Need for Standardisation of Judicial Data on E-Courts' Websites
Exactly one year ago, in August 2020, DAKSH India set a milestone in the open data movement. They created a database on judicial data which standardised all available information, statistics and specifics on all Indian e-courts websites. This database is now enabling other contributors to the justice system. The DAKSH database is systematically cleaned, streamlined and updated, thereby being ideal for further analysis. They also published a note which “examines issues pertaining to data inconsistencies and shares DAKSH’s efforts in harmonising the data publicly available on the e-courts website.”
The report is called Deciphering Judicial Data: Daksh’s Database and the following is a summarisation of what the report states:
What the Database covers: With the advent of e-courts in the country, every state and district has been digitising various case-related information through the Case Information System (CIS) on the e-courts’ website. However, with the increasing volume of available information, the need for the standardisation of such data has become apparent. This is important for ease of accessibility of such data and also to help those who seek to analyse such data for the facilitation of justice delivery. DAKSH’s Database has emerged as a unique public database in India which standardises this available data.
Problems in Judicial Data: The compilation of the database brought to fore the irregularities that hamper the attempts at harmonisation of such data, some of which are as follows:
a. Variation in case types: As of 20 June 2020, there have been 4835 unique court case types for 152 district courts due to differing formats within and among the states. “For example, in Delhi, the case type for criminal execution cases is written in different ways in different districts - in North West and South West it is written as ‘EX CRIMINAL’, while in the other districts it is written as ‘EX CRL’, and in East, it is written as both ‘EX CRL’ and ‘EX-CRL’.”
b. Subject matter classification under case types: Multiple formats of subject matter, generic classification and irregular abbreviations create difficulty in the categorisation of the case types, whether civil or criminal. Therefore, case types that could not be classified as either civil or criminal have been categorised as ‘other’ in DAKSH’s mapping.
c. The non-uniform pattern of Acts and Sections: Across 152 district courts, as of 20 June 2020, the Acts and Sections have been recorded in 43,255 and 22,66,367 unique ways, respectively.
d. A non-uniform pattern of case stages: The e-courts website holds several variations in the mapping of the stages of the cases, resulting in them being written in 13,751 different ways. This has been integrated by DAKSH into a coherent dataset.
e. Lack of data dictionary for understanding terms: Various terms and abbreviations used on the e-courts website lack clarity due to the mischaracterised usage of many words. Besides lawyers and judges, the e-courts website is also utilised by citizens and researchers who may not have the technical knowledge to understand the legal jargon used and hence a data dictionary, listing out the meaning of terms/abbreviations used in the e-courts website would prove helpful.
Findings: The database remains updated on their website.
In conclusion, DAKSH lists out a series of recommendations that could aid the standardisation of data available across the e-courts websites, such as, a standard form of case type for all courts, identification of broad subject matter of disputes, creation of uniform patterns of acts and sections and stages of cases, standardisation of older data, a compilation of a data dictionary and recording of complete information.
The complete report can be accessed here.
Find the complete datasets on https://justicehub.in/dataset/dakshs-database-on-judicial-data