Modern Civil Law Systems and Manu Smriti

Many modern Civil Law Systems in Europe and elsewhere are heavily influenced by Roman law. The civil law system is the most widespread system of law in the world, in force in various forms in about 150 countries. In a civil law system, a judge merely establishes the facts of the case and applies remedies found in the codified law. As a result, lawmakers, scholars, and legal experts hold much more influence over how the legal system is administered than judges. It draws heavily from Roman law, arguably the most intricate known legal system before the modern era. Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome. Roman law as preserved in Justinian’s codes became the basis of legal practice in the Byzantine Empire (530 BC) and later in continental Europe.
Rome studied Indian law indirectly, through the scientific studies by Roman judges and attorneys of Greek jurisprudence, which was founded on Indian thought. Sir Paul Vinogradoff (1854-1925), an eminent authority of law, wrote in his article “Comparative Jurisprudence” for the Encyclopaedia Britannica that, “The Romans absorbed an enormous amount of Greek and Oriental [Indian] law in their jurisprudence.”
Louis Jacolliot (1837-1890), was a French barrister, colonial judge, author, and lecturer. Jacolliot’s Occult science in India was written during the 1860s and published in 1875. Among his works is a translation of the Manu Smriti. He noted many correspondences between the Manu Dharma Shastra and Justinian’s Digesta, regarding the different stages of social life. The Manu Smriti is regarded as an important work of Hindu Law and ancient Indian society. It contains numerous verses on duties a person has towards himself and to others, thus including moral codes as well as legal codes.
Noting the debt of the Justinian Code to the Manu Dharma Shastra, Jacolliot wrote in his Bible in India:
“We shall see, on examination, that these divisions [marriage, property, testaments, etc.] have passed almost unaltered, from the Hindu Law into the Roman Law and the French Law [the French civil code is said to be based on the Justinian Code and revised during the Napoleonic era], and greater part of their dispositions are still in vogue …”

The Hindu laws were codified by Manu more than 3000 years before the Christian era, copied by the whole antiquity, and notably by Rome, which alone has left us a written law – the Code of Justinian, which has been adopted as the basis of most modern legislations.
Ancient Indian jurisprudence is mentioned in various Dharmaśāstra texts, starting with the Dharmasutra of Bhodhayana. The Dharmasutras can be called the guidebooks of dharma as they contain guidelines for individual and social behavior, ethical norms, as well as personal, civil, and criminal law. They discuss the duties and rights of people at different stages of life like student-hood, householder-ship, retirement, and renunciation. These stages are also called ashramas. They also discuss the rites and duties of kings, judicial matters, and personal law such as matters relating to marriage and inheritance. However, Dharmasutras typically did not deal with rituals and ceremonies.
– Vijai Singhal

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