SOURCES OF HINDU LAW
India is a huge country not only in terms of its geography but also its population, which has various religions, customs and practices. However, India has two main personal laws i.e. Hindu law and Muslim Law. Before moving ahead, I would like to define the Law – ‘Law is a large body of rules and regulations based mainly on general principles of justice.’
Hindu Law is a personal Law (Law of Marriage, Divorce, Adoption, inheritance etc) evolved through long period of time from many sources (mentioned below) by Hindu religious community of India. Therefore, I love to call it ‘Sedimentary Law‘ because Laws from various sources Sedimented and consolidated into Hindu Law. The important sources of Hindu Law are:
1) Ancient Source
2) Modern Source
Ancient source is the main source of Hindu Law, which further subdivided into viz -
a) Sruti: the literal meaning is – ‘what was heard’, and it is originated from Vedas i.e. Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas. Basically, it is praise in the forms of hymns of the earliest Hindu tradition which deals – types of marriage, adoption, partition etc.
b) Smriti: literally means – ‘what is remembered.’ It is also known as ‘Dharma Sutras’ and available in the prose from. The important Smritis are ‘Manu Smriti, Yagnavalkya Smriti, Narada Smriti etc and, it deals the civil and criminal law, procedural law, marriage Law etc.
c) Commentaries: the discrepancy between above two gives rise a third one i.e. ‘Commentaries, which later on beget two schools i.e. Mitakshara (Vijyaneshwara school) and Dayabhaga (Jimuthvahana school) associated with particular areas.
d) Customs: it is a set of rules and norms, practice by particular society for a long period of time. However, ‘customs arise whenever a few human beings come together as no association of human beings can exit permanently without adopting consciously or unconsciously, some definite rules governing reciprocal rights and obligations’ (Vinogradoff, Collected Papers). “Indeed custom is coeval with the very birth of the community itself.” (Jurisprudences).
Modern Source refers to the rules and regulations established through legislation by educated and intellectual people. These laws almost codified laws such as -
a) Hindu Marriage Act (1955),
b) Hindu Succession Act (1956),
c) Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956) and
d) Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956)
After independence (15 August 1947), India constituted its own Constitution, where India defines itself as a secular country, like this given space to flourish all religions with its own customs and laws. Therefore, the Indian Legal System is a Common Law-cum-Civil Law. Apparently, Hindu Law is a personal law and applicable to person and family relations only.