Thursday, October 18, 2007

Indian Case Law: Online and Access

Case law of Supreme Court of India is online here:

There seems to be a significant difference in tone between case law here and in India. While the tone here is more of reasoning with the reader (with some intense persuasive language), the Indian case law sounds more binary in its judgment (instead of painting the spectrum of possibilities). Well, I draw these conclusions from one single abstract I just read (a dispute of inheritance of pooja rights; funny!, esp. when the supreme court has pretty far-reaching disputes to settle). Got to read more to make a generalization. :D

A quick scroll down the page had caught me by pleasant surprise, the Supreme Court is addressing wide range of issues from FIR to Food Corporation of India to fines for late payment of electricity bills to stamp duties.

I understand they are of binding nature by the lower courts and lower courts probably reflect one some of the earlier cases while making new judgments, but what is astounding is the language barrier having law in English alone creates. As a result of this most people have little understand of whats going on, even though most of these resources are in public domain.

Even the privileged section of the society, which can read and write English, has almost never been schooled about the kind of the cases and judgments the courts deal with. I am not saying every citizen has to be a paralegal, if not lawyer, but the basic functioning of legal system and civil liberties are an integral part of high school education which is largely absent from Indian high school system. Most discourse in schools is around term of a Supreme court justice and who appoints him with very little functional knowledge. A recent NYT article talked about changing history text books in India and how it might usher new levels of public discourse. My joy knew no bounds ! Thats the way a country becomes a better democracy and steers its own fate. There is a good reason why most freedom fighters in Indian Independence movement were all lawyers.