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  • Writer's pictureBrain Booster Articles


Updated: May 24, 2021

Author: Nakul Mangal, V year of B.A.LLB(Hons.) from Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad


The word Law is originally obtained from a Teutonic word named "Lag" and it means in the English language is "Definite". In this context, Law is to be considered as a definite rule of conduct that applies to all the individuals of the state. These rules, regulations and restrictions apply to everybody. It is closely related to the development of civilizations. Laws organize our societies, maintain order, ensure safety and prevent infringement of our rights. Law means different for different people but the implication of law is the same upon everyone.

Law and Legal System in Vedic Period or Ancient India

India’s legal history started from the Vedic ages. It is said that Ancient India had some sort of legal system in the Bronze Age as well as the Indus Valley Civilization. It emanated from Vedas, the Upanishads and other religious texts. Different Hindu philosophers and practitioners of that age had enriched this field from different Hindu philosophical sources. Broadly, there are 4 divisions of Dharma or the sources of Law according to the Vedic Period: Shrutis, Smritis, Commentaries and Digests and Customs.

Shruti stands for what has been heard. It is believed that these words written in shrutis have come from God down to us through seers and sages. These are complete codes of spiritual learning which are helpful in the attainment of Salvation. They are regarded as the oldest sources of law. It consists of 4 Vedas: Rigveda which consists of hymns and prayers in praise of forces of nature and is the oldest among the shrutis for the knowledge of the law. Samaveda contains prayers composed in Mantras and set to music. Yajurveda deals with rituals and sacrifices and Atharvaveda are devoted to magic, spells and incantations. The Vedas emphasized the standard of conduct, privileges, duties and obligations of a man.

In the Vedic Period, ‘Danda Neethi’ was synonymous with law and administration. It used to deal with all the activities dealing with earning, safety, productivity and distribution of commodities. It was not only restricted to the policy of punishments but also the social and political affairs of the state. The king himself was named Danda and his administration was danda neethi. Danda neeti was the only technique considered to maintain law and order. According to danda neethi, Incapacitation and deterrence were the punishments for any crime.

Caste System or Varna Vyavastha was prevalent in Ancient India. The Purusha Sukta propounds 4 varnas out of which Brahmins who originated from the mouth of the Virat Purush, Kshatriya from his arms, Vaishya from his thighs and Shudra from his feet. With the demarcations of caste, mutual battles of supremacy had started. The warrior classes called them Kshatriya, those who prayed and performed holy rituals were Brahmins, the business class and agriculturalists were Vaishya and those who served the upper three were Shudras.

Law and Legal System in Medieval India

The first Muslim who made any conquest in India was Imad Uddin Muhammad bin Qasim which established a Muslim dominion and Ghazni and Muhammad of Ghur’s invasion in 12th century A.D. brought Muslims into closer contact with Indians. Some other invasions by Qutub-ud-din Aibak and Iltutmish mark the introduction of Islamic Law in India. The Quran is the fundamental source of Muslim law. According to Muslims, the law can’t be changed by parliament or state legislature. In the Medieval period, Islamic jurisprudence mostly affected through the Fatwa.

Law and Legal System during East India Company rule

In December 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted a charter for eastern trade for 15 years to the East India Company so that they could establish their monopoly. The main aim of Britishers to come to India was to grow themselves and establish their monopoly in trade but eventually, they acquired power and became the ruler of the country. In 1784, the British Parliament passed an act in which it decided the jurisdiction of the Supreme court. In 1790, the criminal justice system of the whole country was with the East India Company except Bombay. In 1833, a law commission was appointed under Lord Macaulay for the establishment of the India Penal Code and other reforms like a codification of law etc.

Law and Legal System: Pre-Independence

India saw its first mutiny against Britishers in the year 1857 and as a result of it, the British crown had taken over the control of the whole trade of company within Indian territory. Existing Mayoral Courts were replaced by the establishments of Supreme Courts. During the early period, the British objective was to make fewer and fewer changes in Mohammedan Law in terms of the Criminal System. As soon as it gained strength, it started making changes in Mohammedan law and whenever got any opportunities made the changes and established precedents.


Law is very dynamic which changes with the change in society. Its scope can never be static. Law is the result of continuous effort through a workable set of rules in society. Law is neither based on facts nor universal truth, it is based on people’s understanding and implications by society. It affects every activity of the individual and governs them to act morally and judiciously.


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