This article was written by Prakhar Raja Bishnoi, a law student, as a part of his internship application @iPleaders.
With the advent of the internet boom and increasing accessibility to data many new kinds of information providers immerged or I should say organized information providers immerged giving access to the legal information in the form of documents in one place. From the time when legal research was extremely time consuming and difficult, such products (if I may call them) have done a great job in making research extremely simple and less time consuming.
In India many legal databases are being used, but the most prominent ones ate following-:
All the above mentioned legal databases provided legal information in the form of documents and the quality of search depends upon the number of document one can access through these different service providers, for example Heinonline provides access to more than 100 million pages including access to 1800 law and non-law related periodicals similarly Jstor provides access to more than 2000 academic journals.
There are two categories of companies which are proving such legal research products-:
1) Law books publishing houses launching online access to the books they publish in hard copy.
2) Independent online databases which provide access to the different journals, periodicals and books
The limitations of the first category which includes providers like Airwebworld, Lexis India, Sage Online and Kluwer Arbitration are that they provide access only to the books they publish and to a very limited number of journals and articles, which narrows down the scope of research by reducing the number of documents to choose from but they come very handy when it comes to doing a specific research, as the kind of books they publish are on very specific research questions, browsing through these books and journals with advance search option make the research less time consuming. On the other hand the second category includes services like JSTOR and Heinonline, which are independent online databases with access to a large number of journals, articles, books and periodicals. The number ofdocuments in these databases is so high that they work like google for legal research and provides information about majority of legal aspects, but at the same time it gets very difficult for the user to find a particular search as the numbers of results are too many and specific advanced research tools become extremely necessary.
Strengths and Weakness of different databases
The provider gives access to a number of features online, including Full-text search, catalog search and citation Navigator. All these tools are used for researching Catalog search is a prized tool which allows the users to be field specific about their research. Other then this the provider also offers monthly content release, which is of huge benefit to the users as it provides all the new documents which are added on to the site, with Myhein users can also create their own account and update their earlier research. The biggest weakness which the provider faces is that the numbers of search result are too many and each link has to be browsed through to check its relevancy as the title itself is not sufficient to check the relevance of a document. The solution to this problem could be found in one of the features of google books; as soon as the cursor reaches the link the screen shows the page in the document which has the relevant portion put for search. This feature helps the user to browse the relevant portion of the document without opening the link making the whole process less time consuming.
Is the digital library with more than 2000 academic journals of both multidisciplinary and discipline-specific collections, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs and other materials relevant for education. It has 807 titles in its law section and has an advance search option, to narrow down the search it also provides a list of sources to choose from like books, articles and journals. Data range feature also provides for the users to specify the years in which search has to be done. A unique feature in Jstor is that it allows you to track citations; meaning that whatever document users are looking into can be tracked as to where all it has been cited earlier. Limitations of the provider are similar to heinonline but if we compare both, JSTOR produce less number of results then heinonline to choose from. If they could develop tabs relating to different areas of law then the research would become much simpler as it gets very difficult to get an answer from so many search results, which most of the time shows documents from all the different disciplines. A header distribution of different areas of law like contract law, competition law etc. could be of great help to the users.
It contains full text judgments and Acts of Supreme Court of India, All High Courts, All Tribunals & Central Acts and commentaries in corporate, commercial, banking & finance, intellectual property, ADR, civil and criminal law. It also contains US legal & all commonwealth cases. The best part about the site is that it provides a feature of act search, in which commentaries and case laws with respect to a particular section or article could be browsed. It also provides for the different heads of law like competition law, constitutional law, company law, banking and financial law etc which makes research in specific research areas very simple. Limitation in the site are as above mentioned that only the books which are published by the Lexis Nexis publishing house can be browsed which limits the scope research.
The Manupatra online legal Database provides judgments across all subjects of law of Supreme Court, all Indian High Courts, Orders of the Tribunals, bills, central and state Acts, notification and circulars, ordinances, committee reports and more. It is one of the best legal database providers in the country. On the left side of their home page a feature called TOC is present which helps in sorting out research at the same time when the documents are in front of users on the screen. Two different kinds of search options are also available Manu search and legal search; Manu search is general search which can be used along with TOC feature to refine the search and legal search helps in finding documents with the help of citations. One of the most important tools provided by Manupatra is the Act Search which lists all the relevant acts. Commentary on the particular section in the act selected or the cases on that section of all the High Courts and Supreme Court can be easily browsed from it. Similar to the Track citation feature of the JSTOR, Manupatra also provides for a feature of tracking a particular search that in which document a particular case has been cited, by which court and in which year. It even gives a pie chart of the track, pointing out in which case the citation searched has been overruled or dissented.
All the above mentioned analysis of different databases makes one thing very clear that access to a single database is not sufficient for all kinds of research and selection of databases accordance with the research question is extremely necessary Other then these paid providers there are some other sites which provide free access to data such as www.bookfi.org, www.libgen.org and www.indiakanoon.org. These sites could also help users in their research.