Kautilya Arthashastra

by R. Shamasastry | 1956 | 174,809 words | ISBN-13: 9788171106417

The English translation of Arthashastra, which ascribes itself to the famous Brahman Kautilya (also named Vishnugupta and Chanakya) and dates from the period 321-296 B.C. The topics of the text include internal and foreign affairs, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial, tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. Original ...

Chapter 6 - Seizure of Criminals on Suspicion or in the Very Act

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

In addition to the measures taken by spies under the guise of prophets, such steps as are suggested by suspicious movements or possession of stolen articles may also be taken.


Persons whose family subsist on slender means of inheritance; who have little or no comfort; who frequently change their residence, caste and the names, not only of themselves, but also of their family (gotra); who conceal their own avocations and calls; who have betaken themselves to such luxurious modes of life as eating ñesh and condiments, drinking liquor, wearing scents, garlands, fine dress, and jewels; who have been squandering away their money; who constantly move with profligate women, gamblers, or vintners;[1] who frequently leave their residence; whose commercial transaction, journey, or destination is difficult to understand; who travel alone in such solitary places as forests and mountainous tracts; who hold secret meetings in lonely places near to, or far from, their residence; who hurry on to get their fresh wounds or boils cured: who always hide themselves in the interior of their house; who are excessively attached to women; who are always inquisitive to gather information as to the women and property of others; who associate themselves with men of condemnable learning and work; who loiter in the dark behind walls or under shades; who purchase rare or suspicious articles in suspicious times or places; who are known for their inimical dealings; whose caste and avocation are very low; who keep false appearances or put on different caste signs; who change their ancestral customs under false excuses; whose notoriety is already marked; who, though in charge of villages, are terribly afraid of appearing before the prime minister and conceal themselves or go elsewhere; who pant in fear while sitting alone; who show undue agitation or palpitation of heart; whose face is pale and dry while the voice is indistinct and stammering; who always move in company with armed men; or who keep threatening appearance; these and other persons may be suspected to be either murderers or robbers or offenders guilty of misappropriation of treasure trove or deposits or to be any other kind of knaves subsisting by foul means secretly employed.[2]

Thus the seizure of criminals on suspicion is dealt with.

(Seizure of Stolen Articles)

As regards the seizure of criminals in the very act:

Information regarding such articles as are either lost or stolen shall, if the articles are not found out, be supplied to those who trade in similar articles. Traders who conceal the articles as to the loss of which they have already received information shall be condemned as abettors. If they are found not to be aware of the loss, they may be acquitted on restoring the articles.

No person shall, without giving information to the superintendent of commerce, mortgage or purchase for himself any old or secondhand article.

On receiving information regarding the sale or mortgage of old articles, the superintendent shall ask the owner how he came by it. He may reply: It has been inherited; it has been received from a third person; it is purchased by himself; or it has been made to order; or it is secret pledge; he may definitely state the time and place when and where it came into being. Or he may adduce evidence as to the price and commission (kṣaṇamūlya) for which it was purchased. If his statement regarding the antecedent circumstances of the article is found to be true, he shall be let off.

If the article in question is found to be the one lost by another person w hose deposition regarding the antecedent circumstances of the article in no way differs from the previous story, the article shall be considered to belong to that person who is found to have long been enjoying it and whose life is very pure. For while even quadrupeds and bipeds are found to bear such common evidences of identification as colour, gait and form, can there be any difficulty in identifying such articles as, in the form of raw materials, jewels, or vessels, are the product of a single source, definite materials, a particular manufacturer for a definite purpose?

The possessor of an article in question may plead that the article is either borrowed or hired, a pledge or a sealed deposit, or one obtained from a particular person for retail sale.

If he proves his allegation by producing the referee, he shall be let off; or the referee may deny having had any concern in the matter.

With regard to the reasons which a person, seized with an article lost by another, assigns as to his having taken the article as a gift from a third person, he shall corroborate them by producing as witnesses not only those who gave and caused to give the article to him, but also those who, being mediators, custodians, bearers, or witnesses, arranged for the transfer of the article.

When a person is found possessed of an article which he alleges to have been thrown out, lost, or forgotten by a third person, he shall prove his innocence by adducing evidence as to the time, place, and circumstances of finding the article. Otherwise he shall restore the article, besides paying a fine equal to its value; or he may be punished as a thief.[3]

Thus the seizure of criminals in the very act is dealt with.

(Circumstantial Evidence)

As regards the seizure of criminals on the clue of circumstantial evidence:

In cases of house-breaking and theft the circumstances, such as entrance and exit effected through other than doors; breaking the door by means of special contrivances, breaking the windows with or without lattice work, or pulling off the roof in houses consisting of upstairs, ascending and descending upstairs; breaking the wall; tunnelling; such contrivances as are necessary to carry off the treasure secretly hoarded, information about which can only be gathered from internal sources; these and other accessory circumstances of wear and tear cognisable in the interior shall tend to indicate the concern of internal hands in the crime, and those of reverse nature, external agencies. The blending of these two kinds of circumstances shall indicate both internal and external agencies.

Regarding crimes suspected to be the work of internal agencies: Any person of miserable appearance, present on the occasion, associated with rogues or thieves, and possessed of such instruments as are necessary for theft; a woman who is born of a poor family, or has placed her affections elsewhere; servants of similar condemnable character; any person addicted to too much sleep or who is suffering from want of sleep; any person who shows signs of fatigue, or whose face is pale and dry, with voice stammering and indistinct, and who may be watching the movements of others or bewailing too much; any person whose body bears the signs of scaling heights; any person whose body appears to have been scratched or wounded with dress torn off; any one whose legs and hands bear the signs of rubbing and scratching; any one whose hair and nails are either full of dirt or freshly broken: any one who has just bathed and daubed his body with sandal; any one who has smeared his body with oil and has just washed his hands and legs; any one whose footprints can be identified with those made near the house during ingress or egress; any one whose broken fragments of garlands, sandal or dress can be identified with those thrown out in or near the house during entrance or exit; any person the smell of whose sweat or drink can be ascertained from the fragments of his dress thrown out in or near the house—these and other persons shall be examined.

A citizen or a person of adulterous habits may also be suspected.[4]

* A commissioner (pradeṣṭā). with his retinue of gopas and sthānikas shall take steps to find out external thieves; and the officer in charge of a city (nāgaraka) shall, under the circumstances sketched above, try to detect internal thieves inside fortified towns.

[Thus ends Chapter VI, “Seizure of Criminals on Suspicion or in the Wry Act,” in Book IV, “The Removal of Thorns” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the eighty-third chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


N. 14, 18.


N. 14, 18.


Y. 2, 269.


A thief or a person.—Munich Manuscript.

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