By Beth Paton
The Law Library has recently subscribed to a database called Supreme Court Cases (SCC) Online, produced by New Delhi-based publishers the Eastern Book Company. It advertises itself as “an extensive database of Indian law, statute law and other material, with a high performance search engine and our familiar user-friendly interface.”
The interface is indeed quite straightforward and user-friendly, as promised. The main options for searching appear on the top menu bar, while the menu box on the left appears to be a list of ‘quick links’ for searching, account details and help pages. The help pages are quite comprehensive, and are clearly divided into the different areas of the site. The option on the main page to look at previous searches could also prove very useful for researchers. The ‘Start Session for a Client’ option in the quick links box is not really relevant to students or researchers, as it is designed to allow legal professionals to track how much time they spend carrying out searches for individual clients (presumably to help them work out how big their bill should be!).
From this page you can choose easy or advanced search options. Easy search consists of only one search box, where you can search using keywords separated by Boolean operators (and/or/not/near) within the full text of items in the database. You can also use “…” to group words together and search for a phrase (e.g. “intellectual property”). Advanced Search allows you extra options such as date range, proximity searching, type of search area (e.g. citation, party names), and titles of different series available. The date range is from 1850-present, but understandably there are a lot more recent cases available than older ones.
The results page does look a little cluttered at first glance. The search results appear in a list at the bottom, arranged by date. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be possible to change the sorting order (e.g. to alphabetical), but it is possible to search within your results. It is also possible to access the quick links menu box by clicking on the ‘menu’ tab to the left of the screen.
This allows you to browse or search for subject areas and related topics. As shown in this image, if you search for family law, you also get links to Hindu laws, family property, labour laws and service/pension laws. This is useful if you don’t know what keywords to use or are looking for information related to your chosen subject area. The Browse function brings up an alphabetical list of different topics.
You can search or browse (again, alphabetically) cases by party names in this section. It is also possible to narrow your search to particular courts, including some international cases such as those from WIPO. To view a case, highlight the one you want to view and click on ‘go to selected case’.
This is useful if you have a specific citation you wish to search for. Choose from the drop down list of publications under ‘journal’, and SCC Online helpfully puts the correct abbreviation in the search box for you. As well as a wide selection of Indian reports series, it also includes some from Canada, Bangladesh and South Africa at the bottom of the drop down list.
Here, you can search or browse statutes, treaties/conventions, constituent assembly debates and law commission reports. Use the drop down menu ‘select collection’ to choose the type of material you want to search and type your keywords into the ‘search text’ box. Highlight the document you want to view and click ‘go to selection’ to bring up the full text. You can then go through the document section by section using the list at the bottom of the page or by clicking on the ‘next’ button.
Overall, this appears to be a well-designed database. Aesthetically it looks quite basic compared to some of the big legal databases like Westlaw, and it does have some limitations with functionality, but it is user-friendly and each section has a clear purpose. It is also arguably better than relying on the search function on the Supreme Court India homepage. It is under a single-user license, so unfortunately only one person can access it at a time. Users will need to remember to log out when they have finished.
Please let us know if you have further comments or questions about using this database.