Substantive and Procedural Law

In the case of Thirumalai Chemicals Ltd. vs. Union of India and others[vi], the Supreme Court has held that all those laws which affect the substantive and vested rights of the parties have to be taken as substantive law, whereas any provision of law dealing with the form of the trial, mechanism of the trial or procedure thereof, has to be treated as procedural in nature.

“Substantive law refers to body of rules that creates, defines and regulates rights and liabilities. Right conferred on a party to prefer an appeal against an order is a substantive right conferred by a statute which remains unaffected by subsequent changes in law, unless modified expressly or by necessary implication. Procedural law establishes a mechanism for determining those rights and liabilities and a machinery for enforcing them… Right of appeal may be a substantive right but the procedure for filing the appeal including the period of limitation cannot be called a substantive right; and aggrieved person cannot claim any vested right claiming that he should be governed by the old provision pertaining to period of limitation.”

Distinction between Substantive and Procedural Laws:
Sl. No.

Points of Difference

Substantive Laws

Procedural Law



It establishes rights, obligations and duties of individuals with other individuals or individuals with the State.

It lays down the means and methods through which substantive law is enforced.



It has independent powers to decide the fate of each case.

It doesn’t have any independent powers to decide the fate of each case.



It cannot be applied in non-legal contexts.

It can be applied in both legal and non-legal contexts.



It governs the rights and duties of individuals.

It governs the stages in which a civil proceeding proceeds.



It doesn’t exclusively deal with proceedings inside a Court.

It deals with the happenings of a Court.



It is regulated by Acts of Parliament or government implementation.

It is regulated by Statutory laws.

Few examples of Substantive and Procedural Laws:
Substantive Laws-
1. The Indian Contract Act, 1872

2. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

3. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956

4. Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

5. The Transfer of Property Act, 1882

6. The Factories Act, 1948
7. Industrial Disputes Act, 1947

8. The Law of Torts

9. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (the first part that deals with general principles of law)
10. Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881

11. The Indian Penal Code, 1860

Procedural Laws–
1. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (the second part that deals with orders with respect to civil proceedings)

2. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
3. Law of Evidence, 1872
4. The Limitation Act, 1963

Recently, The Delhi High Court held in the case, NNR Global Logistics (Shanghai) Co Ltd v Aargus Global Logistics Pvt Ltd[vii] that the Law of Limitation is a procedural law rather than a substantive law.