The Power and Pitfalls of AI in the Indian Justice System

In recent times, the Indian judiciary has taken concrete steps to integrate AI into its operations. The Supreme Court AI Community was formed in 2019. The Supreme Court launched its first AI portal “SUPACE”, the Supreme Court Portal for Court Efficiency Assistance, which is relies on machine learning to process huge volumes of case data.

Similarly, an AI language translation tool called “SUVAS”, the Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad software, has been launched to help translate court documents from English into Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati and Malayalam.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also significantly boosted the digitization of the judicial system. Major Indian courts have moved to e-filing and court proceedings have been conducted through video conferencing.

But this progress is not solely the result of the pandemic. The process of digitizing Indian courts began in 2007 with the announcement of the eCourt Project, an initiative of the National e-Governance Plan.

The eCourt project

Phase I of the eCourt project focused on the building blocks of digitization, ie setting up the hardware; internet connectivity; digitization of case files; and operationalize the e-Courts platform and phase II aimed at providing services to litigants, lawyers and other relevant stakeholders by setting up various projects such as National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), virtual courts and the application eCourts Services.

The suggested action plan for Phase III of the initiative aims to adopt an ecosystem approach in which different systems can interact with each other with the aim of simplifying legal proceedings, creating a fundamental digital infrastructure and establishing a new institutional and governance framework.

Although e-courts are only a start to increase transparency and accountability, they alone will not solve the problem of delays in the Indian justice system. This must be supported by a coherent strategy around timely judicial appointments, [eliminating] technology access issuessays Nikhil Narendran, Partner, TMT, Trilegal.

The “eCourt Project” is a welcome new step in the direction of building a digital infrastructure for the Indian court system due to its role in the successful establishment of basic ICT infrastructure in the courts.

The project further aims to prioritize some basic digital platforms such as the digital case register, the comprehensive case law repository and the creation of model judgments for judicial purposes and help reduce the burden on the courts. by providing efficient systems and tools that would ultimately save considerable processing time and encourage rapid delivery.

However, this does not mean that the eCourt project does not have implementation challenges. One of the major concerns emerging from the establishment of digital infrastructure and other ancillary initiatives is the lack of a strong data protection law in India, which can lead to privacy issues. .erns, in particular with regard to the collection and processing of different types of data.

Further away, the implementation of said digital infrastructure and its use in lower courts such as district courts in India will be difficult given that the understanding of emerging technologies in these lower courts is relatively limited and training at the field level is rather dark”—Harsh Walia, partner at Khaitan & Co.

How can AI improve the judicial system?

AI is mainly expected to help solve the problem of addiction.

A huge backlog of pending cases will certainly affect the efficiency of the courts and ultimately impede prompt access to justice. The list of cases pending in the Indian courts is huge, with some pending for almost three decades now.

Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Aravind Kumar during a speech at the 13th Asian Conference of Criminology (ACC) claimed that AI and new technologies can help the judiciary settle a number important pending cases.

The delays in our justice system make defendants, plaintiffs and accused victims of its slowness in the process. Digitization will help speed up the administration of justice“says Nikhil Narendran.

Likewise, the accuracy, pace, and characteristics of legal research could also be significantly improved through the use of AI.

Various administrative obligations of superior courts, besides hearings, such as official communications, planning and organization of different categories of trials, could also be easily handled by AI.

Automating these tasks through AI would allow the judiciary to focus on its core responsibilities of delivering justice in a timely manner.

There are many cases of AI already assisting judges in bail and parole hearings. For example, in US courts, an AI-based tool called “Safety Assessment” (PSA) helps judges make a decision in such hearings by producing a risk score after taking into account different predefined parameters.

There is an urgent need to adopt ML and AI to increase the efficiency of the justice delivery system in India. These technological advances are already an integral part of the justice systems of other countries such as China, Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom. An example would be the smart court SOS (system of systems), an ML-powered system that is used in various courts in China that connects to the office of every serving judge across the country.

It automatically filters cases for reference, recommends relevant laws and regulations, drafts legal documents, and amends perceived human errors, if any, in a court’s judgment.says Harsh Walia.

Additionally, as the generation of legal documents can be time-consuming, AI models such as computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) can be used to generate statements, evidence documents, and fact sheets. of accusation. Leveraging this technology would help reduce human dependency and scope for errors in information entry.

The initial goal of using AI/ML technology should be to improve the work of lawyers and judges in document management, case management, research, etc..”, says Nikhil Narendran.

Given the current state of affairs, Indian justice could benefit from other technologies. For example, smart contracts can be promoted as a way to avoid litigation to reduce the administrative burden on courts.

“Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) can also work as a means of reducing the number of small cases in court. This must be promoted by the government as a solid alternative.

“Additionally, the implementation of hybrid courtrooms will allow for faster access to justice and delays in the appearance of lawyers due to conflicting court cases. In fact, a large number of adjournments occur in India due to the inability of lawyers to be physically present in courtrooms due to adversarial hearings,” Narendran adds.

AI tools used

Many law firms in India are also leveraging AI to make their operations efficient.

“One of India’s leading law firms has licensed ‘Kira’, an ML program developed by Canada-based Kira Systems. This AI-based software can handle multiple tasks at once, saving a lot time and effort and is used to analyze legal documents, identify critical areas and extract provisions from multiple legal documents,” says Harsh Walia.

Additionally, a number of major law firms in India use “Mitra”, another AI-based legal research platform for research purposes.

“We have seen uses of AI/ML in due diligence and case management. However, most systems are rudimentary and require years of operation to become reliable technologies. For example, tools like Kiara and Luminous are good DD tools that use AI/ML techniques,” says Nikhil Narendran.

Will AI ever be able to do justice?

Although walking into a courtroom and confronting a robot judge sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, many believe that such things could one day become possible.

Many experts in the AI ​​community, however, have strongly cautioned against the use of AI in legal proceedings. AI in its current form lacks the intelligence to solve a legal problem, certainly not a complex one. Not to mention ethical issues.

Vidhi Center for Legal Policy, an independent think tank, has published a research paper highlighting that integrating AI into the justice system requires a comprehensive legal, regulatory and ethical framework to establish trust in these technologies. Moreover, over the years, the AI ​​has also been shown to be biased in several instances. Before we even think about AI to deliver justice, we must first address these issues.

AI/ML technologies are far from helping lawyers and judges in decision-making. However, in times to come, we will see more uses of this technology, even for active lawyers.concludes Nikhil Narendran.