The CJI has announced the launch of ‘Neutral Citations’ for Supreme Court decisions

The CJI expressed hope that High Courts would also use neutral citation for their decisions. Neutral citation has already been implemented in the courts of Delhi, Kerala, and Madras.

What exactly is a “Citation”?

  • A case citation is essentially a tag that identifies a judgement.
  • It would typically include a reference number, the year of the judgement, the name of the court that rendered the judgement, and a shorthand for the journal that published the judgement.

And what exactly is a neutral citation?

  • A neutral citation means that the court will assign its own citation, which will be distinct from those provided by traditional Law Reporters.
  • Law Reporters are periodicals or annual digests that publish judgements, often with an editorial note to make precedents more accessible to lawyers.
  • For example, the citation in ‘Supreme Court Cases,’ a journal published by the Eastern Book Company, for the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case is (1973) 4 SCC 225.
  • The citation in the All India Reporter (AIR) is AIR 1973 SC 1461.

Why is a neutral system beneficial or necessary?

  • Citations are mentioned in judgements when referring to precedents, and they frequently use citations from different Law Reporters.
  • A uniform citation is required when using artificial intelligence (AI) to translate judgements and transcribing court proceedings.
  • A number of High Courts, including the Delhi High Court, have begun to use a neutral citation format.
  • The neutral citation used by the Delhi High Court, for example, is as follows: No-YEAR/DHC/XXXXXX

How will the SC put the neutral citation system into action?

  • Our most recent initiative is neutral citations for all Supreme Court decisions.
  • As a result, all 30,000 judgements will have neutral citations.
  • The first tranche will last until January 1, 2023, the second until 2014 judgements, and the final tranche will go back to 1950.
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