Sinha on Indian Kanoon, Free Legal Search Engine: The Genesis and the Legal Thirst

Dr. Sushant Sinha of Yahoo! India has posted Indian Kanoon: The Genesis and the Legal Thirst, on the VoxPopuLII Blog, published by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School.

In this post, Dr. Sinha describes the origins and development of Indian Kanoon, the free legal search engine for India, for which Dr. Sinha was recently named one of “18 Young Innovators under 35 in India” by MIT’s Technology Review India.

Indian Kanoon provides free online access to Indian statutes, judicial and administrative decisions, debates of India’s constituent assemblies, reports of the Indian Law Commission, and articles from selected law journals. Indian Kanoon also hosts several discussion forums, in which users can ask and receive responses to questions concerning substantive legal issues or Indian Kanoon‘s functionality.

In his post, Dr. Sinha identifies as the principal goal of Indian Kanoon the “empower[ment of] citizens” by enabling them to become informed about “their rights and privileges” under the law.

Dr. Sinha observes that the number of visitors to Indian Kanoon is extremely large and steadily rising; and that the average visitor to Indian Kanoon spends substantial time viewing each retrieved document. Dr. Sinha concludes that these data indicate a growing demand among the Indian people for access to the law — a demand he calls The Legal Thirst — and considers possible causes for this increasing demand.

Dr. Sinha suggests that two factors in particular — the provision of access to law free of charge, and improvements in search technology, including “forgiving” keyword search functionality and the ranking of results by relevance — are fueling the desire of the Indian public to read the full text of the laws that govern them.

Dr. Sinha’s post will be of interest to legal information systems developers, legal publishers, the ICT for development community, and all those interested in the free access to law movement.

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