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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE INDIAN LEGAL SYSTEM: AN ANALYTICAL STUDY

Introduction

The Indian legal sector has seen very little innovation in terms of technology and lawyers these days are still comfortable in relying on methods and solutions that were designed years ago. Technology and Artificial Intelligence can play a big part in changing the way lawyers operate and in how the law is looked at in India. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the urgency to use technology, with the Supreme Court conducting some virtual hearings through video conferencing and announcing the setting up of virtual courtrooms in order to minimise disruptions. Reform to reduce the burden on courts has been long overdue; in fact, measures had been initiated to find innovative solutions much before the coronavirus pandemic enforced a nationwide lockdown. The following piece tries to engage on various ways by which AI can increase the efficiency of the Indian Legal System, and also reflects upon potential concerns that might occur thereof.

Use of Technology in the Indian Legal System

With a massive number of pending cases, the Indian court system is under more pressure than ever. As of today, there are more than three crore pending cases in India. The paralysing shortage of judges, along with the immense inefficiencies, including but not limited to absence of a time frame to dispose of a case and shortage of courtrooms, secretarial and support staff, rife throughout the system, makes it clear that access to conclusive and timely justice is a very real problem. The solution to the same cannot rely on human correction alone. The role of artificial intelligence (AI) to expedite justice delivery outside of the courtrooms will be significant.

During his speech on the National Constitution Day (November 26, 2019), the Chief Justice of India, Justice Bobde, announced the launch of a neural machine translation (NMT) tool called SUVAS (Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software) that can translate orders and judgments from English to nine vernacular languages. He further expressed optimism towards the use of AI to improve the overall efficiency of the Indian judiciary and to lessen its perennial backlog of cases.

The judiciary has been actively working towards finding a solution for disposing off age-old lawsuits. Technology-led solutions have been piloted and some of the initiatives are already in the second phase of implementation. The eCourts Integrated Mission Mode Project, the eCourts Services application, Zero Pendency Courts and several other initiatives that are in pilot or full rollout stages are aiming at futuristic solutions to a very real problem. AI can help free up resources so that legal departments can focus on building the quality of their legal teams. It can streamline legal processes by simplifying labour intensive tasks.

Scope for AI in the Legal Forum

Jurisdictions across the world are increasingly and successfully incorporating AI to enhance efficient access to case law for assisting judges, and for aiding in labour-intensive tasks such as court transcriptions, albeit with human oversight. Its use in non-decision-making aspects of legal and judicial work appears to be clearly visible.

One use is the introduction of machine-readable formats for statutes, filing of cases, and judgments. Having a large pool of judgments and experimenting with a wide variety of case law analytics, from smarter searches to tools preparing legal briefs based on past jurisprudence, would help in the smoother functioning of courts.

Putting Artificial Intelligence to use for the purpose of legal research by lawyers and judges may help in reducing the time taken to decide a case. ROSS is one such online legal research assistant which helps the legal community to delve into numerous case laws in detail and find the most relevant and appropriate of the case laws.

AI can be significantly used to develop legal search engines that help in simplifying legal research. A good example is that of Doctrine.fr, which claims to be the ‘Google of Law’. It uses big data and machine learning to collate the largest collection of French law available for free. The key issues addressed here are that French law is now not only accessible free of charge to the general public, but has also been simplified and therefore, is understandable to the lay citizen.

AI can help with document and contract review. At JPMorgan, an AI-powered program called COIN has been used since June 2017 to interpret commercial loan agreements. Work that previously took over 360,000 lawyer-hours can now be done in seconds. The bank is planning to use the technology for other types of legal documents as well.

The development of AI chatbots that lead people with legal questions towards answers should be an efficient way to reduce the burden on courts. These chatbots can provide coordinated guidance to a person without the support of a lawyer, thereby reducing the information gap and, accordingly, the need to proceed to litigation. This is especially useful for factually and legally straightforward situations, usually relating to a lack of legal knowledge or practicality, such as traffic fines or simple compensation claims.

AI can help consumers by providing a form of "legal service" to clients who might otherwise not be able to afford a lawyer. The free service DoNotPay, created by a 19-year-old, is an AI-powered chatbot that lets users contest parking tickets in London and New York. In its first 21 months, it took on 250,000 cases and won 160,000 of them, saving users more than $4 million worth of fines. The same program is also helping consumers file data breach-related suits against Equifax for up to $25,000, although it can't help them litigate their cases.

Another key area to disrupt the status quo is through technology-augmented solutions in remote dispute resolution. Online dispute resolution (ODR) has the potential to be a game changer by not requiring the litigants’ physical presence and doing away with the additional costs that court appearances bring with them. An affordable technology-led solution to easier resolution can significantly impact the Indian legal system.

Judicial statistics refer to quantitative figures that capture different facets of the justice system. A prime example of publishing judicial statistics is the National Data Judicial Grid (NJDG), an online dashboard that updates pendency numbers across all district and high courts in India, in real time. Giving third-party technologists API (application programmes interfaces) access to the NJDG and other e-courts websites that collect judicial statistics can lead to better data analytics for technological innovations. This can help create an official system to collect and disseminate accurate judicial statistics regarding case pendency and disposal, and ease the functioning of the courts. For example, once such data is available in a format that can be read by other computer programs, it would be possible to search through such data as well as process it to throw up statistics and analysis that is helpful for future planning.

Further, AI can help analyse the quality of a legal claim and any relevant evidence. This is an area where the judiciary can benefit from use of big data. AI can automatically organise a list of pending cases, the chronology of events in a case, and detect patterns in claims. This could facilitate assessments of the quality of an argument by analysing its legal validity and strength against competing claims.

AI can also be used to predict how a case will be decided and to propose ways to settle it. In the Australian Family Law courts, the Split-Up system has been adopted to predict outcomes for property disputes in divorce and other family cases. The system uses rule-based reasoning along with neural networks to make predictions. The results are then used by judges to support their decision-making. Furthermore, since AI can access more of the relevant data, it can be better than lawyers at predicting the outcomes of legal disputes and proceedings, and thus helping clients make decisions. For example, a London law firm used data on the outcomes of 600 cases over 12 months to create a model for the viability of personal injury cases. The Indian judiciary already has a real-time case analysis system displaying and analysing data for pending cases, and this system can be adapted for predictive analysis.

Potential Challenges

Despite the large interest in the development and deployment of transformative technology such as AI in the Indian judiciary, considerable challenges remain before it can become a reality.

A burning question among the lawyers is whether introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the legal sector would replace lawyers and legal analysts. AI cannot replace human discretion, which is necessary for a just and analysis-driven decision-making process. AI cannot replicate advocacy, negotiation, or structuring of complex deals. Tasks like advising clients, writing briefs, negotiating deals, and appearing in court seem beyond the reach of computerization, at least for a while.

Another apprehension is that the judiciary’s accountability may be reduced due to the incomprehensibility of the AI-based system. The possibility of having an ‘automation bias or prejudice’ is also a worrisome fear. The benefits of adopting an AI-based system in the judiciary seem tempting to a greater extent, as it promises to improve its efficiency drastically. However, it cannot be utilised to its maximum until potential solutions to rectify its drawbacks are recognised.

Conclusion

Reducing the pending caseload and improving long-term efficiencies are just two of the many ways that AI in the Indian judiciary is set to make waves. Its use should be developed in such a way that it should be in tandem with both, the interest of individuals as well as the society at large. If implemented in the right ways, AI will not just become a tool for operational efficiency, but it could be the crux of efforts to ensure better access to justice across India. AI in the non-judicial gamut can be further developed before diverging into its other uses. The full spectrum of improvements will only become apparent in time. However, if the Indian judiciary truly wants to utilise the transformative potential of emerging technologies such as AI, it is critical for it to recognise its impediments and remedy them swiftly.


Title Image Source: Singapore University of Social Science


This article has been written by Tanya K.Y. She is a II Year student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.