Difference between Act, Bill, Ordinances, Rules & Regulations

12 May 2021  Read 42978 Views

Can we refer to the Specific Relief Act, Transfer of Property Act, Companies Act, Contract Act as a bill? Wait! Before refuting this question, always remember that an Act was obviously a bill once, but as these Acts have been passed in both the Houses and assented by the President so, they will not be referred to as a ‘bill’.  Presidential assent distinguishes a bill from an Act. We frequently come across terms like a bill being introduced, a law being enacted, an ordinance that is being passed, and an Act coming into force. So, what's the difference? Read this article to know more in detail.

It is exciting to know that India nourishes a hybrid legal system with a mixture of civil, common law, customary or religious law within the legal framework assumed from the colonial era and even several legislations that were first introduced by the Britishers are still in effect in modified forms today. Okay! let's just chuck out these kinds of technical elaborations rather in simple words, Law is the genus and Ordinances, Bills, Acts are its species. Let’s get started with each of them!

What are Acts, Bills, Ordinances, Rules and Regulations?

1. Bill

A 'bill ' can be contemplated as the initial stage of an act. It is a proposal to draft a new law. Generally, a bill is in the form of a document that summarizes what is the policy behind the suggested law and what the said law is going to be. 

  • A Bill can be introduced by Parliament or State Governments itself or proposed by a member of the Parliament. 

  • Once passed in the Lower House after discussions, the Bill moves to the Upper house for approval. 

  • Once the bill is passed by the Upper House, then it is sent to the Indian President for his assent. 

  • Ultimately, a bill becomes a law (Act) or a statute of the land after it is passed by the Parliament and assented by the President.  However, not all bills become acts, some bills do lapse and need to be reintroduced.

2. Act

Once the Bill has been passed by the legislature, it is sent to the President or the Governor in case of Central law or State law respectively for the approval. After receiving the Presidential assent, it becomes an Act. 

  • An Act is a law that is made by the legislature such as Parliament or State Legislative Assembly. 

  • It is a law passed by Parliament whereas a bill is proposed legislation under consideration by a legislature. Therefore, a bill is a draft and acts are a law by the government. In this sense, a bill becomes an act when it is passed through the government.

3. Law

The word 'law' generally refers to the set of regulations or rules to be followed. It can be in any form such as an act, ordinance, order, by-laws, rule or regulation etc. 

  • An act is a subset of law. It has the power to confer legal rights, obligations, liabilities, etc. 

  • Law can be any provisions of every valid Acts passed by the legislature whether acts and codes from pre-independence India or Ordinances passed by a Governor of a State or the President of India or decisions of the High Courts or Supreme Court, authorised orders, notices, rules, etc made by government bodies. 

4. Ordinance

Article 123 of Indian Constitution gives the President “Ordinance making power” whereas Article 213 of Indian Constitution gives the Governor “Ordinance making power”. These are valid for a period of six months.

  • Ordinance is a temporary law that is circulated by the President on the recommendation of the Union Cabinet.

  • They can only be delivered when the Parliament is not in session. They authorize the government to take immediate legislative action. 

  • These are generally passed when the Central Legislature is not in session and there is a need to make an act in emergency. In these cases, the government refers a proposal to the President or Governor of a State, and if they approve of them, it becomes an Ordinance. The legality of an ordinance is that it is equal to the Act. 

5. Rules

When any Act is introduced and passed, it is not mandatory that it is a complete code in itself. So, there is a requirement for the enactment of rules for defining the procedures of performing and implementation of the Act. In short, rules provide procedural laws.

  • Rules are necessary because it is very complex for the legislation to include each and every detail in a single Act making it lengthy. Hence, a separate set of rules are made, in compliance with the provisions of the Act.

  • Rules are secondary in nature to their parent act. Therefore, the rules cannot go beyond the parent Act and in case if any conflict arises between the provisions of an Act and rules, then the provisions of the Act will prevail. Example: The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 gives powers to the appropriate Government to make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act. Thus, The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central Rules, 1946 were drafted by the Centre.

6. Regulations

Basically, rules and regulations are quite similar, however, regulations are more rigid than rules. Regulations have a force of law as these are the orders passed by Executive authority on the conduct of any legislation. 

  • They are based upon the Act. Such regulations are passed for the application of the Act and thus, there can be more than one set of regulations. 

  • Regulations are not passed before the Houses of Parliament but are needed to be published in the official Gazette to become legal. 

  • The Act is the parent law and the regulations passed is the supplement and are subordinate in nature and acts as an in- charge for enforcing the laws. 

  • The main difference between rules and regulations is that regulations are legally binding, whereas rules are not. Example: The Competition Act, 2002 confers powers on the Commission to make regulations to carry out the purposes of the Act. The Competition Commission of India made The Competition Commission of India (Manner of recovery of monetary penalty) Regulations, 2011 exercising this power.

So till now, we have discussed Act, Bill, Ordinance, Regulation & Law- but there are two other legal terms students often get confused with. Those terms are Articles and Section.

Difference between Articles & Section

An article is a separate and distinct part of a written instrument, such as a contract, statute, or constitution, that is often divided into sections. A written instrument, containing a series of rules and stipulations that are each designated as an article.
Whereas a section is the distinct and numbered subdivisions in legal codes, statutes, and textbooks.

We can take an example of the Constitution of India- It is first divided into parts and parts are further divided into articles. Articles are used in the Constitution while Sections are used in Acts such Indian Contract Act, Negotiable Instruments Act etc.


There has always been a huge dilemma as to the meaning of these terms, because they are often used interchangeably by many. In simple words, a bill is a predecessor of an act which becomes one after it get assent by the President whereas ordinance is a temporary law that are valid only for six months. An Act is supreme and rules and regulations are its subsidiaries. Laws on one hand can either be acts, ordinances, rules or regulations. 

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 110 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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