Sunday, April 26, 2009

Letter to Allahabad High Court - Removing restrictions to court judgments

To Allahahad High Court,

I am Sushant Sinha, a PhD candidate in the Department of Computer
Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. I am also a founder
of legal search engine called Indian Kanoon (http://indiankanoon.org)
Indian Kanoon provides state of art free search and free access to
Indian court judgments to the common people.

Indian Kanoon daily crawls different Indian court websites and adds the
set of updated judgments for Supreme court and high courts to its
database. Since court judgments do not have copyright protection,
Indian Kanoon does not violate any copyright law. However, recently the
elegalix portal used by allahabad high court has introduced image
captcha for restricting automated access to court judgment. For example,
someone needs to solve an image captcha to access the following
judgment:
http://elegalix.allahabadhighcourt.in/elegalix/WebShowJudgment.do?judgmentID=78472

Indian Kanoon provides just another portal for people to get access to
court judgments and thereby allows more widespread distribution of court
judgments. Restricting access to judgments in this particular fashion
will hinder Indian Kanoon ability to provide access to Allahabad High
Court decisions and thereby in people to have easy access to court
judgments.

Indian Kanoon fills in many voids which exist in current Indian court
websites. Restricting access to judgments also forces people to stay
with the court websites and force them to not use the law search tools
provided by other providers like Indian Kanoon. I think providing
unhindered access to court judgments is in the interest of Indian people
as they can use any research tools provided by any competitive portal.
If such restrictions are removed, people can choose whichever website
they like most.

Beside that image captchas cannot be solved by many people who are
blind, old age or do not have a perfect eye. While there are tools (like
text to speech) that allow such people to get information available on
Internet, there are no tools available for solving image captchas.
Therefore, image captchas on allahabad high court restrict access to
court judgments to an important class of Indian population.

I would like to know the reason for restricting the free access to court
judgments that was previously provided on Allahabad High Court website.
If the problem was in Allahabad server getting overload because of
Indian Kanoon crawling, I would be happy to follow any guidelines that
you would provide. Beside any additional guidelines, Indian Kanoon
crawling only starts at 12:00 am IST when there is little chance of
affecting any normal user on your website. Further, replicating court
judgments on Indian Kanoon reduces the load on Allahabad court servers
as many people can access the judgments directly on Indian Kanoon.

So having provided you all reasons for removing such restrictions and my
willingness to follow any guidelines that you provide, I would like to
know your decision in this respect.

Thank you,
Sushant.

1 comment:

Indian Lawyer said...

Mr.Sushant, you are doing a commendable job at indiankanoon... Your website is simply outstanding. Thanks & Kudos! I support the views expressed by you in your blog post above... the reasons and logic you've stated are just valid and sound. There is no reason why Allahabad High Court should employ image captchas or any other restrictive devices. In our society, not to know law is not an excuse to break it. For the same reason, any law or the judgments having the binding force of law, should be openly and freely accessible to the general public... sans hurdles. I fully endorse your view and cause. The image captchas have no justification to remain and should go...

 
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