With one month to go before the Legal Tech Fair, 2017 we’re taking you through our Gallery Walk - a mesmerising voyage right from inception of the Indian legal system to administration of law, the 2020 vision using Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Neural Network and technology in a manner beyond anyone’s imagination!
The first milestone in the history of India’s judicial system, dating back to the venerable age of the Vedic period, where religious scriptures and texts regulated everyday life.
Our journey begins with the story of Mahendra. A king in the Vedic period, Mahendra was the 'Kulpati' of the entire kingdom that was divided into many 'bishas' or tribes, which consisted of numerous villages.
As an introduction the legal system that we know now was finding its genesis during the Vedic period. King Mahendra, while presiding over his first criminal matter in his Sabha, a dispute on cow theft, recollected the knowledge his father had imparted on the kingdom, its laws and administration, from his lifelong experiences as a king, teaching him to be unbiased while resolving a dispute and to give utmost significance to the evidence available, thus laying down the basics of criminal law as we know it!
While deciding on the issue at hand, the King also reflected on the education he received in the palace from priests. The Classic Hindu Law was developed during the Vedic period! The priest’s lessons included information on the three sources of Dharma, first being the Vedas, which symbolised revelation, were a collection of hymns, praises as well as ritual instructions, and comprised of four Vedas viz. Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. The narrative of these Vedas was inclusive of texts on technology, law, medicine, tools, etc.
The second source, Mahendra recalled clearly were the numerous Smritis, written texts by scholars who had access to knowledge of Vedas and contained collected customs and practices. He recalled that the third source was the customary laws of his kingdom, known as 'acharas'.
The Hindu texts made the King the ultimate law authority within a court, giving them a power equivalent to the contemporary Apex Court. There were defined methods of proof, comparable to today’s Burden of Proof, oaths for simpler cases were used to help in the decision making process. The decision was ultimately based on different texts like Manu, Yājñavalkya, Dharmaśāstras, Sastras and Smritis.
As the trial dealing with cow theft was at its conclusive stage, the kind regained his thoughts and realised that his words were the final verdict that impart justice and punish the guilty. Carefully considering the facts and evidence put forth by both sides, Mahendra convicted the accused and “sentenced” him to keep a lamp lit for the entire night in the village temple without fail. He realised his decisions would exist only in memory, without any written record or journal.
After his Sabha concluded, Mahendra ruminated about Manusmriti, Naradasmriti and Yajnavalkyasmriti and how his decision was based on the knowledge these texts bestowed.
The Indian Legal System, developed through multiple texts, entwined with the lessons of Dharma and Karma, the Vedas, Smritis, Dharmasutras, commentaries, digests of the Dharmashastra and Puranas are still traceable in the contemporary legal practices with a plethora of legislations that lay down the code of conduct and rules for every aspect of our lives, legal procedures, crimes and punishments awarded for such crimes. A parallel can be easily drawn to the present legal structure to the system followed in the ancient period without impediment.