Municipal Law: Meaning and Types

Every country or an independent political state has a bundle of well−defined rules and regulations to govern the country and related transactions and affairs, as well as the individuals’ behaviors and activities. This bundle of rules and regulations is comprehensively covered under the Municipal Law.

What is the Meaning of Municipal Law?

Municipal law is the body of rules and regulations that apply only to a particular county, state, or other independent political entity. Municipal law is a sovereign state's domestic, national, or local law. Municipal law encompasses all laws that are enacted at the federal, state, provincial, territorial, regional, and local levels. Different types of law may exist in terms of the law of the state, but international law frequently disregards this distinction and treats all of them as one.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “municipal law” is defined as "the laws and ordinances that are in force inside a city, municipality, or other local government organization." Thus, municipal law is a legislation enacted by a state's legislature or other law−making body that is only applicable to that state.

Significance of Municipal Law

Municipal law aims to regulate municipal management, operations, and legal standing in addition to their operational procedures, responsibilities, and functions. The law also specifies the steps to be used in establishing, defining, and resolving disputes over municipal limits. It covers the functions performed by organizations like municipal councils, specialized committees, and auditing committees, as well as the procedures involved in conducting meetings and dissolving councils, in terms of how municipalities are structured. The ordinance also specifies the procedure for choosing the mayor, his or her duties, control over the police and fire departments, and management of the municipality's finances.

Types of Municipal Law

Municipal law is the area of the law that is used inside a state. Primarily, it is divided into Public Law and Private Law, which further depending upon the nature and subject matters, categorized into different types.

Public Law

It is the law uniformly applicable to throughout the country irrespective of religion and race. It governs and instructs how the state is structured and run, as well as how the state interacts with its constituents. It can be categorized into three categories −

  • Constitutional Law− The fundamental, core, or supreme law of a state is its constitution. The type of government and its organizational structure are established by legislation. Because the Constitutional Law confers power and force on ordinary law, it is superior to all other prevailing law.

  • Administrative Law− This legislation deals with the structure, authority, and duties of the administrative organs; the boundaries of their authority; the procedures and methods they use to exert it; the means by which it is restrained; and the legal recourse that a person has when their actions violate his or her rights.

  • Criminal Law− It outlines offenses and lays forth the appropriate sanctions. Because "crime" is viewed in civilized communities as a wrong against society rather than an individual, it is intended to prevent and punish offenses.

Private Law

It is the law that governs the community specific individual’s behaviours. The relationships between people of same community (primarily, based on religion) are governed and regulated by this area of legislation. Such as Family Law, Marriage Law, Divorce Law, Property Law, etc.

  • Hindu Law − Hindu dharma is one of the oldest jurisprudences of the legal world. The written Smritis are− Manusmriti, Yajnavalkya smriti and Naradasmriti. These are as old as 13th century B.C. The term dharmasastra applies to these smritis generally. The Sanskrit treatises on these Smritis appeared as commentaries and digests. The most important of them are Mitakshara written by Vijnaneswara (1100 A.D.) and Dayabhaga written by Jimutavahana (1300 A.D.). These two are called the school of Hindu law. Mitakshara is being followed in all parts of India except Bengal, Assam where Dayabhaga has its sway.

  • Muslim law is not codified. The Holy Koran is the highest religious and inspiring book and is rightly designated as the main and the original source of Muslim Law, religion and culture, and also of the social, moral and other values, of Muslim Society. It is remarkable for its simplicity and practicability. Muslims in India are governed by their personal law known as Mohammadan Law. The classical books on Mohammadan Law by Baillie (1875), Ameer Ali (1912) and Tyabji (1940) are known for their commendable lucidity. They have opened new vistas for further research and development.

Theories of Municipal Laws

The theories that are related to the application of international law within the municipal sphere are −

I. Specific Adoption or Specific Incorporation Theory

According to positivists, state courts or other administrative bodies cannot directly and ex proprio vigore apply customary international law in the municipal arena. It is necessary for customary international law to go through a process of specific adoption by or specific incorporation into municipal law in order to be applied inside the municipal domain.

II. Transformation Theory

The provisions of treaties that make up international law must be amended in manner that can fit into the local socio−cultural set−up. It is not only a formal need for treaty provisions. It is an important prerequisite. The terms of the treaty may be incorporated into municipal law through amendment, or member state legislatures may pass enabling legislation to give effect to the treaty in the context of their respective municipalities. The provisions of a treaty may only be extended to individuals in a state after being transformed into municipal law and not before.

III. Delegation Theory

The delegation theory is the notion put forth by the transformation theory's detractors. According to the delegation theory, each state constitution has the authority to decide when a treaty's provisions enter into force and how they should be incorporated into local law. This authority is granted by the constitutional standards of international law. The approach and procedure that the state will use for this aim are a continuation of those that started with the signing of the treaty. Thus, the prerequisites of state law's constitution are only a component of a unitary legal formation process.

Role of Municipal Laws

The general rule regarding the place of municipal law in the international realm is that a state that has violated an international law provision cannot defend itself by citing its domestic legal system. Saying that a state acted in a certain way because it had to comply with its own local rules is no excuse for breaking an international responsibility.

As a result, state practice and decided cases have established this clause, making it impossible for parties to an international lawsuit to invoke municipal law as a means of getting around the rules of international law. In accordance with Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969, a state may not use the fact that its consent to be bound by a treaty was expressed in violation of a provision of its internal law regarding competence to conclude treaties as evidence that the treaty is invalid. Similarly, a party may not use the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to carry out an international agreement in accordance with Article 46(1) of the same convention.

However, internal legal principles play a crucial part in how the system of international law functions. Examining municipal laws is one technique for comprehending and ascertaining a state's legal stance on a variety of issues crucial to international law. A nation might, for example, use its domestic legal system to voice its views on important international issues like the size of its territorial sea, the territory it claims, or the requirements for obtaining nationality.


Municipal law is a type of domestic legislation. It can exist at the county or an independent political unit. It is well−defined bundle of rules and regulations that defines from the individuals’ activities to the government’s activities and also instructs how both should act independently as well as with each other.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the importance of municipal laws?

Municipal law regulates domestic rules and regulations and deals with individuals’ affairs and as well as between people and the government’s relationships, whereas international law is largely concerned with relationships between states.

Q. What are the sources of municipal law?

The source of municipal law is the will of the state itself, while the source of international law is the common will of states.

Q. What is the role and importance of municipalities?

A municipality is essentially the state government's answer to the demand for specific public services (such as trash disposal, police and fire protection, water supply, and health care) beyond what the county or other local governments in the area are able to provide.

Q. What is the relationship between national law and international law?

National laws support the sovereignty and growth of nation−states, whereas international laws promote and maintain the international relations. An argument about whether international rules are better than domestic laws should only begin if there is a disagreement between the two.