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Day 5 – Q 2.In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics. Elucidate.

2. In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics. Elucidate.

सभ्य जीवन में, कानून नैतिकता के सागर में तैरता है। स्पष्ट करें।


This question demands a convincing explanation of quotation that in civilized community laws are concurrent with ethics. To explain this, we can give examples, some historical and some current.


  • Ethics is a system of moral principles which is concerned with what is good for individuals and society.
  • Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour.
  • The quotation, “In civilized life, law floats in a sea of ethics”, implies that there is a foundation of ethical values for the law.


Law and ethics

  • In performing our legal duties, we are also satisfying our ethical obligations.
  • While in an uncivilized society, enactments of tyranny or barbarism may motivate an obligation to obey the law.
  • But in a civilized society, the obligation to act ethically is not a result of supposed obligation to obey alone, but a result of the binding ethical values that have informed the content of the law.

Laws were and are not always ethical

  • It is well known that those nations of the world, which are deemed civilized and well-constrained by the rule of law, may be governed by laws that are not ethically sound.
  • Slavery, apartheid, and torture, have been perpetuated pursuant to the laws of some of these so-called “civilized” countries.
  • Western liberal regimes of property, contract and tort law include doctrines and principles, the applications of which result in predictable hardship for the poor and the vulnerable.
  • Laws that permit environmental degradation, capital punishment of the innocent and political corruption are hardly ethical waters for any ship of state.
  • As an aspirational idea, a rule of law based on strong moral and ethical values has appeal.
  • The conservative and the very religious may find it appealing because they believe the law should be a tool for moral alignment—it should make us righteous.
  • The progressive and the secular may find similar appeal in an ethics-based law because they believe the law should further extend freedom, equality and tolerance.

Laws and Ethics in India

  • Modern India adopted foundation of ethics in framing the laws, respecting the rights and dignity of all.
  • To mention one, voting rights to all including women at a time when even most modern states of then had not given such rights to their female and coloured citizen.
  • There were and are historical wrongs in Indian statue, such as Section 377 (Homosexuality) and Section 497 (Adultery) of the IPC.
  • A person’s sexuality is his personal matter, it is ethically wrong to interfere in such personal matters. Therefore, SC struck down the legality of such interferences.
  • Above mentioned aspirational quotation is very much in consonance with the concept of constitutional morality recently mentioned by SC judge in LGBTQ case hearing.


  • Though there are concerns as we observe the protests on Sabarimala verdict or Triple Talaq ordinance, recent SC judgments give us hope.
  • It can be concluded in the light of such other SC judgments that in the modern and progressive India we find the laws freely floating in a sea of ethics.
  • There is need of flexibility for change, tolerance and adaptation with the moving waves in the sea of values.

Best answer: Invincible


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