What are the Functions of Law?
A lawless society cannot stand. It is clear to every rational human that there are many functions that any Law which is properly exercised performs. The functions of Law are many and that is why both governments and the citizens cannot underestimate the power of Law.
In education, financial institutions, politics, agriculture, research institutions, non-profit organizations, Law has its functions to perform. This is why any who thinks is not treated properly by any organization can sue the organization to the Law court for examination and proper justice. No standard institution can work without set of rules called Law that guides the institution. Any institution that does not have or do not abide by the Law is likely to collapse.
This heading will properly teach and examine the functions that Law that is being practice all over the globe performs. It is not limited to any particular country like United States, India, China or Nigeria, but it concerns the general overview on the functions Law perform around the globe.
The Main Functions of Law
A lawless society is an ungovernable society. Law performs so many functions in our society and the world at large. The functions of Law include:
- Dispute settlement and Remedies;
- Identification and Allocation of Official Authorities;
- In change of Law; and
- Definition and Regulation of Social Relationships.
What are the Functions of Law in every society?
The Functions of Law in Dispute settlement and Remedies
One of the basic functions of Law is to establish a formal mechanism for settlement of disputes (Abiola 2006). Law has settled many Land disputes and other property disputes that have been causing a lot of problems for years now. Some people who are guilty and think that they can take the property of a widow from her because the husband to the woman is no more has been put to shame because justice prevailed through Law. When case of this nature is reported in Law courts, judicial and administrative tribunals, they are being settled. Though land cases can take up to years or months, but at the end, the case is being resolved.
Law provide adequate remedies where a party has suffered injury due to an action of inaction of the other. For instance, the Law provides a civilized method of obtaining remedy where there is a breach of obligation in relation to contractual dealing. If two parties are into contract, any of the two parties that attempts or kill the other party maybe because of payment that arises must face the Law. The remedy for this offence can be judged through one of the classifications of offence.
Again, the remedies for a breach in may be damages, specific performance, injunction, recession and indemnity, among others, depending on the facts of each case. Indemnity is security or protection against a loss or other financial burden. A contract between two parties can be remedied by protecting the contract. The Law makes this possible so that one of the two parties will not cheat the other.
The function of Law in Identification and Allocation of Official Authorities
The Law establishes or recognizes specific institutions, body of persons and individuals and vests in them with authority to exercise certain Powers on behalf of the State or institutions (Abiola 2006).
The constitution which comprises the Law government democratic countries has three arms. The three arms of government include the Legislative, the executive and the Judiciary. These three arms of government have the specific functions they perform. Sometimes, the functions of these arms tend to overlap but one is not expected to cross its limit. The legislative exercises its legislative power, the executive exercises its executive power, and the judiciary is expected to exercise the judicial power vested on him.
In university for instance, there is guide on how university, faculty and departmental heads are appointed or elected. The means of selection is made possible as a result of the function of the Law. It is so to avoid any misunderstanding that may result during the selection process. If the Law guiding any country states that the president of that particular country is to appoint any individual that will work as the vice chancellor of the universities located in that country, automatically, the means of choosing a vice chancellor will be by appointment by the president of the country and not by election.
On the other hand, if the Law of another country states that the vice chancellor guiding universities in the country are to be elected by the academic staff in the country’s universities, then the means of choosing vice chancellors to head the universities in that country becomes by election.
In universities in Nigeria for instance, the department heads or heads of departments are being chosen by elections by voting from the departmental lecturers. If the Law of the country does not support such, the method will not work at all. But for the fact that it is approved by Law, that becomes the means through which Head of Departments (H.O.Ds) are being called to offices.
Furthermore, if the Law guiding United States of America for instance states that before any academic staff could lead as the vice chancellor in any University in the country that he or she must be a Professor that becomes one of the criteria for choosing any one as the vice chancellor in any of the Universities in the country. Any lecturer that wants to contest for the post but do not meet up with this requirement is expected to forget his dream of becoming the vice chancellor in any university located in the country is the Law holds the requirement stated.
The Functions of Law in the Change of Law
Another function of Law is that it makes the Constitution and the Laws governing various societies to be subject to change. The Law that is guiding a country may be changed when it appears that some of the contents are no longer compatible or out of date.
Some countries were governed by foreign people. At that point, the people that colonized the countries made Laws that fitted their standard and their personal interests. The Law may be made so that the people that were being colonized will not have much say on what the colonial masters do. But what happens when the colonial masters left?
When they left the country they colonized for years, there will be amendment of the Law of the country. The Law at this point when changed will be compatible to some extent unlike the one that the people that colonized such countries made for their personal interests.
Also, it is because Law performs function that is subject to change that made countries to transform from military to democratic rule. The contents of the constitution of a country are never the same when the government is changed to democratic. At that change it is no longer that the head of the country must be a military man or woman but any certified citizen of the country could contest for presidential post of the country.
The Law must establish the procedure for changing the old rules and provisions of Law. Some may require mere subsidiary legislation such as ministerial order depending on the degree of changes to be effected. Fundamental changes in the Law may require new legislation or amendment of the constitution (ibid).
A notable example is the amendment of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1999. Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution contains provisions for amending the constitution, while section 58 contains provisions for making new legislation.
Definition and Regulation of Social Relationships
Because of the function Law performs, the social relationships of people that live in various communities of the world are being regulated. The man inhumanity to man when it comes to relationship has Law to stop such unwelcomed act. The individual to individual and group to group relationships are being defined by Law.
Taking the institution of marriage as a case study, the Law defines this in a right and good way. In a relationship of this type, the Law made provisions for the two that want to enter into it. That two have been living together for long time does not justify them of being married. The requirements that are to be met include payment of bride price, appropriate ages of the two and others. That a young man and a young lady who were sent by their parents to a university to acquire knowledge decided to live together in one room and have sex anytime they are in need does not make them married.
The Law of some countries permit same sex marriage while that of many others do not support that. For instance, in the Law of Federal Republic of Nigeria, same sex marriage is not permitted but in United States of America, the Law of the country permits such.
The type of marriage that can be practiced in any country is instituted in the constitution of the country. Though same sex marriage is seen as immoral act by some people, since the constitution of United States sees it as something that is right, it is no longer considered an offense. On the other, when it is recorded as an offence in some countries, any person caught in that act must face punishment as provided by the Law of the country.
In a wider social setting, the Law guarantees freedom to associate but defines and regulates the manner of doing so. If a two persons wants to start up a manufacturing industry for instance in the United States, there are certain requirements that the two must meet before such industry will exist.
Most times, people ask the question on how the society would have been without Law. There is Law and people are messing up, what will be the state when there is no Law? Law is very important in every society. No matter how small a society seems to appear, the institution of good Law will govern all the activities that are being carried out. Discussed under the topic are the functions of Law. The functions include in definition and regulation of relationships, its functions in settlement of disputes and provision of solutions, in identification and allocation of official authorities, and the functions of Law in its changes. It is important to note that there are many functions of Law depending on the angle the author(s) are writing from.
- Abiola Sanni (2006). “Introduction to Nigerian Legal Method”
- The 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria
- Child’s Right Act 2003
- Land Use Act, Cap L5 LFN 2004