How to read a case citation?

29 Sep 2021  Read 3092 Views

Whenever an individual searches for a case name, along with the case name one also finds certain letters and numbers suffixed to it. These combinations of numbers and letters after the party names are known as citations for the case laws being referred to. Reading Judgments for a Student is inevitable while in law school and often students don’t know how to look up to a case with citation.

Every important occurrence around the whole wide world is published as news in the newspaper, magazines, and articles. This is done in order to make the people aware about the various occurrences and to bring them into the public domain. Similarly, every case which is dealt with in the judiciary is published by case reporters such as SCC, SCR, AIR, etc. These are published in both soft copy as well as hard copy so as to bring them into the public domain and help individuals in understanding the intricacies of law of the land. 

It is pertinent to understand how the cases are published in the reporters with the help of citations of the case laws, in order to quickly locate them and proceed on to understand them. Citing sources used by legal experts is known as case citation. It assists them in comprehending the case's decisions.

What is a Legal Citation?

A citation is a path address for a book, article, web page, or other published material that includes enough information to identify it uniquely. Citations to previous material in the same subject area can be found in academic publications, bibliographies, and indices. Citations are utilized in academic publications to provide details about a publication (book, journal article, film, etc.) so that readers may recognize and locate it.

A legal citation is a reference to a particular legal source, such as a constitution, a statute, reported cases, a regulation, a treatise, or an article in a law review. The basic format comprises the volume number, abridged source titles, and page or section numbers at the start.  The year on which the final verdict was issued is also included in the citation. The Bluebook Standard, Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities, Maroon Book, and other legal citation uniform rulebooks are used all around the world.

Law Reporters in India

In India, law papers are presented in a variety of methods. They differ in terms of the frequency and number of troubles they produce.

In India, there have been numerous legal reports. Many here have stopped publishing, while others are still going strong. Many periodicals' titles begin with a proper noun, such as Bombay Law Reporter, Bihar Law Journal Reports, Delhi Law Review, Punjab Law Reporter, Allahabad Law Journal, and so on. Many of these case reports are released weekly, and others are released biweekly or monthly. The majority of academic publications are published quarterly, however some are issued biannually or even annually. As a result, it's critical that these publications are acknowledged correctly and consistently so that there are no ambiguities and the citation can be read swiftly without losing time and resources on trial and error.

For these reports, cases determined by the High Courts and the Supreme Court are published in both official and private publication houses in India. Official reports of decisions rendered by the High Courts are released monthly in the form of the ‘Indian Law Reports' accompanied by the name of the High Court, while cases decided by the Supreme Court are released monthly in the form of the ‘Supreme Court Reports.' Private publications dealing to high court proceedings are usually titled by the state in which the high court is located, such as ‘Bombay Law Reporter,' ‘Calcutta Weekly Notes,' ‘Madras Law Journal,' ‘Delhi Law Times,' and so on.

Case Citation in India

A case may be mentioned if it contains all of the necessary features to provide reliable information about its publication in a Law Reporting Journal. The items listed below can be used in any order to indicate a reported case's citation.

(1) Party names - the names of the parties to a case are generally written in italics. The 'v' between party names is in roman type and lower case, however for the sake of typing convenience, an italicised 'v' is often considered appropriate. If there are multiple parties on either side, only mention the first one. The use of '& Ors,' which means 'and others,' may suggest the omission.

(2) The year is listed after the party names. It's surrounded by round or square brackets.

(3) Volume number - If the report series title includes a volume number, it must be given immediately after the year.

(4) Abbreviated name of the report series - most law report series have a standard abbreviation. This criterion is frequently stated at the start of each volume in the series.

(5) Page number - indicate the page number in the series of papers listed where the case starts.

Example on How to Read a Case Citation

A case citation is not very complex to read and understand. It could easily be understood by following the above mentioned components. Let us take an example:

Maruti Suzuki Ltd v. CCE (2009) 9 SCC 193

Here, ‘Maruti Suzuki Ltd. V. CCE’ is the Party Name, ‘(2009)’ is the year, ‘9’ is the volume number, ‘SCC’ is the abbreviation of the Law Reporter, ‘193’ is the page number on which the case exists in the 9th volume of the SCC 2009 booklet.

Let us take the example of another case law, although from US:

Martin vs Texas, 346 U.S. 282 (1984)

Here, ‘Martin vs Texas’ is the Party Name, ‘(1984)’ is the year, ‘346’ is the volume number, ‘U.S.’ is the abbreviation of the Law Reporter, and ‘282’ is the page number on which the case exists in the 346th volume of the US 1984 booklet.


In India, judicial decision play an important role in comprehending the intricacies of law. These decisions are referred in humongous and lengthy publications, which can be easily found through the use of citations. Therefore, it can be concluded that reading and understanding a case law citation is like bread and butter to a law student, academician and a lawyer. It is highly crucial to understand the components and intricacies of a case law citation so as to carefully locate it in time without trial and error.

About the Author: Sakshi Shrivastava | 15 Post(s)

Sakshi is a 3rd year student at Hidayatullah National Law University, with a keen interest in Corporate and Competition Laws. She describes herself as an extrovert known to be quite vexing!

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