New Delhi: Integrating artificial intelligence in the judicial decision-making process will improve administrative efficiency in courts, expedite the process and improve access to justice, a research paper by Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, an independent think tank, has found.
Released last week by the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, the paper offers a primer on the integration of AI in the Indian judicial system for the stakeholders involved such as judges, judicial officers and litigants.
The report comes at a time when the Supreme Court is working on a new composite AI tool — Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court Efficiency (SUPACE) — which will carry out different processes such as data mining, legal research and projecting case progress.
The preliminary work on the use of AI in the judicial system commenced in November 2019 when the top court incorporated a translation tool called SUVAAS to ease and expedite translation of judicial orders and rulings from English to vernacular languages.
With its e-courts project, the Indian judiciary has taken a quantum leap to fully harness the possibilities that cutting-edge AI technology has to offer in the last two years, the paper said.
Launched in 2013, this project envisages to provide efficient and time-bound citizen-centric service delivery in courts. It also looks to develop, install and implement a decision support system and automate processes to provide transparency in access to information to all stakeholders.
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AI to improve administrative efficiency
Besides doing their judicial tasks, judges in all courts, including the Supreme Court, are required to undertake administrative work as well.
In this context, the paper talks about developing “task-specific narrow AI tools”, which can help judges in spending less time on administrative responsibilities.
Such tools would also ease the “general rigour of the registry”, from scheduling a hearing and creating cause-lists to more complex tasks like discovery and review of evidentiary documents.
“The pandemic has led to a surge in discussion around increasing digitisation through the eCourts Project, creation of virtual courts, and the potential of online dispute resolution. Within this conversation, AI has also become an increasing talking point,” the paper noted.
Other small tasks like smart e-filing, intelligent filtering or prioritisation of cases and notifications or tracking of cases can also benefit from this integration.
Justice can be expedited through AI tools
Artificial intelligence tools can also aid lawyers and judges with “legal research, analysis of factual proposition, determination of appropriate legal provisions and other similar mechanical skills”, which in turn can expedite justice delivery.
The research paper noted that algorithms can be conceptualised, designed and deployed for “intelligence analytics and research work”.
These tools can also provide comprehensive legal briefs on cases, encapsulate pertinent legal research and identify crucial points of law and facts.
“This can effectively supplement human judgment in adjudication. Furthermore, intelligent tools, like legal bots, can be designed to help potential litigants with better informed decision making concerning their legal rights, and easily and cost-effectively access basic legal services,” stated the paper.
It also suggested developing tools that can help judges arrive at decisions in cases such as the motor vehicle compensation claims, where the tribunal’s role is limited and rarely involves legal interpretation.
“A possible tool could aid the judge in cataloguing the requisite documents for such a claim, and glean the relevant information that will allow the judge to determine if compensation is due, the party that is liable to pay, and the value of compensation,” the paper added.
However, to harness the “transformative potential of emerging technologies like AI”, it stressed on the need to have open access to machine-readable, non-sensitive data, according to the report.
The judiciary, it added, should lay out some broad rules to govern data sharing.
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Challenges to AI
The report also addressed the challenges and potential dangers of using AI technology.
According to the think tank, AI can perpetuate biases either unintentionally or intentionally and can be vulnerable to attack or hacking.
“Since these systems are often trained on large datasets, they tend to replicate the same biases that were present in the original datasets. Similarly, personal biases of developers of algorithms may further add to this problem,” the paper said.
It also noted that according to research, people tend to use computer systems to reduce the effort of the decision-making process rather than to increase the quality of their own decisions.
Therefore, given the high pressure of caseloads and insufficient resources, there is a danger that supporting systems based on AI can be used by judges without applying their own minds.
“It is therefore possible that the use of decision support systems in the judiciary might not improve adjudication, but rather make it worse,” the report warned.
(Edited by Rachel John)
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