What is the Difference between Substantive and Procedural Law?

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Difference between Substantive and Procedural Law

The major difference between substantive and procedural law is that procedural law regulates the procedures and rules that govern how legal actions are conducted, whereas substantive law specifies the rights and obligations of individuals and entities. Understanding the difference between substantive and procedural law is essential in the broad field of legal studies. Each of these sectors has specific duties that contribute to the functioning of the legal system, although they coexist within it.

Keep reading this blog to know more about the terms and major difference between substantive and procedural law.

What is Substantive Law?

Substantive law focuses on the actual rights and obligations of individuals and organisations. It describes the legal guidelines that define appropriate social behaviour and the consequences of disobeying them. This covers legal matters about contracts, property, family, civil rights, etc. Substantive law is the structure that controls how the legal system operates. It outlines the duties, advantages, rights, and obligations of every individual. In both civil and criminal contexts, it also forms the basis for legal actions and defences. Substantive laws typically originate from a variety of sources, including the Constitution, court decisions in cases with similar facts and circumstances, pre-existing common law concepts that are codified in statute legislation, and treaties that define the boundaries of the law.

Nature of Substantive Law

  • Substantive laws pertain to the domains of law that define an individual’s rights, obligations, and permissible actions.
  • These laws have the autonomous authority to rule in any situation.
  • The legal framework around any crime, including how the case will be handled and the precise penalties that will be carried out, is determined by substantive laws.
  • Substantial laws in the common law system are statutes or precedents. 
  • The legal relationships between people or between a person and the State are the subject of substantive laws.
  • Statutory laws that specify and establish public rights and obligations, as well as crimes and wrongdoings and their respective remedies, are known as substantive laws.
  • The topic of lawsuits involving the administration of justice is determined by substantive laws.

Examples of Substantive Law

  • Laws about contracts, such as the Indian Contract Act of 1872, specify the fundamental components and prerequisites needed to engage in a contract. The laws about the sale of products and the establishment and registration of partnership firms and businesses are included in the broader category of laws about contracts. These include the Sale of Products Act, of 1930 and the Partnership Act, of 1932.
  • Regarding individuals who practise any kind of Christianity in India, the Indian Succession Act, of 1925 addresses the substantive laws of testamentary and intestate succession. 

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What is Procedural Law?

Procedural law, also known as adjectival law, outlines the procedures that courts must follow when making decisions regarding civil, criminal, and administrative matters. It is a set of rules and principles that govern the way cases are handled by the legal system. This includes starting a lawsuit or case, the appropriate ways to serve processes, the types of motions and pleas that can be made, and the admissible evidence. Procedural law aims to provide justice, fairness, and consistency in the legal system. It ensures that all parties have an equal opportunity to present their case and safeguards each person’s right to a fair trial by laying out the process. The primary source of procedural law is the Constitution. Procedural laws can also be found in written policy, case decisions, legislation, and other sources.

Nature of Procedural Law

  • The methods and procedures by which substantive laws can be enforced are outlined by procedural laws.
  • They lack the independent authority to make decisions in any situation.
  • These laws govern the legal process, which is occasionally implemented in extralegal situations like the filing of lawsuits or the course of any case.
  • Acts of Parliament or government implementation carry out the enforcement of these laws.
  • Procedural laws not only specify how rights should be enforced but also provide remedies for rights violations and outline the legal process’s apparatus.
  • According to Holland, procedural laws also outline the functions of judges and the structure of courts, even though they are primarily concerned with the rights and actions of private litigants.
  • Substantive law should always take precedence over procedural law. The ruling in Farookh Mohammed v. the State of Madhya Pradesh (2015) was rendered by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Himachal Pradesh High Court held in Gurudwara Bei Sehgal v. Nanhku and Others (2022) case that procedural law is not usually “mandatory.”

Example of Procedural Law

The Code of Civil Procedure, which regulates the conduct of civil procedures and the execution of civil orders and justice, is one of the most important civil procedural laws in India.

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Difference between Substantive and Procedural Law

The difference between substantive and procedural law is mentioned below in tabular format for your better understanding:

BasisSubstantive Law
Procedural Law
MeaningSubstantive law is the body of law that specifies each party’s obligations and rights.
A body of legislation that describes the procedures, instruments, and approaches utilised to enforce rights and obligations is known as a procedural law.
GovernsHow should people behave?
How do legal cases proceed?
Concerned withEstablishing the duties and rights of citizens.
Concerned about the approaches and plans for implementing substantive law.
Powerindependent power to decide a case’s fate.
Lack of autonomous authority.
ContextOnly applicable in a legal environment.
Relevant in both non-legal and legal contexts.
CapacityThe course of a legal action can be determined by substantive legislation.
Laws about procedures have the power to dictate the paths that any legal action must follow.
GovernanceBy a parliamentary act.
By a statute.
DefinesParties’ rights and the penalty for wrongdoers.
Filing and pursuing legal actions, both civil and criminal.
Relates toAnything that is not covered by the court.With things inside the court.
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What are some examples of substantive law?

Examples of substantive laws are those that deal with ownership of property, the formation of contracts, intellectual property rights, employment regulations, and criminal offences.

What is the relationship between substantive and procedural laws?

Procedural law sets the rules and processes to guarantee promptness and fairness in the handling of legal issues. Substantial law creates the essential obligations, rights, and principles that form the cornerstone of legal proceedings within the procedural framework.

Is the constitutional law substantive or procedural?

In India, constitutional law serves as the foundation for both substantive and procedural law.

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