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Evolution of law in India

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

By- Akash kumar garg

(Student of Faculty of LAW, D.U.)

Why Do We Need Laws?

Assume a situation, where there is no law in the society and the citizens have freedom to do anything, to achieve their desire. In such a situation , people will simply become equal to animals or worse, and will go to any extent to achieve their desire, without thinking whether the act is morally or socially, right or not. Hence it would become very difficult to control the act of the people and there would be no peace and harmony in the society.

Law is needed to maintain peace, harmony and to avoid bloodshed in the society. Laws are the guidelines that lays down appropriate behaviour and the citizens are required to follow this system of rules, in order to keep everything balanced and stabilized or else they would be punished for not following the same.

Now a question arises is the punishment necessary, if this rules are not followed. To answers this simple question, assume a society where there are laws but no punishment will be enforced if this laws are not followed. In such a situation, if one person violates the law to fulfill his\her desire and is left free, then why would other peoples in the same society will follow it. Result in this case will be similar to the above mentioned situation.

Law helps people to restrain themselves in times of great thirst for more money or power. It curbs their greed reminding them that there is someone or rather something out there ready to punish them if necessary. It helps to restore the balance in the society and provides justice to the victims. The greatest thing about law is that all are treated equally before it. There is no distinction based on wealth, gender, age, religion, color and such other parameters.

Evolution of Law in India:-

  • Ancient India:-

Initially in India, peoples from different religions were governed by their respective religious laws, especially in religious matters (subject to the freedom given by the then rulers). However certain aspects of the law were uniform for all the class of people, irrespective of their gender, religion, caste, class and age. These were related to the civil and criminal matters.

India has a recorded legal history starting from the Vedic ages. Some sort of civil law system may have been in place during the Bronze Age and the Indus Valley civilization. Law as a matter of religious prescriptions and philosophical discourse has an illustrious history in India. Emanating from the Vedas, the Upanishads and other religious texts, it was a fertile field enriched by practitioners from different Hindu philosophical schools and later by Jains, Buddhists and various other religions.

Secular law in India varied widely from region to region and from ruler to ruler. Court systems for civil and criminal matters were essential features of many ruling dynasties of ancient India. Excellent secular court systems existed under the Mauryas (321-185 BCE) and the Mughals (16th – 19th centuries) with the latter giving way to the current common law system.

  • Law in India during the Britisher’s Ruling Period:-

Britishers initially came to India for trading but latter started seizing weak parts of the country and ended up seizing the entire country,. They introduced their own laws and regulations and at the same time imposed various restrictions upon Indians in their own country; they felt deprived in their own homeland. Britishers introduced a mix of their laws (laws of their country) and customs, traditions, rules and regulations of India, so that there is minimum resistance from Indians and to continue their ruling in the country.

The britisher's introduced the common law system – a system of law based on recorded judicial precedents. The East India Company was granted charter by King George I in 1726 to establish “Mayor’s Courts” in Madras, Bombay and Calcutta (now Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata respectively). After the victory in Battle of Plassey Judicial functions of the company expanded substantially and by 1772 company’s courts expanded out to various others part of the country from the three major cities. In the process, the company slowly replaced the existing Mughal legal system in those parts of the country.

After the First War of Independence in 1857, the control of East India Company territories in India passed to the British Crown. India Being part of the empire saw the next big shift in the Indian legal system. Supreme courts were established replacing the existing mayoral courts. These courts were converted to the first High Courts through letters of patents authorized by the Indian High Courts Act passed by the British parliament in 1862. Superintendence of lower courts and enrolment of law practitioners were deputed to the respective high courts.

During the British Raj, the Privy Council acted as the highest court of appeal. Cases before the council were adjudicated by the law lords of the House of Lords. The state sued and was sued in the name of the British sovereign in her capacity as Empress of India.

During this period, parties in the courts were represented by their VAKILS. However Indians were not allowed to practice in the newly created Supreme Court. Only English, Irish and Scottish were allowed to practice there. Subsequent rules and statutes culminating in the Legal Practitioners Act of 1846 opened up the profession regardless of nationality or religion.

Charter act of 1833, provided for the law commission of India, for securing a uniform and simple system of law in India. Hence various law commissions was established thereafter, which drafted various laws such as- IPC 1860, CRPC, Indian Evidence Act 1872, The Indian contract Act 1872, Indian Succession Act and some more.

  • Post independence period:-

The constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, which was elected by elected members of the provincial assemblies and became effective from 26 January 1950. B.R. Ambedkar was the chairman of the drafting committee, which drafted the Indian constitution. The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. The document lays down the framework demarcating fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens. It is the longest written constitution. The Constitution of India is the guiding light in all matters executive, legislative and judicial in the country. The Constitution turned the direction of system originally introduced for perpetuation of colonial and imperial interests in India, firmly in the direction of social welfare. The Constitution explicitly and through judicial interpretation seeks to empower the weakest members of the society.

Government of India has three wings (legislative, executive, and judiciary) and all the three wings work together to promote peace and harmony in the country. Each of the wings can check the functioning of the other wings. Legislative wing of the government is the policy making wing of the government of India. It enacts amends and repels existing laws in India. The executive wing of the government is responsible for executing laws and taking care of day to day administration and functioning of the state bureaucracy and the judiciary wing of the government deals with the administration of justice.

Presently judicial system in the country operates through the following hierarchy. Supreme court is the apex court in the country, high courts lies in the middle of the hierarchy, being the highest court in the states and union territories and in the bottom of the hierarchy lies subordinate courts, which operates at the district level. latter Nyaya panchayat was introduced in the village level to promote local self government in the country.

India has an organic law as consequence of common law system. Through legislative action and judicial pronouncements, this has been fine-tuned for Indian conditions. The Indian legal system has evolved as an essential ingredient of the world’s largest democracy and a crucial front in the battle to secure constitutional rights for every citizen.

Why has the Laws Evolved\ Changed:-

There are a no. of reasons for evolution/ change in law, over the period of years. Some of the major reasons are:-

  • Literacy- with the increase in the literacy rate in the country, people have started acknowledging their rights and duties. As a result of this they have started demanding better rules and regulations to safeguard their interest. Example of one such legislation is “The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019” which was enacted to uplift the conditions of Transgender persons in India.

  • Entry of Britisher’s in the Country- Britishers, when came to India found that there is no uniform law in the country, this made easy for them to establish their empire in the country. But latter they realized that, to keep their empire running in the country, they need to have a uniform law for all the people in the country, irrespective of their religion and gender. So they introduced law of their country (common law).

  • Gender equality-an idea that has gained major importance over the period of years is the equality of males and females in all the walks of life. Various legislations has been set to work, to promote equality irrespective of gender. Article 14 of the Constitution of India reads as under: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”

  • Progress in the society- as the society progresses with time, certain acts become very common and as a result of this, the act no longer remains an offence. If such an act remains to be an offence then everybody has to be punished for the act and it is not possible to punish everybody in the society, such an act is replaced by some other act in the society.


Law over the period of years has changed significantly. It has evolved from customs and religious practices to precedents and legislative made rules and regulation. Few years back, an act which does not constitute to be an offence is now an offence and vice versa. For example- earlier mental cruelty was not considered to be an offence but now is a serious offence under IPC. Similarly earlier matrimonial offences were not given much importance in the society but now, with the passing of time it is gaining more and more importance and there are a no. of acts to safeguard the interest of the spouse (victim).every day we hear some or the other amendments in law. Law is ever-dynamic and will continue to change and grow with the passing of time. With the passing of time obsolete law will be struck-down and in its place new laws will be introduced.



2) Constitution of India, 1950



[DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only. We have tried to include as much information as possible but there are chances that some important information may have been missed .It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the this article shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note].

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