Life at Yahoo
Indian Kanoon search engine helps people understand their rights.
Sushant Sinha, part of the Cloud Platform Group in Bangalore, was recently named one of India’s top innovators. He was featured in Technology Review's prestigious TR35 2011 – a list of outstanding innovators in India under the age of 35.
Sushant earned his place in this exclusive list for developing Indian Kanoon, a free search engine of Indian law (Kanoon means ‘law’ in Hindi, the official language of India). The portal provides the most relevant Indian laws and court judgments in response to a query.Since its launch in January 2008, Indian Kanoonhas been embraced by the Indian public, and is empowering citizens to seek justice.
Traffic is growing exponentially - 10 times in the past year and a half. Indian Kanoon currently receives half a million unique users a month, with roughly 2.5 million page views.
And here’s why. Prior to Indian Kanoon, there was no website which provided information about Indian law, at least nothing that was easy to use. Asignificant portion of the population remained completely ignorant of their rights and privileges.
“Most existing law websites charged a hefty fee and were designed by lawyers for lawyers,” explains Sushant.”The technology was stone aged, compared to the advances in the information retrieval brought about by current search engines.”
He filled these gaps when he developed Indian Kanoon. “I started the project as a way to enrich court judgments by linking them with laws and other references. The linking turned out to be so useful that I went on to build Indian Kanoon,” he adds.
Besides the standard information retrieval techniques for relevance, Indian Kanoon brings in a couple of other innovations to make law search effective. First, it breaks down law documents into the smallest possible clause. It then determines the important law sections at the granularity of the smallest possible law section. Secondly, it tightly integrates law/statutes with court judgments, which allows automatic determination of the most relevant clauses and court judgments.
It isn’t just the man on the street who’s benefiting from Indian Kanoon. Lawyers and law students form a big chunk of the user base.
Sushant, who has a PhD in Internet Security (“nothing related to search,”) is currently working on the document enrichment framework Sombrero at Yahoo!. He balances his day job with Indian Kanoon by working on it in the night and on weekends.
On what it takes to be an innovator, Sushant believes, “It takes identifying important problems and working hard to solve them. Sometimes the identified problems are just minor issues when others view it and so what really matters is whether you are convinced about the importance of the problem.”