SpicyIP Tidbit: Supreme Court translates 1091 judgments into regional languages on Republic Day

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Today India marks the 74th year since it adopted the Constitution and identified itself as a “Republic”! This day celebrates the ability of our nation, bogged by colonial setup, to overcome the past and establish itself as the largest democracy in the world with perhaps the most diverse population. In a very positive step towards acknowledging this vast diversity, the Chief Justice of India, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud announced that the Supreme Court would be making available 1091 judgments in different regional languages. As reported in Livelaw, while announcing the development, the CJI said “We also have now 1091 judgements in regional languages which will be launched tomorrow on the Republic Day. We have 21 in Odia, 14 in Marathi, 4 in Assamese, 1 in Garo, 17 in Kannada, 1 in Khasi, 29 in Malayalam, 3 in Nepali, 4 in Punjabi, 52 already in Tamil, 28 in Telugu, and 3 in Urdu. We are on a mission to provide Supreme Court judgements in all scheduled languages. We have already started. It will be released on Republic Day. ” 

Bar and Bench reports that the assignment to translate the judgements of the Supreme Court is undertaken by a committee headed by Justice AS Oka and has Justice Suraj Govidaraj (Karnataka High Court), Sharmistha (National Informatics Centre), Mitesh Kapra (IIT Delhi), Vivek Raghavan (Ek step foundation) and Supriya Shankaran (Agami) as its members. The CJI explained that apart from integrating machine learning tools to translate the judgements, the Court is also resorting to employing retired judicial officers to verify the correctness of the translation. (But how will these officers be “re-appointed” as translators? Will there be a call for applications or will these officers be handpicked? Well that’s a question for some other day.)

Translated copies on e-SCR

Recently, Gaurangi discussed the working of the eSCR portal on the blog along with its user-friendliness. There is an option on eSCR website here where after entering the keyword along with the captcha, the user should be able to find the “Translations” button in the toolbar on the results page. After selecting a language to search for the keyword (I took a language at random from the 8th schedule, Nepali, and did a test run to find 3 judgements for my keyword “High Court”) one can find the copy of the decision along with a disclaimer. It is to be noted that although available on the eSCR platform, the disclaimer clarifies that the translated copy cannot be used to have a legal effect for enforcement or compliance nor is information from the site meant to serve as legal evidence.

“Vernacular Judgements” 

In the report from Bar and Bench it is reported that the CJI said “I have some news apart from E-SCR and the 34,000 judgments available, we also now have a number of judgments of Supreme Court in vernacular language. It will be released on the occasion of Republic Day.” I checked the Supreme Court website today and found that the “Judgements” button drops down to include 2 options- “Judgements” and “Vernacular Judgements”. I did a test run of the latter and found two copies of the same judgment one in English (pdf) and another in Hindi (pdf). However, the interface here is not as friendly as the e-SCR interface and no option to search a case by keyword is available on this section.

Presently, there are 22 languages identified under the 8th Schedule and the challenge to provide Supreme Court’s judgement in these languages surely is a herculean task. Regardless, this is surely a welcome addition to the e-SCR platform and should ensure widespread access to the judicial decisions from the court across the masses. 

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