Gujarat HC’s take on the word “reportable”

Word count : 466 words | Approximate reading time : 3-4 Minutes

The Gujarat High Court recently defined the exact meaning of the word “reportable” in the case of Dharamraj Bhanushankar Dave v. State Of Gujarat SCA 1854 of 2015. The issue arose due to popular legal website, Indian Kanoon publishing “reportable” and “non-reportable” judgments on its website and Google search engine, subsequently indexing the content making it visible in its search results and ultimately to the public at large.

Facts & Issues

The petitioner was recently acquitted in a criminal case of the Gujarat High Court itself in Criminal Appeal No. 1691 of 2005 and the same was stated as “non-reportable.” The same was however, published by Indian Kanoon on its website and made available via Google search engine. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed the present suit seeking issuance of directions against the respondents from publishing and making the judgment available on the internet.

Arguments advanced by both the parties

The counsel for the petitioner took the stance that the judgment being “non-reportable” could not be published online publishing the same had affected the personal and professional life of the petitioner. The argument was further advanced by stating that only the Registrar of the respective court had the exclusive authority to publish judgements and the same did not lie with Indian Kanoon and Google.

Counsel for Google stated that Google Search was an automated search engine, which used software known as “crawlers” to crawl the internet on a regular basis and thus, by this way added sites to its index. It was also contended that Google India was in no way connected to the publication and that it was no no position to comply with orders in both legal and technical respects.

Indian Kanoon, proceeded ex-parte throughout.

Judgement

It was observed that the High Court was a court of record and under Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 and copies of any civil or criminal judgment could be provided. The Rules also went on to state that the copies of a judgment could not be given to any third parties without the order of the Assistant Registrar. In the event of a third party seeking a judgement, an affidavit was to be submitted stating the grounds of requirement of judgment, this provision could be dispensed of in case the request was made by the Union of India, any State government or any foreign government.

The Court went on to say that, a judgement in appeal was a part of the proceedings and mere publication on a website would not amount to the same being reported as the word “reportable” used for the judgement in relation to it being reported in a law reporter. The petition was thus, disposed off. This judgement is another instance of the courts being asked to intervene by parties to have information about them delisted or erased from search engines.

Credits for news about the judgement : www.livelaw.com