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‘Wikipedia not Completely Dependable for legal dispute resolution’ – Supreme Court

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New Delhi. In a judgment, Supreme Court cautioned the courts and adjudicating authorities against use of ‘wikipedia’ for legal dispute resolution. These sources, despite being a treasure trove of knowledge, are based on a crowd­sourced and user­generated editing model that is not completely dependable in terms of academic veracity and can promote misleading information. The bench of Justices Surya Kant and Vikram Nath observed.

In appeal, the issue considered by the Apex Court was regarding the correct classification of Automatic Data Processing Machines which are popularly known as ‘All­in­One Integrated Desktop Computer’ under the First Schedule to the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985. The court noted that the adjudicating authorities, especially the Commissioner of Customs (Appeal), in their orders, have extensively referred to online sources such as Wikipedia to support their conclusion.

“While we expressly acknowledge the utility of these platforms which provide free access to knowledge across the globe, but we must also sound a note of caution against using such sources for legal dispute resolution. We say so for the reason that these sources, despite being a treasure trove of knowledge, are based on a crowd­sourced and user­generated editing model that is not completely dependable in terms of academic veracity and can promote misleading information as has been noted by this court on previous occasions also. The courts and adjudicating authorities should rather make an endeavor to persuade the counsels to place reliance on more reliable and authentic sources.”

The court noted that, in Commissioner of Customs, Bangalore v Acer India (P) Ltd. (2008) 1 SCC 382, it was observed that Wikipedia is an online encyclopaedia and information can be entered therein by any person and as such it may not be authentic.

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