Legal Article

Roman law and constitution of India

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow


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Published on: 21 Aug, 2023

The Constitution of India, which came into effect on January 26, 1950, was drafted by a Constituent Assembly that sought inspiration from various sources, including the laws and constitutions of other countries. While Roman law itself is not directly incorporated into the Indian Constitution, some principles that have Roman law origins or that were influenced by Roman legal traditions can be traced in the legal and constitutional framework of India. Here are some indirect linkages or resemblances:

Rule of Law

One of the significant Roman law contributions to modern legal systems is the concept of the “rule of law,” which emphasizes that the law governs a nation and that all individuals and authorities are subject to and accountable under the law. This concept is enshrined in the Constitution of India, which sets the legal framework for the world’s largest democracy.

Separation of Powers

Roman law laid the early groundwork for the separation of powers, a concept that has become a cornerstone of modern constitutional design. The Indian Constitution also incorporates this principle, distributing powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

The Indian legal system, like many others, uses Latin terms that have their roots in Roman law. While these are not constitutional principles per se, they are part and parcel of the legal language and practice in India. Terms like “habeas corpus,” “ex post facto,” and “bona fide” are commonly used.

Property Rights

Roman law had a sophisticated system for the classification and regulation of property rights. The Indian legal system, particularly in the areas of contract and property law, has been influenced by these concepts, although it is also shaped by indigenous traditions and British colonial law.

Principles of Justice

Roman law emphasized principles like “audi alteram partem” (hear the other side) and “nemo judex in causa sua” (no one should be a judge in his own case). These principles of natural justice also find resonance in the Indian Constitution and legal jurisprudence.


Roman law was one of the earliest legal systems to emphasize the codification of laws for clarity and public accessibility. The Indian legal system, too, has various codified laws, including the Indian Penal Code and the Civil Procedure Code, which are designed to provide a comprehensive and understandable legal framework.


While the Constitution of India is primarily a unique document tailored to meet the needs and aspirations of the Indian people, it also embodies principles and concepts that have been influenced by various legal systems, including Roman law. However, it’s essential to note that the influences are often indirect, filtered through various other systems and philosophies, including British common law, which itself was influenced by Roman law to some extent.


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