Statutory Law: Meaning and Significance

A democratic country like India provides certain rights to its citizens and enacts laws that protect and enforce these rights because "ubi jus ibi remedium," i.e., there is no right without a remedy. Law is a set of rules that governs the actions of society by utilising rights. These laws make the legal system more effective and extensive. There are four major types of laws: statutory law, criminal law, civil law, and common law. In this article, an attempt has been made to study various aspects of statutory law.

What is Statutory law?

Statutory law is contained in "statutes." Statutory law is considered to be the basic structure of the Indian legal system. Statutory law is also known as legislative law. This law is made by the legislative organ of the government. It is in written format and represents the definite and formulated will of the Indian legislature. Normally, "statute" denotes an act enacted by the legislative authority, i.e., the Parliament or the State Legislature. The term "statutory law" is widely used to denote all civil and criminal laws together. The term "statute" has not been used by the Constitution of India; instead, it uses the term "law." "Law" has been defined under Article 13 of the Constitution as any ordinance, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom, or usage having the force of law.

The fundamental aim behind the implementation of statutory law is to provide justice to the common people. After a statute has been enacted, it is interpreted by the judicial branch of the government in order to resolve disputes and impart justice.

Kinds of Statutes

A statute may be classified on the basis of −

  • Duration − Perpetual Statutes, Temporary Statutes

  • Nature of Operation − prospective statutes, retrospective statutes, directory statutes, mandatory statutes

  • Objective − Enabling Statutes, Disabling Statutes, Permissive Statutes, Prohibitory Statutes, Codifying Statutes, Consolidating Statutes, Curative Statutes, Repealing Statutes, Amending Statutes

Statute Law v. Common Law

England established common law. Common law is also referred to as case law or precedent law. The name alone indicates that this source of law is determined by decisions given by courts in a particular case. Such rulings are considered precedent in similar future cases. Whereas in statutory law, the laws are drafted keeping in mind the possible future situations that may arise.

The legal rules and principles in a civil law system are predominantly contained in statutes and codes. Whereas in a common law system, the legal rules and principles are mostly comprised of judicial decisions.

Common law is created by the courts in their decisions, whereas in statutory law, legislation is created by the legislative organ of the government. Even though statutory laws have made significant contributions to the country's legal system, courts continue to play an important role in the creation and application of law.

However, these sources of law do not stand independently of each other. They are part of the integrated legal system of the country and have a symbiotic relationship with each other. It is true that in a constitutional regime, statute law prevails over common law, but it is also true that statutory law is often interpreted by the courts in accordance with common law principles.

How a Statute is Created in India?

Statutory law comes into existence through codification. This codification of legislative enactments or statutory law is done through a legislative procedure. In India, the task of making laws has been given to the Parliament and state legislatures. The Constitution of India divides the legislative powers of the Union and State Legislatures into three lists: the Union List, the State List, and the Concurrent List.

Process of Making Law

The legislative power of government and the legislative procedure is discussed as follows −

Principles of the Interpretation of Statutes

The doctrine of separation of powers is applicable in India. This implies that the roles of each organ have been defined: the legislature makes the law, the executive implements the law, and the judiciary interprets the law to decide cases. In order to apply the law to a particular matter, the judges apply certain rules of statutory interpretation −

  • Rule of literal interpretation − It is a cardinal principle that statutes are precisely written and leave very little room for interpretation. Thus, the words or sentences used in a statute should be given their literal, grammatical, and strict meaning if there is no ambiguity. The strict meaning of an unambiguous word furthers the intention of the legislature.

  • Golden rule of interpretation − This rule is an advancement of the literal rule. It says that words should be given their literal meaning, but if that leads to any inconvenience or hardship, then such an interpretation should be adopted that removes such injustice or hardship.

  • Rule of harmonious interpretation − When there is a conflict between the words of a statute, they should be harmonised in such a way that the object of the legislation is furthered and all of them are given effect.

  • Mischief Rule or Heydon's Rule − When the language of a statute affords more than one interpretation, then as per Heydon's principle, the judge shall consider the following factors while interpreting: what was the mischief or defect for which the law did not provide; what was the remedy that the Act has provided; what is the reason for the remedy; what was the law before the making of the Act? That interpretation must be adopted, which suppresses the mischief and advances the remedy.

  • Rule of Purposive Interpretation − This principle provides that the words of a statute should be interpreted in such a way that the purpose of the statute is upheld.


It is common to refer to all laws, including civil and criminal laws, as "statutory law." The laws are typically regarded as the regulations that have been put in place by the governing body to uphold the legal forces and to impose punishments when the legal procedures are not adhered to. Application of statutory law is driven by the primary goals of providing justice to the general populace and removing the possibility of harm emerging from the social realm.


Q1. Who can create statutory law in India?

Ans: Laws can be created by the legislative branch of the government at any level, i.e., central, state, or local. Laws created at the central level apply to the entire country and take precedence over other state and local laws.

Q2. What do you understand by supreme and subordinate legislation?

Ans: The Supreme and Subordinate legislations are two types of legislations. Supreme legislation is the one that directly derives its powers from the Constitution. No other legislative power can bring such legislation into question. Usually, the Acts of Parliament and ordinances promulgated by the President or Governor are the supreme legislation.

Subordinate laws are the ones that are passed under the authority given by the supreme law. These laws are inferior in power as compared to the supreme laws. The rules made by executives, corporations, municipalities, and universities under the authority of supreme legislation are considered subordinate.

Q3. What do you understand by the concept of the Constitution as a normative basis for all the statutes in India?

Ans: As the laws in the country get their legitimacy from the criteria set forth in the basic structure, it is possible to think of the "basic structure" of the constitution as the rule of recognition or ground norm, which is the ultimate source of a legal system.