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Author: Shreya Jagadish, II Year of BBA.,LL.B(Hons.) From school Of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University)


Law and morality have been dealt with in light throughout history, and it is clear that both law and morality seek our tranquillity of mind and justice. The Hart-Fuller conflict has brought law and morality to the forefront. Hart is the leading contemporary legal positivist in jurisprudence, yet many neglects to look deeply enough at his view on morality and the law. Hart's philosophy with respect to certain fundamental principles of justice examines the competition and cooperation between the legal system and moral codes to determine the relationship between law and morality with the help of examples such as abortion, prostitution, and homosexuality. Each concept has been elaborated to highlight the conflict between religious morality, propagators, and the overall legal position of the same nationally and internationally. Some legal experts may assert that law is absolute in today's world. It is more essential than all other regulators, such as morality.

However, the conflict between them illustrates that moral principles are sometimes stronger than legal principles. Hart distinguishes morality from the law in four ways: importance, immunity from deliberate change, the nature of ethical offences, and the form of moral pressure. In comparison, Fuller believes that our legal systems are derived from moral standards of justice.

In some cases, people deliberately violate the law, and those who administer the law may adequately decline to impose the stimulated punishment because they believe the disobedience was justified. There are two approaches to understanding this topic. The first is that of a person who must choose between moral and legal claims and determine whether to obey the law. The second point of view is that those who make and enforce laws must decide whether to treat people who have a moral right to disobey differently than regular lawbreakers. Morality classifies human behaviour as either right or wrong. If a person does not adhere to societal moral standards, he cannot be penalised by the law. So, while morality strives to regulate people's internal and external behaviour, the law seeks only to interfere with people's external behaviour. Hence, I believe that Law and Morality are interdependent.

Keywords:- Law, Morality, Conflict, Justice, Behaviour.


The law and morality are strongly intertwined. Laws are generally based on societal moral principles. Both govern an individual's behaviour in society. They have a significant impact on each other. To be effective, laws must reflect the moral ideas of the people. However, good laws can sometimes arouse people's moral consciences and create and maintain conditions conducive to moral growth. People have broken the law many times, believing that they are doing so for good moral reasons, thanks to intense emotions and the pursuit of self-interest. A comprehensive philosophical and legal analysis of the grey area where the foundations of law and morality collide looks at these oblique circumstances from two perspectives: that of the person who faces a possible conflict between the claims of morality and law and must choose whether or not to obey the penal code, and that of those who make laws and must decide whether to treat someone with a moral claim to disobey differently than ordinary lawbreakers.1


Law and morals often intersect. There can be no doubt that historically, law and morals were closely related and that in many areas, the law continues to look upon its function as the enforcement of morals, the reinforcement of moral standards in society, and the punishment of moral depravity.2 Law is related to morality by the moral obligation imposed, i.e., the necessity of an act in relation to a necessary end-since law, as the command of practical reason, necessarily implies an obligation. Both law and morality are concerned with practical reasoning, that is, with deciding what to do, what goals to pursue, and what kind of person to be. In this sense, both law and morality are concerned with what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, and what is virtue and vice. The terms' morality' and 'law' can also be used to differentiate between various aspects of social life and different domains of practical reasoning. As a result, morality can be contrasted with tradition, etiquette, and, of course, the law.3 According to Hart, there are various types of relationships between law and morals, and nothing can be studied as the relationship between them. Hart does not deny that morality has profoundly influenced the development of law; he acknowledges that law and morals are bound to intersect at some point, but he does not believe they are interdependent.4

While according to Fuller, our legal procedures are based on justice norms with a moral component. The procedures embodied in a legal system are morally significant in determining whether a set of rules can be considered a legal system. He believes that for a law to be indeed called a law, it must pass a moral functional test. If a rule or set of rules does not conform to this function, it is not considered a law.5


Social order and secularism would be neither in a society with no moral values. Bereft of moral values, secular society or democracy may not survive.6 However, morality as a defining concept for spreading values risks being dangerously one-sided, exposing young citizens to the same dogma that those who oppose materialism seek to change. Furthermore, morality is a multifaceted concept with many shades.7 In our attempt to establish a fine distinction between morality and law, we discover that morality has a broader scope than law, regulating behaviour in the most diverse social relationships. However, this does not imply that all legal norms fall under the purview of morality. Technical legal rules, such as civil or criminal procedural law, do not typically include a moral appreciation concerning the relationship between morality and law in their normative senses. Hart's view was that what is required or allowed by law may be prohibited by morality. Conversely, what law prohibits, morality may require or permit, i.e. what may be illegal may be morally accepted or even required. This view is sometimes referred to as the separation thesis.8 Hart also states that the existence of law cannot be judged by its merits or demerits. Law happens to exist, irrespective. Whether the law confirms a set of minimum moral standards is not a prerequisite for the existence of a legal system. It is optional that a legal system must exhibit some conformity with morality. Laws do not cease to exist on the ground of moral criticisms.9

While Fuller argues that lawmakers should recognise that there are other ways and means to achieve society's goals than relying solely on the law, he believes that if lawmakers recognise this, they will be able to use the law more effectively to regulate our society. Fuller also believes that our legal systems are based on moral justice standards. In some cases, people willfully violate the law, and those in charge of enforcing the law may appropriately decline to impose the induced punishment because they believe the disobedience was justified.10


As a result, to correctly determine the relationship between law and morality, we must consider that only morality, as a duty, is related to the law and can be transposed into legal norms. Still, we cannot regard morality as an aspiration to be related to law, centered on virtue. Hart and Fuller were very focused on what they considered to be the relationship between law and morality; however, their disagreement shows that moral principles are sometimes stronger than legal principles. This was the catalyst for the Hart-Fuller debate.


1. Greenawalt Kent, Conflicts of Law and Morality, Oxford University Press, 1989.

2. Burton M. Leiser, Liberty, Justice, and Morals: Contemporary Value Conflicts (1973) p.19

3. Peter Cane, Morality, law and conflicting reasons for action, 71 The Cambridge Law Journal, 59–85 (2012).

4. William C. Starr, Law and Morality in H.L.A. Hart's Legal Philosophy, 67 Marq. L. Rev. 673 (1984)

5. Benjamin C Zipursky, Practical Positivism versus Practical Perfectionism: The Hart Fuller Debate at fifty‟, [2008] Vol 83, New York University Law Review at p.1170- 1212

6. Aruna Roy v. Union of India, (2002) 7 SCC 368

7. Santosh Singh v. Union of India (2016) 8 SCC 253

8. Peter Cane, Morality, law and conflicting reasons for action, 71 The Cambridge Law Journal, 59–85 (2012).

9. HLA Hart, The Concept of Law, Revised edition, Oxford University Press Publications, 2002 at p. 185-200

10. Lon F. Fuller, The morality of law (1964).


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