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[RSTV Archive] Judiciary & Artificial Intelligence

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The Supreme Court’s Artificial Intelligence Committee a few months back in April has launched its Artificial Intelligence portal SUPACE.

What is SUPACE?

  • SUPACE is an acronym for Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Courts Efficiency.
  • It is a blend of human and artificial intelligence, and as clarified by Bobde, will not be used in decision-making.
  • The role of AI will be limited to the collection and analysis of data.
  • The courts fully retains the autonomy and the discretion of the judge in deciding the case, though at a much, much faster pace because of the readiness with which the information is made available by the AI.

Salient features of SUPACE

  • SUPACE facts and arguments relevant to judging a particular case are intelligently presented in a matter of seconds—done manually, this would have taken months—adjudication could become that much faster.
  • SUPACE is customizable, that is, it can behave uniquely like an individual user, learning from and mirroring user behaviour; to illustrate, imagine a system that learns to glean relevant data and present it in a structure that a judge/legal researcher finds easy to comprehend or present.
  • As it is with all AI, as the system ‘learns’, efficiency leaps exponentially.
  • The SUPACE system also includes a chatbot that can give the overview of a case, respond to elementary questions, while switching between documents and prompting further questions to sharpen the user’s understanding of a case.

Need for AI in Judiciary

  • India’s judiciary is mired in backlogs.
  • According to the data available with the National Judicial Data Grid, around 3.81 crore cases are pending in India and more than one lakh cases have been pending for more than 30 years.

Other such initiatives

  • SCI-Interact: In 2020, the Supreme Court developed a software called, SCI-Interact, to make all its 17 benches paperless. This software helps judges access files, annexures to petitions and make notes on computers.
  • LIMBS: Earlier, the Department of Legal Affairs has introduced a web-based application called LIMBS or Legal Information Management & Briefing System. The idea is to track the entire life cycle of a case efficiently.
  • SUVAAS: In November 2019, the Apex Court launched an indigenously engineered neural translation tool, SUVAAS, to translate judicial orders and rulings from English to vernacular languages faster and efficiently.

Global IT solutions in Judiciary

  • The criminal justice system of the US uses algorithms to estimate the risks of habitual offence.
  • Many courts in the country are also actively embracing online dispute resolution (ODR) initiatives.
  • Unsurprisingly, China has also been adopting AI in the judiciary. The country reportedly has more than 100 robots in courts to recover case histories.

Applications of AI in Judiciary

  • AI could be used in cases of a repetitive nature that fit a strict pattern such as bouncing of cheques, civil violations or drunk driving.
  • Pre-judicial work, such as case management, random allocation of matters to benches, case-law indexing and analysis, administrative work linked to a court can lean on AI to streamline and reduce pendency.
  • Judging involves human emotions too. No scientific tool has any moral issue attached to it, said Justice Srikrishna who helmed the study for India’s data protection policy.
  • AI has not been programmed to delve into human emotions.

Debate over SUPACE

  • SUPACE has opened up a debate of sorts on how much AI can be used to dispense justice.
  • The core job of a judge is judging. That cannot be outsourced, said former Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna.
  • Nuances of judging a person’s state of mind are beyond a bot, said jurists.
  • Judicial work cannot be handed over to a machine, even one with AI or programmed to read and understand law, said Justice Srikrishna.

Limitations of SUPACE

  • For now, in India, SUPACE will be used for administrative purposes and not decision making.
  • Automated fairness is not possible to be achieved because ML-based systems do not know how to explain or digest the information they learn.
  • A mere idealistic approach to estimate things would not take the initiative further.

Possible applications of SUPACE

  • AI has abilities to identify fact patterns easily and compare them with precedents.
  • Traffic violations and drunken driving cases or some civic violations can be dealt with by AI.

Way forward

  • The ethical and responsible use of AI and ML for the advancement of efficiency enhancing can be increasingly embedded in legal and judicial processes.
  • The Supreme Court has laid a strong foundation basis which efficiency enhancement can be accelerated across functional processes.
  • This is one of the key reasons why justice delivery in India is poised for transformative change.

Conclusion

  • SUPACE will produce results customized to the need of the case and the way the judge thinks.
  • This will be time-saving. It will help the judiciary and the court in reducing delays and pendency of cases.
  • AI will present a more streamlined, cost-effective and time-bound means to the fundamental right of access to justice.
  • It will make the service delivery mechanism transparent and cost-efficient.
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