive morality may become ‘immoral morals’.

Critical morality being the standards by which those social conventions can be judged. But then finding such standards can be like a dog following its tail. Anyways, some people argue morality and its coherence can be tested in the public domain. And that morality too shall be, subject to stringent requirements of rationality. FOR INSTANCE LORD Devlin’s Litmus test/reasonable person test (No Clapham Omnibus)

However, morality based on unreasonable, irrational and unfair grounds slowly but surely loose their strength and identity and wither away as morality. For Example, Sati, Homosexuality (at least in case of justification provided by the Emperor Justinian, who disapproved homosexuality because it caused earthquakes) and so forth.

So what is then the place of Morality in Law?

No one denies that morality can figure in legal argument and legal practice.

So debate lies somewhere else. First there lie many important variants in the claim itself that there is a necessary connection between law and morality. Second there is debate on the issue of extent of influence of these two standards. Merger or intersection – Hart Fuller Debate.

As far as the issue of variants in the claim, Natural, Positive School (Inclusive and Exclusive Legal Positivism)

Classical Natural School – first there are certain principles of true morality of justice, discoverable by human reason without the aid of revelation even though they have a devine origin. Second, that man-made laws which conflict with these principles are not valid law. Lex iniusta non est lex.

Sometimes moralities are enforced by law.

Examples, Interim Constitution of Nepal Articles 12 (3) (1) & (3), 15 (1)

Where Constitution qualifies the application of right to freedom of opinion and expression, right to form political party, union and associations, on assurance that such freedom do not go against public morality.

Public Offence Act 2027, Section 2 (c), (c1), (h)

The Act prohibits acts such as, swearing in public, presenting vulgar materials or signs in public, behaving improperly in public and so forth.

Emanuel Kant, Regarded laws prescribe external conduct whereas morals prescribe internal conduct, that is, morals alone are concerned with subjective factors, such as motive.

The Law may be too cumbersome an instrument to justify legal intervention in some spheres, and might thus do more harm than good, as in the case of some sexual irregularities, or it may be felt that certain moral duties are best left to the individual conscience, as, for instance, the duty to rescue a drowning man. Again, many legal questions are morally indifferent, for instance, the rule of the road, or where a choice is to be made whether a loss is to fall on one or other of two innocent persons.

Is abiding by a law moral?

Is abiding by a bad, discriminatory and unjust law immoral?

Hart – differences between moral and legal responsibility is due to substantive differences between the content of legal and moral rules and principles, rather than in semantic distinctions, eg, there may be important differences in the criteria applied, as for instance, where the law may rely upon concepts of strict or even absolute liability, which are hard, if not impossible, to reconcile with our present concept of morality.

Hart…similarities between Moral and legal rules

  • They are alike in that they are conceived as binding independently of the consent of the individual bound and are supported by serious social pressure for conformity
  • Compliance with both legal and moral obligations is regarded not as a matter for praise but as a minimum contribution to social life to be taken as a matter of course
  • Both include rules governing the individuals recurring in situations constantly recurring throughout life rather than special activities or occasions, and though both may include much that is peculiar to the real or fancied needs of a particular society, both make demands which must obviously be satisfied by any group of human beings who are to succeed in living together

Hart – Devlin Debate

Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, Wolfenden Report

“It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behavior, further than is necessary to carry out the purposes we outlined.”

Hence, the Report suggested the decriminalization of specific homosexual acts between consenting adults in private, and stressed the significance of two particular principles. First that the function of the criminal law, in the area with which the Report had been concerned, was to preserve public order and decency, to protect the public from that which was injurious or offensive and to safeguard the vulnerable against corruption and exploitation. Second there must remain a realm of private morality which is not the law’s business.

The report argued that unless a deliberate attempt is to be made by society acting through the agency of the law, to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business.

So, the Report sought to differentiate between Private and Public Morality, and exclude private morality altogether from the criminal law’s purview.

Devlin in his 1958 lecture criticizes the Report in following terms

Certain moral principles which our society does require to be observed; their breach can be considered as an offense against society as a whole. The law does not punish all immorality; it does not condone any immorality. Further, Lord Devlin asks following questions;

  1. Has society the right to pass judgment at all on matters of morals? Ought there, in other words, to be a public morality, or are morals always a matter of private judgment?
  2. If society has the right to pass judgment, has it also the right to use the weapon of the law to enforce it?
  3. If so, ought it to use that weapon in all cases or only in some; and if only in some, on what principles should it distinguish?

In answering first question, Lord Devlin gave a resounding yes. Lord Devlin argued that public morality is important in keeping a society together and if and when public morality are relaxed, then members of society will drift apart.

In answering second question, Lord Devlin argued that it is not possible to set any theoretical limits to the government’s power to legislate against immorality. A society has an undeniable right to legislate against internal and external dangers. The loosening of communal bonds may be a preliminary to total social disintegration and therefore a society should take steps to preserve its moral code. Hence, a society is entitled to use the law in order to preserve its morality in precisely the same way that it uses the law to safeguard anything else considered essential to its existence.

To the last question, Devlin devises a ‘reasonable man test’ in determining the extent of immorality that law should address. Under this test first Lord Devlin suggests tolerance of the maximum individual freedom consistent with society’s integrity. Secondly, when any activity goes beyond this tolerance limit such activity is punishable, this in-turn is determined by the ‘intolerance, indignation and disgust’ created in the mind of the reasonable man. Thirdly, Privacy must be respected and balanced against the need to enforce the law. Finally, since law is concerned with minima, not maxima, society should set its standards above those of the law.

Hart then criticized Devlin in the following line. First Hart argued that breach of morality will not necessarily affect the integrity of society as a whole. Second, criminal sanction for private morality is in all likelihood disproportionate in inflicting misery and pain to the ‘offender’. Thirdly, the reasonable man test which judges on the basis of ‘intolerance, indignation and disgust’ is vague and legislature can never be expected to formulate law to such effect. Furthermore, since the degree of ‘intolerance, indignation and disgust’ may change from society and time there will be lack of predictability and coherence in law, if Lord Devlin’s arguments were to be supported.

Economic Structure

Economic policy and structure have great influence on law and law making process. Law acts as a tool to transfer economic principles into practice. For example, liberalization legal tools, WTO related Laws. In addition, many laws have to speak to the economic structure of the society and interpreted accordingly. For example, Competition Law.

Political Structure

Many political institutions such as the parliament and their nature, form of governance, structure of the state, influence of pressure groups, lobbyist have influence on law and the law making process.

Media, Education, Religion, Social Structure and Societal Value System also influence the law making process by mooring the process on the foundation of social values and popular aspirations. In addition, such instrumentalities, allows accountable, predictable and democratic procedure of law making.