Difference Between Act and Rule

The words Act and Rule are almost interchangeably used in the subject of legal studies. They are two of the most common words used when we read any content of law. Though they seem similar, they aren’t the same. There are differences between them.


The term ‘Act’ refers to statutes created by the legislature and approved by the President to become an enforced law. So, the Act in India needs to be passed by both the houses of the parliament (the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) and should be approved by the President to become a law and is then termed as ‘ACT’. These are known as primary legislation. There are many Acts in India leading in various aspects of the law. Some are substantive while some are procedural, while some can also be private and public. Thus the act is the intention of the law that describes the applicability, definitions, governing provisions and fines and the way it is to be given.

Examples of an Act in India include – The Indian Penal Code 1860; The Indian Contract Act 1872; The Indian Partnership Act,1936 and The Right to Information Act, 2005;

The Act is passed by the legislature. It is also called as a statute. We see that most of the laws are not complete code in themselves that is certain provisions as to their application or enforcement etc will be deliberately left out by the legislature. That is where rules come into the picture.


The rule is a set of laws that people in a society must obey. Rules are standard guidelines which provide for the smooth functioning of an organization. In law, rules define the procedures of performing a task. It is the Acts (legislation) which contain the rules. Rules contained in the standard methods and procedures which will be related to a provision which is contained in the act. It is framed by the powers given in the Act.

Let me site you with an example, we all know about The Right to Information Act. Now everything cannot be laid down in the Act, so there are some rules made to enforce the Act. The Right to Information rules,2012 of the Central government is a rule to implement the law. Further all the states have been acting independently to enforce the law through their respective rules, for example, West Bengal Right to Information Rules, 2006.

Rules help to govern the law. They will be secondary in nature, in the sense they don’t have an independent existence on their own. The Rules must be provided for the information which is not given in the Act, however, rules by no means can go beyond the power conferred by the Act, or extend the same.


The term ACT is defined in The General Clauses Act 1897 clause 3, sub-clause (2) which says “act”, used with reference to an offence or a civil wrong, shall include a series of Act, and words which refer to acts done extend also to illegal omissions;

The term RULE is also defined in The General Clauses Act 1897 clause 3, sub clause (51) which tells “rule” shall mean a rule made in exercise of a power conferred by any enactment, and shall include a Regulation made as a rule under any enactment; and is also defined by the Hon’ble Apex Court of India in case titled Sukdev Singh vs. Bhagatram Sardar Singh – AIR 1975 SC 1331

An act is a law or a statute which has been passed by the legislature and approved by the President of India. Act is also very important because they speak of the laws which are to be followed by the people and is also seen that as times passes and society changes, transformations are also made in these laws with changes made in policies relating to general or specific environment to set forth measures and arrangements designed to ensure the observance of such rights and obligations. On the other hand, Rules provide the details which have not been provided for in the Act. We can further explain this with an example the Rule of Law we know that it is important because it checks the abuse of power by the authorities and empowers individuals with rights which cannot be easily taken away. It treats everyone equally without discrimination.
Thus we can say that Act is substantial law and the Rule is procedural law. Meaning thereby is something done by law, or by force of law, whether the hand that does it is willingly or not acts in law.


Though the term Act and Rule are used frequently by the people. Imagine of a society where there is no law, act, rules a regulations, then what is going to happen in that particular society. There will be anarchy and chaos in that society. It is the law contains the acts and the rules for the proper organization and functioning of the administration of the country. These aims in resolving the matters of people in a fair and just manner to help the society be peaceful. Thus both the primary and secondary legislation is needed to work with hand in hand to run the country peacefully.

This article is authored by Hirak Ray, B.A. LL.B(Hons.) student at Department of Law, University of North Bengal.

Also Read – How To Read A Law Report?

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