Artificial intelligence: The solution to reducing backlogs in Indian Courts?

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While the need for more human resources in the Indian judiciary is still debated, integration of technology has opened new pathways to deal with the same more systematically and efficiently.   


he courts in India have been inflicted with the problem of backlogs for as long as memory serves. According to the recent data from the National Judicial Data Grid (as on February 26, 2018), over 1 million new cases are filed every month across the country, in the subordinate courts alone. Currently, there are over 26 million cases pending across various courts, out of which 2.2 million cases are pending for over ten years. These details paint a very bothersome picture of the judicial system of the world’s largest democracy.

Though the often proposed solutions to this problem ranges from the appointment of more human power in terms of judges to improving the very infrastructure of the court, it is easy for anyone to see that these have been recommended for a long time now, but unfortunately without much action or impact.

One aspect, however, that goes unnoticed is the sheer quantity of legal research that needs to be undertaken, not just by lawyers to present their case, but also the judges. Can then one say that if legal research became highly efficient and quicker, then the process of justice delivery would also speed up?

New Delhi based legal-tech company “Legitquest” certainly believes so. In fact, it now stands proven that a simplified and advanced legal research can dramatically reduce the time spent on research. Legitquest (LQ) is committed to reforming the way legal research is done by the use of advanced technology. It employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide the most relevant and useful case laws and information to its users. Two of its most popular products – iDRAF and iGraphics are meant to be one-click research tools. While iDRAF shows the researcher the different parts of a judgment (decision, reasoning, arguments and facts) by single clicks, on the other hand, iGraphics tells you the various treatments of any case law in various other judgments.

Along with helping lawyers, researchers and students to conduct quicker and more accurate research, the aim is also to assist judges in conducting better and faster research and hence, delivering judgments at a quicker pace. This, in turn, is bound to help in reducing backlogs to a great extent.

The role of research assistants or law clerks is of great importance when it comes to the delivery of judgments. In the Supreme Court and various High Courts across the country, such researchers are appointed and attached to sitting judges to help them with research, information compilation, note making, and judgment writing. The law clerks oft-times also extensively undertake judgment drafting. Thus, the assistance that such judges get is unparalleled. On the other hand, this system has not yet been extended to a large number of subordinate courts in the country. While this is another feasible solution, the hiring of such large number of workforce is bound to be a complicated and long drawn affair.

It is pertinent to mention here that in a recently held meeting New Delhi under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Madan B. Lokur, Judge-in-Charge, e-Committee, Supreme Court of India, in which Legitquest also took part, to brainstorm thoughts and address issues surrounding the massive backlogs that plague the Indian judiciary. The fact that the primary agenda of this conference was the use of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics in solving the problem of backlogs shows a confident and dedicated effort towards the fight against delayed justice and the role of technology in it.

Hon’ble Mr. Justice A.K. Sikri, while addressing the legal fraternity at the launch event of Legitquest also pointed out how technology can never replace humans, but can certainly help them.

Interestingly, Legitquest even proposed a solution- a system inspired by the role that is played by judicial clerks. This digital ‘judicial clerk’ will help judges manage their cases and keep a regular tab on all the developments that happen over time. The system will also provide the entire history of cases pending before a judge, such as everything that happened in the lower forums. This will lead to lesser dependency on paperwork and physical documents, which often run into hundreds or even thousands of pages. In addition, this system will be integrated with the various research tools of Legitquest, namely, iSearch, iDRAF and iGraphics. In essence, it is slated to be the complete judicial clerk, and with enhanced research skills, thanks to technology.

Further, AI-assisted drafting of judgments has already to some extent become a reality in certain developed countries like the United States. Though there has been concern regarding decision-making powers being imparted to technological entities because such decisions are based on programmes and commands. Such decisions are bound to be devoid of any emotional and psychological engagement and may even be arbitrary, without proper analysis of varying facts and circumstances, and hence downright incorrect or unfair.

Hence, based on the developments occurring in the field of technology and artificial intelligence, it is undeniable that man and machine together can indeed help the judiciary by reducing its burden. Also, perhaps they can soon, in the future, build a parallel judiciary, certainly not substitutive but assistive.