The hierarchy of laws is an important concept in law, as it dictates howthe different forms of law apply in practice. the most important element of lawis the Constitution or founding document. This is followed by statutes orlegislation, regulations and procedures.
This can be seen as follows; Figure 1: The Hierarchy of Law The constitution institute the independent aspects of a country, defining the rights and responsibilities of its citizens.The constitution also established the basic requirements for the properorganization of a country. For example, the constitution defines the mode ofgovernance in the country. Any law which is enacted after the establishment ofthe constitution must abide to the regulations previously defined in thisdocument, thus making it the top of the hierarchy.
Also, the constitutionreflects a country’s international obligations. The constitution forms the top tier of thehierarchy. This isimperative as it protectsthe jurisdiction and characteristics of a country, together with the rights and responsibilities of all itscitizens.
The constitution also stops, or slows down any changes that are beingattempted with the aim of short term political gain by certain legislators,thus protecting the order of governance of a country. 13The second level of the hierarchy is occupied by statutes andlegislations. Statutes are established by a branch of the legislative government.Statutes establish general propositions which the judicial will apply inspecific situations. Examples of statues include making a particular actforbidden or making a declaration.14 As previously stated, anystatutes which are enacted must be in line with the constitution, and must alsoabide to international law.
Regulations, which are one tier down from Statutes and Legislation are aform of law, which are prescribed by the competent authority, and applies tothose under the authority’s control. As can be noted by the above figure, theregulations must abide by both the country’s constitution as well as thestatutes and legislations. Regulations are enforced in the same way asstatutory law is, by the executive branch.15The lowest tier of the cjonjonstitution consists of Procedures and Codes ofConduct. Procedural or adjective law dictates how the state and individualsenforce their rights. Procedural law includes information regardingjurisdiction, appeal and execution of judgements, amongst other things.16 Unlikethe higher tiers, procedures are not enforced by sanctions from the executivebranch. Rather, enforcement is sought after by requesting compliance in returnfor the completion of a process or receipt of a benefit.
Procedures are set-upby an administrative body. The aim of procedural law is to ensure candor in theenforcement of laws, and to ensure that laws are being enforced consistently.Like regulations, Codes of Conducts are written standards used to governspecific groups of people. These may include political candidates, media andelection officials.
If these codes are passed by a lawmaking body, they areknown as ‘hard’ laws. This means that they are enforced with sanctions as seenin the previous tiers. However, ‘soft’ laws also exist in this category. Thesecannot be enforced, and so, rely on voluntary compliance.13