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18 Different Crimes in Hindu Dharmashastras

The eighteen rules of conduct, individual and social, laid down by the Hindu Dharmashastras is known as Ashtadasavivada. These are governed by the four overriding principles – moral and cultural values; security and protection of the citizens; cultured civil society; and sanctity of property, safety and honor. These yield rules of vyavahara, cognizable conduct and actions subject to law.

Manu lists eighteen vyavaharasthanas, actions amenable to judicial review –

  1. Rnadana – Payment of debts
  2. Nikshepa – Deposits
  3. Asvamivikraya – Sale without ownership
  4. Sambhuyasamuttthana – Joint undertakings, Partnerships
  5. Dattasyanapakarma – Resumption of gifts
  6. Vetanasya Adanam – Payment of wages
  7. Samvidah vyatikarma – Violation of convention of guilds and corporations
  8. Krayavikrayanusaya – Sale and purchase
  9. Svamipalavivada – Dispute between master and servant
  10. Simavivada – Boundary dispute
  11. Dandaparushya – Assault
  12. Vakparushya – Defamation
  13. Steya – Theft
  14. Sahasa – Offence of violence
  15. Strisangrahana – Adultery
  16. Stripumdharma – Duties of husband and wife
  17. Dayabhaga – Partition
  18. Dyutamahvaya – Betting and gambling

The last eight chapters in Manu enumerate the criminal titles which he calls kanthaka sodhana, except daya, which is purely civil title. Theft appears to have been included among civil matters only by Brihaspati as the classification made by him was based on those arising from wealth but not resulting in bodily or mental injury. Except this small difference we find, by and large, the classification of civil and criminal matters is in conformity with the modern concept of civil and criminal law. The distinction between the two can be made by a study of procedural law as also the remedies provided for it. For adjudication, that is trials in a court of law, strict qualifications of a competent witness and nature of evidence are laid down. Manu lay down the investigation of truth at all costs, as the first ideal of court proceedings. Even a re-trial was permitted. Justice is important to Manu as a matter of morality, both social and individual.

The king is expected to keep all the individuals with moral limits. Hence, Manu prohibits dyuta and ahvaya. For the same reason, harsh punishments are laid down for rape and adultery.

The Smritis treat extensively even the fine topics of law on crimes and declare several other acts of commission and omission as offences under the heading prakirnam (miscellaneous) which cover a wide range of human propensity of inflict injury on man or animal and have prescribed appropriate punishments for them.