Public law is that part of law which governs relationships between individuals and
the government, and those relationships between individuals which are of direct concern
to .society  Public law comprises constitutional law, administrative law, tax law and criminal law,
 as well as all procedural law. In public law, mandatory rules prevail. Laws concerning
relationships between individuals belong to private law.
The relationships public law governs are asymmetric and unequal – government bodies (central
or local) can make decisions about the rights of individuals. However, as a consequence of
the rule of law doctrine, authorities may only act within the law (secundum et intra legem). The
government must obey the law. For example, a citizen unhappy with a decision of an
administrative authority can ask a court for judicial review.
Rights, too, can be divided into private rights and public rights. A paragon of a public right is the
right to welfare benefits – only a natural person can claim such payments, and they are awarded
through an administrative decision out of the government budget.
The distinction between public law and private law dates back to Roman law. It has been picked
up in the countries of civil law tradition at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but since then
spread to common law countries, too.
The borderline between public law and private law is not always clear in particular cases, giving
rise to attempts of theoretical understanding of its basis.