A Law is often seen as a policy and vice versa. This is due to the fact that they both share the same end product of maintaining law and order in a society, protecting the welfare of members of the society, as well as helping in shaping the social, economic and political aspects of a society.
The thin line of end product of Law and order which seems interwoven is one of the reasons why some people carelessly use the two words ‘Law’ and ‘Policy’ interchangeably. Whereas, these two words should never be used interchangeably as there exist some disparity between them. This Article therefore seeks to examine the differences which exist between Law and Policy.
I trust at the end of this article, the meaning of the two words ‘Law’ and ‘Policy’ will become clear to you and you will be able to understand the differences which exist between these two words.
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Meaning of a Law
Law is simply the system of rules which citizens of a state must obey and breach of such rules will result into sanctions.
A Law can be formally defined as a formal document passed by the legislature, containing rules, guidelines, standards, and regulations which shall guide the action of members of the society, is to be followed by members of the community, and is administered by the courts in order to achieve justice in the society.
Academically, Law can be defined as a complex system of formal rules, principles, and processes regulated as necessary and enforced in an institutionalized manner based on the need to regulate social relations so as to attain certain social goals.
Meaning of a Policy
A Policy is a blueprint or course of action which outlines what a Government wants to do and what it wants to achieve for the society.
A Policy could also be referred to as a plan of action agreed and embarked on by the Government. For example: The new Government’s policy on education is productive.
A policy sets out the goals and objectives of the government or its agency and how it intends to achieve such goals. For example: Chapter 2 of the Constitution Federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended which sets out the fundamental objectives and directives of state policy which includes the Political, economic, social, educational, foreign policy, environmental and cultural objectives of the Nigerian Government is an example of a Policy.
Having understood the meaning of the two word ‘Law’ and ‘Policy’, what then are the differences which exist between them?
Differences Between Law And Policy
The following are the differences which exists between Law and Policy:
1. A Policy is tailored towards achieving certain goals or objectives, while a law is tailored towards achieving justice in the society. For instance: as seen with the earlier example of Chapter 2 of the constitution.
A Policy may be targeted towards achieving an academic goal such as free universal primary education or an economic goal such as the promotion of a planned economic development. On the other hand, a Law is tailored at setting rules, punishment for defaulters of such rule, and justice for the victims.
2. A Policy is a document which outlines what the Government or its agency intends to achieve and how they intend to achieve such, while a Law is a document which is passed by the legislature and assented by the Executive and administered by the Judiciary with the aim of maintaining peace and order in the society.
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3. A Law is a formal document, while a Policy is an informal document.
4. A policy is not enforceable, this is because they merely act as a guide. While a Law on the other hand is enforceable.
5. Laws are established to bring about equality in the society, while Policies are established to achieve specific goals of the Government.
6. A Law is administered through the judiciary, while a Policy is administered by the government itself.
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7. Laws are made for the people, whereas Policies are made in the name of the people. This is so because Laws are made to serve justice for the people in a society, while a policy is usually made in the name of citizens of a society; to achieve certain goals which will benefit them.
8. Policies often lead to the creation, implementation and enforcement of new Laws, but Laws do not necessarily lead to new policies.
9. Law creates uniformity in the society, but policies do not create uniformity in the society as it is not enforceable.
10. The breach of a law amounts to a sanction, while there is no punishment whatsoever for the breach of a Policy.
11. A Law is universally applied in a state for all citizens of the state, and such law is subject to a formal amendment, but this is not the case with a Policy.
12. A law when deemed necessary can be amended by the Legislature, but a Policy can be amended by the Government itself.
13. Law can be implemented, but a Policy cannot be implemented.
14. Laws are made for citizens of a country and it is to be obeyed by these citizens, but a policy on the other hand must not be obeyed. It is just a set of principles set out by the Government with the intention of bettering the society.
15. A law if seemed absurd, archaic, unreasonable, and harmful to the interest of the society, can be challenged in a court of law. A policy on the other hand cannot be challenged in a Court of law.
16. Finally, a Policy can be seen as a Principle which guides decision making in a state, while a law is a rule or set of rules enforced and implemented in the society.
On this note, we can agree that a wide array of differences exists between Law and Policy. However, both Law and Policy are often likened to be the same because of the similarities which they share.
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Similarities between Law and Policy
1. Both Law and Policy seeks to maintain Law and order in the society.
2. Both Law and Policy are designed to protect the interests of citizens of a country, either their private or public interest.
3. Both Law and Policy could come in form of a document
4. Both Law and Policy work hand in glove in a bid to protect the welfare of citizens of the society
5. Both Law and Policy are subject to amendment. As a law can be amended through the legislative process designated for that purpose, and a policy can be changed by the Government.
6. Policies often lead to the formulation of a new Law, and also a Law can be used as part of a public policy.
From the foregoing, we can now say that Law and Policy enjoys a good relationship, which is why they are often used interchangeably or indiscriminately, which of course is not meant to be so, as a long list of differences exists between both Law and Policy and they are two rivers apart. Thus, should be used distinctively.
I trust this Article has now done justice in showing that these two words Law and Policy can be used distinctively by highlighting the numerous differences which exists between them. I also believe that you now know the differences between Law and Policy.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.