Common Law

Reviewed by Bhavana | Updated on Feb 01, 2023



Common law is an unwritten body of laws based on judicial precedents. For unusual cases where the result cannot be decided on the basis of current laws or written law regulations, common law guides the decision-making process.

Common law is followed in many parts of the world, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Common law, also known as jurisprudence, is a body of unwritten laws based on judicial precedents.

The concept is based on institutionalized judgments and interpretations from the courts and the jury. Common laws also illustrate the motivation for the implementation of new legislation.

As compared to civil law, the common law's purpose is to produce consistent results by applying the same definition requirements. In some cases, the precedent depends on the individual jurisdictions' case-by-case procedures. As a consequence, common law elements can vary from one district to another.

Understanding Common Law

A system of common law is less prescriptive than a system of civil law. Therefore, a government may wish to enshrine its citizens' protections in specific legislation related to the proposed infrastructure program.

For example, it may want to stop the service provider from cutting off water or electricity supply of those who haven't paid their dues. Or, the government may request that transaction-related records be published under a free information act.

Legal requirements may also imply equal negotiation provisions in a contract where one party's negotiating position is much stronger as compared to the other party.

Under the common law system, there are few clauses implied in a contract. Thus, it is important to set out all the terms regulating the relationship between the parties within the contract itself.

Features of a Common Law System

  1. There will be no codified laws or written constitution always.

  2. Judicial decisions made at the highest courts can usually be reversed only by the same court or by law.

  3. Typically, all that is not specifically prohibited by law is permitted.

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