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.)
Recently, Gaurangi discussed the working of the eSCR portal on the blog along with its user-friendliness. The translated judgements are available on the same platform. Thus, upon visiting the eSCR website here and entering the keyword along with the captcha, the user should be able to find the “Translations” button in the toolbar on the results page.
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” along with a disclaimer (available below). 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.
“Due care and caution has been taken by the Editorial Section, Supreme Court of India to provide complete and accurate information in the English version. Judgments in regional languages are also made available alongside the English version. The translations are being done with the help of various human agencies and software tools. Reasonable efforts have been made to provide an accurate translation.…..The translation of Judgements is provided for general information and shall have no legal effect for compliance or enforcement. If any questions arise related to the accuracy of the information/statement contained in the translated judgment, users are advised to verify from the original judgments and also to refer to correct position of law while referring to old judgments.
Visitors to the site are requested to cross check the correctness of the information on this site with the authorities concerned or consult the relevant record. The information made available here is not meant for legal evidence. Neither the Courts concerned nor the National Informatics Centre (NIC) nor the e-Committee is responsible for any data inaccuracy or delay in the updation of the data on this website. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for any damage or loss arising from the direct/indirect use of the information provided on the site. However, we shall be obliged if errors/omissions are brought to our notice for carrying out the corrections.”
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.