July - September 2001
Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India
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the Pages of History
by J. N. Kachroo
In olden times soverigns were the fountain heads of justice in their lands with no codified laws at hand, no works of Jurisprudence to guide and no prescribed procedures to follow. The dispenser of justice had to rely on his intelligence, observation, wit and integrity to give impartial judgements.
History is replete with examples how fair judgements have been delivered time and again. One such episode belongs to the reign of the King, Yasaskara (939- 948 AD).
There lived a wealthy citizen (name not known) during Yasaskara's reign. Somehow bad luck struck him and he became a pauper. To pay off his debts, he sold off all his property including his mansion but excluding a well with a ladder, attached to the house to a rich merchant. This well would fetch rent sufficient to sustain his wife. Leaving her at a secure place and thinking that she had an assured source of income, he went abroad in search of employment.
After a pretty long time, this man returned with a small fortune. To his utter dismay and disbelief, he found his wife working as a maid in a household. On enquiry, he was told by his wife that the merchant had turned her out forcibly and had denied her the rent from the well, saying that he had bought that too. The shocked man approached many a judge. His claim was rejected by all on the ground that there was documentary proof of his having sold the well too. The frustrated man resorted to Prayopavas - fast unto death.
The King, Yasaskara was known for his just and benevolent rule. The matter was brought to his notice by the concerned officials. The fasting man was presented to the king. The disappointed complainant related the whole story. The King commanded that the merchant and all the judges be called. A court was held with the king presiding. The complainant repeated the whole story. The judges who had heard him earlier opined that the man had no claim worthy of consideration in the face of the records of the officer-in-charge of Registration of Deeds. The King was not convinced, but could not find any reason or grounds to refute the judges. He did not commit and pretended lack of interest in the case.
The king did not dissolve the court but began to talk casually about the dresses and diamonds that the councillors were wearing. This was just to divert their attention. He pointed to the ring that the merchant was wearing. He expressed his desire to examine it closely. The merchant handed over the ring to the king, who suddenly stood up and walked out to another apartment, asking the audience to wait until he returned.
The king sent secretly a messenger to the merchant's house with instructions to show the ring as a token to his accountant and ask him to send immediately the account book of the period pertaining to the execution of the Deed. The accountant sent the relevant account book. The king examined it and noticed that 1000 Dinnaras had been paid to the official recorder (Registrar) on that particular date. The die was cast. The official was called forthwith. The king went back to the waiting councillors, the merchant and the complainant. The court was resumed. The king showed the account book to the councillors and convinced the judges and others that the official recorder was eligible to receive a very small amount legally for registering the Deed. The rest of the huge money was paid as a bribe to the official to interpolate 'sa' (lk) (together) in place of 'ra' (jk) (without) in the deed. The merchant confessed.
The king had not only the
well but the whole house restored to the plaintiff. The merchant was suitably