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Manu Legal System

Nelson had stated in an 1887 legal memorandum before the Madras High Court of British India: “There are various contradictions and contradictions in the Manu Smriti itself, and that these contradictions would lead to the conclusion that such a commentary does not establish principles of law but is merely of a recommendatory nature.” [7] Mahatma Gandhi commented on the inconsistencies within Manusmriti as follows: The belief in the authenticity of Kulluka`s text was openly articulated by Burnell (1884, xxix): “There is no doubt, therefore, that the textus receptus, namely that of Kulluka Bhatta, as adopted in India and by European scholars, is on the whole very close to the original text.” This is far from the truth. Indeed, one of the great surprises of my editorial work was discovering how few of the more than fifty manuscripts I have collected actually follow the Vulgate in key readings. Manu`s ideas about Varnashrama are reflected in his criminal laws, especially with regard to morality and personal hygiene. It provides for different penalties for identical offences depending on the caste of the criminal and the victim, and as a general rule, Brahmins are exempt from the death penalty. Manu explained the different aspects of the law. He is also of the view that it is only in special circumstances, such as self-defence and similar situations, that the law can be taken into account. In addition to the death penalty, it had also prescribed other forms of punishment, but all sentences must be pronounced and carried out after careful consideration. The king is the final authority to settle all disputes.24 Thus, Manusmriti is the first treatise to give a regular explanation of the legal system followed in the Dhamasastras, and provides a basis for legal interpretation with the help of learned Brahmins and experienced councils. It has also provided a basis for modern legal interpretation both in India and abroad, mainly in Europe.

Kautilya also deals with many common aspects of the art of governing and law in his Arthasastra, but he differs from Manu in some key aspects. They do not agree on the imposition of the death penalty on Brahmins who have committed treason. Kautilya also shows more compassion towards Shudras and women than Manu. But it must also be emphasized that Manus Brahmin is the embodiment of the idealization of man, the symbol of the best and highest virtues that man could acquire. The Brahmin of Kau-tilya, on the other hand, although a superior and well-informed person, does not reach the sublime summit of perfection visualized by Manu. The two thinkers differ in the role and status of a Brahmin.25 From this discussion, it is clear that the author of Manusmriti was primarily concerned with describing the infrastructure of a global society that, over time, became synonymous with Hinduism and the Hindu way of life. In Manu`s time, this vast subcontinent consisted of many ethnic and linguistic communities with different perceptions and life values. Manu could foresee that this cultural and social diversity had to be preserved as an organic unit.

Manusmriti covers virtually all aspects of life – political, economic, legal, social, etc. It is a monumental work of epic proportions, omnibus that is still relevant today. Manu seeks to use law and politics as agents of continuity to transform human life in order to achieve normatively defined goals. It is the moral embodiment of the vision of this great thinker of ancient India who preached both pragmatism and idealism. This is perhaps the most remarkable feature of the text, which has conveyed an air of universality, tempered by peculiarities that transcend the boundaries of time. Kullūka`s commentary, entitled Manvarthamuktavali, with its version of the Manusmrti manuscript “Vulgate”, or standard standard, is the most studied version since its discovery in Calcutta by British colonial officials in the 18th century. [72] It is the most reproduced and the most famous, not because, according to Olivelle, it is the oldest or because of its excellence, but because it was the happy version found first. [72] The Kullūka commentary, dated between the 13th and 15th centuries, Olivelle adds, is largely a plagiarism of the 11th-century Govindaraja commentary, but with the Kullūka commentary of Govindaraja. [72] In the 18th century, the first British of the East India Company acted as agents of the Mughal emperor.