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Manu, Sukra and Chanakya : A sneak into Hindu jury system

Marut Mitra
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We recently came across the forgotten case of K. M. Nanavati in a Bollywood flick. Case is considered a milestone one, to suppress Jury system in India. Since then, we all have witnessed the state of Indian Judiciary.

Here is the old note to understand Jury system in dharma perspective.

Hindu law-givers did not draw any formal distinction between civil and criminal law, and the same Court was to administer both civil and criminal justice. It is apparent from and that the incident of having justice administered by bodies or assemblies of men or with the assistance of assessors was a very common idea in the constitution of the Courts; e.g. assemblies of the people, corporations or guilds of merchants, gatherings, In Brhaspati, we find a distinction between the Chief Judge and the other Judges, the latter investigating into the case, and the former deciding it, while the King inflicts the punishment. And he also speaks of lesser offenses being triable by relatives, companies (of artisans), assemblies (of co-habitants) and other persons duly authorized by the King. says that besides the King’s Courts there were other subordinate Courts, e. g., families, corporations, associations of inhabitants and officers appointed by the King. And like Brihaspati, Sukra recommends that there should be three, five or seven assessors (Jury members) or judges who should preferably be natives of the place where the two parties reside. The three or five members of Judicial Assembly acted as jurors as well as Judges but the final decision rested with the Chief Justice.

Besides the members of the Assembly, other persons present in Court were permitted, on certain occasions, to offer their opinions. Narada says, “Whether authorized or unauthorized, one acquainted with the law shall give his opinion. He passes a divine sentence who acts up to the dictates of law”. The quotes these passages with approval and adds: “Duly qualified merchants should be made hearers.” The Sukraneeti also quotes another passage from the Smritis, namely, “Either the Court house should not be entered, or the right word should be said. The man, who does not speak or speaks unjustly, incurs sin.”

Side by side with these Courts there existed in many places that machinary, namely an assembly of men, to whom disputes could be referred for decision or before whom cases of wrong could be brought for redress. In their origin, concept and character there were differences, but their function all over was more or less the same.

According to Manu, Chief Justice should be accompanied by 3 Jurors.

prescribes Jury of  3 officers of state and 3 learned persons from citizens. According to Sukra Neeti, number of jury members should be uneven i.e. 3, 5 or 7.

(From : prachodayat.in)
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