Definition of Law
a. Law is defined as a set of rules and principles by which a community regulates its activities. b. Law is different and yet similar because it can be applied differently across various borders. c. Unlike law, internal rules and regulations of clubs, societies and other organizations may only be enforced within the group that governs them. d. Law is therefore concerned with the legal rights and obligations of individuals, business organizations, various entities like clubs and societies and the community at large. Importance of knowing the law
a. Knowing the law may be useful in protecting your own interests, interests of your loved ones and your business. b. Law and business are intertwined and various aspects of doing business have legal implications arising under contracts of employment, agency, sale and purchase of goods and intellectual property rights. c. A basic knowledge of the law can prevent problems from arising in the first place and solve some problems that have already arisen. d. Help you understand legal advice, newspaper reports on court cases and generally facilitate the following of legal proceedings. e. Ignorance of the law cannot be raised as a defence in any legal proceedings. Distinction between common law and civil law traditions
a. Common law tradition – law that was uniformly/commonly applied to all the people in the country as a whole by the judges who travelled around the country, deciding on disputes. The same law was applied to all the people in the country to ensure there was consistency and fairness. b. Development of principles of equity – applying the principles of equity was seen to complement and soften, and in deserving cases, even override the strict application of legal rules which caused hardship to the claimants. In Singapore Section 3 of the Civil Law Act (Chap 43 of Singapore Statutes), states that in every civil cause or matter commenced in the Singapore court, law and equity shall be administered by a court in its original jurisdiction and by the Court of Appeal. However, the exception is that when there is a conflict between common law legal principles and principles of equity, equity shall prevail. c. Doctrines of judicial precedent – when adjudicating disputes, judges have to follow the previous decisions made in similar situations, by superior judges within the same court hierarchy. These previous decisions are called ‘judicial precedents’ – past cases decided by higher courts are binding and authoritative for future cases decided by lower courts in the same court hierarchy. * Ration Decidendi: principle or rule of law that forms basis of judgment with binding authority like the rationale for the decision (MUST BE FOLLOWED) * Obiter Dictum: statement or observation made in passing which doesn’t form the basis of the judgment with only persuasive authority in later cases (MAY BE FOLLOWED) However, a court is not always bound to follow a precedent. The various ways in which a judge may do so are by distinguishing the facts of the current case from the previous case, by declaring that the previous case is in conflict with a fundamental principle of law or by finding the previous decision flawed because an important case/statute was not brought to the attention of court or simply because the previous decision has been overruled by subsequent legislation. Although it has advantages of certainty, flexibility and growth of the law, it has its cons like the binding force of judicial precedents limit judicial discretion and the number of reported cases is so large that it involves searching through voluminous law reports to meticulously follow judicial precedents. d. Civil Law Tradition – law is mainly in the form of written codes. The written codes were essentially a set of comprehensive legislation which covered a wide area of activities. There is usually no necessity for the judges in a civil law tradition...
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