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The Oxford dictionary defines the word "source" as "the point from which something starts," or "essentially the origin of something." To put it succinctly, the point of origin from which law emerges is known as a "source of law." According to Lon L. Fuller, a judge uses certain rules to decide different cases, and these rules are called "sources."

There are a lot of theories about this source of law, and a lot of claims and counterclaims are made by different legal schools. According to positivist law theorists like John Austin, the sovereign is the one who creates and enforces the law. Law is derived from nature and human reason, according to natural law theorists. Henry Maine and F.K. Von Savigny believe that custom is the most significant source of law.


Salmond's perspective 

John Salmond, a jurisprudence expert known for his legal theories, divided the sources of law primarily into two groups: formal sources and material sources. 

Material sources

The sources from which the law derives its content or matter, but not its validity, are known as material sources of law. Legal sources and historical sources are the two categories of material sources. 

Formal sources 

The means through which the state expresses its intent are formal sources of legislation. Generally speaking, the formal sources of law in the contemporary era are statutes and judicial precedents. Law's formal sources are where it gets its weight, legitimacy, and power. 

G.W Keeton’s perspective

According to G.W. Keeton, there are two main sources for law: sources that have legal force and sources that have persuasive power. In the absence of binding sources, persuasive sources will only be considered. Binding sources are those that the court will ordinarily follow, such as legal precedents, statutes, customs, etc. These evidence-supporting sources can be foreign precedents, expert advice, or moral or equitable standards.


These general sources of law are the common sources which are accepted by the general society as the sources of law. These include: legislation, precedents and customs


The word "legislation" comes from Latin. Literally, it means "making the law". Given that it is supported by legal authority, it is one of the key legal sources.

Other institutions widely recognise it. It has two interpretations: first, it refers to the legislative process, and second, to the law itself.

Types of legislation :

legislation can be divided into two types- Supreme and Subordinate. 

Supreme legislation :

When a supreme or sovereign law-making authority enacts a piece of legislation, it is referred to as supreme legislation. The body must possess sufficient authority such that the rules or laws it enacts cannot be overturned or changed by another body. It is impossible to recognise the Indian Parliament as a legally independent body because the laws it passes can be reversed in court. In contrast, the British Parliament is viewed as a sovereign legislative body since the legality of the legislation it passes cannot be disputed in a court of law. 

Subordinate legislation :

Subordinate legislation is legislation enacted by a subordinate law-making authority. The subordinate body's legislative authority must have come from a sovereign legislative body. It is under the authority of the supreme legislative body. The various types of subordinate legislation are as follows: 

Executive legislation: A type of subordinate legislation in which the executive is granted or conferred specific rule-making powers to implement the legislative intentions, represented by a pointer to the executive entity.

Colonial legislation: Refers to the legislation passed by the legislature of territories colonized by Britain, which was subject to the control of the British Parliament, represented by a pointer to the colonized territories and a pointer to the British Parliament.

Judicial legislation: The courts play a role in creating laws that help regulate their own internal affairs and operations, represented by a pointer to the judiciary.

Municipal legislation: Municipal authorities have the power to make laws through bye-laws, represented by a pointer to the municipal authorities.

Autonomous legislation: Legislation that applies to independent bodies such as universities, corporations, and clubs, represented by a pointer to the autonomous entities.

Delegated legislation: When the parliament delegates legislative powers to certain bodies through principal legislation, the resulting subsidiary legislation can create laws in accordance with the principal legislation, represented by a pointer to the delegated bodies and a pointer to the principal legislation. 


Judicial precedents are prior decisions of superior courts. They are widely regarded as a major source of law, however a number of jurists disagree. Otto Stobbe, for example, asks if judicial precedents are simply the practical application of law, then can the practical application of anything be called the source of the same thing.

G.W Keetone, on the other hand, believes that judicial precedents are a legitimate source of law. G.W Keetone's explanation for this is based on two factors: the first is that the judges have a high level of authority, and the second is that if an issue of the same principle occurs in another case, the same principle will be applied. 

Types of precedents 

Authoritative and Persuasive:

Authoritative precedents are legal sources of law that must be followed by subordinate courts, while persuasive precedents do not have binding effect and can be used at the judge's discretion.

Absolute authoritative precedents are infallibly binding on inferior courts and cannot be disregarded, even if they are incorrect. Other judges must follow conditional authoritative precedents, but they may be discarded under unusual conditions as long as the judge provides justification.

Original and Declaratory:

A declaratory precedent is a sort of precedent that just declares an existing legal principle in a judgement, acting as a straightforward application of the law. In contrast, an original precedent creates and applies a new law, according to Salmond's classification.. 


Custom is the oldest and most fundamental source of law, while its significance is waning as legislation and precedent emerge. When the same activity is repeated in the same manner, it becomes conventional. Customs had a profound impact on the evolution of ancient Hindu law. Numerous examples of customary rules being recognised may be found in the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 (HMA). Here are a couple such examples: According to what follows: According to Section 7 HMA, a Hindu marriage may be solemnised in line with the customary rituals and customs of either party. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to impair any customary right. - HMA Section 29(2)

 Custom can further be categorised into two kinds: •]Legal Custom •]Conventional Custom.

I. Legal Custom: Salmond defines a legal custom as having absolute legal authority and the force of law in and of itself:

Kinds of legal Custom: •]General Custom. •]Local Custom.

(a) General Custom: The general customs are those that are binding on the entire territory. The ordinary practises of the realm serve as the foundation for English common law.

(b) Local Custom: The local customs are those that apply and have legal weight in a certain place. Local customs have greater authority than universal ones.

II. Conventional Custom: A conventional custom is one whose validity is contingent upon consent by the parties to the agreement who will be bound by it. There is a procedure by which common practise becomes enforceable by law.

Conditions for a Valid Custom:

Before a court can incorporate usages into contracts, certain conditions must be met, represented by the following pointers:

•}The usage must be well-established to the extent of being notorious.

•}The usage must be reasonable.

•}The usage cannot alter the general law of the land.

•}The usage should not nullify or vary the express terms of the contract.

Requisites of Valid Custom: Following are the requisites for a valid custom, treated as law

•)Immemorial: A custom's antiquity must be shown in order for it to be accepted as law. According to Blackstone, a custom must be widespread and legally binding in order to be called valid. It is regarded as a good custom if the tradition can be traced back to its beginnings.

•)Reasonable: A genuine tradition must also be sensible, which is another need. The unreasonableness of the custom must be so great that the harm caused by its execution would be greater if the custom didn't exist at all. Prof. Allen asserts that it is necessary to demonstrate the custom's unreasonableness, not its reasonableness.

•)Continuous: A custom must not be consistently observed, and if it has not been followed constantly and without interruption, it is assumed that it never existed.

•)Peaceable enjoyment: The enjoyment of a custom must be peaceable.

•)Certainty: A valid custom must be certain and definite, without any ambiguity or constant changes.

•)Compulsory observance: The observance of a custom must be compulsory for it to be valid. Optical observance is not effective. For instance, a custom that requires all inhabitants to contribute towards the maintenance of a bridge is valid, but a custom that allows each person to contribute at their own discretion is idle and not a custom at all, according to Blackstone.

•) General or universal: The custom needs to be widespread or universal. Without unanimous agreement, custom loses its influence or, better yet, ceases to exist. A valid custom must not conflict with public policy or the principles of morality.

•}Not Opposed With Statute Law: Valid custom must not be in opposition to thenational statute law. No custom or prescription may diminish the authority of a parliamentary act, claims Coke.Blackstone argues that traditions must be consistent with one another and cannot be put up in opposition to one another.

Theories of customs

There are two theories regarding the question as to when a question is transformed into law:

•) Historical theory  •)Analytical theory

(i) Historical theory: The historical theory holds that no one person's arbitrary will has any bearing on the development of law. It is independent of any mishap. It expands as a result of people's intelligence. Custom is a product of people's collective consciousness. According to Puchta, custom is a prerequisite for any sound legislation in addition to being self-sufficient and independent of state approval.

(ii) Analytical theory: One of the primary preachers of the Analytical school, Austin, claims that customs have no legal standing unless and until the sovereign officially recognises them. This is in line with his broader idea of sovereignty because custom cannot be thought of as a command without the authority of supreme authority. He believes that until and unless the government or a judge has given a tradition the status of law, it should be treated as a positive morality code. 

The acknowledgment and approval of the sovereign imbue the custom with the dignity of law regular adherence of a custom, even when accompanied by a solid belief in its legal force, is insufficient to transform it into law. The sovereign may reject tradition. A custom can only be considered law if the sovereign permits it. Instead of being the source of law, custom is one.


In conclusion, in the present era, where laws are being subjected to maximum scrutiny, it is imperative that the sources of the law be known. This knowledge can be used to provide answers for any sort of question that may arise, as the source of the law can be examined to find the reasoning behind it. However, in current times, customs have lost their value, and with the widespread popularity of constitutionalism, it is vital that we understand the sources of the law to maintain a just and fair legal system. Therefore, it is essential that legal scholars and practitioners focus on educating the masses about the sources of the law and their significance in shaping the legal system of a nation.

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