Law and Morality in India

Introduction

In the social structure, there are a variety of opinions, cultural ideas, regulations, and standards that all influence how people should act in society. To minimize ambiguity and misunderstanding, it’s critical to distinguish between them all. Law and morality are two such topics that are often discussed in tandem. Laws are written regulations that outline what we must and may not do as members of a community. The state and the courts develop these in order to set a fundamental and attainable standard of conduct for the benefit of society. In contrast, morality is a loose coalition of underlying values, principles, beliefs, conventions, and ways of life. Even if morality is not legally required, there is cultural pressure to follow it.

Morality and the law

People’s conduct is guided by two concepts: morality and legality. Everyone must obey the rules of the law. Morality, on the other hand, was defined as a set of general rules or behaviours that describe human behaviour throughout cultures but are not required to be followed. The link between legality and morality has shifted throughout time. Initially, the two were thought to be interchangeable, but as time went on, it became clear that they are distinct ideas with a lot of overlap.

Law and morality are two different things.

Although law and morality are connected on certain levels and share some goals, there are major distinctions between the two concepts:

  • Law is derived from outside sources, suggesting that norms and processes are used to create it. Morality arises from inside, from the thinking of each individual.
  • While the law regards everyone equally and does not differentiate between individuals, morality is a restricted viewpoint.
  • Despite the fact that morality existed in communities before legalities were addressed, morality has had an impact on the establishment of laws.
  • While breaching the law is criminal, moral wrongdoing is not.
  • Laws impose certain standards of behavior on those who are subject to them. On the other hand, morality is a lot more personal idea that does not enforce strict conduct requirements.
The interaction between law and morality poses challenges

For a number of reasons, the two notions of legality and morality vary, but one fundamental commonality is that they both have an impact on how we live our lives. Both morality and legality are ill-defined terms. As new ideas have emerged, both of these concepts have evolved through time. Consider the following points to obtain a better grasp of the struggle between law and morality:

Equality for LGBTQ+

The rights of LGBTQ+ individuals are a topic of continual discussion in our culture. Not everyone thinks same-sex weddings or even transgender people are ethically acceptable. This does not change the fact that you are violating the Indian Constitution’s core values by prohibiting same-sex marriages and refusing to provide this group with the rights that every citizen deserves. There is a societal divide over what is ethically suitable and what is not when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community’s rights. The Supreme Court would not have been able to take such a liberal stance on legalizing Section 377 of the IPC in “Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India[1] if it had continued to base laws on what people in society think to be moral rather than principles of the Indian Constitution.

Live-in relationships

Live-in relationships have long been derided by society. Regardless of whether or not anything is legal, it must adhere to a set of moral principles. InS. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr”[2], the Supreme Court declared that live-in partnerships are legally defined as “domestic relationships” and are therefore protected under the Protection of Domestic Violence Act, 2005. “Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which protects the right to life”, has been shown to cover even a live-in relationship. Live-in relationships may continue to be scrutinized in India for moral grounds, but they remain legal since morality and legality are not synonymous.

Abortion

Abortion has several complexities, which is crucial. Abortion is often justifiable and allowed for a variety of reasons, including protecting a woman’s rights and, to a significant degree, her health. Abortion, on the other hand, has long been seen as ethically difficult since it involves the removal of another person’s life, which, contrary to popular belief, is just a foetus at the moment. Unfortunately, most women are ashamed of themselves for taking these procedures, particularly if the pregnancy was unexpectedly large. Abortion has been allowed in India under varied conditions over the past 50 years with the establishment of the “Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act[3] in 1971, and it is amended again in 2021. In general, the legal war has been won, but the moral struggle continues to rage in a quiet way.

Conclusion

It’s quite obvious since morality and legality have a long history together, and morality is regarded to have a significant impact on legislation, which is crucial. While this is true, it is also true that laws and limits have a significant influence on real moral ideals that are being practised in a subtle way today. When women were denied the right to vote, for example, the majority of the populace believed that giving women a voice was morally clear wrong for a variety of reasons. People learned to recognise a woman’s independence and their moral beliefs on dilemmas began to evolve once this point of view became law, indicating that when women were effectively denied voting rights. Law has a lot of power to influence people’s opinions, and it should be used as a tool rather than a moral compass in a big way. It’s important to remember that this isn’t intended to be a competition between these two ideas in terms of determining which is more productive for the benefit of society, but rather for legality and morality to compete for the best advancement of the country, so while this is literally correct, it’s also true that laws and regulations have a strong influence.

Author(s) Name: Valluri Viswanadham (Damodaran Sijnavayya National Law

University)

References:

[1] Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, AIR 2018 SC 432. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2016/14961/14961_2016_Judgement_06-Sep-2018.pdf

[2] S. Khushboo vs Kanniammal & Anr., AIR 2010 SC 3196, https://main.sci.gov.in/jonew/judis/36277.pdf

[3] Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

https://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2021/226130.pdf