What do you know about Austin’s theory of law?

John Austin was the jurist who gave a roadmap to other jurists and played a significant role in development of jurisprudence and law. 

According to him, “law is an aggregate of rules set by men as politically superior or sovereign to men as politically subject.” So, basically, the elements of his theory are command, duty and sanction. 

He gave imperative theory of law and the main features of his theory was – 

  • Law is a command 

It means political superiors laid down certain rules to be followed. For instance – political superiors proposed a rule that children above 18 years are required to earn money and get their living. So, all are required to follow this rule. 

  • Laid down by the sovereign

It means political superiors have the power to lay down rules. For instance – act can be passed by the queen in Parliament. 

  • Enforceable by a sanction

It means violation of the act leads to penalties. For instance – penalties for violation of Road Traffic Act, 1960. 

Further he classified law into two categories – 

  1. Divine law 

The law which is given by God to men falls under this category. They are basically found in scriptures and delivered by sages. 

  1. Human law 

The law which is given by men to men falls under this category. These are formulated for a society to govern effectively. John Austin further classified human law into positive law which is set by Political superiors and another one is rules of a club or any other voluntary association.

When we conclude the theory of Austin, we can understand that he gave emphasis on the relation between law and sovereignty. 

The Theory of Austin has been criticised by various jurists such as Salmond, Hobby, Plato, Locke and many more. But this theory was also appreciated for containing an important element of universal truth that law is created and enforced by the State. In addition, the Theory of Austin gave a clear and simple definition of law which helped another jurist to define law and move a step further in development of jurisprudence.