Mentor’s Comment: Explain about law and ethics and its relationship. Bring suitable examples from daily life to show that ethics is having a wider perspective than law.
- Law can be defined as a consistent set of universal rules that are widely published, generally accepted and usually enforced. These rules describe the ways in which people are required to act in their relationships with others in a society. They are requirements to act in a given way, not just expectations or suggestions to act in that way. Since the government establishes law, the government can use police powers to enforce laws.
- Ethics is a code of conduct which involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong. Ethics teaches us what is right and what is wrong in a certain action, speech or thought. If the action, speech or thought promotes sins (whether crime or seven deadly sins), it is un-ethical and one should abstain from such act. On the other hand if the act promotes the well being of all with justice to all, the act is ethical. Ethics do not have punishments, fines or associated penalties when people fail to abide by.
- Both Law and Ethics set standards of expected societal actions, but laws enforce actions while ethics set forth social guidelines. A relationship exists between law and ethics. In some instances, law and ethics overlap and what is perceived as unethical is also illegal. In other situations, they do not overlap. In some cases, what is perceived as unethical is still legal, and in others, what is illegal is perceived as ethical.
- Ethical values and legal principles are usually closely related, but ethical obligations typically exceed legal duties. In some cases, the law mandates ethical conduct such as the application of law or policy to ethics includes employment law, equal remuneration, social security schemes, empowering women at workplace, no child as a labour and codes of ethics etc.
- Though law often embodies ethical principles, law and ethics are far from co-extensive. The law does not prohibit many acts that would be widely condemned as unethical. And the contrary is true as well.
- The law also prohibits acts that some groups would perceive as ethical. For example lying or betraying the confidence of a friend is not illegal, but most people would consider it unethical. Yet, speeding is illegal, but many people do not have an ethical conflict with exceeding the speed limit. Law is not more than simply codifying ethical norms.
- Clearly, there is a relationship between law and ethics, and this relationship is important in managing society. The Civil Servants must evaluate not only what is legal, but also what they, their employees and society consider ethical as well.