Understanding Case Citation

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What are Citations?

Commonly, a citation refers to when we refer to any book, paper, author, film, song, or anything for that matter, to give something we write more volume. A citation is a simple way in academic and scholarly writing that we use to let the readers know that the information we have used has been picked up from somewhere else - any one of the sources mentioned before. It not only adds volume and mass to our writing but also uses the help of other people’s viewpoints to make points or elaborate on them. 

Let us now look at the citation meaning. In the field of law, it is also known as case citation and is slightly different from general citations.

Case Citation Explained

In the same way that citations are references to different authors in scholarly articles and writings, case citation meaning in law is a method of citation to refer to previous decisions made in the court of law. When writing a law paper, scholars must insert case citations wherever necessary to let the reader know which verdict in which case they were referring to in their writing. These case names in case citations are beneficial in understanding decisions of cases for professionals.

Structure of a Case Citation

Case citations provide the people reading legal documents with an idea about the case name, date of the case, report, volume and very importantly, the first page of the case. Let’s take the example of the Kesavananda Bharati case to make the structure of a case citation explained.

Case Name

Case name refers to the official name of the case — for example, Kesavananda Bharati v. The State of Kerala.

Date of The Case

The date refers to the date on which the verdict of the case was decided. For example, the verdict of the Kesavananda Bharati case was decided on 24th April 1973.

Report

The report refers to the report series under which the specific case is filed. When looking at how to find the citation of a case in India, first we have to look at the reports under which we file cases in India. The following are the three main reports in India:

  1. SCC - Supreme Court Cases

  2. AIR - All India Reporter

  3. SCR - Supreme Court Reports

The case citation includes the name of the report in it. In India, cases can, and are often, cited in multiple report series. For example, the Kesavananda Bharati case is filed under SCC as well as AIR. Note that while SCR is the main body of reports, presently, we use SCC and AIR more commonly.

Volume

Reports come under several different volumes, and the number of the volume is also mentioned in the citation. This is except for AIR, which does not follow the volume system. The Kesavananda Bharati case comes under volume 4 of the SCC.

Page Number

This refers to the page number within the report from where the case report in the report series begins. It is marked clearly in the case citation. The Kesavananda Bharati starts from page number 225 of volume 4 of the SCC; and page number 1461 of the AIR.

Reading a Case Citation

According to whether the case citation law is in SCC, AIR or SCR report format, the reading of the citation becomes different.

Let’s look at these in detail to understand better how to find a citation of a case in India. To understand this, we can take a new example of the case of Sebastian Hongray v. Union of India, whose citation is available in both SCC as well as the AIR report series.

AIR

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The format for AIR citations is in the following order:

  • Case name (Sebastian Hongray v. Union of India)

  • AIR

  • Year (1984)

  • Court (SC for Supreme Court)

  • Page number (571)

Note that AIR documents both Supreme Court as well as High Court cases; High Court cases are documented as HC. As mentioned before, AIR does not include volumes.

SCC

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The format for SCC citation is as follows:

  • Case name (Sebastian Hongray v. Union of India)

  • Year (in brackets) [ (1984) ]

  • Volume (1)

  • SCC

  • Page number (339)

SCR

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The format for SCR citation is as follows:

  • Case name (Sebastian Hongray v. Union of India)

  • Year (in brackets) [ (1984) ]

  • Volume (1)

  • SCR

  • Page number (904)

Multiple Series Report

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In multiple series reports, all of the citations of the case are put together to read as one. This means that while it is one case, it is filed under different reports. Thus is the process of case citation explained.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What is Case Citation Meaning in Law?

Ans: Case citation meaning in law refers to when references to older cases from report series (law reports) are made in a scholarly legal article or paper. This kind of citation is used when the verdict or decision of a case is to be talked about in a paper, and so that it can be easily referenced when need be. Case citations can be filed under several recognised reports using the case name, date (year) of the verdict, name of the report, volume number, and the page number from where the case report starts.

Q2. What are Reports in Case Citation (Law)?

Ans:  Case citation (law) is done in various reports. In simpler words, a case report is a book filled with law reports of cases tried in the Supreme Court (and also of the High Court in some cases). It often runs into various volumes as more and more cases files are entered into the report. The most common reports in India under which Supreme Court cases are filed are All India Reporter (AIR), Supreme Court Cases (SCC) and Supreme Court Reports (SCR). Law reports can be filed under one or more of these reports. Each of these reports can be cited for references as multiple series reports.