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The Minor Law Books (SBE33)

by Julius Jolly


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It is truth which makes the earth bear all beings, truth which makes the sun rise. It is through truth that winds blow, and that the waters flow.--p. 93

This is a translation of the Hindu law books written about the sixth century CE by Narada and Brihaspati. These are later works than the other legal writings in the Sacred Books of the East series, such as The Laws of Manu (SBE25), The Institutes of Vishnu (SBE07), Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Part I (SBE02), and Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Part II (SBE14), all composed prior to 200 BCE at the latest. According to Jolly, the courtroom procedure discussed here is very similar to that described in the earliest known Hindu drama, The Little Clay Cart.

Title Page
Introduction to Nârada


The Author's Preface


I. Legal Procedure
II. The Plaint
III. Courts of Justice

First Title: The Law of Debt

1. Payment of a Debt
2. Valid and Invalid Transactions
3. Property
4. Means of Livelihood for a Brahman in Times of Distress
5. Modes of Proof
6. Lending Money at Interest
7. Usurers
8. Sureties
9. Pledges
10. Documents
11. Witnesses
12. Incompetent Witnesses
13. Six Cases Where Witnesses are Unnecessary
14. False Witnesses
15. Exhorting the Witnesses
16. Valid Evidence
17. Invalid Evidence
18. What Has to be Done in Default of Both Witnesses And Documents
19. Proof by Ordeal
20. The Ordeal by Balance
21. The Ordeal by Fire
22. The Ordeal by Water
23. The Ordeal by Poison
24. The Ordeal by Sacred Libation
25. The Rice Ordeal
26. The Ordeal of the Hot Piece of Gold


Second Title of Law. Deposits
Third Title of Law. Partnership
Fourth Title of Law. Resumption of Gift
Fifth Title of Law. Breach of a Contract of Service
Sixth Title of Law. Non-Payment of Wages
Seventh Title of Law. Sales Effected by Another Than the Rightful Owner
Eighth Title of Law. Non-Delivery of a Sold Chattel
Ninth Title of Law. Rescission of Purchase
Tenth Title of Law. Transgression of a Compact
Eleventh Title of Law. Boundary Disputes
Twelfth Title of Law. The Mutual Duties of Husband and Wife
Thirteenth Title of Law. The Law of Inheritance
Fourteenth Title of Law. Heinous Offences
Fifteenth and Sixteenth Titles of Law. Abuse and Assault
Seventeenth Title of Law. Games
Eighteenth Title of Law. Miscellaneous
Appendix: Theft

Quotations from Nârada

I. Judicial Procedure
II. The Plaint
III. The Answer
IV. Writings and Possession
V. Witnesses
VI. Ordeals
VII. Miscellaneous Laws

Fragments of Brihaspati

I. Constitution of a Court of Justice
II. General Rules of Procedure
III. The Plaint
IV. The Answer
V. The Trial
VI. The Judgment
VII. Witnesses
VIII. Documents
IX. Possession
X. Ordeals
XI. The Law of Debt
XII. Deposits
XIII. Sale Without Ownership
XIV. Concerns of a Partnership
XV. Resumption of Gifts
XVI. Master and Servant
XVII. Violation of Agreements
XVIII. Rescission of Purchase and Sale
XIX. Boundary Disputes
XX. Defamation
XXI. Assault
XXII. Robbery and Violence
XXIII. Adultery
XXIV. Duties of Man and Wife
XXV. The Law of Inheritance
XXVI. Gambling and Betting
XXVII. Miscellaneous (Prakîrnaka)