Chapter XXI Part III
The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralisation and Uniformity
Sri Aurobindo points out that the uniformity of law develops differently from unity and uniformity of social administration. The evolution of the uniformity of law needs to be traced from the customs an d codes that developed over time and hence needs to be understood in the perspective of social anthropology. The evolution of the uniformity in judicial administration has to be understood in the way how the organic society develops over time a rational outlook whether in the monarchy or in the State to become the ‘head of law as well as the embodiment of public order and efficiency’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 453) and hence needs to be interpreted in terms of political science.
Customs and Codes – Uniformity of Law
Originally, local customs of communities grew spontaneously and organically as customary laws that reflected social habits and naturally admitted variation and freedom. The Indian customary tradition called ‘acara’ represented community norms of social groups which differed widely. ‘In India, any sect or even any family was permitted to develop variations of the religious and civil custom which the general law of the society was bound within vague limits to accept, and this freedom is still part of the theory of Hindu law, although now in practice it is very difficult to get any new departure recognised’ (Ibid).
In the progressive march of the collectivity as a society, some of the important customs became codes. However the progress of human psyche is not uniform and it progresses along several perspectives. There were customs based on cultural values, religious faiths and social conventions. Naturally such customs varied from place to place and from one group to other for which they could not coalesce into a uniform superstructure. In fact, some cultural systems like the Hindu Shastra became an ossification of custom that stereotyped society without rationalizing it (Ibid, pg 454). But over time, the human mind also developed its rational, logical and intellectual faculties; broadened its outlook; transcended the family, clan, religion and nation and became universal in character. This change necessitated the evolution of universal codes of law, codes that transcended cultural barriers and social inequality, overcame ossified religious habits and were more in consonance with the rational and scientific temper. Restrictive cultural codes were taken up and upgraded to be in tune with uniformity of law as a result of which, code and constitution came to prevail over custom.
It is not enough to develop a uniformity in law with intelligently systematized legal codes but there should also be a sovereign authority, a constitution which ‘fixes the cadres of the law and admits from time to time changes that are intelligent accommodations to new needs, variations that do not disturb but merely modify and develop the intelligent unity and reasonable fixity of the system’ (Ibid). Sri Aurobindo hailed the emergence of uniformity in law as an important achievement which was ‘the triumph of the narrower but more self-conscious and self-helpful rational over the larger but vaguer and more helpless life-instinct in the society’ (Ibid). He also pointed out that it was one important step towards the larger socialistic ideal of establishing a fundamental equality in society. ‘When it has arrived at this triumph of a perfectly self-conscious and systematically rational determination and arrangement of its life on one side by a fixed and uniform constitution, on the other by a uniform and intelligently structural civil and criminal law, the society is ready for the second stage of its development. It can undertake the self-conscious, uniform ordering of its whole life in the light of the reason which is the principle of modern socialism and has been the drift of all the Utopias of the thinkers’ (Ibid).
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu