Jamshedpur 4 May : Laws touch the daily life of an Indian in profound ways. They empower citizens with a number of rights and regulate a variety of activities. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the population is completely ignorant of their rights and obligations. Often such ignorance is taken advantage of and when this happens, common people are afraid of going to police and rarely go to court to seek justice.
The main problem is that it is too difficult to quickly find the required legal information. One needs to be at the mercy of lawyers even for basic issues in which laws are clear or court judgments have straightened out the issues. There is no easy way for people to seek a second opinion or to educate themselves of the pertinent issues. Not anymore. Sushant Sinha, a doctoral student in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan, has started a website indiankanoon.org that allows you to quickly find the relevant law clauses and how they are interpreted by courts.
IndianKanoon.org aims to bring knowledge of law to the Indian society and make common law more commonly accessible. Shamnad Basheer, a leading intellectual property professor at National University of Juridical Sciences (Kolkata), writes in his blog – "This valuable research tool will go a long way towards ensuring better access to the courts judgments by the general public and a more robust public participation". Vipin Agnihotri, a prominent blogger adds "In my opinion, IndianKanoon.org plays a prominent rule in assisting people to search regarding Indian laws and their interpretations."
IndianKanoon.org brings out a number of technological innovation to make searching law documents easier. Sushant says "When I started this project out
of my own frustration with finding information on Indian law, I realized that a number of problems needed to be solved to make law documents easily
accessible to common people. The first problem is that acts are very large and in most scenarios just a few section of laws are applicable. Finding most
applicable sections from hundreds of pages of law documents is too daunting for common people. So, Indian Kanoon divides law documents into individual clauses and when people query, it presents the most specific law clauses that match the query."
Laws are often vague and one needs to see how they have been interpreted by the judicial courts. Currently, the laws and judgments are separately maintained and to find judgments that interpret certain law clauses is difficult. Indian Kanoon integrates law clauses with the court judgments and such integration allows it to automatically determine the most relevant law clauses and court judgments.
These technical innovations have made law documents accessible to the common people. Tarun Jain, a law student writes – "For convincing myself, I ran a
search with search term "dowry" and it did bring out the most relevant results. First it gave the definition of dowry under the relevant enactment and then the case laws upon the point. Then another definition under a different enactment and cases thereunder. Excellent I would say for the reason that it not only categorizes content but the search results are also amicably admirable. Nonetheless I tried it again and ran searches with search term "income tax","value added tax", "raw material" and it did indeed turn out with excellent results."
And lastly Indian Kanoon is free for everyone and is being regularly used by a large number of people since last year. Tarunabh Khaitan, a lecturer in law at St. Hilda’s college Oxford, says "Indian Kanoon has made Supreme Court cases searchable in a user-friendly fashion that should put some of the subscription sites to shame".
Initially it was announced through emails to friends and family. After that a significant work has gone into integrating high court judgments, tribunal
judgments, constituent assembly debates and law commission reports. It links debates, commission reports and law journals with appropriate statutes and
court judgments and therefore, makes it extremely easy to navigate between laws, judgments and other documents. Indian Kanoon is now quite comprehensive
and well slated to become a necessary tool to aid the common people’s quest for legal information.