Science of Governance by Swami Dayanand Saraswati

  • By Swami Dayanand Saraswati
  • March 2001

The Administration of Justice      

Manu - Let the king, the Court and the Judge daily decide justly law suits-which are classified under eighteen heads- according to the laws of the land and the teachings of the Dharm Shastra. If it be found necessary to undertake fresh legislation-in respect of matters about which no laws are to be found in the Law books of Rishis-let such laws be framed as will promote the welfare of the rulers and the ruled.

 These are the following eighteen causes of disputes: -
(1) Debt.
(2) Deposit-the dispute arises when a man deposits an article with another and is refused its return on demand
(3) Sale by one person of a thing is owned by another.
(4) Association of some persons against a particular individual for a criminal purpose.
(5) Refusal to return a loan.
(6) Non-payment or inadequate payment of one’s wages.
(7) Disputes with regard to sale or purchase.
(8) Disputes between the owner of an animal and the man who looks after it.
(9) Boundary disputes.
(10) Assault.
(11) Slander.
(12) Larceny, burglary, and dacoity.
(13) Violence.
(14) Adultery.
(15) Disregard of conjugal duties.
(16) Disputes about inheritance.
(17) Gambling-with animate as well as inanimate things.

These are the eighteen causes of disputes among men.

Let the judge observe the eternal law of justice and decide all these cases of disputes among men justly, that is, without partiality.

Where Justice, having been wounded by Injustice, approaches the Court, and no one extracts the dart, shot by Injustice, from the wound, all the judges who constitute the bench deserve also to be counted as wounded.

Either a just and virtuous man should not enter an Assembly (or a Court of justice), or, when he does enter it, should invariably speak the truth. He who looks on injustice perpetrated before his very eyes and still remains mute, or says what is false or unjust, is the greatest sinner.

Where justice is destroyed by Injustice and Truth by Untruth under the very nose of the Judges who simply look on, all those who preside over that Court are as if dead, not one of them is alive. Justice being destroyed shall destroy the destroyer. Justice being protected shall protect the protector. Let no man, therefore, violate the laws of justice lest, being destroyed, destroy him. He who violates the laws of justice-justice that gives power and prosperity, and showers happiness like rain from heaven-is considered as lowest of the low by the wise. Let no one, therefore, violate the laws of justice. Justice alone, in this world, is the true friend that accompanies a man even after death; all other companions become extinct with the extinction of the body. Justice never for sakes a man.

When injustice is perpetrated in a Court of Justice (or an assembly) by partiality being shown to one party, the justice is divided into four equal parts. One quarter falls to the share of the party in the cause, one quarter of his witnesses, one quarter of all the judges (or members of the assembly), and one quarter of the presiding judge (or President of the Assembly). Where he, who deserves condemnation, is condemned; he who is worthy of praise, is praised; he, who merits punishment, is punished; and he, who deserves honor, is honored, in that court (or assembly) the Presiding Judge and other Judges (or the President and the members of the Assembly) are guiltless and innocent, and the evil deed recoils on him alone who committed it.”

Manu - “Among all classes those persons alone are eligible as witnesses who are men of character, learned, straightforward, who know their duty properly, and are truthful and free from covetousness. Never should men of opposite character be considered as eligible to bear witness.

Let women be witnesses for women, the twice-born for the twice born : Shudras for Shudras, and outcasts for outcasts.

Let a judge never deem it extremely necessary to examine too strictly, the competence of witnesses in cases of violence, theft, adultery, the use of abusive language and assault, all these things being done in the private, witnesses are not easily available in such cases.

If there be contradictory evidence let him accept as true the evidence of the majority; if the conflicting parties are equal in number, that of those distinguished by good qualities; on a difference between equally distinguished witnesses, that of the best among the twice-born, viz., sages, seers and Sanyasis-altruistic teachers of humanity.

Two kinds of evidence are admissible, (1) what has been seen and (2) what has been heard by the witnesses. A witness who speaks the truth in a court of law neither deviates from righteousness nor deserves to be punished, but he, who does otherwise, should be properly punished.

A witness, who says anything in a court of law or in an assembly of good men, different from what he had seen or heard, should have his tongue cut-off. He will consequently live in misery and pain for the rest of his life and will have no happiness after death in consequence of having perjured himself.

Let only that which a witness declares naturally be received as evidence, but what he says on being tutored by others be considered useless for the purposes of evidence by a judge.

The witnesses being assembled in the court, let the judge or the counsels in the presence of the plaintiffs and defendants address them in the following way: -

“O ye witnesses ! Whatever you know with regard to the matter before us in relation to both parties declare truthfully, for your evidence is needed in this case. A witness who speaks the truth shall hereafter-in future rebirths-attain to exalted regions and states, and enjoy happiness; he will obtain glory in life As well as in the next, because the power of speech has been declared in the Vedas as the cause of honor and disgrace. He who invariably speaks the truth is worthy of honor, while he who falsifies his speech is disgraced. By truthfulness in speech is the cause of Justice and Righteousness advanced. It behooves witnesses of all classes, therefore, to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. Verily, the soul itself is its own witness; the soul itself is its own motive power. O man! Thou who art the chief witness on behalf of others destroy not the purity of thy own soul; in other words do thou know what is in thy own mind and to which thy speech corresponds as truth and the reverse as untruth. The wise considers no man greater than one whose discerning soul feels no misgivings when speaks.

O man! If thou desire to obtain happiness by uttering a falsehood when thou art alone, thou art mistaken, for the Supreme spirit that resides in thy soul seethe whatever thou does-good or bad. Fear Him O man! And live constantly a truthful life.”

Manu -“Evidence given through covetousness, through love, through fear, through friendship, through lust, through hunger, through anger, through ignorance and through childishness, must be held false. Should a witness give false evidence from either of these motives, let fitting punishment be inflicted on him. If a man gives false evidence through covetousness he shall be fined one thousand panas or one pound ten pence, if through love four shillings three pence, if through fear eight shillings four pence, if through friendship sixteen shillings eight pence, if through lust one pound thirteen shillings four pence, if through anger, three pounds two shillings six pence, if through ignorance eight shillings, and if through childishness two shillings one pence.

Punishment may be inflicted, through property, the penis, the back, the tongue, hands, feet, cyes; ears, the noes, and the whole body. The amount of various punishments (with regard to fines) that have been described above or shall be done hereafter, should vary with the pecuniary circumstances of the offender: with the time and place and nature of the offence, and with the general character and position (social and the like) of the offender.

The infliction of unjust punishment destroys reputation and honor-past, present and future-in this world as well as the glory to come. It causes great misery and intense suffering even after death; let a judge, therefore. Avoid infliction of unjust punishment. A king who inflicts punishment on such as deserve it not, and inflicts no punishment on such as deserve it, brings infamy on himself in this life and shall sink to great depths of misery in the next. Let the guilty, therefore, be invariably punished, and the innocent never punished.

For the first offence let the offender be punished by gentle admonition, for the second by harsh reproof, for the third by a fine, and for the fourth by corporal chastisement, such as flogging and caning, or by imprisonment or death penalty.”

Manu - “With whatever limb a man commits an offence, even that limb shall the king remove or destroy in order to set an example to others and prevent the repetition of the same crime. Whosoever-be he father; tutor, friend, wife, son, or spiritual teacher-deviates from the path of duty, becomes liable to punishment; in other words, when a judge sits on the seat of justice, let him show partiality to no one and punish all justly.

Where an ordinary man is fined one penny, a king shall be fined a thousand, i.e., punishment inflicted on a king should be a thousand times heavier than that on an ordinary man, the king’s minister eight hundred times, the official lower than him seven hundred, and one still lower six hundred and so on; even the lowest official such as a constable, should be punished not less than eight times as heavily as an ordinary man would be, for if the government officials or servants be not punished more severely than ordinary people, they would tyrannize over them. As a lion requires a severer punishment than a goat to be well broken, similarly do the rulers (from the highest officials-the king-to the meanest servant of the State), require heavier punishment than ordinary people. If a person possesses the power of discrimination, and yet commit theft, let his punishment be eight fold-i.e., eight times the amount of the theft-if he be a Shudra; sixteen-fold, if a Vaishya thirty-two fold, if a Kshatriya, sixty-four or a hundred-fold, or even one hundred and twenty-eight-fold if he be a Brahman, i.e., the more knowledge a man possesses and the greater his reputation and influence. the heavier his punishment should be.

Let not the king and other persons in authority, who desire wealth and prosperity, and love justice and righteousness, delay even for a single moment the punishment of man who has committed atrocious violence as dacoity, robbery, etc. A man who commits violence is more wicked and a more grievous offender than a slander, a thief, and even one who assaults another without provocation. A king, who suffers a man that perpetrates such atrocities to go unpunished, incurs public displeasure and shall soon perish. Neither through friendship, nor even at the offer of immense wealth should a king let a criminal, who commits violent acts, go unpunished. On a criminal who is a terror to the people, let the king inflict just punishment, such as imprisonment or death. Let him put a man, who is convicted of the murder of another (but not in self-defence, etc.) to death without a moment’s hesitation, be he his tutor, his child, his father or some other elderly person, a Brahman, or a great scholar. He commits no sin who passes the sentence of death on a criminal convicted of murder and such other highly heinous crimes whether he be executed publicly or privately. It is like opposing anger to anger.

Most excellent is the king in whose realm there is neither a thief nor an adulterer, nor a slanderer, nor a perpetrator of atrocious violence such as a dacoit nor a transgressor of the law."

Manu - “Should a wife out of her family pride desert her husband and misconduct herself, let the king condemn her to be devoured by dogs before all men and women. Similarly should a husband forsake his wife and misconduct himself with other women, let the king cause that sinner to be burnt alive publicly on a red hot iron-bed.”

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