In India, the main sources of law are both the legislation and judgements pronounced by the courts. The law, whether a court judgement or a legislation should be accessible by all, as the law is meant for all, and not only for experts.
Fun Fact: Law Journals contain only ‘reported cases’, which are a relatively small fraction of the total number of judgements passed.
While the legislations are published in a gazette, the decisions of courts are accessible by the public through the website of the various courts. Therefore, the importance of having a user-friendly website and a complete database of cases cannot be overstated.
So, to find out which High Court was the most transparent, easily searchable and easiest to interact with, we reviewed all the High Courts, and selected the top five High Court websites. While no court today provides a state-of-the-art website, we did find some positives, and some basic fixes that can be undertaken to improve user satisfaction by a good measure
Here’s a quick comparative graphic of the top-5 high court websites according to us:
1. Madhya Pradesh High Court
The MP High Court website certainly takes away the prize for being the best High Court website.
What’s good: The case description page has all the relevant information about a case arranged in a very organised manner. The best feature about this website is the option of advanced search, making it very easy for a user to browse through their database to search for the relevant case. Relevant cases can be searched using a combination of parameters like a key phrase, counsel name, year etc.
Areas for improvement: This court can set the standard for other courts to aspire towards if it improves its response to input and speed of accessibility.
Link: MP High Court
2. Bombay High Court
Maharashtra is home to the financial capital of India and is a hotbed for the biggest and largest number of commercial disputes. Therefore, this site is likely to be frequently accessed globally.
What’s good: It provides the most detailed description of the developments that take place in a case. The case description page not only has all the Hearing Dates of a case, but also the dates on which the case was listed for hearing but was not heard. Information on the lawyer in a case, interim orders, final judgement, hearing dates and matters connected to this case are also available. Case laws can be searched using case number, party name, judge name, date of order or the advocate name.
Areas for improvement: Information related to the lower courts is missing. Also, searching for a relevant case on the website requires knowledge about the case type (Original, Civil or Criminal) and register/ stamp no., most people might not know what option to select. And finally, the information about the lawyers representing the parties is incomplete on the case description page.
Link: Bombay High Court
3. Gujarat High Court
What’s good: The website has made it to this list because of its user-friendly interface and the information provided about a case on the case description page. This is also one of the few websites to have incorporated the free-text search tool.
Areas for improvement: The free-text search tool can be improved by removing the requirement to enter the name of the judge for searching, this seems unnecessary. However, the biggest problem with the Gujarat High Court website is that it is very slow, especially during the business hours. But to be fair to them, we were accessing a beta version and hopefully these flaws will be taken care of in the final version.
Link: Gujarat High Court
4. Sikkim High Court
What’s good: Recognition deserves to be given to the Sikkim High Court website for their user interface which is the best among all high court websites, browsing through the website is effortless. Not only does this website have most of the relevant information about a case, the representation of the information is also very easy on the eye.
Areas for improvement: Addition of lower court details, connected matters and a free-text search tool would go on to make this a model website for all the High Courts.
Link: High Court of Sikkim
5. Karnataka High Court
What’s good: The Karnataka High court website is one of the most accessible and user-friendly websites. One can easily search for the relevant case law using the case number, party name, judge name, date of order or the advocate name. One area in which this website is ahead of its counterparts is the speed at which it returns the results. The description page of a case gives a lot of information about the case including the Lowe court details and orders given when the case was pending before it (interim orders).
Areas for improvement: The website lags in terms of the information it provides on the Case Status page. Adding details about the number and date of hearings that have taken place, application cases and connected cases will make it better. Free-text search bar can be added to make searching for the relevant case easier. And last and the most crucial bit, the final judgement should be combined and represented on the case status page instead of providing it separately.
(Written by Anuj Sharma, on behalf of Team Riverus. Anuj is a graduate from NLU Delhi, and Product Counsel @ Riverus.)