SOURCES OF HINDU LAW

The word ‘Hindu’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Sindhu which is the designation for the Indus River. The word Hindu was first appeared in the Old Persian language. Hindu law is the code of laws applied to Hindu, and other communities which are Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. The rights and obligations of a Hindu are determined by Hindu Law wherever the Indian Law admits operation of personal law. Hindu law is said to be the branch of dharma.

Sources of Hindu Law

The sources of Hindu law are divided into two parts. They are:

  • Ancient Sources of Hindu Law
  • Modern Sources of Hindu Law

 Ancient Sources

Earlier, before codification of Hindu Law, the ancient literature was the only source of law. The ancient sources are divided into following parts:

1.Shruti

2. Smriti

3. Digests and Commentaries

4. Custom

 Modern Sources

Modern Sources of Hindu Law are those sources which are emerged overtime. The modern sources are divided into following head:

1.Justice, equity and good conscience

2. Precedent, and

3. Legislation.

Ancient Sources of Hindu Law

 Shruti

Shruti means which has been heard. The word Shruti is derived from “shru” which means ‘to hear’. Shruti is believed to be the language of the God revelation through the sages. It is the primary source of Hindu law. Veda is the synonym of Shruti and it is derived from” vid” which means “to know”.

The synonym of shruti is Veda. It is derived from the root “vid” meaning ‘to know’. There are four Vedas:

  • Rig Veda
  • Yajur Veda
  • Sama Veda
  • Atharva Veda

Rig veda are the collection of hymns which are in Sanskrit and is recited by the chief priest. There are 1028 hymns which are arranged in 10 bundles. Yajur veda is the modification or upgradation of rig veda. It contains the formulas to be recited by the priest. Sama Veda contains collection of chants. Sama veda is also known as chant veda. Atharva Veda are the procedures for everyday life and it contains 730 hymns with about 6,000 mantras, divided into 20 books.

 Smritis

The word Smriti is derived from “smri” which means ‘to remember’. Shruti is the basis of Smriti. The oldest Smriti is Manu Smriti. Smritis are of two kinds:

  • Dharmasutras: They are written in short maxims.
  • Dharmashastras: They are Shlokas.
  •  

 Digests and Commentaries

Commentaries are the Bhashya and Digests are Nibandhs. Earlier, the commentaries were written on the smritis and in the later part it was in the nature of digests. Different schools of Hindu Law were evolved on the account of commentaries. The two major schools are The Dayabhaga school of law and The Mitakshara. The Mitakshara is based on the commentaries which were written by Vijnaneswar and The Dayabhaga is based on the commentaries of Jimutvahana.

Custom

Custom means ‘achara’. It is considered as the highest dharma. Customs are the set of rules or ideas that defines a regular pattern of behaviour and in a social system. A custom is said to be valid when:

  • The custom must be ancient
  • It must be reasonable
  • It should be immemorable
  • It must be certain
  • It must be in continuity

 Modern Sources of Hindu Law

 Justice, equity and good conscience

The principles of justice, equity and good conscience is considered as the basic values, norms and standards of fairplay upon which the Courts rely when the disputes cannot be settled by the application of existing rule. They are also known as Natural law. It clarifies that in the absence of a rule this principle shall be applied.

 Legislations

Legislations are the acts/laws passed by the Parliament which mentions the rights and liabilities of the parties and all the provisions. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, etc. are few important statutes under Hindu Law. It is also known as codified form of law. Legislation is the most reliable source of Hindu law. Time to time the Parliament bring new acts and amend the existing ones.

 Precedents

Precedent means that the decision of a higher court by a lower court if the decision involves a common question of law. The decision given by the Supreme Court or the Privy Council are binding on the all other courts. The decision of the Supreme Court is binding on all other courts except for itself.

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