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Austinian Theory of Law

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Austin proposed a theory of law that became popular as the Austinian Theory of Law. It is also called the Imperative or Purely Imperative Theory of Law.

Sovereign is the Source of Law

  • Law is set by a sovereign individual or a sovereign body of individuals to a person or to a persons in a state of subjection to its author.
  • Law is a product of the sovereign.
  • If there is no sovereign, there is no law.
  • Existence of law is an unmistakable indication of the existence of the sovereign.

Law is a set of commands

  • Law is a set of commands or rules
  • The author of the law is supreme
  • Nothing that is not a command is law
  • Nothing commanded by anyone but the supreme authority is law.
  • Legal Rule is of two types:
    • General Command: States the legal requirements
    • Sanction: Sanctions are implemented if command is not obeyed. Force will be applied against the person.

Law is a general command and not a particular command

  • To be a law, the sovereign command should be a general command.
  • If the command requires only a specified act or forbearance, it is not a law but a particular command.
  • Blackstone: Law obliges general members of a given class; Particular command obliges individual persons
  • Law is the expression of a wish by the sovereign that the subject shall do or forbear from doing acts of a class as distinguished from a simple or isolated act.

Command implies sanction

  • Law being a command, there are sanctions for its enforcement.
  • Sanction in the form of some evil is inflicted in case of neglect to obey the law.
  • Sanction is an essential ingredient of law.

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