Sources of Hindu Law


By Ipsha Singh


Hindu law has the most seasoned family of any known arrangement of statute, and even now it gives no indication of flimsiness.”- Henry Mayne. 

The expression “wellspring of law” has a few undertones. It might be the power which issues rules of lead which are perceived by Courts as authoritative. In this specific circumstance, ‘wellspring of law’ signifies ‘the creator of law’. It might mean the social conditions which moves the creation of law for the administration of the conditions. In this setting it signifies ‘reason for law’. It might likewise mean in its strict sense the material from which the guidelines and laws are known. In this sense the articulation implies the ‘proof of law’ and it is in this feeling the articulation ‘wellspring of law’ is acknowledged in Jurisprudence. 

Vijnaneshwar (reporter on the Yajnavalkya Smriti and originator of Mitakshara School) has called it Jnapak Hetu i.e., the methods for knowing law. It is essential to consider the wellsprings of law in light of the fact that in each close to home legitimate framework just that standard is law which has place in its sources. A standard not set down or not perceived in the sources isn’t a standard in that legitimate framework. 

The word ‘Hindu’ first showed up in the old Persian language which was gotten from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, the notable neighborhood assignment for the Indus River in the north-western piece of the Indian subcontinent. A Hindu is a disciple of Hinduism. 

Hindu law is a lot of individual laws administering the social states of Hindus, (for example, marriage and separation, appropriation, legacy, minority and guardianship, family matters, and so forth.). It isn’t Hindus alone who must adhere to Hindu law yet there are a few different networks and strict sections that are dependent upon its territory, for example, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Brahmo-Samajists, Prarthana-Samajists, the Virashaivas and Lingayats and the Santhals of Chhota Nagpur other than others. 

In Sir Dinshah F.Mulla’s ‘Standards of Hindu Law’, the scholarly editorial manager has characterized ‘Hindu law’ in the accompanying words: “Any place the laws of India concede activity of an individual law, the rights and commitments of a Hindu are controlled by Hindu law, for example his conventional law, once in a while called the law of his religion, subject to the exemption that any piece of that law might be changed or annulled by resolution.” Law as comprehended by Hindus is a part of dharma. 

Nature and extension: In the current article, the degree will be confined to discovering the wellsprings of Hindu law, and investigate on a portion of the definitional parts of the sources and a general study of the sources. 

Wellsprings of Hindu Law 

The wellsprings of Hindu law can be arranged under the accompanying two heads: 

I. Antiquated Sources 

Under this would come the accompanying: 

(I) Shruti 

(ii) Smriti 

(iii) Digests and Commentaries and 

(iv) Custom. 

II. Present day Sources 

Under this head would come: 

(I) Justice, value and great inner voice 

(ii) Precedent, and 

(iii) Legislation. 

Antiquated Sources 

(I) Shruti– 

It truly implies what has been heard. The word is gotten from the root “shru” which signifies ‘to hear’. In principle, it is the essential and fundamental wellspring of Hindu law and is accepted to be the language of the perfect disclosure through the sages. 

The equivalent of shruti is veda. It is gotten from the root “vid” signifying ‘to know’. The term Veda depends on the custom that they are the storehouse of all information. There are four Vedas in particular, Rig Veda (containing psalms in Sanskrit to be recounted by the main cleric), Yajurva Veda (containing recipes to be discussed by the administering minister), Sama Veda (containing refrains to be recited by diviners) and Atharva Veda (containing an assortment of spells and chants, stories, forecasts, apotropaic charms and some theoretical songs). 

Every Veda has three sections viz. Sanhita (which comprises basically of the psalms), Brahmin (discloses to us our obligations and methods for performing them) and Upanishad (containing the embodiment of these obligations). The shrutis incorporate the Vedas alongside their parts. 

(ii) Smritis– 

The word Smriti is gotten from the root “smri” signifying ‘to recollect’. Customarily, Smritis contain those bits of the Shrutis which the sages overlooked in their unique structure and the thought whereby they wrote in their own language with the assistance of their memory. Along these lines, the premise of the Smritis is Shrutis yet they are human works. 

There are two sorts of Smritis viz. Dharmasutras and Dharmashastras. Their topic is nearly the equivalent. The thing that matters is that the Dharmasutras are written in exposition, in short adages (Sutras) and the Dharmashastras are created in verse (Shlokas). Be that as it may, once in a while, we discover Shlokas in Dharmasutras and Sutras in the Dharmashastras. From a thin perspective, the word Smriti is utilized to mean the poetical Dharmashastras. 

The quantity of Smriti authors is practically difficult to decide however a portion of the prominent Smriti essayists listed by Yajnavalkya (sage from Mithila and a significant figure in the Upanishads) are Manu, Atri, Vishnu, Harita, Yajnavalkya, Yama, Katyayana, Brihaspati, Parashar, Vyas, Shankh, Daksha, Gautama, Shatatapa, Vasishtha, and so on. 

The standards set down in Smritis can be isolated into three classifications viz. Achar (identifying with ethical quality), Vyavahar (implying procedural and meaningful principles which the King or the State applied for settling questions in the arbitration of equity) and Prayaschit (connoting the correctional arrangement for commission of a wrong). 

(iii) Digests and Commentaries – 

After Shrutis came the time of analysts and summaries. Discourses (Tika or Bhashya) and digests (Nibandhs) secured a time of over thousand years from seventh century to 1800 A.D. In the initial segment of the period the vast majority of the critiques were composed on the Smritis yet in the later period the works were in the idea of reviews containing a combination of the different Smritis and clarifying and accommodating the different logical inconsistencies. 

The advancement of the various schools of Hindu law has been conceivable by virtue of the various critiques that were composed by different specialists. The first wellspring of Hindu law was the equivalent for all Hindus. In any case, schools of Hindu law emerged as the individuals decided to stick to either school for various reasons. The Dayabhaga and Mitakshara are the two significant schools of Hindu law. The Dayabhaga school of law depends on the editorials of Jimutvahana (writer of Dayabhaga which is the condensation all things considered) and the Mitakshara depends on the critiques composed by Vijnaneswar on the Code of Yajnavalkya. 

(iv) Custom – 

Custom is viewed as the third wellspring of Hindu law. From the most punctual period custom (‘achara’) is viewed as the most noteworthy ‘dharma’. As characterized by the Judicial Committee custom means a standard which in a specific family or in a specific class or locale has from long use acquired the power of law. 

Custom is a rule source and its position is close to the Shrutis and Smritis however utilization of custom beats the Smritis. It is better than composed law. There are sure attributes which should be satisfied for proclaiming custom to be a legitimate one. They are:- 

(I) The custom must be old. The specific use probably been polished for quite a while and acknowledged by regular assent as an administering rule of a specific culture. 

(ii) The custom must be sure and ought to be liberated from such an equivocalness. It should likewise be liberated from details. 

(iii) The custom must be sensible and not against any current law. It must not be unethical or against any open strategy and 

(iv) The custom probably been consistently and consistently followed for quite a while. 

Indian Courts perceive three sorts of customs viz: (a) Local custom – these are customs perceived by Courts to have been predominant in a specific area or territory. (b) Class custom – these are customs which are followed up on by a specific class. Eg. There is a custom among a class of Vaishyas such that renunciation or surrender of the spouse by the husband annuls the marriage and the wife is allowed to wed again during the life-time of the husband. (c) Family custom – these are customs which are official upon the individuals from a family. For example, there is a custom in groups of antiquated India that the oldest male individual from the family will acquire the domains. 

II. Present day Sources 

(I) Justice, value and great still, small voice– 

Sporadically it may happen that a debate precedes a Court which can’t be settled by the utilization of any current principle in any of the sources accessible. Such a circumstance might be uncommon yet it is conceivable in light of the fact that only one out of every odd sort of actuality circumstance which emerges can have a comparing law administering it. 

The Courts can’t decline to the settle the debate without law and they are under a commitment to choose such a case moreover. For deciding such cases, the Courts depend upon the essential qualities, standards and gauges of fair play and respectability. 

In wording, this is known as standards of equity, value and great soul. They may likewise be named as Natural law. This guideline in our nation has appreciated the status of a wellspring of law since the eighteenth century when the British organization clarified that without a standard, the above rule will be applied. 

(ii) Legislations– 

Enactments are acts of Parliament which have been assuming a significant job in the arrangement of Hindu law. After India accomplished freedom, some significant parts of Hindu Law have been classified. Scarcely any instances of significant Statutes are The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, and so forth. 

After codification, any point managed by the systematized law is conclusive. The institution abrogates all earlier law, regardless of whether dependent on custom or in any case except if an express sparing is accommodated in the authorization itself. In issues not explicitly secured.

iii) Points of reference– 

After the foundation of English principle, the order of Courts was built up. The teaching of point of reference dependent on the rule of rewarding like cases the same was built up. Today, the choices of Supreme Court are official on all the lower Courts in India aside from where they have been changed or adjusted by the other courts whose choices are authoritative on all the courts with the exception of itself. 

An Investigation on the Sources 

It is critical to take note of that the term ‘Hindu’ isn’t characterized anyplace as far as religion or in any resolution or legal choices. To decide to whom Hindu Law applies, it is important to realize who is a Hindu and none of the sources explicitly state so. At most from rules, we can get a negative meaning of a Hindu which expresses that Hindu law will apply to the individuals who are not Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Jew, and so forth and who are not administered by some other law. 

Hindu Law is viewed as heavenly law as it is firmly accepted that the sages had achieved some profound territory and they could discuss legitimately with God structure whom we get the awesome law. In any case, this is just a presumption and no solid verification for the equivalent is demonstrated that the sages could speak with God (whose very presence is tested by skeptics). Because of this, numerous networks are likewise experiencing the confusion or daydream that their progenitors and saviors had divine revelations. 

Judge A.M.Bhattacharjee emphatically expresses that as per him he can’t imagine that “even a steadfast adherent to any perfect presence, otherworldly or natural, can have confidence in the ‘divine birthplace’ of Hindu law, except if he has a thought process behind such calling of conviction or has not perused the Smritis or is prepared to think everything without exception with servile disloyalty.” 

As per Judge Markandey Katju, Hindu law doesn’t begin from the Vedas (additionally called Shruti). He intensely states that there are numerous who propound that Hindu law started from the Shrutis yet this is a fiction and in reality Hindu law began from the Smriti books which contained works from Sanskrit researchers in antiquated time who had practical experience in law. 

The Shrutis barely comprise of any law and the compositions appointed in the Smriti don’t make any understood cut qualification between rules of law and rules of profound quality or religion. In the majority of the original copies, the moral, good and lawful standards are woven into one. It is maybe therefore that as per Hindu convention, law didn’t mean just in the Austinian feeling of law and is questionable to it; and the word utilized instead of ‘law’ was the Sanskrit word ‘dharma’ which indicates religion just as obligation. 

In spite of the fact that Dharmasutras managed law, they didn’t furnish a collection of law managing all the parts of law. The Manusmriti provided a genuinely necessary lawful composition which could be an abstract of law. In any case, as indicated by Kane, “It is practically difficult to state who made the Manusmriti.” The very presence of Manu is respected to be a legend by numerous and he is named as a fanciful character. 

Numerous pundits attest that the word Smriti itself implies that what is recalled and in this manner the legitimacy or confirmation of the current Smritis could be tested. It can’t be said for conviction that what the sages recalled was really what was propounded. 

Hindu law has for the most part been studied in light of the fact that the Smritis and different traditions were commonly amazingly customary and against the favors of ladies. Hindu society along these lines has consistently been a man centric culture and ladies have consistently gotten repressed significance over men. Some additionally dislike the thoughts of rank based framework made by old Hindu law from which developed the badly seen practices of unapproachability, and so on. 

The Smritis are confessed to have autonomous position yet while their power is past question, their implications are available to different translations and has been and is the subject of much contest. Till date, nobody can say without a doubt the specific measure of Smritis which exist under Hindu law. It is expected to the previously mentioned issues that the review and editorials were set up and different schools of Hindu law began to conceive an offspring. 

The cutting edge wellsprings of Hindu law, for example, equity, value and great soul have been scrutinized in light of the fact that it prepares for sincere beliefs and convictions of judges to be made into law. We have seen catena of situations where the choices of the Court have been reprimanded for need of legitimate thinking. This additionally implies the inadequacy of the laws which exist. 

The Supreme Court in many issues has found out the guidelines of Hindu law effectively yet there are couple of situations where they have deciphered the standards in their own light. Probably the gravest instance of the Incomparable Court which merits a lot of analysis is the situation of Krishna Singh v. Mathura Ahir. The Allahabad High Court had properly held that the unfair boycott forced on the Sudras by the Smritis stands revoked as it contradicts the Fundamental Rights ensured by the Constitution. 

In any case, the Supreme Court negated the above view and held that “Part III of the Constitution doesn’t address the individual laws of the gatherings. In applying the individual laws of the gatherings one can’t present his own ideas of current occasions yet ought to authorize the law as got from perceived and definitive wellsprings of Hindu law….except where such law is changed by any use or custom or is altered or revoked by resolution.” 

It very well may be submitted easily that the above view is in opposition to every protected hypothesis and is explicitly in logical inconsistency with Article 13. It is stunning to take note of that this judgment is yet to be over-administered in express terms. 

Since the aegis of time, Hindu law has been changed and adjusted somewhat through enactments yet these changes have been apathetic and fragmentary. The issue with fragmentary changes is that however changes were made to change a few viewpoints, their suggestions on different angles were over-looked. For instance, the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, 1937, was passed with the end goal of allowing property rights to women however its repercussions on the law of joint family was over-looked. The outcome was that fragmentary changes through enactments tackled a few issues yet brought about others. 

Numerous individuals tragically consider different course readings composed by intellectual researchers as wellsprings of Hindu law. This is on the grounds that the Courts have chosen numerous cases depending on these reading material and cited them for reference. For instance, Mulla’s Hindu Law has been cited by numerous appointed authorities. In Bishundeo v. Seogani Rai, Judge Bose giving the dominant part judgment expressed that “the standard set down in Mulla’s book is explicitly expressed to be in situations where the position isn’t affected by an announcement of a skillful Court.” The equivalent has been the situation with numerous other reading material. It ought to be clarified that course books are not wellsprings of Hindu law and the writers have no position to set some hard boundaries. 


It has been seen that Hindu law has been evaluated for its universality, main centric character doesn’t bear an exceptionally present day standpoint of society. There are numerous zones where the Hindu law needs to redesign itself, for instance, the hopeless breakdown hypothesis as a substantial ground for separate is as yet not perceived under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and even the of Supreme Court have communicated their concern on this. 

The most substantial concern is that the very meaning of a ‘Hindu’ is as yet not given in any of the sources. Resolutions give just a negative definition which doesn’t do the trick the trial of time. The very advocate that Hindu law is divine law has been tested by researchers and nonbelievers. 

There are numerous Smritis which are yet to be found by History specialists and numerous contentions of suppositions and translations have emerged for the current ones, in this manner making a window of vagueness under Hindu law. There are additionally a few territories where Hindu law is quiet. 

The majority of the old wellsprings of Hindu law is written in Sanskrit and it is notable that in the current occasions there is a shortage of Sanskrit researchers. There is not really any significance left of the antiquated sources since the time the cutting edge sources have risen and been followed. 

It very well may be said that legitimate codification of Hindu law without space for vagueness is the need of great importance. It very well may be said that where the current wellsprings of Hindu law are uninviting the Governing body could investigate sources and customs of different religions and consolidate them into Hindu law on the off chance that it obliges the need of the general public and meets the trial of time.




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