Saturday, February 06, 2010

Legal Search Tools in India

A new blog - Legal Research India - was recently brought to my attention. Created by Arjun Sheoran, a student a NLSIU, it looks like a welcome new legal research tool that not only searches Indian cases, but some foreign jurisdictions as well, along with Indian law journals, publications, and blogs (including this one). And quite importantly, it's free.

Hopefully, Legal Research India will nicely compliment Indian Kanoon, which I know has updated some of its search functions in the last few months, improving it even more.

Beyond the free legal search engines, there's been a lot of movement in the pay research tools in the last few months. Since Westlaw bought Indlaw they have dramatically improved their interface and seem to have added some back cases Indlaw had been missing. It now strikes me as a better search option on the pay-side than Manupatra, which had been the gold standard for some time, despite it's often clunky navigability.

However, Indlaw may soon have a run for its money. I was recently at the Delhi book fair where the Lexis Nexis India representative said they were planning on entering the Indian legal search market in the next couple months. They will begin with cases from the upper judiciary and slowly add more content.

Both Indlaw and Lexis eventually plan to provide searches of Indian legal journals. This should mark a boon both for the journals and Indian legal academics who write in them. For a long time, there was no one place you could go to search Indian legal journals - something Legal Research India makes inroads into fixing. As a result, one has to go to each journal's website and do a search there. This has slowed the transmission of legal knowledge, research, and argument in India considerably.

The emergence of these new search tools should help solve this problem considerably. I'm also very grateful that websites like Indian Kanoon and Legal Research India are making pioneering inroads with their free legal search engines. The pay websites are still quite expensive (I think Indlaw is about 25,000 Rs a year for an individual), and unlikely to get much cheaper soon. For many lawyers, and most Indian citizens (who have access to the internet and know English), these free portals will be one of their few options to get access to their laws, caselaw, and the articles written about them. (PRS's laws of India is also a nice site for free legislative searches)
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