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There is no unanimity on the definition of natural law and its exact meaning. In jurisprudence, the term 'natural law' means those rules and principles that have originated from a supreme source other than any political or worldly authority. It refers to any type of moral theory, as well as to a type of legal theory. According to natural law ethical theory, the moral standards that govern human behavior are, in some sense, objectively derived from the nature of human beings. According to natural law legal theory, the authority of at least some legal standards necessarily derives, at least in part , from consideration having to do with the moral merit of those standards. There are a number of different kinds of natural law theories of law, differing from each other with respect to the role that morality plays in determining the authority of legal norms.
Two kinds of natural law theory-
There are two kinds of distinguished theories which go by the name of natural law theories. The first is a theory of morality that is roughly characterized by the following thesis.
First, moral prepositions have, what is sometimes called, objective standing in the sense that such propositions are the bearers of objective truth-value. The natural law moral theory is committed only to the objectivity of moral norms.
The second thesis constituting the core of natural law moral theory is the claim that standards of morality are in some sense derived from, or entailed by, the nature of world and the nature of human beings. Since human beings are by nature, rational beings, it is morally appropriate that they should behave in a way that conforms to their rational nature.
Apart from the two thesis there is another kind of natural law theory, connecting the relationship of morality to law. According to natural law theory of law there is no clean division between the notion of law and the notion of morality. Though there are different versions of natural law theory, all subscribe to the thesis that there are at least some laws that depend, for their authority, not on some pre -existing human convention but on the logical relationship in which they stand to moral standards. (1)
Jonathan Dolhenty, overviewed the natural law theory in which he said that the natural law theory has taken several forms. The idea began with the ancient Greek conception of a universe governed in every particular way by an eternal, immutable law and in their distinction between what is just by nature and just by convention.
To sum it up, it can be said that-
1. It is not made by human beings
2. It is based on the structure of reality itself
3. It is same for all human beings and at all times
4. It is an unchanging rule of pattern which is there for the human beings to discover
.5. It is naturally knowable moral law
6. It is a means by which human beings can guide themselves to their moral goods.
The natural law in jurisprudence and political philosophy is a system of rights or justice common to all humankind and derived from nature rather than from the rules of society. The concept can be traced back
(2) to Aristotle , who held that what was “just by nature” was not always the same as what was “ just by law”. In one form or the other various jurists asserted the existence of natural law: Stoics, the Roman jurist, St. Paul, William of Ockham and many others. In the modern period, Hugo Grotius insisted on the validity of natural law even on the assumption that god does not exist. Thomas Hobbes defined the law as “a precept of general rule found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do what is destructive of his life”. Hobbes attempted to construct an edifice of law by rational deduction from a hypothetical ‘state of nature’ and a social contract of consent between rulers and subjects. John Locke departed from Hobbes in describing the state of nature as an early society in which free and equal men observe the natural law.
Several other jurists also wrote about their own views.
Natural laws in India-
The Hindu legal system may well be the world's oldest legal system. At very early times they produced a very clear and thorough piece of legislation. A sense of 'right' pervades the entire corpus of law. But the frequent changes in the political system and government and numerous foreign invasions stopped its systematic and natural development, one after another. Under the international rule the study of this legal system could not be given sufficient consideration. There are so many new, uninvestigated hypothesizes and definitions of this. Whether or not there was a principle of 'natural law' and, if any, what was its authority and its relationship with 'real law' are the questions that cannot be answered with great certainty. In this respect, however, other principles and rules can be pointed out. Law owes its life to Heaven, in accordance with the Hindu view. In 'Shruti' and 'Smritis', the law is issued. The king is clearly to enforce the rule and he is bound by it himself and they will be disobeyed if he goes against this statute. Puranas are full of cases where the kings were defiled and decapitated because they went against the established
Author- Aeshna Raghuwanshi, Content Writer , legal Eagle.