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Posted: September 4th, 2023

Compare and contrast Procedural law and substantive law

Law is primarily categorized into substantive law and procedural law. Both are related yet quite different. However, they work closely together to ensure that all the necessary procedures are observed during the proceedings of either a civil or a criminal case.  Basically, procedural law is a set of rules and procedures that focuses on the technical aspect of legal cases. It seeks to ensure that all the players of a case including the court is conscious of, and observes all the fundamentals rights of the defendant. On the other hand, substantive law involves a system of rules enacted by the government through the legislature which governs the relationship between the people and the state. These rules define the responsibilities of the citizens, what is right and what is wrong and the punishments for any crime committed.

So, how does procedural law differ from substantive law?

First, the two mainly differ in terms of the power that they command in a legal case. Substantive law comprises an independent set of rules that decide the fate of an under-trial irrespective of whether the defendant wins or loses. Substantive law is made up of a system of coded rules that define the duties, rights and responsibilities of the people. These rules exist independently and dictate the behavior of the citizens and have the power to offer a legal solution. Procedural law on the other hand has no legal power. It only stipulates the procedures to be followed systematically in the execution of a legal case.

Secondly, they differ in relation to their application. Procedural law is applicable in both legal and non-legal context while substantive law is limited to legal cases. So, basically, substantive law deals with matters outside of court including the nature of a case, the rights and liabilities of the people while procedural law seeks to ensure that the trial follows the rightful path usually with the context of the court.

In addition, Procedural laws are governed by the judiciary while substantive law is promulgated by the legislative act of parliament.


In short, Procedural law is mainly concerned with the process ensuring that key steps such as the appealing process, presentation of the evidence, counsel representation, pleading, as well as reviewing are followed. In contrast, substantive law is responsible for determining the nature of the case and pays more attention to the objective and the subjective matters in both civil and criminal cases.

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