THE ANCIENT LAW, JUDGEMENT AND PUNISHMENT ACCORDING TO
MANU DHARMA SASTRA
In the ancient times dharma ruled the nation and the king is the one who implemented dharma in his nation and he played a key role in upholding dharma.
“Dharma eva hato hanti dharmo rakshati rakshitah: Tasmad dharmo na hantavya ma no dharmo hato vadheeta” Manusmriti Ch 8 vs 25
“Dharma, that is, justice violated indeed destroys the one who violates it, and justice preserved surely protects the one who protects it. Therefore, justice must not be violated lest, violated justice destroys everyone”
The king is the judge. He has to directly listen to the cases and judge them according to the principle of the Vedas. The learned Brahmanas must assist the king to take decisions. Justice is seen as divine. justice protects the one who protects it. Only dharma(justice) will follow men after death; everything else will be destroyed by time.
In the assembly where an injustice is done
One quarter of the guilt goes to the one who committed it
One quarter goes to the witness
One quarter to the members of the tribunal
One quarter to the king.
All are equally guilt of sin.
During the trial the king, who is also the judge, must be intelligent enough to find the attitude of the criminal by his bodily gestures, movement of the eyes, his voice and appearance.
The witness can be from the four varnas. He /she must not be a friend, dependent, enemy or a servant of the accused.
The witness is given importance. If the witness lies, he is fined and cursed by all. A witness who speaks truth is respected by the king and the Vedic pundits. Based on the words of the witness a judgment is taken. A false witness is punished according to the motive. A fine for the wrong witness is decided by the wise men.
If the king punishes the guiltless, then he attains the loka of suffering in the next birth and attains misery and suffering in this birth too.
A person found guilty the first time is given a warning.
The second time he is condemned
The third time he is censured and made to pay fine
The fourth time he may receive corporal punishment.
In the case of a lost article, one who finds it must give it to the king. If any one wants to claim the article, then he has to give the exact details, like shape, weight etc. The king will take a small part of its value as a fine and give the article. If the lost article or property is stolen by the officials or thieves while under the custody of the king, then they are considered as thieves and trampled by an elephant. If any one does false claim, then he is fined 1/8th of the value.
The king can take over the property of the unknown owner. If no one comes to claim it for three years then the king considers it as his property.
One should not sell unworthy, non-genuine, imitation, improper measurement, or articles with adultery. One should not conceal goods. They will be severely fined by the king.
If the debtor does not pay the money and the creditor has valid witness or proof, then the king or the appointed judge itself will take the responsibility to recover back the money with fine. In case, if the creditor lies, then he will be made to pay the claimed amount as fine for violating justice.
The king must take the custody of the orphan child until he becomes self-dependent in all ways. The king must protect the woman and her property in case if no one takes care of her. She must be treated with respect by the king.
In short, the king must be like a protector, father, brother, friend and a well wisher and must uphold justice under all circumstances. The wrong doers must be rightly identified and punished accordingly without hatred. They are punished to uphold dharma.