Tuesday, the Supreme Court advised courts and adjudicating bodies against depending on Wikipedia for dispute settlement, stating that it follows a “user-generated editing model that is not entirely reliable in terms of academic validity and might even promote false material…”
This was said by a bench of Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath in a decision regarding the correct categorization of an imported “AllinOne Integrated Desktop Computer” under the First Schedule of the Central Excise Tariff Act of 1985.
The court observed that the adjudicating agencies, particularly the Commissioner of Customs (Appeal), relied heavily on online sources like Wikipedia to support their divergent judgements.
In writing for the bench, Justice Surya Kant sounded a caution, stating, “While we expressly recognise the utility of these platforms that allow open access to knowledge around the world, we must also sound a note of caution against using such sources for legal dispute resolution. We say this because, despite being a rich trove of knowledge, these sites are based on a crowdsourced and user-generated editing paradigm that is not totally reliable in terms of academic integrity and might promote false material, as this court has remarked on past occasions.”
The decision said that “courts and deciding bodies should rather try to convince the lawyers to rely on more reliable and accurate sources.”
The ruling cited a 2008 highest court decision in the Commissioner of Customs, Bangalore v. Acer India (P) Ltd case, in which a two-judge bench stated that Wikipedia “is an online encyclopaedia in which anyone can enter content and as such may not be valid.”