The ancient indian political system- no room for autocratic freak

There could therefore be ordinarily little or no room in
the ancient Indian system for autocratic freak or monarchical
violence and oppression, much less for the savage cruelty and
tyranny of so common an occurrence in the history of some
other countries. Nevertheless such happenings were possible
by the sovereign’s disregard of the Dharma or by a misuse of
his power of administrative decree; instances occurred of the
kind,—though the worst recorded is that of a tyrant belonging
to a foreign dynasty; in other cases any prolonged outbreak
of autocratic caprice, violence or injustice seems to have led
Indian Polity – 1 395
before long to an effective protest or revolt on the part of the
people. The legists provided for the possibility of oppression. In
spite of the sanctity and prestige attaching to the sovereign it
was laid down that obedience ceased to be binding if the king
ceased to be faithful executor of the Dharma. Incompetence
and violation of the obligation to rule to the satisfaction of
the people were in theory and effect sufficient causes for his
removal. Manu even lays it down that an unjust and oppressive
king should be killed by his own subjects like a mad dog, and
this justification by the highest authority of the right or even the
duty of insurrection and regicide in extreme cases is sufficient
to show that absolutism or the unconditional divine right of
kings was no part of the intention of the Indian political system.
As a matter of fact the right was actually exercised as we find
both from history and literature. Another more peaceful and
more commonly exercised remedy was a threat of secession or
exodus which in most cases was sufficient to bring the delinquent
ruler to reason. It is interesting to find the threat of secession
employed against an unpopular monarch in the south as late as
the seventeenth century, as well as a declaration by a popular
assembly denouncing any assistance given to the king as an
act of treason. A more common remedy was deposition by the
council of ministers or by the public assemblies. The kingship
thus constituted proved to be in effect moderate, efficient and
beneficent, served well the purposes assigned to it and secured
an abiding hold on the affections of the people. The monarchical
institution was however only one, an approved and very
important, but not, as we see from the existence of the ancient
republics, an indispensable element of the Indian socio-political
system, and we shall understand nothing of the real principle
of the system and its working if we stop short with a view of
the regal fa¸cade and fail to see what lay behind it. It is there
that we shall find the clue to the essential character of the whole



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