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Report No. 14

26. Specialised reports (Law Reports in India defective).-

The essentials above mentioned need modification in their application to specialised reports. Lawyers and judges are apt to regard law reports from their own professional angle. They, however, sometimes serve a much wider public. This is particularly so in the case of specialised reports like those which publish decisions on labour and tax laws. These specialised reports will naturally, having regard to the larger public they serve, have to make a wider selection of the decisions they publish so that many decisions which may not be considered fit for publication in a series of general law reports may aptly and well find a place in the special reports. It must be admitted that most of the series of law reports now being published in India, whether official or unofficial, do not contain the essentials of a good law report stated above.

27. Delays in the publication of the I.L.R. series-

Apart from their other defects the official series have from their very start suffered very serious delays in publication. We find Sir Richard Garth, the then Chief Justice of Calcutta complaining in 1880 of the serious delay in the publication of the I.L.R. Calcutta series. These delays led to a series of complaints with the result that the Government of India felt constrained to examine the question in 1918. Today the situation in some States is no better. We append herewith a table showing the issues of the different Indian law reports series which had been received on or before the 15th August, 1957 by the Law Ministry Library in New Delhi, which subscribes to these series with the dates of their receipt.

Table

S.No.

Name of High Court

Latest Part

Date of receipt in Library

Remarks

1

2

3

4

5

1 Allahabad 1956-Vol. I, Pt. 5 (May) 21-5-57
2 Andhra Pradesh 1957-Pts.-4 (Jan to Apr) 08/08/57 In one issue.
3 Assam 1956-Vol. 8, Pt. 3 (Mar) 21-5-57
4 Bombay 1957-Pt. 5 (May) 15-7-57
5 Calcutta 1954-Vol. 2, (July-Dec) 28-4-56 Annual index for 1954 awaited
6 Cuttack 1957-Pts..-7 (June-July) 20-7-57
7 Kerala 1957-July 20-8-57 Upto part 10 of the I.L.R., 1956 Travancore-Cochin series (which is continued as Kerala series) have been received in Library.The remaining parts of 1956 and the annual index are still awaited.
8 Madhya Bharat 1956-Vol. 5 Completed. 07/01/56 Index also received.
9 Madras 1957-July 01/08/57
10 Mysore 1957-Jan-Mar 28-8-57 In one issue.
11 Nagpur 1956-July-Aug 13-8-57 Do.
12 Patiala 1955-Dec 06/10/56 Annual index awaited.
13 Patna 1956-Vol. 35 Dec 03/05/57 Do.
14 Punjab 1956-Vol. 35 Nov-Dec 03/05/57 Do.
15 Rajasthan 1955-Vol. 5 Pts. 11-12 (Nov-Dec) 03/05/57 Do.
16 Supreme Court Reports 1957 (Jan) Pt. I Not available.

If the publication of this series under Government auspices is based on the duty of Government to make the law appearing in the decisions of the courts available as soon after the decisions as possible, to the courts, the profession and the members of the public, the gross delays in the publication of the series indicates a grievous neglect of that duty. But for the existence of non-official law reports the judges and the lawyers practising in the courts would have been for months without any guidance as to the law laid down by the courts. The Indian law reports series as now run and published may well cease to exist without any detriment to anybody except perhaps to those employed in its publication.

28. Defects in the unofficial series misleading head-notes.-

The unofficial series have generally been prompt in publication. Many of them cannot, however, be regarded as accurate reports because of their very unsatisfactory head-notes. Unfortunately it has become the practice in some courts to base themselves on what appears in the head-note of a report rather than in the body of the judgments and misleading or inaccurate head-notes have been frequently the cause of wrong decisions.

Faulty selection of cases (Excessive citation.).- But perhaps the greatest sin of some of the unofficial reports is that the principles on which a selection should be based as mentioned by Lord Lindley are completely ignored, there being a competition between some series as to the number of cases they report. A large number of cases laying down no legal principle but deciding questions of fact and others reporting well accepted and trite law find a place in these reports. In the result what happens is, that by the citation of such cases "the hearing of suits is protracted and the time of the court wasted by the citation of authorities of doubtful relevance, and that, if counsel is not darkened, at least first principles are apt to be obscured by the introduction of exceptions and refinements which had better be forgotten."1

Very frequently presiding judicial officers are confronted with a large number of irrelevant authorities and in the result they tend to lose the habit of thinking for themselves and deciding cases on first principle. There develops a judicial habit of requiring the most obvious legal propositions to be supported by the authority of decided cases and not infrequently the words of a statute are themselves over looked in the multiplicity of precedents cited before the tribunal. Indiscriminate selection of cases for reporting has perhaps been the largest single cause in making arguments of counsel lengthy and protracted.

29. Importance of good reporting.-

It appears to us that the remedy lies in taking measures to bring about the publication of a series of law reports which would embody all the essentials of a good law report and indeed serve as a model for unofficial publications of reports. As the decisions of the judges are the expositions of the law ex non scripto it is as much the duty of the State to promulgate them as to publish the lex ex scripto, the statutes. We have seen, however, how the State has for various reasons been unable to discharge this duty. A number of editors of the ILR series were examined by us and in most cases the delays in the publication of the series were said to be due to the delays which arose in the printing of the series in the Government presses. It is clear therefore that if law reports are to be efficient and speedily published the task must be entrusted to a body independent of Government.

30. Role of the legal profession.-

W. T. S. Daniels, Q.C. later a County Court Judge, who took a leading part in the establishment of the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales set out the need for such a body in 1863 in the following words:-

"I recognise and base my suggestions upon the principle, that the proper preparation and publication of those judicial decisions, which are expositions of the law ex non scripto is a public duty, and that the public have a right to expect that it will be discharged by a recognised body in the State qualified for the purpose. The qualifications of such a body should be-Independence of the Government, Co-operation with, but not Dependence upon, the Judicature Adequate knowledge of the law and experience in the practice of the Courts, combined with special skill and experience in the art of reporting. These several qualifications are possessed in the highest degree by the Bar, and by no other body of men-and the Bar form a recognised body in the State-Why should they not combine and undertake the duty?"1

1. The History and the Origin of the Law Reports by W.T.S. Daniels, p. 241.



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