Law binds us all. How many times have you heard this line and given a thought about it? But you must have come across statements like ‘the law of the land’, ‘not if but how’. All these show the many features of law.
To maintain discipline and order in any situation you need a rule. A set of rules which can guide everyone around you. Even nature around you follows a set of rules and has its own pattern. You cannot defy nature with unlawful activities. There is a price you need to pay every time you do not follow the rule of the nature. Like many animals have gone extinct today because of lack of proper vegetation. Their habitats have been invaded and so many more reasons.
The basic point here is everything and everyone needs a set of rules to guide them and to help them with their behavior in and around you. And that is what exactly Law is all about.
The article shall help you understand what law all is about and to understand how letter of the law vs spirit of the law works.
What is law?
By definition Law is a set of rules to guide your conduct and your basic etiquette when you are in company of others. Also, Law states that failing to follow these rules or set of instructions can lead to penalty and punishment. The severity of the punishment will depend on what law has been disobeyed and the reason for doing so. The law, thus, is bound by a legal force.
The basic intention of having laws and freedoms being incorporated in the country’s constitution is for all to follow. Everyone who is a citizen of the country is bound by these legal laws. But not everyone has the ability to interpret each law as per their intent.
There exists a fine line between legal and illegal activity. You need to realize and act according to your instincts to the best of your understanding of the law. However there still exist a section of people who are bound to bend these rules and regulations as per their liking. There may be consequences of such actions but there needs to be a check.
There are many situations when time and again rules have been broken and bent. Have you ever shop lifted from a store? Have you ever crossed the red light while speeding in your car? How many times have you received tickets for wrong parking? These situations may not be grave and serious, yet they show how vast law is. It covers every aspect of our daily lives.
The basic intention or idea behind forming law, or the rule of the land, are as follows:
· To maintain order and to avoid chaos and disaster in any given situation.
· Law gives an opportunity to resolve any disputes you may have.
· Law seeks to protect the basic rights and freedoms of the people.
Each of the above points show how much law is required to guide us through our day-to-day lives. Without law and order, their would-be disorder and complete chaos.
There are two schools of thought, one who believe in the Letter of the Law and one who follow the Spirit of the Law. And to understand how letter of the law vs spirit of the law works you need to dig deeper into each of these concepts.
What do you mean by Letter of the Law?
Letter of the Law means what the law exactly states. It is the literal meaning of the words laid down as law. Following and accepting the words to their core is what the letter of the law means. When you are accepted to follow the law, you may tend to follow the exact words. Mostly this tendency leads to following the law without going into the meaning or intention behind the law.
To understand the basic concept of how following the letter of the law works, here is a considerably basic example for you. At work, you may have been asked by your boss to not chit-chat over your phone. But he/she never specified if you could use your laptops for chatting. When your boss returns, he/she observes that instead of your phones, you are using your laptops for chatting.
This was a quite simple example which can help you understand the meaning of following Letter of the law. When the boss asked you not to chit-chat, he/she also added over phone. The intent behind not chit-chatting at work is not understood. And you end up doing the same thing but on a different medium. This is what Letter of the law implies. Following the words and their literal interpretation, without understanding the intent or the meaning of the law laid down in front of you.
What do you mean by Spirit of the Law?
Unlike following the Letter of the law, Spirit of the Law is what the law states and intents. Understanding and following the law stated before you, is what comprises Spirit of the Law.
Taking the same example as above, when the boss asked you not to chit-chat over the phone you stop chit-chatting completely. When your boss returns, he/she observes you are working and not busy talking with your co-workers, chatting over your phone or laptop. This is what following the spirit of the law means and implies.
Unlike the Letter of the law, the spirit of the law is following and understanding the meaning of the law laid in front of you. This means you do not blindly follow the law; you understand, interpret, and follow the law to the best of your knowledge and understanding. This is where letter of the law vs spirit of the law collides and tend to create rifts.
Letter of the Law vs Spirit of the Law
There have been so many debates and discussions about how the letter of the law and Spirit of the law seem to collide. There are two schools of thought who accept literal meaning and the intentional meaning. It becomes difficult to find a common path or a middle path where both can collide and become one. And letter of the law vs spirit of the law is always what you will see.
What really should matter, is how you as an individual can perceive of the law. Your country will lay down laws to protect your rights and freedoms. Also, you need to keep in mind while your country protects your rights and freedoms, it also protects the rights and freedoms of your neighbors. Everyone is equal in the eyes of law. You cannot exercise your right or freedom by questioning or misusing someone else’s right and freedom. This is where the debate about the intent and the literal translation comes into picture. You have to be sure where you can stand out and where you need to blend in.
The debate over letter of the law vs spirit of the law is an exhausting and unending one. What does however stand out in the entire debate is how you perceive of law, how you interpret it, or you follow it. Here are a few template examples which can help you understand the concepts more clearly. Each example is given in two ways, the first template will reflect the Letter of Law, while the following one will reflect the Spirit of the Law. You can go through each one and understand for yourself why Letter of the Law vs Spirit of the Law always collide and never coincide.
Template 1, Example of Letter of the Law
This is to inform you that my son, Damien Jacks (your son/ daughter’s name) from Class – IIA (write the appropriate class number) will not be going on the field trip. I understand the trip is to see the beehives and I do not approve of it. He is too small to be left alone with the bees and this concerns me.
(Your contact information)
Template 2, Example of Spirit of the Law
This is to inform you that my son (or daughter), Damien Jacks (your son/ daughter’s name) from Class – IIA (write the appropriate class number) will be attending the field trip coming Friday. I understand this field trip is the see the beehives and every precaution will be taken to ensure all the students are safe.
I hope this is a good learning experience for my son (or daughter). I appreciate the opportunity and would extend any assistance I can provide from my end.
(Your contact information)
Template 3, Example of Letter of the Law
Dear Sir/ Madam,
I came across the job vacancy add in the newspaper and would like to apply for the same. As per the job requirement, it is stated that you need someone knows computers and is tech-savvy. This is to let you know, I have a couple of friends who own computers, I have seen one. And I own a television set at home with a cellphone which should deem I am tech-savvy enough for this job role.
Kindly let me know when I can walk in for the interview or if I am directly selected for the job.
(Your contact information)
Template 4, Example of Spirit of the Law
Dear Sir / Madam,
I came across the job vacancy add in the newspaper and would like to apply for the same. As per the job requirement, I would like to say that I have a B.Tech degree in Computer Science and have a work experience of over 4 years. I have attached a copy of my resume along with the mail for your kind perusal.
Kindly let me know if my profile suits your requirement and if I can walk in for the interview.
Looking forward to your positive response.
(Your contact information)
Template 5, Example of Letter of the Law
As per the guidelines listed by the housing society, no one should be allowed without a valid photo id proof within the premises. I understand and respect the rules laid down by the society. However, I would also like to bring to your attention, that for the past few days I have been noticing regular unauthorized entry of street dogs within the premises. These dogs have no valid photo id proof and hence should be detained from entering the premises.
Kindly look into the matter at the earliest. And provide us with a resolution from getting rid of these street dogs.
Thanks and regards,
(your flat and wing number)
(Your contact number)
Template 6, Example of Spirit of the Law
Dear Sir / Madam,
It has been noticed that there has been some unauthorized entry in the society premises. I understand we have a strict rule to follow. However, these street dogs have nowhere to go. Hence, I request for the society to take in these dogs permanently and provide them with shelter and food. The dogs would act as security dogs for the society and can be extremely helpful in monitoring the area around.
Kindly share your thoughts about this suggestion and do have a discussion amongst the committee members for the same.
Looking forward to a positive response.
(your flat and wing number) (Your contact number)