Report No. 76
1.12. Villages in India.-
We have it on the authority of a well-known writer on historical jurisprudence,1 that the villagers had a judicial system of their own, which was familiar and respected by them; the various traders and guilds has a similar system.
The puga courts were comprised of persons dwelling in the same place, irrespective of their caste or employment, and were competent to decide cases in which the local public were interested.2
The srenis (guilds) were associations of persons engaged in similar pursuits, of which the merchant's guilds were the most important. They were competent to decide matters relating to their special calling for traders.3
Social matters concerning the members of a particular community could be investigated and decided at the level of the kulas.4
The three arbitration courts (Kula, Sreni and Puga or Gana), were private tribunals, in the sense that they were not constituted by a royal authority and they resembled arbitrators to that extent.5 According to Sir Henry Maine:
"In those parts of India, in which village community was most perfect, the authority, exercised elsewhere by the headman, was lodged with what was called the village council or the panchayat. It was always considered a representative body and whatever was its real number, it always bore the name which recalled its constitution of five persons or 'Panchayat'. Traces of this method of settling disputes can still be found in certain communities in the country."6
1. Lee Historical Jurisprudence, p. 141, cited by M.K. Sharan Court Procedure in Ancient India, (1978), pp. 24, 25.
2. M.K. Sharan Court Procedure in Ancient India, (1978), p. 26.
3. M.K. Sharan Courts Procedure in Ancient India, (1978), p. 26.
4. M.K. Sharan Court Procedure in Ancient India, (1978), p. 27.
5. S. Varadachariar The Hindu Judicial System (Radha Kumud Mookharjee Endowment Lectures), (1945), p. 98.
6. Maine Ancient Village Communities, quoted in Indian Council of Arbitration, Law of Arbitration in India issued by the Indian Council of Arbitration (August 1972), pp. 1-2.