Introduction to Law

Secondary Sources of Indian Law

Secondary sources of Indian law are English Law, Common law, Equity, Law merchant, Statute law, Justice, equity, and good conscience. In the case of absence of statutory or personal law, the Indian courts follow the decision of a case known as ‘Justice, Equity and Good Conscience’

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Secondary Sources of Law in India

English Law

The chief sources of English Law include

Common Law

Common law, in this case, refers to the principles of law that have been evolved by judges through their case judgements. These statements have been made and improved over a number of years to better perfect them.

Thus, common law consists of a body of rules, which have been defined by customs, judicial decisions and old scholarly works in the law. Common law is the unwritten law of English which applies to everyone in the country.

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Law Merchant

Law Merchant is the main source of Mercantile law. It refers to those customs and rules that apply to traders and businessmen on their dealings and tradings with each other.

Principle of Equity

The principle of Equity refers to a set of rules, which neither originated from customs nor statutory law. Equity rules were formed on the basis of dictates of conscience which had been decided in the Courts of Chancery.

In cases, where Common Law was not applicable, the Chancellor presided over such cases in special courts called ‘Equity Courts’. Equity courts had a separate existence from the Common Law Courts in England. These ‘Equity Courts’ acted on a number of customs like :

  1. He who seeks equity must do equity.
  2. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

secondary sources of law


 Statute Law

Statute law is that law that has been created by the legislation. A statute is a formal act of the legislature in written form. It has also become an important source of Mercantile Law.

A statute or written overrides any unwritten laws, which are Common Law and Equity.  Statutory laws are the basic framework of the modern legal system.   

 Other source of English Law is 

Justice, Equity, and Good Conscience

The theme of justice, equity, and good conscience first came into being through Impey’s Regulation of 1781. In the case of absence of statutory or personal law, the Indian courts follow the decision of a case known as ‘Justice, Equity and Good Conscience’, which in this case refers to English law as far as it is applicable to the Indian context.

Ancient Hindu law had their own concept of ‘Justice, Equity and Good Conscience’. In its modern version counterpart in the Indian legal system, it owes its origins to the British rule in India.

The High Courts established by the British by the British administration stated that when the law was unclear or silent on an issue, the issue would be decided in accordance with the principles of ‘Justice, Equity and Good Conscience’.

Justice, equity and good conscience have generally been interpreted as English laws and rules that are applied when any written law is not applicable to a legal matter. The court also uses ‘Justice, Equity and Good Conscience’ in the absence of Hindu law in matters relating to personal laws.

Solved Question for you

What are the chief sources of English law? 

The chief sources of English law are the four following types of laws:

  • Common Law
  • Law Merchant
  • Principle of Equity
  • Statute Law
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