Contemporary Trends in Legal Research: India and Abroad By Mr. Prashant Khatana

Though, it could be said with certainty, that to begin with, law as a discipline was ignored by the scholars of other disciplines and for a long time legal research was a mono-disciplinary affair. But, in what can be called a clearly discernible trend, scholars from other disciplines have shown an enormously increased tendency to take legal perspective into consideration and that has also led to more and more industrial and academic institutions pumping in more resources than ever to felicitate the legal research. The emergence of Law Schools has only helped the cause of increased legal research. Recent times have also seen a welcome change of more and more empirical studies in the field of legal research, which were almost negligible till a few decades back. Thus the inter-disciplinary approach towards legal research has immensely helped the institution of legal research in its unprecedented multi-dimensional growth.
 Thus, in the present social set-up a trans-disciplinary approach to legal research serves a more fruitful purpose than a mere mono-disciplinary legal research. Prof. Vibhute[1], provides a further division in the trans-disciplinary legal research. According to him, trans-disciplinary research could be either Quasi-disciplinary legal research or Inter-disciplinary legal research. According to him, Quasi disciplinary legal research is a “research undertaken by same scholar of law in different perspectives that transgresses the discipline of law”. Whereas, Inter-disciplinary legal research could be defined as joining hands of various scholars from different disciplines and inquiring into a legal fact.[2] Thus, inter-disciplinary approach to the legal research would be wider in scope and richer in results than a mere quasi-disciplinary legal research.
Law Schools and Foundational Support:Prof. Ernest M. Jones, in his important article titled, “Some Current Trends in Legal Research”, [3] provides various trends in the American legal research and the factors behind their development. In America, the decade of 1950s saw a clear departure from what legal researchers refer to as Basic or Pure research or Mono-disciplinary research. Prof. Jones holds the initiatives taken by various Law Schools in America responsible for this trend. The fact that the responsibility of the research was taken by a law school as different from a single legal scholar, encouraged the growth of project research as a law school could conduct the legal research on a much bigger scale as compared to one legal researcher working either alone or with the help of one or two more individuals. This further led to a foundation support to the legal research, with the participation of law schools and the increase in the magnitude and scope of legal research on unprecedented scale gave opportunity to bigger foundations to invest in the legal research.
 The western legal research, after a long history of development is finally making inroads in the field on empirical research as the legal researchers the world over have gradually realized that by restricting the domain of legal research to the closed chambers of lawyers and judges and libraries have only contributed towards a stunted growth of legal research as compared to research in other disciplines. It was realized that law ‘being a child of the society’ was as organic and as dynamic as the society itself and hence, one who did not study the law in action, was only looking at its limited facets. To appreciate law in its full majesty there was a need to study law in practicality, in motion in actual society rather than closed chambers and libraries. This gave rise to the empirical (Non-doctrinal) legal research.
India, on the other hand, more or less, can be seen to be following global trends in legal research rather than being a front-runner. There could be several factors responsible for the same, one reason could be that the independence came to India as late as middle of the 20th century and hence its legal framework is quite nascent as compared to other leaders in legal research. Another factor could be, scant infrastructure for legal research, as a democracy with world’s second largest population, legal research commands less attention than it deserves. Though, the significant role played by lawyer’s in India’s struggle for its independence and then the adoption of the doctrine of separation of powers by the Indian Constitution made sure that development of law and legal research never faded in the background.
Establishment of Law Commission of India and Indian Law Institute, a premier Institution dedicated to encourage legal research in the country stand testimony to this fact, but it would be equally incorrect to assume that the field of legal research got the prominence it deserved in such a culturally and spiritually diverse country as India, which is further divided by myriads of castes and classes. The fact that it took 40 years for the establishment of first dedicated law School in India[4], can give a fair estimate of the state of affairs of legal education legal research in India, given the fact that the law schools play an immense role in developing the legal research on an institutional level, though Indian Law Institute played the role given to it commendably but shortage of support given by the law school impeded its growth as well.

The advent of computers spawned the age of information technology, making the availability of the information to one and all equipped with necessary hardware connected to the internet. No field of human life remained untouched by information technology and legal research was no exception, opening up unprecedented possibilities, hitherto unknown. 
Computer-assisted legal research (CALR) has changed the access to and understanding of the legal concepts. CALR has also immensely helped legal researchers in remaining updated with the latest information in the legal universe, which was impossible without computers equipped with internet and when legal researchers relied only on law reports and journals available in the library. Apart from being pivotal in doctrinal research, computers have also proved superior in processing data collected from empirical legal research and studies.
The observations above, clearly show that the legal research in India is still limited in scope and its effect than its potential, for various reasons. The trends of legal research in India suggest that, for various reasons such as lack of infrastructure, lack of awareness and interest by institutions in legal research, legal research as a discipline is yet to take off, as it has already done in western countries.

[1] Prof. KhushalVibhute and FiliposAynalem, Legal Research Methods, (Justice and Legal System research Institute, 2009).
[3]15 Journal of Legal Education 121-138 (1962-63), in S.K Verma and M. AfzalWani, Legal Research and Methodology, 24 (Indian law Institute, Second Edition, 2010).
[4] National Law School of India University, Bangalore was established in 1987.

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