Analysis, Income Tax

Access to Case Laws

The other day, a friend asked me if there was a way for him to identify the relevant Judgement on a point of law himself without any professional help. To his surprise, my answer to this was a big NO. It was surprising because it means that for a litigant there is no option left but to put complete faith in the advice of a lawyer.

The Judgements given by the courts are available in public domain. However, the depressing reality is that the data on the Judgements passed by the Indian Courts is spread across around twenty websites. Each website has a different user interface, method of categorization of appeals, and the number of data points required to access a case status or the judgement. In our previous post, we had highlighted some major problems in many High Court websites. In terms of case details, each High court website was missing in one aspect or the other. Some website even fail to meet the basic minimum standards necessary to search for a case. For example, Meghalaya High Court website does not provide the feature to search for a case through Case number. Other websites presume knowledge about the abbreviations of Appeal Types on part of the user. Further, the abbreviations are confusing, and may indicate more than one Appeal Types. Delhi High Court uses the abbreviation Co. Pet which can mean both Company Petition and Contempt Petition.

In effect, there are more that 20 different paths of difficulty to be traversed by the individual. To put things in perspective, lawyers themselves prefer to pay for a commercial database where they can access all the judgements under one website.

Also Read: Access to Justice, with a little help from Technology

Relevant websites for Case Laws

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Currently, Courtnic, Judis and Lobis host case information related to many High Courts who do not have cases on their own website. Courtnic provides case status of an appeal while Judis and Lobis provide the final Judgements only. Some High Courts provide judgements on both Judis and Lobis. It is our experience, that even across multiple websites for a court, the complete information might not be available on either of them.

So, even though the judgements are available in the public domain, it is highly unrealistic to expect people to understand the usage of all these websites. Also, the different methodology to categorize a case as an ‘appeal type’ is a major roadblock for comparing performance of courts. These deficiencies can be resolved by providing all the Case Laws under one website. Through the website, a standard format for Case Details page and search mechanism can be implemented. As things stand today, law is to be followed by all but accessible to select few.

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