Based on my experience searching for information about Indian court cases online, the only information that is available online for a case is the Court Judgment. This is the document authored by a judge (or judges) giving their decision on a case.

However, this information is by definition incomplete. I would like as complete a description of the case as possible, in particular including the submissions from the plaintiff/petitioner, as well as responses etc. The judgment by itself just includes whatever the judges feel like mentioning from the case documentation, and it's wholly inadequate as documentation of a case. If the other information is not recorded in an accessible form, that would be most unfortunate.

So, I was wondering whether this information was available online, possibly as a paid service. If not, why not? While this seems like a obvious and simple question, I've not found any clear statement of this anywhere. However, given that I have failed to find it so far, it at least seems that this information, even if available somewhere, is not very accessible.

  • It sounds like you are looking for trial court records rather than appellate court decisions (which are easier to obtain) is this correct?
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 24, 2021 at 19:00
  • Hi ohwilleke. I'm not sure. One reason for asking this question was because researching case law is obviously easier with complete information. Another part was because I was planning to try to find a suitable lawyer by researching cases and working backwards from there. And obviously complete court records would help for that. Why do you say that appellate court decisions would be easier to obtain? (See also my comments on DaleM's answer below.) Sep 25, 2021 at 7:03
  • There are regularly maintained record of important appellate court opinions which are called "case reporters" or reports for short, which keep track of those decisions in all common law countries because the rules of law articulated in those cases are precedents with the force of law in future cases. Lots of relevant law is only generated in that fashion. Trial court decisions and the trial court records in appellate court cases don't have legal effect as precedents so they aren't important for the general public to have access to. If the appellate court doesn't mention it, it doesn't matter.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 28, 2021 at 0:40
  • Hi @ohwilleke, as I already mentioned, my use case is to try to learn more about specific lawyers and their cases. So for me, those records are important. I suppose by "they aren't important for the general public to have access to" means that not enough people with influence care about maintaining proper records for it to happen. Also, searching for "appellate courts" for India doesn't bring up much of anything. There don't seem to be courts with that actual designation here, though the High Courts and Supreme Courts seem to serve those functions Sep 28, 2021 at 9:15
  • Also, I'm not sure if the distinction between trial and appellate courts exists over here. Doesn't trial court mean trial by jury? And as far as I can tell, jury trials don't exist in India. At least, I've never heard of one. This is supported by Wikipedia, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_trial#India. Sep 28, 2021 at 9:21

1 Answer 1


The judgement is the definitive record

The Destruction of Records Act 1917 allow the high court to set rules on what records are to be kept and for how long. In summary, a very small number, including the judgement are kept indefinitely and the remainder are split into Part A (important stuff) and Part B (less important stuff) and kept for 30 and 6 years respectively.

There is no obligation for these to be publicly available so, generally, they aren’t. They are usually publicly accessible by going to the register of the relevant court and asking to see them which may involve payment of an administrative fee. Some records are, however, classified or confidential depending on the nature of the case (e.g. national security, cases involving children etc.)

Once a case is completed and all avenues of review have been exhausted, the submissions and evidence are of no value. Only the fact of the case and the reasons in the judgement matter.

  • Hi Dale M, Some comments and questions. First, I don't agree with the statement that "The judgement is the definitive record". Where is this text from? Is it a quote from somewhere, or a legal dogma/truism? I can think of all kind of scenarios where other documentation, particularly submissions from both parties, would be relevant, and possibly important. The judge could leave out important information in the judgment, or misrepresent it. This is hardly unlikely and may even be relatively common, at least in India. Sep 25, 2021 at 6:54
  • In any case, thank you very much for the pointer to "The Destruction of Records Act". I had no idea such a document existed. Since it sounds like you are not yourself Indian (your name and location), were you already familiar with similar documents in other legal systems? And are such practices an international standard? Sep 25, 2021 at 6:55
  • Also, where did you get the information about Part A and Part B being kept for 30 and 6 years respectively? I don't see this in "The Destruction of Records Act 1917". Can you reference this quote? And does the source specify what A and B would consist of? On doing a search, it appears that some individual states have their own individual laws/acts on this topic. Though "The Destruction of Records Act 1917" is very old, being a British/colonial era law, it does not appear to have been superseded at the Central level. Sep 25, 2021 at 6:56
  • Also, you write "the submissions and evidence are of no value". But this is only true in the sense that it may be of no use to the people involved in the case. It might be useful to other parties interested in case law. This is rather similar to the way that a question/answer thread on SE may be useful to others besides the original poster. Sep 25, 2021 at 6:56
  • Finally, it seems to me that such considerations are somewhat obsolete, since in the age of computers, complete records can easily be scanned and kept indefinitely on a hard disk. Though of course, this would require the records to either be in electronic form in the first place, or to be scanned. Unfortunately, India in the 21st century still relies heavily on perishable and hard to copy (or back up) paper documents. Sep 25, 2021 at 6:57

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