Courts embrace tech but CJI's AI goal still a distant dream

Civil society organisation Daksh’s programme director Surya Prakash said that AI or complex algorithms which help quicken the pace of justice are already a way of life in other legal jurisdictions.

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The Supreme Court of India already uses AI for limited purposes, such as translating its judgements into several vernacular languages.

NEW DELHI: The coronavirus threat has forced Indian courts to embrace greater digitisation and use of technology to reduce the need for physical interface between litigants, lawyers and judges, but it will take years for the courts to transition to the next level use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as envisaged by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, said civil society organisation Daksh.

Much will depend on how much the courts focus on this neglected aspect, how much of funds are allocated for this and whether the judiciary reaches out to centres of excellence with the wherewithal to help the courts make the transition to more efficient next generation technologies, said Daksh’s programme director Surya Prakash.

He said that AI or complex algorithms which help quicken the pace of justice are already a way of life in other legal jurisdictions. The American courts use AI in the form of The Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) to sentence criminals, though with limited success. The case management and decision support tool, used by the US courts to assess the likelihood of an accused to relapse to his old ways, has run into criticism on the grounds that it fails to eliminate bias inherent in the rulings it uses to predict such behaviour. In other legal jurisdictions such as the UK it is much in use in legal aid, dispute avoidance and containment.


The Supreme Court of India already uses AI for limited purposes, such as translating its judgements into several vernacular languages. But not much planning has gone into extending its use to other areas despite much talk about the promise of AI in the justice delivery system. CJI Bobde has spoken out often about the promise held out by AI. In that sense, Prakash said, there is an intent to use technology to make the system more efficacious. It now has to be backed by action in terms of focus on use of technology and also reaching out to those institutions which can help the court get to its goals quicker, he said.

In a recent meeting with e-committees of high courts, Justice DY Chandrachud, head of the Supreme Court e-committee, had stressed on the need to start virtual courts in all states not only to deal with traffic challans but also in all other summary violations.

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