The ordinary person associates law and all things legal as a niche filled with complexities and hard-to-understand nuances. With technological advancement, steps have been taken in almost all fields to provide an ordinary person with an understanding of any field. However, this simplification in the legal landscape is largely limited, especially in the Indian context. Changing this perception is essential to reduce people’s fear of resorting to legal recourse due to their apprehension over procedures or lack of awareness.
The Justice Definitions Project, in collaboration with the Judicial Data Collaborative, is a commendable initiative that aims to bridge this gap and develop an open-access wiki containing an array of legal definitions, made simple for the understanding of all and available on a single forum. I am proud to have been associated with this initiative since May 2023.
As a student research associate, I worked towards simplifying complex legal and judicial jargon to make it easily accessible and understandable for anyone. This is transformative towards clearing legal concepts for students and advocates alike and helps create a database of legal processes that are otherwise only exclusively known to practicing litigants. As a law student, this was an exercise in legal research and drafting. However, since the project aims to help several stakeholders, we had to ensure that our research was comprehensive and easy to read and understand. I worked on several terms such as family court, court manager, notary, interlocutory application and Case Information System.
I could also explore the data landscape around legal terms by researching the kinds of data collected about the term I was working on. Other than the apparent lack of data, I observed a significant variation in data collection across states and high courts, making comparison almost impossible. I also experienced difficulty in accessing official copies of state legislation, especially for the term ‘court manager’ where we wanted to show the differences in how the post was treated across states.
The Justice Definitions Project also highlights the important research on each term and the international experiences with the particular term. The project also maps out regional variations of how that term is used across India. Therefore, whoever reads a term gets a complete picture of it and is also motivated to explore whatever trajectories they are interested in, be it the legislation, data or research that the term is associated with.
The project is exceptionally commendable for democratising access to law and the legal landscape, and I am honoured to have been part of the endeavour.