Yajnavalkya-smriti (Vyavaharadhyaya)—Critical study

by Kalita Nabanita | 2017 | 87,413 words

This page relates ‘Laws Relating to Miscellaneous Matters (prakirnaka)’ of the study on the Vyavaharadhyaya of the Yajnavalkya-smriti: one of the most prominent Smritis dealing with Dharmashastra (ancient Indian science of law), dating to the 1st century B.C. The Yajnavalkyasmriti scientifically arranges its contents in three sections: Acara (proper conduct), Vyavahara (proper law) and Prayashcitta (expiation). Vyavahara deals with judicial procedure and legal system such as substantive law and procedural law.

Chapter 5.23 - Laws Relating to Miscellaneous Matters (prakīrṇaka)

In the Vyavahārādhyāya of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, prakīrṇaka is presented as the last vyavahārapada. Yājñavalkya devotes thirteen verses under the head prakīrṇaka, without any special order containing laws more or less grave in nature. Nārada defines the title of law called prakīrṇaka as those matters, which depend upon the king.[1] The miscellaneous rules seem to supplement the other titles of law. It is clarified by Nārada that whatever has been omitted in the preceding titles of law are dealt with under the head known as miscellaneous.[2] Yājñavalkya comprehends within prakīrṇakaprakaraṇa, several acts of commission and omission as offences, which embrace a wide range of human failings to inflict injury on man or animal and so attracts appropriate punishment. Some of the laws, dealt with in this title of law of Yājñavalkyasmṛti, are discussed in the previous chapter under the head relating to right and duties of a king, as it is quite relevant to trace the elements of political aspects. Therefore, those laws are not mentioned again here to avoid the repetition.

When any offences committed by quadruped, the driver or keeper is not to be held guilty if he cries loudly to be away. In case of one, causing an injury by a wood, a clod of earth, an arrow, an arm, a stone or by yoked beast, if he shouts loud with the words be away, then no fault accrues to him.[3] Moreover, the owner is not responsible to injuries caused by conveyance carried by bullock, etc., whose nose-strings are snapped or by a carriage the yolk or other parts of which have been broken or by a cart moving rearwards, etc.[4] The owner of animals, which have tusks or horns owes responsibility towards an injury caused by those animals due to neglect on his part. If an owner being himself capable of fails to rescue others from the attacks of horned animals he has to undergo the punishment of lowest amercement and double that amount when he does not offer relief even though the victim has cried aloud for help.[5] Another offence enumerated by the author within this section consists in charging by one the paramour of a woman in his family as thief. The punishment ordained for it is five hundred paṇas and one is compelled to pay eight times of that amount for releasing such a paramour after having accepted money payment as bribe.[6] The author in this section enumerates punishment for those who unjustly decide litigations.[7]

Yājñavalkya allows a review or appeal of a judicial decision and the party preferring it has to pay double the amount of fine in case the decision goes against him.[8] The punishment of eight-hundred paṇas is prescribed for a person, who puts out both the eyes of another person.[9] Sale of articles, which are found on a dead body, is made an offence punishable with highest amercement by Yājñavalky.[10] Thus, it may be noticed that the rules enumerated under prakīrṇakaprakaraṇa are of scattered and diverse nature.

Some of the acts stated within this title of law are found to have declared as offences under the present law also. For instance, The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 from sections 96 to 114 contain provision for appeal, review, etc., of a decision given by a court of justice. Similarly, The Code of Criminal Procedure recognizes the right to appeal, review, etc., in detail from sections 372 to 405. Section 80 of Indian Penal Code considers nothing as an offence, which is caused by accident or misfortune without any criminal intention or knowledge while doing a lawful act with proper care and caution. [11] The rules provided by Yājñavalkya regarding liabilities of owner of conveyance and keeper of four-footed animals (2.298,299), seem to be based on the same principle with section 80 of the Indian Penal Code that to constitute a crime, intent and the act of wrongdoer both must concur. Section 404 of the Code also provides protection of property possessed by deceased person at the time of his death.[12]

It should be mentioned that in the Vyavahārādhyāya, there are reference to three grades of fines, viz. prathama sāhasa, madhyama sāhasa and uttama sāhasa. Yājñavalkya in one place has defined these technical terms and declares the quantum of fine that constitute the three kinds of fine. He has fixed one thousand and eighty paṇas to be the highest amercement, middle amercement consists of the half of it, i.e. five hundred and forty paṇas and half of it, i.e. two hundred and seventy paṇas are declared to be prathama sāhasa or lowest amercement.[13]

Thus, an examination made in this chapter regarding the legal tenets of the Vyavahārādhyāya of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, reveals a well-developed system of law, which is even relevant in modern time. Most of the laws incorporated in the Vyavahārādhyāya of the Yājñavalkyasmṛti, find corresponding provisions more or less under the modern codified laws, which are at present in force in India.

Footnotes and references:


prakīrṇake punarjñeyo vyavahāro nṛpāśrayaḥ/ Nāradasmṛti, 4.17.1


na draṣṭaṃ yacca pūrveṣu tatsarvaṃ syāt prakīrṇake// Ibid., 4.17.4


catuṣpādakṛto doṣo napaihīti prajalpataḥ/ kāṣṭhaloṣṭheṣupāṣāṇa bāhuyugyakṛtastathā// Yājñavalkyasmṛti,2.298


chinnanasyena yānena tathā bhagnyugādinā/ paścāccaivāpasaratā hiṃsane svāmyadoṣabhāk// Ibid., 2.299


śakto’pyamokṣayansvāmī daṃṣṭrīṇāṃ śṛṅgiṇāṃ tathā/ prathamaṃ sāhasaṃ dadyādvikruṣṭe dviguṇaṃ tathā// Ibid.,2.300


jāraṃ cauretyabhivadandāpyaḥ pañcaśataṃ damam/ upajīvya dhanaṃ muñcaṃstadevāṣṭaguṇīkṛtam// Ibid.,2.301






dvinetrabhedino rājadviṣṭādeśkṛtastathā/ … aṣṭaśato damaḥ// Ibid.,2.304


mṛtāṅgalagnavikreturgurostāḍayistathā/ … uttamasāhasaḥ// Ibid.,2.303


Misra, S.N., Indian Penal Code,page 175


Ibid., page 759


sāśītipaṇasāhasro daṇḍa uttamasāhaṣaḥ/ tadardhaṃ madhyamaḥ proktastadardhamadhamaḥ smṛtaḥ// Yājñavalkyasmṛti,1.366

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