This article is written by Gyaaneshwar Joshi, a student of the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. This article discusses the benefits of implementing Artificial Intelligence in the Indian Judiciary and why it needs to be acquired under a strong legal framework.
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“Technology will be the main driver of this change. And, in the long run, we will neither need nor want professionals to work in the way that they did in the twentieth century and before.”
- Richard Susskind
Machine learning has shown its potential to be used in litigation. The use of Artificial Intelligence nowadays seems to be conducive to legal practices. Machine learning involves data analysis and finding out the existing data, the same exercise is undertaken by the legal practitioners.
Former Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde during his tenure has stressed the need for having a structured and well-reformed Artificial Intelligence (AI) system in courtrooms which in no way impedes or undermines any legal rights afforded to citizens. The use of Artificial Intelligence in the judiciary becomes more compatible when it aligns with constitutional morality and is equally governed by ethical, legal, and constitutional principles.
AI and Indian legal system : friends or foes
AI is used by several courts in foreign countries, primarily to increase administrative efficacy and to supplement human decision-making in the courts. In India, the Supreme Court began using AI in November 2019, when the translation tool called SUVAAS (Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software) was incorporated in its workings to expedite the translation of judicial orders and rulings from English to nine vernacular languages – Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Bengali – which will be further extended.
The Supreme Court has been timely experimenting with several artificial intelligence tools, the purpose of which is not to replace human minds but to use technology in a limited manner for gathering information, data, facts about the case, and helping the judges to smoothly process it. The Supreme Court has been using several web-based applications like ‘LIMBS’ which was designed to provide help in the Supreme Court’s working for monitoring cases involving the central government. This application was an initiative of the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law & Justice, and aims to digitize the legal process and to monitor the entire life cycle of any case. In May 2020, the Supreme Court indigenously developed software called ‘SCI-Interact’ to facilitate paperless work in all of its 17 benches. The primary purpose of the software is to provide ease to the judges to be able to access files, annexures to the petitions, and make soft notes on computers by themselves. This software helps in the decision-making process and speedy disposal of cases with a less human touch. It comprises five components that are installed to facilitate the workings in the courts:
- Scanned copies of pending cases,
- E-filing of fresh cases,
- IT hardware,
- Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network with dual redundancy,
- Security audit.
AI Portal SUPACE
In April 2021, the Supreme Court’s Artificial Intelligence committee launched an artificial intelligence portal called SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court Efficiency). The specially designed system was launched by the former CJI S.A. Bobde, who called it a “perfect blend of human intelligence and machine learning.” This tool helps in gathering relevant information that a judge has to require for its case. The tool collects relevant facts and laws and presents them before a judge. However, the software will not provide justice to any seeker because it is solely the responsibility of the judge to use its discretion while delivering any judgment.
Potential of artificial intelligence in the Indian Judiciary
In 2019, the Supreme Court constituted a “Supreme Court Artificial Intelligence committee”, chaired by the first-ever head of the committee, Justice S.A. Bobde. The committee is presently headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. The committee was formed to use AI as humanitarian assistance in the judicial domain for enhancing the efficiency and productivity of justice delivery.
The implementation of AI in the courts can be beneficial for the Indian judicial system in several ways:
- It will improve administrative efficiency in courts and facilitate the decision-making process for judges and lawyers.
- It will provide ease in finding past precedents to accumulate crucial points of law and facts.
- To expedite the judicial process by providing comprehensive legal briefs on cases and doing pertinent legal research.
- Efficient use of AI can help in eliminating the longstanding problem of judicial backlogs from the Indian courts.
The Supreme Court AI committee is aiming for the potential use of software that can provide a better and easier way to save time and improve the efficiency of Indian courts. Former CJI S.A. Bobde has always supported AI technology, he explained the apprehensions that were raised when computerization was first introduced in the Bombay High Court. After the technology was implemented in the workings of the Bombay High Court, the workload of Registry officials was reduced which enabled the staff to reach home early.
Incumbent Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, in his speech delivered at the launch of SUPACE portal, said that introduction of AI is a big step in ensuring access to justice and will help in delivering justice to needy people. He corroborated that AI tools can be useful for saving time in finding the facts regarding a criminal matter and will be helpful in speedy disposal of motor accidents claims, which is the main reason for the increasing pendency of cases in the various courts.
AI has found its way into our daily lives, and therefore the decision of the Supreme court to form an AI committee in 2019 has cleared the vision that Indian courts are ready to embrace the modern technology of machine learning to enhance the productivity of the justice delivery system. The AI is worthwhile when it is made to supplement and not supplant judges, and only aid certain decisions but not make significant decisions.
The need to uphold constitutional morality even when AI is put to use
Artificial Intelligence is more than a legal technology and could be the next great hope that will revolutionize the legal profession. In India, the use of AI is still in the nascent stage and will take some more time to be effectively implemented in the courtrooms. To blend AI with constitutional morality, the autonomy and discretion of judges will have to remain intact with no interference from the technology. The same concept was reiterated by the Former CJI S.A. Bobde in his speech at the virtual launch of Vidhi centre for legal policy’s strategy paper on “Responsible Artificial Intelligence for the Indian Justice system”.
The most common concern about the use of AI in the judiciary can be acknowledged from the phrase garbage in, garbage out, which means that flawed and incorrect input data will produce faulty output. In the context of the judiciary, the faulty output may result in bias in the decision-making of the courts. There is a fear that the involvement of tech-giants who develop the AI systems may create an ‘organized bias’ which could become an additional threat to judicial independence. This is the main reason why several legal experts are against the implementation of AI because they fear that technology can influence the judge’s decision-making by showing biased content that can sway the judge’s opinion by receiving only such research items that favour one side.
When the same issue was raised before the former CJI SA Bobde, he said that the technology should be used in a way to expedite access to information regarding the case, while the autonomy and discretion of the judge in deciding cases should not be harmed. He commented that “A system of justice can’t accept that a machine, however intelligent, will take the decision.” Judiciary is a safeguard to citizen’s rights, therefore, if AI tools should be taken into use, caution is a must because even a small bias can create an avalanche of issues in the decision-making of the court.
The future of AI and the Indian legal system : presence or absence of morality
AI-based technologies are used by legal experts in several nations. For example, Technology-Assisted Review (TAR) is the first major application of AI in legal practice. TAR is mainly used for organizing, analyzing, and searching large data sets for e-discovery or record investigations. Currently, some Indian legal firms like Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas have started to adopt major applications for AI to enhance their legal practices. The firm is working in collaboration with various start-ups to adopt AI-based solutions.
In India, AI is presenting itself as an efficient tool for legal practice. Several applications like Lex Machina, which is owned by LexisNexis, are facilitating legal practitioners to work efficiently in the field of intellectual property litigation. Similarly, Ravel Law, which is another application owned by LexisNexis, is currently being used to provide legal analytics of judicial opinions to predict how a specific judge may rule in a case.
Artificial Intelligence can be beneficial to make a change in the way lawyers think, the way they do business, and the way they interact with clients. Several courts in foreign countries are going towards adopting and introducing AI in the legal field with the hope that it will revolutionize their legal profession. For example, the American Bar Association has inserted a clause under its model rules of professional conduct, which reads as- lawyers shall be competent and must keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with the relevant technology. Therefore, the advent of technology in the legal arena can be taken as a major step towards working on closing the gap of access to justice for civilians to provide betterment and welfare of society.
Countries and their bond with the AI system in their legal profession
Various judicial systems have implemented AI as a tool for their justice system reforms. Several countries are using technology in litigation for the purpose to develop their litigation systems.
The Shanghai High People’s court has developed an intelligent assistive case handling system for criminal cases called ‘the 206 system’ which enables the complete case handling procedures of criminal cases in Shanghai. This technology deals with online form case filing, investigation, court trial, approval for an arrest, parole, etc.
The United States is using AI as a risk assessment tool. The US-based law firm, Baker Hostetler has employed the world’s first AI robot ‘Ross’ which was developed by the International Business Machines (IBM). This robot is the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney. The ‘Ross’ robot assists the lawyers in their research work, gathering evidence and drawing highly relevant and evidence-based answers for inferences and returns.
In 2020, the Supreme Court of Brazil implemented an advanced AI system called VICTOR. This software has immensely helped the Supreme Court in tackling backlogs of cases. With the help of this software, the court has reduced the time of hearing the petition because the software decreased the initial analysis time of hearing the petitioned case from 40 minutes to just a few seconds.
In 2019, the Colombian Constitutional Court implemented the AI solution called ‘Prometea’ to resolve the inefficiency and delays of the cases within the constitutional court. The software has created a milestone of solving a case in less than 20 seconds, with a success rate of 96%.
The Supreme Court of Singapore has deployed a speech translation system in the court that utilizes neural networks trained with language models to transcribe court hearings instantaneously. This tool helps the judges to review oral testimonies instantly in the courtroom.
Since AI provides a wide scope of knowledge and is growing faster, there is no reason why the Indian legal system should lag. To better implement AI in the judicial domain, there is an emergent need of reskilling the existing and future workforce. Currently, several online dispute resolution tools are being developed that completely circumvented the judicial process. Similarly, in light of COVID-19 and Supreme Court’s direction to promote technology, an online dispute resolution platform called SAMA was introduced in August 2020 to support the first ever online Lok Adalat in India. Sama is providing technical support to State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) across the country for keeping the wheel of justice rolling with an assurance that access to justice continues in the time of pandemic.
The further development of AI tools might help the court in case management and early redressal of issues. However, the judiciary needs to ensure that the use of AI in the judicial domain shall be compatible with the basic fundamental principles of our Constitution.
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