Difference Between Ordinance and Law

Ordinance vs Law

The difference between ordinance and law comes from the place that forms them. However, before trying to understand the difference between ordinance and law, we should first look into each term. We all are aware of what laws are and how they are made and come into effect. But not many people are aware of ordinances. As such, it is difficult for people to understand the differences between laws and ordinances, let alone how they are promulgated and what their statutory powers are. This article will attempt to clarify all such differences by clearly defining ordinances and how they are similar and different from laws.

What is a Law?

Law is a generic term that covers all Acts, subordinates legislations, regulations, and ordinances. Laws of the land are meant to guide people so as to help them conform to the norms of the society. Laws help in maintaining the public order. They deter people from engaging in criminal behaviors and, in general, help in protecting people. Members of Parliament are the lawmakers, and most of the Bills are introduced by the government, to make Acts that become a part of the legislation. While laws are passed by the parliament, it is for the judiciary to interpret these laws. Implementation of laws is done through the executive, which is the government at the center and at state levels.

Difference Between Ordinance and Law

What is an Ordinance?

Ordinance refers to the local level laws in some countries. For example, municipal corporations are empowered to promulgate ordinances that are in effect local level laws and take precedence over federal laws. However, these ordinances are applicable only to city limits where they are in effect and cease to apply in other areas. There are as many city ordinances as there are municipalities in the country.

 Ordinance vs Law

Ordinances pay attention to pet laws as well.

In a country like India, however, ordinances take a totally different shape as they are put into place by the government through the President. There is a provision in the constitution that empowers the President to promulgate an ordinance if he feels that circumstances exist for him to do so. Normally, an ordinance can be promulgated only when the parliament is not under a session. An ordinance has the same power and force as an Act of the parliament, but it remains in force only until parliament is not in session. It is placed before the parliament as soon as the new session begins and is converted into an Act by the government. It is not surprising that more ordinances have been promulgated and made into acts by governments than the properly introduced and debated Bills in the parliament.

What is the difference between Ordinance and Law?

• Laws are rules and regulations passed by the legislature and are meant to protect and control people in different circumstances.

• Ordinances in most countries are local level laws passed by municipalities and are applicable within the city limits only. In some cases, they supersede central laws too.

• In India, ordinances are special acts promulgated by the government through the President, who has been vested with this power.

• Law is relevant to the country as a whole. However, the ordinance made by a particular municipality is only applicable to that municipality.

• Laws take into consideration every aspect of a country such as defense, health, education, etc. Ordinances too take into consideration these areas. However, more common areas that the municipalities take into consideration when making ordinances are the areas that affect daily lifestyle of the people such as parking, looking after pets, littering, etc.

• When compiling a law, the legislators have to consider how this law is going to affect the whole country. However, when compiling an ordinance, the municipality has only to think about how their ordinance is going to affect the people living inside the borders of their municipality. When considering these factors, one can say that compiling an ordinance is easier than compiling a law.

• An ordinance generally has limited powers. However, a law has more unlimited powers than an ordinance as it is for the whole country without a problem of borders.

As you can see, all this difference between ordinance and law comes into being from the place the law or the ordinance is formed. Once you get a clear understanding of what is law and what is an ordinance, then understanding the difference between ordinance and law will be easy.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Gavel by Jonathunder (GFDL)
  2. German shepherd on leash by Tim Dobbelaere (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • iofig

    discuss difference between act , law, bill and ordinances