Substantive Law Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Substantive Law, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Substantive Law?

(n) A substantive law is the legislation which defines the principles, objectives, circumstances, limitations etc governing the society and the rights of the individual. For example an individual has a right to express but it limits that right when it is against the national integrity. A substantive law establishes the principles where as a procedural law details the procedure to establish the rights.

History and Meaning of Substantive Law

The term “substantive law” refers to the body of law that defines a particular right or duty of an individual. It provides the legal framework that dictates how certain activities should be conducted, such as buying or selling a property, establishing a business, filing a lawsuit or obtaining a patent. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals towards each other and the government.

Substantive law is different from procedural law, which refers to the rules that govern how legal proceedings should be conducted. While substantive law sustains the rights and duties of the people concerned, procedural law defines how those rights can be vindicated.

Examples of Substantive Law

  1. Property Law: Property laws define the ownership rights of individuals towards their property, including land, buildings, and other immovable or movable assets. It outlines a person’s rights, interests, and restrictions regarding the possession, use, and transfer of the property.
  2. Labor Law: Labor laws define the rights and obligations of employees, employers, and trade unions. It regulates issues such as minimum wage laws, non-discrimination, working hours, leave policies, and workers' compensation laws.
  3. Criminal Law: Criminal laws specify the acts that are considered as criminal offenses and the penalties imposed on those who commit such acts. Examples of criminal laws include murder, theft, and fraud.

Legal Terms Similar to Substantive Law

  1. Procedural Law: Procedural law refers to the set of laws that dictate the proper procedures for enforcing substantive law.
  2. Civil Law: Civil law concerns the rights of individuals in society and defines the relationships between individual citizens, as opposed to other entities like the government.
  3. Common Law: Common law refers to the legal system based on judicial precedent and case law. The common law system is used in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, among others.