Thursday, January 24, 2008

The day of judgment

For us lawyers, the defining moment in a case hard-fought is the occasion when the judgment is pronounced. What do you think breaks or warms the heart for a publisher or an editor of a law journal? How far have we won the approbation could be estimated not merely by the strength of our readership. May be, for newspapers and TV channels the readership quotient will assure to them increased revenue and a justification for hiking the advertisement tariffs. In a law journal, there is no advertisement to boost revenues. The readership runs only in terms of thousands and even apart from minding the number of subscribers, we can judge ourselves only by what we have done. We set the judgment day as 31st December 2008 and here are the results. In 2007, we have published 6 volumes in regular weekly issues and 2 volumes as supplements. The reported Madras HC judgments were 895 and of the Supreme Court, 282 judgments. Volume 7 (Supplement) had a tally of 127 and 52 respectively of Madras HC and SC judgments. The volume 8 (Supplement) that you are soon going to have will have Madras HC judgments numbering 155 and of SC, 35 approximately. Just for the sake of record and in comparison , in the last decade, between 1998 and 2003, there had been 3 volumes per year and 1 supplement each in the years 1999, 2000 and 2001 and between 2004 to 2006, they were 4 volumes per year.
The number of judgments pronounced has registered a gradual increase, a la Malthusian theory of geometrical progression of population. The paper quality, including the wrapper, has improved. The value additions through elaborate head notes and deciphering ratio(nes) decidendi have been made possible by hard work of our knowledgeable reporters/head-noters. The work of our experienced proofreaders had been remarkable as well. The journal section has been made a permanent feature, week after week, with incisive critique of judgments and articles of topical interest contributed alike, by lawyers and students of law schools. We believe, we have been able to put in your hands a wholesome product all the while from January through December. We will hopefully improve the product by bringing in for the readers short notes of English and American decisions in so far as they are relevant in the year 2008.
So, how shall we package our issues from the beginning of 2008? We began the year with a holiday, a sure way of marking revelry for the arrival of a new year. New Year always begins with resolutions and prophecies. The headnotes will track any important judgment that the particular judgment omits to mention and the consequence thereof to measure the strength of the precedent value. At the end of each volume we will give parallel citations of other journals and include in the same judgment cross-references wherever they exist. As regards prophecies, paradoxically, all soothsayers do not say soothing things. The practice of reading panchangam on the Tamil New Year day is a way of reminding ourselves of what would happen in future. If there is a prediction of prosperous times, it will be invariably received with cynicism. If Panchangam said that there would be devastation through rain or sarva nasam by human conduct, it would be received with utmost seriousness, as though it proved beyond doubt that kali was heading us towards doom. As for us, there seems nothing to look for except rose petals, milk and honey! If Tamil gains currency in courts as an official language, we will get bilingual and have the headnotes also in Tamil. Writing judgments in Tamil may still take some time. There has been a persistent demand for increase in numbers of judges. More judges will dispose more cases and there is bound to be an increase in the volume of the pronouncements. We will hopefully report them faster and upload them simultaneously in the web page. The web content in the home page of the journal will improve and advanced search tools will help you track the decis
ions that you are looking for in a trice. All judgments of MLJ from 1892 will be compressed from the room space of data printed in books and stacked in wooden/steel almyrahs to your palm size through a CD Rom.
Do not believe that justice is possible only through working the court system and books. ADRs have immense relevance and put them to judicious use. Help the parties to resolve their disputes on their own terms. The big-sized law firms and costly lawyers of the west may be models to replicate in some cities and large towns, but our litigants are still poor, by and large. At the risk of sounding platitudinous, let us make the system work for the common man also. The MLJ wishes all readers/subscribers the very best for the whole of 2008 and for the years to follow.

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