By-Laws: Definition and Meaning

Every system, firm, or organization needs internal rules and regulations to run its internal affairs smoothly. Whether it is government organization or private organization both have the right to make rules for their internal affairs, which will be applicable only to people who are the employees of that organization and strictly not applicable to public in general. Such types of rules and regulation defined as by-laws.

What is the Meaning of "By-Laws?"

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the phrase "By-Law" derives from the Old Norse word "blg," which is derived from the Old Norse words "br town + lag-, lg law." The term's earliest use, which dates back to Viking town legislation in the Danelaw, uses the Old Norse word "by" to refer to a larger settlement, like Whitby or Derby (compare with the modern Danish-Norwegian word "by," meaning town, or the modern Swedish word "by," meaning village). It's also possible that this use of the word was lost and that it was "reinvented" in modern usage by adding the adverbial prefix by- to give the connotation of side-law or subsidiary law (as in byway). It is false to state that the prepositional phrase "by law" is the sole source of the word's meaning in either scenario.

Likewise, a by-law is a rule or regulation made by a local government, organization, firm, or company that has the force of law within a specific jurisdiction or domain. By-laws characteristically govern the internal affairs of the respective organization or community, such as the management of property, the conduct of meetings, and the election of officials, the conducts of employees, etc. By-laws are often enforced by fines or other penalties for non-compliance.

Features of By-Laws

Although bylaws significantly differ from organisation to organisation, they typically address issues like the organization's mission, its members, how directors are chosen, how meetings are run, and the officials the organisation will have and their respective job descriptions. NOMOMECPA, which is pronounced "No mommy, see pa!" is a popular mnemonic for recalling the common articles of By-Laws. Name, object, members, officers, gatherings, the executive board, committees, parliamentary power, and modification are all represented by this acronym.

The bylaws must be written precisely. Otherwise, the meaning may be possible to interpret. In these situations, the organisation determines how to interpret its bylaws and may employ interpretive guidelines.


The process for modifying or amending the bylaws is typically the discretionary power of the respective firm or organization. However, the top level or management level people of the organization with consensus can amend the provisions. In a big organization, other people’s (employees’) views are also mandatory; therefore, there is voting system under which a majority of all members, or a two-thirds vote, is typically required for such alteration.

Application of By-Laws to Organizations

By-laws are applicable to these listed organisation-


Trade unions typically have constitutions in various nations, which set down rules for both the union's local offices and its worldwide office. The community can create its own bylaws to specify internal guidelines for how to conduct activities.

Union By-Laws can occasionally be a subset of the union's constitution or more precisely execute the union's regulations in other nations, such as the United Kingdom.

Organizations that are Charitable

Adopting bylaws is a requirement for non-profit organisations in the United States seeking federal tax-exemption status. Non-profit bylaws are more of an internal organising document than are required by most states, but they are needed to submit a Form 1023 application for non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exemption.

Types of By-Laws

Municipal by-laws and organizational by-laws are the major by-laws. Let’s discuss each one of them separately in brief:

Municipal By-Laws

Municipal By-Laws are local public regulations that govern a certain area. A By-Law is created by a non-sovereign entity that receives its authority from another governing body and can only be made on a narrow range of issues, which is the primary distinction between a By-Law and a law approved by a national, federal, regional, or state organization. A national or regional law that outlines what matters the town or city may regulate through By-Laws gives a local council or municipal government the authority to enact laws.

As a result, it is a type of delegated legislation. A municipal By-Law is no different from any other law of the land within its authority and is unique to the areas designated by the higher body; it can be enforced with fines, contested in court, and must abide by other laws of the land, such as the country's constitution. Municipal By-Laws are frequently enforced by the public court system, and violators of By-Laws may be charged with a criminal offence. Vehicle parking and stopping restrictions, animal control, building and construction, licencing, noise, zoning and business regulation, and management of public recreation areas are all examples of By-Laws that are frequently used.

Organizational By-Laws

Corporate and organisational By-Laws specify how a corporation or organisation should be governed, regulating only the organisation to which they apply and generally focusing on how the organisation operates. The founders or directors of a corporation, acting in accordance with the provisions of its charter or articles of incorporation, draught the corporation's By-Laws.


The most essential guidelines and rules pertaining to the structure of the organisation are contained in the bylaws. Because a single, unified text is easier to use, more clear, and less likely to cause disagreement, it has largely replaced the once-common practise of organisations having two separate governing documents: a constitution and By-Laws.

While it is correct to refer to this one document as the By-Laws, it is frequently called a constitution or a constitution plus By-Laws. The organisation does not have a formal existence until the By-Laws have been adopted, unless otherwise specified by law.


Q1. What are By-Laws in India?

Ans. In order to ensure orderly growth of an area, building bye-laws are a legal tool that are used to control building coverage, height, building bulk, and architectural design and construction elements.

Q2. What are types of bylaws?

Ans. Vehicle parking and stopping restrictions, animal control, building and construction, licencing, noise, zoning and business regulation, and management of public recreation areas are all examples of By-Laws that are frequently used.

Q3. What is the purpose of a bylaws?

Ans. The formal name of the organisation, its goals, eligibility conditions for membership, the roles and duties of its officials, the manner in which offices shall be filled, the conduct of meetings, and the frequency of meetings are all normally outlined in the bylaws.

Q4. What is the difference between rules and bylaws?

Ans. Bylaws are more comprehensive and refer to procedures, whereas standing rules tend to be more administrative and speak to particular. These two factors are the main distinctions between standing rules and bylaws. Standing rules and bylaws follow a hierarchical structure, with bylaws taking precedence over standing orders.

Updated on: 01-Feb-2023


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