Much awaited Ayodhya judgement, challenged by technology as High court website crashes

30th September 2010
Much awaited Ayodhya judgement, challenged by technology as  High court website crashes
The page containing the Ayodhya case judgments in India

The contentious Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case that divided the nation for a generation finally reached judgment day on Wednesday when the Ayodhya Bench in Lucknow,of the Allahabad High Court delivered its verdict. But the cyber age technology deployed to get the judgement out in near real time failed miserably at H Hour on the big day – the website of the court crashing almost from the moment it went live with the verdict. While the court began its proceedings at 3.30 pm, the full text of the judgment was promised almopst immediately – but for at least an hour, the link from the parent site  to the Ayodhya Bench site   “froze” under the weight of hundreds of thousands of simultaneous searches. Google users got a bland message saying “Other users are also experiencing difficulties connecting to this site, so you may have to wait a few minutes.. Around 5 pm it was possible to reach the Ayodhya Bench site which was in fact a redirect to e-legalix, seemingly the agency to whom the hosting of the court’s matter was entrusted. After 7 pm, it was possible to down load all three judgments albeit sporadically.

The gist of the judgment -- which is what most people wanted – not the 6000 of the full document -- was available in separate PDF downloads, 1 each for Justices Khan and Agarwal, and in two parts for Justice Sharma. While the Khan judgment was an elegant 1 page summary with 12 paras of analysis followed by his order, the Agarwal judgment came as one page of findings followed by 11 pages of suit by suit analysis which was difficult for lay readers to understand. Justice Sharma took just two pages to summarise his findings in 6 succinct paragraphs, followed by a separate sheet of briefing .

Almost all government departments depend on the National Informatics Centre to host their sites. This absolves them from having to worry about sudden surges in public interest and the consequent need to scale up the servers that host the information. The site of the Allahabad High court is so bare bones we were unable to determine who maintains it.
Mirror sites, anyone?It is relatively easy in cases of anticipated heavy demand to rope in third party news portals and encourage them to create mirror sites . When public interest is involved, almost all large information portals will readily agree to create mirrors to which searchers will be directed – taking the load of the parent site and ensuring that important news gets through to every one who needs or wants to know.
By failing to anticipate the public interest in the Ayodhya Case and preparing for a surge on its site, the Court which is being praised for its sagacious judgement, has nevertheless failed the basic test of its techno-awareness and left millions of web users with a very poor impression of India’s so called leadership in the Infotech arena. But after the Commonwealth Games fiasco, perhaps no one is surprised any longer at our “chalta hai” (it happens!) attitude.

Here is a direct link to the gist -of- judgments page:  
Sep 30 2010