Law & Liberty



The Black’s law dictionary has defined the meaning of law in the most precise manner as, “the aggregate of legislation, judicial precedents, and accepted legal principles”[1] Laws can be defined as the set of rules and regulations that are backed by force to regulate the working of the country. It is essential to have rules and regulations to be able to avoid the chaos that used to be there in the state of nature (a situation that was prevalent before the existence of proper laws and political associations). Two senses of law that have been recognized broadly are –

  • General sense
  • Juridical sense

Liberty on the other hand means a state of being free from any undue external restraints. It is a privilege to be able to enjoy the free movement of a person or living life without any boundations. However, liberty can be characterized into two-

  • Positive liberty– positive liberty is when a person has the freedom to express his own self, gain opportunities in a fair and just manner, and be able to act at one’s will. Jean Jacques Rousseau has pointed out his concept of ‘general will’
  • Negative liberty– this can be defined as freedom or liberty from any outside restraints or interference. John Locke and Thomas Hobbes have upholders of this theory.[2]

Liberty furthermore is of two types-

  • Natural liberty– this is mostly interpreted as absolute liberty. Since man is born free, therefore, he should not be directed on how he should live. Naturally, liberty, in the true sense is an imaginary concept as ultimate and unrestricted liberty will lead to chaos.
  • Civil Liberty– the liberty, enjoyed by the citizen of the society that is equally available to every individual and is subject to reasonable restrictions is called l=civil liberty.

Law plays a crucial role in determining if liberty is natural or civil.


Law and liberty share a peculiar and unavoidable bond with each other. Liberty is a fundamental right to all the citizens of the nation. Our preamble clearly states that the citizens enjoy the liberty of thought, expression, worship, faith, and belief. This comes under article 21 of the Indian Constitution. There needs to be a balance between law and liberty. One cannot enjoy either of the two in an absolute manner. The state shall be allowed to interfere only to prevent the liberty of other citizens, keeping in mind to not hinder one’s personal liberty.

EXAMPLE 1- A man is allowed to drive his car on the road if he is a licensed driver. However, a speed limit is imposed on him. This is done to protect the lives of other citizens who are enjoying the liberty of driving their respective cars. The line between law and liberty should be drawn when one’s liberty starts to interfere in another person’s freedom. That is when the law and state come into the picture.

EXAMPLE 2– A person has the freedom to live wherever he wishes to, however, trespassing or interfering in another person’s private property. That will interfere in the liberty of another person, this is where the law comes in.

Political philosopher John Locke was of the belief that law creates a condition for the people to enjoy liberty in its fullest form, it governs human actions and helps to maintain peace and harmony whereas, and another political philosopher has a very contradictory view. He was a firm believer in a monarchy and viewed people as selfish and vile creatures. Liberty, especially in the democratic form of government is the most essential element.


Liberty plays a direct role in influencing the laws that are formulated by the law making body because our constitution has provided the citizen with liberty as our fundamental or the supreme right. We see how any law that comes in the way of personal liberty is highly criticized and opposed by the people. For example, the ban on widow remarriage was highly opposed by the people of our country.

Law without liberty will hinder the very core of democracy and liberty without the law will bring nothing but anarchy. In a democratic form of government, liberty is treated as the top priority as the government is elected to serve the people and in favour of it. Law acts as a safeguard of liberty.

Judiciary, being the independent body and the guardian of the Constitution of India,  makes sure that no law, that hinders the liberty of its citizen is practiced or no new billed is passed.


It is necessary to create a balance between law and liberty to maintain peace and harmony in society. One way of doing this could be by updating the already existing laws in our country. Some laws might be unethical in nature a few years back, however, as time changes, it might come in the way of liberty. The laws are for the people, therefore it is important they are empathetic in nature and is not interfering in the personal liberty of a person. It is a task to draw a line between the two and create a balance between the two. They go hand in hand. It is to be noted that liberty and freedom with restrictions can maintain order and peace in the state and that reasonable restriction can only be imposed by law. However, this is also not absolute. Laws made by the dictatorship form of government most likely go against liberty. Therefore, the type of government creates a huge difference in the relationship between law and liberty.

Liberty without law would serve as a license to speak and do whatever one wishes to without any limitation or foundations and law without liberty would become oppressive and won’t serve any good to the people. Where law ends, tyranny begins and without a disciplined life, liberty has no meaning.[3]

Author’s Name: Iva Mehta (NMIMS Bangalore)

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