History of the Common Law right of ‘access to justice’

In India, there can be no doubt that the citizens had always access to the King, right from the time of Ramayana according to our history. When the Indian Courts later absorbed the common law of England, the right to access to courts became part of our constitutional law, even long before the coming into force of our Constitution. That continued even after the Constitution because of Article 372. We wish to refer to two interesting cases that arose in the pre-independence era which would indicate that concept of a non-derogable right of access to justice was recognised and enforced by the courts in this country.

Common Law Library

We now come to a period of steady growth in the common law covering just over a century and a quarter (1272-1399). The reign of Edward I is marked by one of the greatest outbursts of reforming legislation in English history until the nineteenth century. The first Statute of Westminster (1275) made numerous changes in procedure, many of them designed to protect the subject against the King’s officers, for the evidence collected by the commission of inquiry set up in the previous year had revealed a good deal of oppression.

What is common law legal system

The common law originally developed under the auspices of the adversarial system in historical England from judicial decisions that were based in tradition, custom, and precedent. The form of reasoning used in common law is known as casuistry or case-based reasoning. Common law may be unwritten or written in statutes or codes. The common law, as applied in civil cases (as distinct from criminal cases), was devised as a means of compensating someone for wrongful acts known as torts, including both intentional torts and torts caused by negligence and as developing the body of law recognizing and regulating contracts.

Common Law Application

When the  Statute Law on a subject is silent, the Common Law is to govern it; and what is the Common Law, depends upon principle and precedent.

History of the Common Law of England by Matthew Hale 1713

The Laws of England may aptly enough be divided into two Kinds, viz. Lex Scripta, the written Law: and Lex non Scripta, the unwritten Law: For although (as shall be shewn hereafter) all the Laws of this Kingdom have some Monuments or Memorials thereof in Writing, yet all of them have not their Original in Writing; for some of those Laws have obtain’d their Force by immemorial Usage or Custom, and such Laws are properly call’d Leges non Scriptae, or unwritten Laws or Customs.

The Genius of the Common Law: Frederick Pollock

In the sense and for the causes I have now shortly set forth, I propose as the general subject of these lectures the Genius of the Common Law. For reasons which seem imperative, I do not propose to handle the matter as a chronicler. A concise history of the Common Law might be a very good thing; I have thought once and again of its possibilities; but if ever the time comes when it can be brought within the compass of eight, ten or twelve lectures, it will be after much more searching and sifting have been done.