The first edition of ‘A Digest of Civil Law for the Punjab chiefly based on the Customary Law’, was published in 1880. Explaining the genesis of the book, its illustrious author, Sir W. H. Rattigan, observed in the Preface: “The time has therefore arrived, I think, when it is possible for an attempt to be made to arrange the leading topics of Customary Law in a few simply-worded propositions, embodying what is conceived to be rules that are generally accepted by both Hindus and Mohammedans alike, and noting, a as exceptions, instances where any divergence from these rules has been found to exist.......I have incorporated the provisions of those Acts of the Legislature applicable to this Province which have consolidated certain branches of the Civil Law, such, for instance, as the Punjab Tenancy Act, the Punjab Land Revenue Act and the Punjab Laws Act, which may be regarded as the first steps towards provincial codification.....My object, in short, has been to collect and classify the materials for a future code.......After what has been said above, it is scarcely necessary perhaps to add the caution that the propositions laid down in the following pages are not intended to exclude but rather to aid judicial enquiry in future cases.”
Since then the book has undergone twelve editions and has stood the test of time well. In Mst. Subhani v. Nawab (A.I.R. 1941 P.C. 21, 23) their Lordships of the Privy Council, while referring to this work, stamped it as “a book of unquestioned authority in the Punjab.” The paragraphs of this book have, therefore, been kept intact as before, and reproduced in this new edition/ Where, however, in the light of the subsequent judicial decisions it has been found necessary to change the text of the paragraphs, comments have been added.
Opportunity has, however, been taken in the present edition to deal with the subject more comprehensively than in the previous editions, and to put it in such a form as to be easy for reference. Manuals of Customary Law prepared for the various districts of the Punjab form a very valuable source of information regarding customs prevalent amongst the various tribes residing therein. Most of these manuals have gone out of print and are not available for reference. Relevant extracts from these manuals have been reproduced in the present work under suitable headings and sub-headings so that this source of information may be readily available to the legal public. The judicial decisions also have been noted district-wise so that at a mere glance one can know what is the law applicable on a certain matter relating to any tribe in any district or locality. It has been found by all concerned in actual practice that this is the best way of dealing with such a vast and comprehensive subject as the Customary Law of the Punjab.
At the same time, what forms part of separate legislation, for instance, the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, and the Punjab Pre-emption Act, 1913, so far as not relevant to the Customary Law, has been omitted, being considered unnecessary in a book dealing with the Customary Law of the Punjab. It is not possible to deal exhaustively with such subjects of separate legislation without making a treatise on Customary Law unwieldy in bulk, and it will not serve any useful purpose to deal with these subjects succinctly and in a half-hearted manner.
The last edition of this book was published in 1938. Since then there have been a number of important judicial pronouncements on the subject. All these decisions have been incorporated in the present edition. Case-law has been brought up to date.
I am highly grateful to Dr. Bakshi Tek Chand, formerly Puisne Judge of the Lahore High Court, for kindly sparing time to go through the present edition of the book and contributing a Foreword.
It is hoped that the present edition of the book will prove even more useful than the previous editions and will continue to serve faithfully both the Bench and the Bar.