Distinguishing Between Acts & Ordinances

Understanding Act vs Ordinance

The distinction between an act and an ordinance becomes clear once you learn which legislative bodies create each. Law is a general term for legislation that is easily understood by the public. It encompasses Acts, regulations, Ordinances, and other subordinate legislations designed to maintain public order and inform the public about rules and regulations applicable in specific situations. The terms Act and Ordinance are often confused; this article aims to clarify the differences between these two legal terms.

Defining an Act

An Act is a piece of legislation that is more specific and applies to particular circumstances and specific individuals. For instance, there are laws against drunk driving, and people are aware of them, while DUI is the specific Act that relates to drunk driving. An Act is a type of legislation that comes into effect when a draft bill introduced either by the treasury bench or a private member of the parliament gets passed by the members (legislators). It also gets the assent of the President to finally become an Act or the law of the land. Until such time, as an Act is passed by the parliament, it is known as a Bill. Once it gets passed, it becomes a law. While most people know the term law, not many remember specific acts that are applicable in different areas and different circumstances.

Understanding an Ordinance

Ordinance mostly refers to local-level laws introduced by municipalities. Ordinances have the same power and effect as Acts but only within city limits. However, in some circumstances, ordinances can supersede federal laws. Municipalities often create ordinances within their areas of power, such as public streets, sidewalks, parking, littering, snow removal, pet regulations, and zoning. Zoning involves dividing the entire land area of the municipality into different sections such as residential, commercial, and industrial areas to maximize land usage.

In India, the constitution allows the President to promulgate ordinances that have the same effect as Acts. However, this can only occur when Parliament is not in session, and the ordinance must be presented to the parliament when the next session convenes. In most instances, the ordinance gets passed easily and then becomes an Act (law).

Key Takeaways

  • Acts and ordinances are different types of laws made at different levels.
  • Acts are passed by legislators in parliament, while ordinances are passed by municipalities and apply within city limits only.
  • In India, ordinances are laws passed through promulgation when the parliament is not in session and have the same power and effect as an Act.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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