AI in the Indian Judiciary System: Feasible or a Far-Fetched Vision?

With artificial intelligence (AI) permeating almost every facet of human life in recent years, understanding the possible implications of the use of artificially intelligent technologies becomes more significant than ever. Our personal lives are greatly impacted by AI – from setting reminders for meetings to the translation of languages or the predictive AI-driven algorithms that drive our product recommendations in e-commerce and social media sites. Similarly, every professional field uses AI on a small, but highly effective scale; including basic tasks like calculating numbers using a formula and more complicated tasks like the facial recognition of criminals. When it comes to evaluating whether the growing utilization of AI in the legal field is a bane or boon, we need to understand that the issue might not be as straightforward as one might assume, with the benefits balanced by the likely risks that will arise with its potential misuse.

An article by Richa Maria

If used effectively, employing artificially intelligent technologies in the legal world has the potential to provide solutions to the myriad issues obstructing the delivery of justice especially in countries which have a staggeringly high number of pending cases like India.The increased efficiency, accuracy and time-saving benefits of AI can further aid the digital empowerment of India’s judicial system and help reduce the troubling backlog of cases in the country. With the nation having nearly 4.7 crore (47 million) pending cases as per the latest statistics, a figure that continues to haunt the system, it is the need of the hour to address the efficiency concerns plaguing the judicial system – after all, justice delayed is justice denied.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Usage of Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Field: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?

Despite its traditional resistance to embracing change, AI is taking the legal industry by storm because of its immense time-saving benefits. The most obvious advantage of employing AI technology is the efficient utilization of time – as cumbersome tasks get completed quicker, legal practitioners can concentrate on their clients’ needs to a greater extent. These artificially intelligent technologies can be employed to optimize existing legal processes in law firms by automation of routine tasks that make searching for documents easier, which helps in conducting precise research and in reviewing documents systematically. This streamlining of the workforce and increased productivity reflects greater client satisfaction and freedom from high-volume, repetitive labour for lawyers. Irrefutably, AI is already widespread among businesses because technology does not require breaks to function at the same, or even greater efficiency, than a human employee. In a firm, while the installation of such technologies on a large scale would be an enormous initial investment, the financial benefits, in the long run, cannot be disregarded.

Moving on to the disadvantages, the reliability of AI-powered legal prediction machines is often disputed – and there is a good explanation for this. AI gathers information and draws conclusions by applying machine learning techniques, deep learning or inferential statistics. While statistical methods identify and classify the significant correlations, such correlations are not sufficient to demonstrate the causality that motivates the action that is to be undertaken. Moreover, the training data used to teach the technology has the possibility of containing implicit biases, which could, in turn, weaken the AI’s decision-making ability as it is not immune to such prejudices. Eradicating these biases is necessary before employing AI technologies in firms and practices, but this could prove to be most challenging considering that its decisions reflect the values and principles of its human developers. Findings from a study suggest that facial recognition technology is flawed as AI has difficulty identifying subjects who are female, Black and between the ages of 18-30. This can be attributed to the inventors of this technology being predominantly White males. Thus, the application of cleverly integrated algorithm systems in specific legal fields such as criminal law could be particularly problematic due to the potential consequences of making liberty-depriving decisions based on their predictions. This automation of human decision-making could prove to be quite unethical and can act as an instrument of reinforcing or amplifying implicit bias in legal judgments.

Since the dawn of the epoch of technology, a bleak future where AI potentially replaces humans in the workforce has been foreboded. Nevertheless, the chances of the complete replacement of human lawyers seem low. More realistically, AI could change the way that legal jobs are performed, rather than eradicate them altogether. Nuanced skills such as advocacy, analysis and critical thinking are challenging to automate, while tedious tasks such as legal research, drafting and searching for relevant documents related to a case can be undertaken by faster, and more intelligent software that has potential to displace certain legal occupations; there is a legitimate threat of unemployment for workers from lower-skilled and lower-paid categories.

Recent Strides Taken by India to Adopt Artificially Intelligent Technologies in the Judiciary System

The eCourts Mission Mode Project, a pan-India Project for district courts, was conceptualized on the basis of a report titled, ‘National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005.’ The project envisages transforming the Indian judiciary by automating the processes to provide transparency and enhancing judicial productivity by enabling courts with ICT. Phase-1 of the project was implemented during 2011-2015 and involved preparing numerous Court complexes and Judicial Service Centres for the computerization of the district courts. As Phase-II, which began in 2015, is nearing its conclusions, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju acknowledged that in order to implement the next phase of the project, i.e., Phase-III, new, cutting-edge technology such as AI must be employed. Phase III of the project, building on the advances made by the earlier phases, envisions features such as paperless courts, expanding the scope of Virtual Courts and using AI and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for analysis of case pendency. The budget allocation for Phase-III of the project is 7,000 crore rupees (70,000 million) which is a significant increase from the cumulative 2309.41 crore rupees (23,094 million) spent on the first two phases; demonstrating the Government’s keenness in dealing with the dire situation of case pendency.

Although the incorporation of AI technologies in the courts has been painstakingly slow compared to other nations such as China and the USA, major steps have taken place over the past few years. A momentous milestone was the introduction of the first AI portal SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court Efficiency) was launched by the Supreme Court in 2021 to understand judicial processes that require automation, and assist the Court in improving efficiency and reducing pendency by encapsulating judicial processes that can be automated through AI. For a diverse country like India having over 22 major languages, SUVAS (Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software) was established to help with the translation of court decisions into regional dialects. This AI-backed tool has the ability to translate legal papers from English into vernacular languages and vice versa.

The Way Forward

While there are no laws in India that regulate AI, the government clearly wants to support the application of AI in the country – India is among the top 10 countries in terms of investment in AI made by governmental and private organizations. In a historic first, the Punjab and Haryana High Court used ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI, in court to reject a petition. More recently, the Supreme Court also permitted the court’s proceedings to be transcribed live using Teres, a technology that typically transcribes arbitration proceedings. Indian courts are willingly embracing AI, evidenced by the growing employment of artificially intelligent technologies in its jurisprudence and daily activities.

With the practice of law on the cusp of a revolution led by the increased use of AI in the profession, it becomes more important than ever to bear in mind the legal and ethical implications of the same. The thorny relationship between artificial intelligence and law, fraught with its ethical and moral dilemmas, cannot be ignored. In the 20th century, the deluge of constant, new data requires massive time to process, and this laborious work can be delegated to AI; considering the many pending cases in judicial systems all around the world, the opportunities that the extensive use of AI brings are much-needed. Some of the disadvantages of AI can be mitigated through regular performance evaluations of the automated systems, a comprehensive assessment of accuracy at regular intervals, compliance with data privacy, security guidelines and the drafting of a robust legal framework. While additional drawbacks could arise with time, because the usage of AI in the legal world is still in its primitive stages, the reality is that no one can envisage the long-term effects that AI will bring to society because radical technological changes are always unpredictable.

Published under licence CC BY-NC-ND. 

Richa Maria Written by:

Richa Maria is a second-year law student pursuing BA.LLB (Hons) from the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab.