ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unfair Criticism

Classification and Law THIS refers to Andre Beteille's observations on comparative methods in sociology. (October 6). Social scientists and anthropologists are not the only ones who are confronted with the problem of classification as being too inadequate to compare (social) systems. Classification and typifying have posed problems in all disciplines. Though natural sciences can claim to have perfected classification in order to unravel the mysteries of nature, it is true only to a certain extent. There comes a stage when natural sciences have to take recourse to 'probability' to explain any action, reaction or behaviour of an animate or inanimate thing. In fact, the applied sciences rely, in a large measure, on the principle of entropy which, in other words, means chaos. Despite this, the classification approach cannot be discarded as being superficial and unuseful. The experience of jurisprudence, the science of law, in this regard can be of great help in understanding the extent and scope of classification. This could be of practical use to social scientists who feel too sensitive to classify societies into types, groups and classes and revolt at the idea, as does Beteille, of classifying human societies in the manner zoologists classify animals. Beteille may be correct in saying that no two societies resemble each other in the way in which two birds of the same species do. But, he cannot also ignore the fact that no two birds of the same species outwardly resemble two birds of a sub-species of that species. Hence, classification tends to get increasingly difficult as one narrows down one's inquiry. This should, however, not prompt one to believe that classification as a method has no merits. The problem of classification assumes a great significance in jurisprudence. Law, being dynamic as it is, has to rely upon the certain classifications in order to ensure that rights are enforced and obligations carried out. Since the rules of law are made by society they are bound to suffer from imprecise definitions of things and ideas, and other imperfect classification. Since law cannot wait for precise and perfect definitions or classifications to be crafted by society it relies, and quite successfully too, on a well accepted rule of ejusdem generis. Borrow, ed from a Latin maxim, this rule provides that "when particular words forming a part of the same class or category are followed by general words then the general words must be construed in the context of particular words.

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