"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Uniform Citation Standards in India

[This post was first posted in a blog in Legally India also known as Practical Academic. Formatting of the table has been slightly modified.]
In the past few years there has been an increase in the number of journals/ law reviews/ law periodicals (“Law Journals”, for short) in India, especially from the National Law Schools. This is an encouraging development and would go a long way in establishing high academic standards in India. To a typical law student, practitioner or a scholar, these Law Journals afford a great opportunity to contribute to the development of law in general and Indian Law in particular.

One of the chief problems with Law Journals in general is that they are associated with excessive formalism, which may not always bode well for the legal industry. Notions that writings in Law Journals should be in a particular way is ingrained in us lawyers. Examples of such formalistic notions are the desire to write lengthy papers, explanatory foot notes, excessive foot notes, long introductions etc. In contrast, Law blogs offer a less formalistic template for law critique but do not have the reach of a good Law Journal and are often reactive (as opposed to being analytical).

An example of excessive formalism in Indian Law Journals is the varied citation standards required by them. It is assumed that a particular citation standard has been adopted because it is the most efficient- takes least amount of time but satisfies the purpose of aiding research. Obviously, there must be one or a few of such standards which are more efficient than the others.

Below is an illustrative list of the citation standards required by the Indian Law Journals. A few universities like NLS, NUJS have devised independent citation standards. The list also mentions such standards. The list is in no particular order.
S. no
Law Review/ Journal/ Working Papers
Citation Standard
NUJS Law Review
NUJS Law Review Citation and Style Standard.
Journal of Indian Law & Society
Bluebook (19th ed)
NUJS Working Paper Series
Working paper series citation standards#*
Journal of Telecommunication and Broadcasting Law
NLSI Review
Bluebook (18th ed)
Indian Journal of Law & Technology
Bluebook (18th ed)*
The Indian Journal of International Economic Law
Bluebook (18th ed)

NLS Guide to Uniform Legal Citation
SCC & sister publications
Citations used in “Standard Law Reports”
Nirma University Law Journal
Bluebook (18th ed)
ALSD Student Journal
Bluebook (19th ed)
RMNLU Law Review
OSCOLA (4th ed)
GNLU Law Review
Chicago Manual of Style
India Law Journal
(No footnotes)
NALSAR Law Journal
(does not specify)
Developing World Review on Trade & Competition
Chicago Manual of Style
NLIU Law Review
Bluebook (19th ed)
Socio-Legal review
Bluebook (19th ed)
Indian Journal of Constitutional Law
Bluebook (18th ed)
Indian Yearbook of International Law and Policy
Bluebook (18th ed)
Indian Journal of IP Law
Bluebook (18th ed)
Ambedkar Law University Journal
(Own  standards)#
Indian Journal of International Law
(Own  standards)#
NLUD Student Law Journal
Bluebook (19th ed)
CNLU Law Journal
Bluebook (18th ed)

* other Uniform Citation standards are also allowed
# Prescribes independent citation standard

A perusal of the table would show different universities following different citation formats. At times, different citation standards are prescribed for different publications of the same university. For instance, NLS has a Uniform Legal Citation standard. It seems that even the publications of NLS such as the NLSI Review, Indian Journal of Law & Technology, the Indian Journal of International Economic Law use the bluebook and not NLS' own Uniform Legal Citation standard (at least their websites do not state so). Four different Journals of NUJS (NUJS Working Papers is not a Journal in a strict sense of the term) follow four different standards.

Imagine the plight of a student or a scholar attempting to write an article for publication in an Indian Journal. Which citation format does she use while writing it? Assume that a student writes her paper employing Bluebook (18th ed) style. Once she completes it she realizes that a law review, say GNLU Law Review, has called for papers for its forthcoming issue. She is interested in sending her article for publication but has to modify all the citations so as to be in compliance with the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s a waste of precious time.

It is high time that the editorial boards of the Journals sit together and see if they could adopt a citation style uniformly. One option would be to use Bluebook considering that it is probably the most widely used style in Indian Journals. Almost a year back, when this blawgger made the same suggestion to a few Law Journals, one of the Law Journals following the bluebook replied: “[A]s no other uniform citation style finds as much acceptance at the international level as the Harvard Bluebook Style [name of the Journal excluded] feels justified in continuing to use the Harvard Bluebook Style.” While conceding that the Harvard Bluebook was cumbersome, the Law Journal justified the use of the said style for the style’s acceptance at the international level.

Another option is to adopt a standard that would address research-related problems prevalent in India.  NLS’ Style Guide titled “NLS Guide to Uniform Legal Citation” claims it has been drafted keeping the Indian research conditions in mind. The Editor’s note states: “The Guide is a response to calls from students and legal researchers in India for a simpler system of legal citation, which would also provide adequately for the unique demands of citation of Indian sources, while adhering to international standards of citation. The Guide aims to make citation simpler and clearer, without sacrificing the purpose of citation - to enable the reader to locate the cited source with ease.”

Perhaps, the Law Journals could accept the Bluebook Style and come to a consensus on a citation standard that is the simplest but satisfies the purpose for which citations exist- to aid research.

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