Manusmriti with the Commentary of Medhatithi

by Ganganatha Jha | 1920 | 1,381,940 words | ISBN-10: 8120811550

This is the English translation of the Manusmriti, which is a collection of Sanskrit verses dealing with ‘Dharma’, a collective name for human purpose, their duties and the law. Various topics will be dealt with, but this volume of the series includes 12 discourses (adhyaya). The commentary on this text by Medhatithi elaborately explains various t...

Verse 8.79 [Exhortation and Examination of Witnesses]

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation by Ganganath Jha:

सभान्तः साक्षिणः प्राप्तानर्थिप्रत्यर्थिसंनिधौ ।
प्राड् विवाकोऽनुयुञ्जीत विधिनाऽनेन सान्त्वयन् ?? ॥ ७९ ॥

sabhāntaḥ sākṣiṇaḥ prāptānarthipratyarthisaṃnidhau |
prāḍ vivāko'nuyuñjīta vidhinā'nena sāntvayan ?? || 79 ||

The investigating Judge shall question the witnesses assembled in the court, in the presence of the plaintiff and the defendant, gently exhorting them in the following manner.—(79)


Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):

In the court’—inside the court room; the compounding being in accordance with Pāṇini 2. 1.40;—those who have presented themselves at the place of the trial; should he questioned ‘in the presence of the plaintiff and the defendant’—both;—they being ‘gently exhorted’ in the manner described below,—not addressed harshly; because if addressed harshly, they would become frightened of the judge, and thereby losing the normal condition of their mind, they would he unable to recall all the details of the case; because fright always deprives people of their memory.

Prāḍvivāka’ Investigating ‘Judge’ is the name given to the officer appointed by the king to try cases. Though the name, in its literal significance of ‘questioning and judging’ applies to the king also, yet we find the two names used separately, in such texts as—‘If the Minister or the Judge (Prāḍvivāka) should pervert the details of a suit, the king himself shall look into it, etc.’ (Manu. 9.234.)

In the term ‘prāḍvivāka,’ ‘prāṭ’ means one who questions, ‘pṛchati;’ it being derived from the root ‘prach’ to ‘question’ with the nominative affix ‘kvip’; the elongation of the vowel and the change into ‘ṭ’ being analogous to the case of the roots ‘vaci,’ ‘śri,’ ‘dru’ ‘śru,’ ‘pru.’ ‘Prāṭ’ is the qualifying epithet to ‘vivāka,’ which means ‘one who judges or investigates knotty legal cases’;—the nominative affix ‘ghañ’ being added in accordance with Pāṇini 3. 3. 113, and the change of ‘ca’ into ‘ka’ being in accordance with ‘Pāṇini’ 7.3.52. the term prāḍvivāka thus means the questioning or Investigating Judge.—(79)


Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha

This verse is quoted in Parāśaramādhava (Vyavahāra, p. 75) in Vyavahāramayūkha (p. 18);—in

Smṛticandrikā (Vyavahāra, p. 198);—and in Kṛtyakalpataru (33b), which explains ‘sabhāntaḥ’ as ‘in court’, and ‘anuyuñjīta’ as ‘should question.’


Comparative notes by various authors

(verses 8.79-86)

Śukranīti (4.5.398-414).—‘The witness should be interrogated, after being well-governed by oaths, teachings of Purāṇas, narration of great merits of virtue and the great sins of falsehood:—“Where, when, how, whence and what have you seen or heard,—whether written by the man himself or caused to be written by somebody,—speak truly all that you know.” The witness who gives true evidence attains happy life hereafter and unrivalled fame in this world—this is the remark of Brahmā, etc.’ (the rest as in Manu 83-85).

Nārada (1.198 and 200).—‘After having summoned all the witnesses and hound them down firmly by an oath, the Judge shall examine them separately. They should be men of tried integrity and conversant with the circumstances of the case. By sacred texts extolling the excellence of truth and denouncing the sinfulness of falsehood, let him inspire them with deep awe, as follows—(Verses 201 to 228—201, 208, 209 being the same as Manu 93, 98, 99 respectively)’.—[All this is to be addressed to all witnesses; Manu reserves 89 to 101 for Śūdra witnesses only.]

Gautama (13.5).—‘Witnesses shall not speak singly, or without being asked.’

Āpastamba (2.29.7).—‘A person who is possessed of good qualities may be called as witness and shall answer the questions put to him, according to the truth...... after having been exhorted to be fair to both sides.’

Viṣṇu (8.24 et seq.).—‘Let him exhort the witnesses with the following speeches—“Whatever places of torture await the killer of a Brāhmaṇa and other great criminals... those places of abode are ordained for a witness who gives false evidence; and the fruit of every virtuous act he has done, from the day of his birth to his dying day, shall he lost to him. Truth makes the sun spread his rays; Truth makes the moon shine; Truth makes the wind blow; Truth makes the earth bear all things; Truth makes waters flow; Truth makes the fire burn. The atmosphere exists through truth; so do the gods; and so do the offerings. If veracity and a thousand horse-sacrifices are weighed against each other, truth ranks even higher than a thousand horse-sacrifices. Those who, acquainted with the facts, and appointed to give evidence, stand mute, are equally criminal with, and deserve the same severe punishment as, false witnesses.” After having addressed him thus, let the King examine the witnesses in the order of their castes.’

Yājñavalkya (2.73-75).—‘He shall address the following words to the witnesses standing near the plaintiff and defendant—“He who hears false witness goes to those regions which are reserved for people committing heinous offences, and other crimes, for incendiaries, for murderers of women and children. Whatever virtuous act you may have done during a hundred lives, understand that all that will go to the party whom, by your false evidence, you make lose the suit.”’

Baudhāyana (1.19.9 et seq.).—‘The wise man should address an appointed witness in the following manner:—“Whatever merit thou hast acquired, etc., etc.”’

Vaśiṣṭha (16.32-34).—‘Depose, O witness, according to the truth; expecting thy answers, thy ancestors hang in suspense, as to whether they shall rise or fall, etc., etc.’

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