Recently, law minister Kiren Rijiju said that AI can help in reducing the backlog of pending cases and sustainable justice delivery. Last year, then CJI SA Bobde echoed the same thought. He stressed the need for artificial intelligence (AI) in the judicial system calling the use of technology in judicial functioning a fascinating area and a major breakthrough.
It is common knowledge that the Indian judiciary suffers from the issue of a vast backlog of cases. A September 2021 report states that in India, high courts list 5.8 million pending cases, even though their average rate of disposal between 2015 and 2019 was about 1.8 million cases per year. As new-age technologies such as AI, ML, and NLP have penetrated almost all industries, their use in law and order can prove to be of immense help in improving our judicial system.
Sign up for your weekly dose of what's up in emerging technology.
Image: National Judicial Data Grid
Slow but baby steps already taken
The stepping stone towards embracing these technologies in India has already been set. We saw the launch of the SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Courts Efficiency) this year. It uses machine learning to deal with large chunks of case data. Bobde had said that SUPACE will be a mix of human and artificial intelligence and will not be used in decision-making as such. The AI mechanisms will be focused on the collection and analysis of data.
Researchers at IIT Kharagpur released an AI-based method to automate the reading of legal case judgements. They developed two deep neural models to understand the rhetorical roles of sentences in a legal case judgement.
The National e-Vidhan Application (NeVA) Project launched by the Indian government facilitates the concept of Paperless Assembly or e-Assembly. It helps automate the law-making process, track decisions and documents, and share information.
New-age tech and law: win-win situation?
There are so many ways that technology can penetrate the Indian judicial processes to ease out the ever-increasing burden it faces.
- Automation of repetitive and mechanical processes
There are a variety of processes in administration and law and order that are repetitive, such as scheduling of hearings, long documentation, e-filings, etc. The use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in these mechanisms can greatly increase efficiency and improve case flow management. Even ex-CJI Bobde stated that only repetitive areas or decision making like rates of taxation or something that is mechanical can be covered by AI. He added that AI can play a significant role in tribunals like Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in docket management and decision-making areas. Rijiju suggested online information of case laws and automated algorithm-based support systems that can improve efficiency.
- Legal analytics and robotics
Due to the massive amount of cases in Indian courts at various levels, they sit on huge chunks of data. A lawyer’s work, in part, consists of extensive legal research, finding out the right legal propositions for a case, etc. A report titled “Responsible AI for the Indian Justice System – A Strategy Paper” by Vidhi Centre For Legal Policy said that to save time in these, machine learning algorithms can be developed for intelligent analytics and research work. The report also said that legal analytics and tools can be expanded to the public and not just legal professionals. This will improve the public understanding of the law.
- Digital courts
The Indian government has already launched e-courts, and their reach has to increase more to solve the backlog of cases we deal with. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court and High Courts have been able to function online. Electronic courts bring a justice serving platform that is more time saving and performs efficiently with better case and court management facilities. As information will be available digitally, chances of misplacement of crucial statements, data or evidence will be greatly reduced. Evidence of eyewitnesses who cannot be present in person can be recorded through online mechanisms.
- Tech-based Alternate Dispute Resolutions mechanisms
This is another great way to reduce the burden of courts. Indian startups are already integrating new-age tech to make this process faster, easier and smoother. Jupitice Justice Technologies Private Limited, a Chandigarh based startup, has come out with an online private digital court ‘Jupitice’ which is powered by AI and blockchain. It aims to solve commercial and civil cases through various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms. We can expect more such innovative platforms to come up very soon.
Already in full swing globally
AI and big data analytics have already made their entry in the law and order space throughout the world. Prometea is an AI tool built in Argentina by the Innovation and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the School of Law of the University of Buenos Aires and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Buenos Aires. It aims to speed up bureaucratic processes to get more time for the analysis of complex cases. It can also identify urgent cases across large volumes of files in two minutes.
Brazil has also deployed AI in justice delivery. It uses an AI tool named “VICTOR” to conduct preliminary case analysis to reduce the burden on the court. It is used by the Brazilian Supreme Court and provides analysis of cases through NLP and document analysis.
UNESCO is also developing online training for judicial operators on AI and the Rule of Law. It said that the training will stimulate a participative dialogue with judicial operators on AI-related innovations in the judicial system and court rulings concerning artificial intelligence. It has conducted a survey of judicial operators worldwide to understand the relevant issues in this area. The survey received 1265 responses in seven languages from judicial operators in 100 countries globally.
Ethics and privacy are key focus areas
AI is a great tool to be deployed in justice delivery if done ethically. Another area that policymakers have to be very careful about is data protection and prevention of leaks of sensitive information. If the law-making bodies can address these concerns and form rules accordingly, then the benefits of AI can trickle down to everyone and ensure a smoother justice delivery system in the country.