Most of the Hindu law is based on customs and practices followed by the people across the country. Customs was considered as supreme law and in ancient times, the Kings used to give decisions based on customs after due religious consideration. Customs are of four types:
1. Local Customs - The customs that are followed in a geographical area are called local customs. In the case of Subbane vs Nawab, Privy Council observed that a custom gets its force since its observation for a long time in a locality, it has obtained the force of law.
2. Family Customs - The customs that are followed by a family for a long time are known as family customs. These are applicable to families wherever they live. They can be more easily abandoned those other customs. In the case of Soorendranath vs Heeramonie and Bikal vs Manjura, Privy Council observed that customs followed by a family have long been recognized as Hindu law.
3. Caste and Community Customs - These customs are followed by a particular caste or community which is binding on the members of that community or caste. Till now, this is one of the most important sources of laws.
4. Guild Customs - These are the customs that are followed by traders.
1. Ancient: The validity of custom usually depends on the number of years it is followed. However, there is no definition of ancientness, though, 40yrs has been determined to be ancient enough. A new custom cannot be recognized in a form of agreement for a specific or short time period.
In the case of Rajothi vs Selliah, a Self-Respecter’s Cult started a movement under which traditional ceremonies were substituted with simple ceremonies for marriage that did not involve Shastric ceremonies. Hon’ble High Court held that no one is free to create a law or custom, as it is a function and role of the legislature.
2. Continuous: It is important that the custom is being followed continuously and has not been abandoned. Thus, a custom maybe 400 yrs old but once abandoned, it cannot be revived.
3. Certain: There must be clarity in the usage, involvement, and entailment of custom to avoid any sort of ambiguity in its origin, application, and consequence. Any vagueness may rise confusion and may invalidate it.
4. Reasonable: There must be some reasonableness and fairness in the custom. Though what is reasonable depends on the specific era and social values.
5. Not against morality: It should not be immoral or repugnant.
6. Not against public policy: A custom should not be against the public policy and norms of society.
7. Not against any law: If a custom is against any statutory law, it is invalid.