Difference Between Act and Ordinance

Act vs Ordinance

The difference between act and ordinance is easy to understand once you find out which legislative bodies create which. Law is the common term for legislation and is easily understood by common people. However, it is a generic term that comprises Acts, regulations, Ordinances, and all other subordinate legislations that are meant to not just maintain public order, but also to provide information to public regarding rules and regulation that apply in specific situations. Two terms that are commonly misunderstood by people are Act and ordinance. This article will explain the differences between these two legal terms to remove all doubts from the minds of the readers.

What is an Act?

An Act is a piece of legislation that is more specific and applies to particular circumstances and specific people. For example, there are laws against drunk driving and people are aware of them while DUI is the specific Act that pertains to drunk driving. An Act is a type of legislation that comes into effect when a draft bill introduced either by the treasury bench or a private member of the parliament gets passed by the members (legislators). It also gets the assent of the President to finally become an Act or the law of the land. Until such time, as an Act is passed by the parliament, it is known as a Bill. Once it gets passed, it becomes a law. While most of the people know the term law, not many remember specific acts that are applicable in different areas and different circumstances.

Difference Between Act and Ordinance

President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act

What is an Ordinance?

Ordinance is mostly referred to as local level laws that are introduced by municipalities. Ordinances too have the same power and effect as that of acts but only within city limits. However, in some circumstances, ordinances have the ability to supersede federal laws.

When it comes to ordinances, there are several common areas that municipalities choose to create laws within their areas of power. For example, ordinances can focus on public streets as well as sidewalks. As part of this, there may be laws that are with regard to parking, littering, and also issues such as snow removal. Then, rules regarding pets such as leash laws and removing their feces are also formed at the municipal level. Leash laws mean the necessity of having a leash on the dog when the dog is off the premises of the owner. One of the most important areas ordinances focus on is zoning. Now, zoning is dividing the entire land area of the municipality into different sections such as residential, commercial, and industrial areas. In doing so, the municipality expects to get the maximum use of the land it owns. This is followed because land is a very precious entity.

Act vs Ordinance

The official document of the U.S. State of Georgia’s secession from the Federal Union of states

India is one country where the constitution empowers the President to promulgate ordinances that have the same effect as that of Acts. However, he can do so only when Parliament is not under a session and the ordinance so put into place by the government has to be presented to the parliament when the next session is convened. In most instances, the ordinance gets passed easily and then it becomes an Act (law).

What is the difference between Act and Ordinance?

• Acts and ordinances are different types of laws that are made at different levels.

• Acts are passed by legislators in the parliament whereas ordinances are passed by municipalities and apply within city limits only.

• Acts are for the country as a whole as they get passed by the parliament. Ordinances are for the municipality that passes those laws.

• Acts can come covering different areas as it is the law of the country. Ordinances usually do not cover such a large area as Acts. Ordinances aim more at making life in the municipality better by making the environment agreeable and so on. So, these laws deal with day to day life more.

• Acts show what a government thinks while an ordinance shows what a municipality thinks.

• Everyone in the country has to follow the laws established by different Acts. However, only the people within the municipality have to follow the ordinances.

• In India, ordinances are laws that are passed through promulgation when the parliament is not under session and have the same power and effect as an Act. They, however, either get annulled or have to face the parliament when it convenes next and converts them into Acts.


Images Courtesy:

  1. President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, at approximately 3:30 pm EDT on August 14, 1935 via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. The official document of the U.S. State of Georgia’s secession from the Federal Union of states via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  • saira

    good….. I understand easily. thanks

    • Muhammad Yaseen

      hellow saira g

  • sajid ali

    very good explaination