Monday, October 08, 2007


{Text of speech delivered by Justice Yatindra Singh on 8.10.2007 at the inauguration of the website of the Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) Allahabad.
Summary: It talks about history and future of the Internet.}
Routes of Internet - from Wikipedia

The website of Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) Allahabad is a small step in the journey that was started by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in the 1970's.

In the early 1970's, Cerf and Kahn took the first step, when they figured out a way of splitting information into small packets and sending it from one computer to another in such a way that the packets could be put back together when they reached their destination. This method of splitting information into packets and putting them back together again came to be known as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP).

An important feature of TCP is that it can be carried out even if there is a network of computers. This is possible because every computer has an address called an Internet Protocol (IP) Address, which is made up of numbers separated by dots, and a packet is like a postcard with the address of the sender as well as of the person to whom it is being sent.

A computer in the network can figure out whether the packet has been sent to it or not and if it is not sent to it then it will pass it on in the direction of the computer to which it is sent. This way of getting a packet to its destination is called Internet Protocol (IP). This is how the Internet was born: it is nothing but the global universal network of all computers (whether standing alone or in network) that are capable of transmitting, communicating or retrieving information.

The next step of the journey started with Tim Berners Lee. After finishing his masters in Physics from the Oxford University (where he was banned for hacking computers), he started working as fellow at CERN, European Nuclear Physics research laboratory. The laboratory had different computers with different programmes, having different format. His main job was to see that information from one computer should be easily transferred and can be read in the other computer.

In the late 1980's, Lee thought about linking information available on different computers in use at CERN so that it would look like as one information system that every one could read. This led to the web technology and the first web page was uploaded on 6th August 1991 at CERN.

In developing the web technology, Lee used HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and hypertext transfer protocol.
  • HTML: it is a language for encoding documents. One of the advantage of writing a page in HTML is that a hyperlink (or link) can be provided to another web page. Every document or site or resource has a unique address called the Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The link is provided by embedding the URL of the other site/page. It is a piece of text that is differentiated from the regular text by a special colour (usually blue) or special formatting (such as underlining).
  • HTTP: When You click on the link, by a mouse or other pointing device, you are taken to the website referenced by that link. This transfer or retrieval of information takes place according to the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).
Lee did not invent the HTML or the HTTP but put them together to develop the Web technology.

3rd STEP: WORLD WIDE WEB - Free and Open
The web pages are in a way linked with one another forming a web; they can be anywhere in the world. It is for this reason that this method is aptly termed as the World Wide Web (www) or the web.

The Web technology was developed at CERN and was its IPR. On April 30, 1993, CERN's directors declared that web technology to be freely available to be used by anyone, without paying any fees to CERN.

There are many ways of communication and retrieving information on the Internet. The web is one of the methods but the decision to make it freely available, has led the Web to be the most powerful and popular form of communication and retrieval of information on the Internet. It is so common that we often think that the web and the Internet are one and the same.

The DRAT website, a small addition to the omnipresent Web, is good one; it is just a beginning however there are things to be considered.

First: Feed Technology
The purpose of any website is to give information and there are many ways to get new information from a website.
  • The traditional way is to go on a website and see what new information is available there.
  • As the technology improved, it was no longer necessary to go on the website. You could register your email-id and the website would send new information by email.
  • The latest is the 'Feed' technology.

A 'web feed' (also called 'syndicated feed' or just 'feed') is a data format for providing updated content of a website. If they are published by the website then they can be accessed through program called aggregator (also called a feed reader or a news reader). When you subscribe to feed with an aggregator then whenever instructed, the aggregator checks the websites in its feed list to see if they have new content; if so, then the aggregator either makes a note of the new content or downloads it. This can be scheduled to check for new content periodically and this is normally done. You can, depending on whether the feed is full or summary, read the new content on your computer or go to the website to read it.

These programmes are available free of cost. They are now part of email programme or the web browser. This method of getting new information has many advantages. Amongst the others,
  • You don't have to waste your time by going to the websites and see what new information is there because as soon as the new information comes on the websites, it is delivered to your computer.
  • You can play news editor and subscribe feed of only that part of the information on the website that interests you.

The feeds are of two kinds: one is RSS, the other is atom. RSS is older technology. There is some debate as to what RSS stands for, but the majority agree that it stands for 'Really Simple Syndication'. Not all websites currently provide feed, but it is growing rapidly in popularity and almost all important websites offer it. This is indicated by an orange button that says RSS or XML (the computer language that feed uses). It looks like this:

We have implemented feed technology in the Allahabad High Court website. Our approved for reporting (AFR) judgements as well as administrative decisions are available on feed.

Second: Hindi - Website
The other thing that may be implemented is to provide information in Hindi. English is good but Hindi is better: it is our mother tongue; we understand it better. It will be good idea to make information available in Hindi. However a point may be noted: Devnagri script is being standardised in Unicode and the website should use Unicode Devnagri script (Hindi) fonts.

The Allahabad High Court website also provides information (though not all) in Hindi (Devnagri script).

Third: Open Source Software and Open Standards
End is important so are the means. Making information available to the people is the end - how to achieve it, is the means: both are equally important.

There is lesser conflict of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Open Source Software and greater accessibility in Open Standards: percolation of information be done by using them. It is for this reason that the Allahabd High Court has adopted them (see FAQ of the Allahabad High Court).

I hope in times to come, the DRAT website will also be able to implement feed technology, provide information in Hindi (Devnagri script), prefer open source software and adopt open standards.

This is only a beginning: future has many innovation to be unfolded. May be, in future, no one will have to come to the court. The cases will be entertained by means of a e-petition. The Judges, lawyers, and litigants will be sitting in their residences/ offices and arguments will be done via video conferencing to be watched by the clients on the Internet.

With these words, I inaugurate the website of the Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal and wish it to be a popular website, serving needs of the lawyers and the litigants.

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