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WikiMedia the New Secondary Legal Source

WikiMedia the New Secondary Legal Source

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Published by Debashis Mukherjee

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Published by: Debashis Mukherjee on Nov 29, 2011
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 WikiMedia – The New Secondary Legal Source
 Advocate, Supreme Court of India / Delhi High Court;
Litigation Head, LEGALICS - Law Attorneys & Legal Consultants;
Sr. Associate (Off Location), Excelex Law Offices, Mumbai (TMT Practice)H – 1559 Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi – 110 0197, Rashi Apartments, Plot 3, Sector 7, Dwarka, New Delhi - 110075M: +91 9999 42 4040T: +91 98180 37473F: +91 11 451 37473E:debashis@legalics.com 
 WikiMedia – The New Secondary Legal Source
In the study of law, moreso in the interpretation thereof, we are always in thesearch of sources of laws so that society as a whole can live a regulated life.Source classification is important because the persuasiveness of a sourceusually depends upon its history.Primary sources are statements of the law from a governmental entity such asa Court, Legislature, Executive agency, President, or Governor and may include cases, constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations, and othersources of binding legal authority.Secondary sources offer an analysis, commentary or a restatement of primary law. Secondary sources are used to help locate and explain primary sources of law. These sources may influence a legal decision but they do not have thecontrolling or binding authority like the primary sources of law. Secondary legal sources may include books, articles, and encyclopedias.
Legal writers usually prefer to cite primary sources because only primary sources are authoritative and precedential, while secondary sources are only persuasive at best.
  At this juncture, it is pertient to state that WikiMedia in its various forms,especially Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia has become a Secondary Sourceof Law the world over. Students, Professors, Paralegals, Lawyers, law Researchers and even Judges have started using it as any other encyclopaedia,despite its online character and the most dangerous aspect – its ability to beedited by one and all.
Bouchoux, Deborah E. (2000),
Cite Checker: A Hands-On Guide to Learning Citation Form
, Thomson DelmarLearning, p. 45,ISBN0766818934
The use of ‘Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit’ is anencyclopedia is that is to be carefully read, understood and then reaffirmedmainly because of its inherent problem of stability i.e. it can be edited by anyone at anytime, and may not be static in character even for a few minutes.Further, at times, it is riddled with faulty or malafide edits. Althoughsometimes other people do remove wrong edits, it is neither routine norassured.In the backdrop of the above, a few years back, when we heard of foreigncourts, citing from ‘Wikipedia –The Free Encyclopaedia’ people were aghast.More than the people the legal fraternity itself was sceptical of the use of  Wikipedia for defining or understanding any proposition, be it legal, materialor factual. Not only as a source of law, but even generally when we look at any piece of literary work, we generally look at its credibility. For which we firstsee the author/ the editor, his intellectual capacity, his knowledge, hiscapability, his reputation and last but not the least the publisher. However, when we see Wikipedia, the author is unknown, the editor is unknown, hisintellectual capacity is unknown, his knowledge is unknown, his capability isunknown and his reputation is unknown. Further, herein the pubishers i.e. the WikiMedia camaraderie does not monitor the edits on a regular basis.On a lighter vein, the legal fraternity not only feared the possibly ever-changing knowledge bank, but also the vast and unending source that could burden the already ‘noble’ and ‘knowledgeable’ legal professionals. This beingso, as in a court of law, the lawyer has to don the garb of his client and beprepared with the relevant facts and figures, apart from his legal prowess.More than anything else, he has to be at least one up from his opponent for which he has to toil hard.

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