Law Reporting In India

Law reporting started in India with the creation of the Supreme Court in 1774. In the beginning, there was no organized system of law reporting. Early reporting was a private enterprise; only sporadic individual attempts at reporting were made by the practicing lawyers or judges and the underlying purpose was to prevent much contrariety of judgment and to produce uniformity of decision” on matters on which a conflict of decisions would be disastrous. To start with, reports of cases of the Supreme Court at Calcutta were inserted by way of illustration in certain legal publications. Sir Francis Macnaghten, formerly a Judge of the Court, included certain cases in his Considerations upon Hindu Law published in 1824.

These reports from the nature of the work were confined to cases involving questions of Hindu Law. Sir William Macnaghten took similar pains in his Dissertations on Mohammedan Law published in 1825. Notes of cases were contained in Longueville Clarke’s edition of the Rules and Orders of the Supreme Court published in 1829. These notes of cases are very valuable and relate to points of law of great interest. Notes of cases were inserted in Smoult’s ‘Collection of Orders from 1774 to 1813 published in 1834.

These notes are succinct but highly useful and comprise decisions principally on points of practice from the year 1774 to 1798. Some effort was then made at law reporting and a number of reports of cases decided by the Supreme Courts have come down to us. To name the reports pertaining to the Calcutta Supreme Court ; Morton’s Reports are the earliest and they cover a long period from 1774 to 1841. This collection was principally compiled from the manuscript notes of Chief Justice, Sir R. Chambers, Justice Hyde and other judges of the court. The cases relate almost exclusively to questions peculiar to India. Morley has charactarised Morton’s Reports as “a work of the greatest utility and authority.

For the Supreme Court at Bombay, Sir Erskine Perry, once its Chief Justice, made two collections : one of them was to illustrate the Oriental life and the application of English law to India decided by the Bombay Supreme Court; this collection is known as Perry’s Oriental Cases. His other collection was in the manuscript form which has been fully and verbatim published in the second volume of Morley’s Digest. The manuscript was carefully revised and corrected by the Chief Justice himself before printing. For the Supreme Court at Madras, the only collection of cases to be found is that published by Chief Justice Sir Thomas Strange in 1816 in three volumes covering the period 1798 to 1816. About Strange’s Reports, Morley remarks : “The cases are clearly set forth, and the judgements frequently given entire; but from the paucity of the materials placed at the disposition of the learned judges at that period, the decisions of the court, where they relate to questions of native law, must be taken with some reservation.

Most of the above-mentioned old reports became too difficult to procure as they went out of print in course of time, The decisions contained in these old reports however were constantly referred to by the Privy Council and the High Courts but these reports became rare and difficult to procure. They were not available even in the libraries of great lawyers and so the cases in these reports were not generally known and, therefore, reference to them and their citation in courts became very difficult. The value of these old decisions was great both for the professional lawyer as well as the academic researcher because the cases not only contained good law, but they were also of great historical interest as they depicted how in the early days, the English lawyers and judges laid the foundation of a system of Anglo-Indian jurisprudence in India. An attempt was therefore made to reprint the cases in the old reports and re-issue a new series known as the Indian Decisions (Old Series). This series edited by T.A. Venkaswamy Row started its publication from 1911. Law Reporting In Pre-British Era India: The theories of Precedent, Stare decisis, Ratio decidendi, Obiter Dicta, etc. have been developed in Britain. Step by step the British judicial system was introduced in India by East India Company and later by the Crown. As part and parcel of the British judicial system, the theories of precedent, stare decisis etc. were also introduced in India. Early High Court Reports : The establishment of the High Courts in 1862 is a conspicuous landmark, an event of unique importance and the precursor of the modern era of law and justice. The High Courts brought in their wake official reports. The Madras High Court brought along with it the Madras High Court Reports in eight volumes covering a period from 1862 to 1875. They constitute a fairly well edited series ; the facts are given in full and so also the judgments of the lower courts whenever necessary. Occasionally, though not always, arguments of the counsel are also given. Similar reports came into existence for the High Courts of Bombay and Calcutta. There are 12 volumes of the Bombay High Court Reports for the period 1862-1875. The various High Court Reports were published by the Government through the help of official reporters. Along with these official reports, but competing with them, there came into existence some private publications also, such as, the Weekly Reporter, Indian Jurist at Calcutta, Madras Jurist at Madras, 2 volumes of Hyde E. Reports of the Calcutta High Court for 1862-63, 3 volumes of Kinealy and Henderson Reports of the Calcutta High Court of 1881-1883, and 15 volumes of Bengal Law Reports for 1868-76 for the Calcutta High Court.

Merits of Law reporting

Law Reporting is very useful to the Bar and Bench. Every Advocate seeks its help and prepares his case according to the precedent case laws. For the Courts also it is easier to decide the case on similar facts and points of law. Thus Law Reporting is very useful in courts for the easy and early disposal of the cases.

Demerits of Law Reporting

  1. Commercial Nature: The private law reporting institutions generally have commercial nature and aspects. This commercial nature kills the originality of the nature of the judgments.
  2. Unhealthy Competition: Between the private law reporters, there is highly unhealthy competition.
  3. Vast Cases: To increase the size of volumes, the private publications give a large number of cases, which are in fact necessary. The cases decided on the similar facts and on the similar points of law have been repeated. This consumes too much time and huge money of the Advocate and Judges.
  4. Poor Quality: There is high possibility of poor quality in the private reporting. Some of the Law Reporters contain the interlocutory matters with no final adjudication. Repetitiveness and overlapping etc. are common.
  5. Official Reports: The Official reports are inadequate and are having short-comings. They are very expensive and very slow. Bureaucracy kills the official reports. They are not reported regularly and punctually. They are most costly. Therefore, the Advocates tend to purchase unofficial reports and rely upon A.l.R. etc. The Law Commission observed, if the publication of this series (A.I.R) under government auspices is based on the duty of the Government to make the law appearing in the decisions of the courts available as soon after the decisions as possible, to the courts, the professionals and the member of the public, the gross delays in the publication of the series indicates a grievous neglect of the duty. But for the existence of non official law reports, the judges and the lawyers practicing in the court would have been for months without any guidance as to the law laid down by the courts. The Indian Law Reports Series as now run and published may well cease to exist without any detriment to anybody except perhaps to those employed in its publication.

In spite of its demerits, law reporting in India is progressing day by day. It Serves everybody and well experienced Advocates, and well eminent judges.

We find sometimes duplication and triplication, the same Judgment being reported in two or three different law journals. Great care should be exercised before any case is reported by which subordinate courts and priority should be bound until it is modified.

It is the duty of the advocate to maintain the decorum of the court and act properly with his opponents or colleagues. He must always act in the best interests of his clients and should not do any kind of act that betrays their trust upon him.

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