Artificial Intelligence- A Key To Transform The Legal Domain

By Dayaanitaa G
2021 Essay Scholarship 2nd Runner Up

"No force can stop the idea whose time has come". With the Fourth Industrial Revolution steering the global scenario, AI is that idea. With AI seeping into almost all the dimensions of our lives from self-driving cars to proactive healthcare, we have crossed the Rubicon. Artificial Intelligence is demonstrated by any artificial entity as a system that is achieved by way of an artificial neural network that attempts to emulate the cognitive capabilities of the human brain. Like in every other domain, AI has been slowly albeit surely transcending into the legal profession too. In this essay, I will be arguing for the claim that the introduction of AI tools in the legal profession promotes access to justice and diversity thus making it more inclusive and just.

India is a vastly diverse country with the amalgamation of several cultures, languages, and geographical features. While these factors reflect our rich heritage, they pose a significant threat to the complete access to justice for everyone, which is the essence of the rule of law in a democracy. Furthermore, access to legal machinery is hindered by a staggering number of pending cases. In a report by TOI, the total number of pending legal cases in India as of March 2020 was 3.68 crores which have now increased by 19% (up to 4.4 crores) in 2021 owing to the pandemic. This growing number of cases under trial is further aggravated by the dearth of judges (according to a report released recently by the Law Ministry has 19 judges per 10 lakh people on average).  Moreover, limited access to Supreme Court owing to geographical reasons has resulted in a whopping 34.1% of the aggregate appeals from merely 7.2% of the total population residing in adjacent northern states.

All of these stated facts raise pertinent questions- Why is access to ‘Justice’ still elusive? Why are some more equal than others? As denying justice is injustice in itself, it is of utmost importance to bridge this gap. AI has the potential to offer a solution.

Digitization of courts has been the first step to introduce AI into the legal domain. The onset of the pandemic further emphasized the urgent need for 'virtual hearings'. This aided in overcoming the geographical barriers and ensured the continuation of delivery of justice, making the judiciary more congenial to everyone even in adverse times.

To overcome financial obstacles and secure access to justice, AI chatbots have been introduced. These chatbots help in furnishing basic legal information to potential litigants and readily connect them with legal aid services or pro bono lawyers consequently providing, even, to the most economically backward people their right to justice. Additionally, the AI systems can also be used to break down the legal jargon thereby simplifying the process of drafting and filing. For example, SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court Efficiency), targets different processes like data mining, legal research, projecting case progress, etc. If transformed into reality, this could save lawyers the laborious hours spent in legal research and case studies thereby enabling them to focus on parts of their role that add the most value to their profession.

The incorporation of AI bots, that translate important judgments to vernacular languages, can help in disseminating legal knowledge to the general public and improving the awareness of people about the functioning of the judiciary. For example, SUVAAS, designed by the Supreme Court’s AI Committee relies on natural language processing,  to ease and expedite the translation of judicial orders, and rulings into many commonly spoken ones. This would ultimately lead to a well-informed and knowledgeable citizenry resulting in a positive impact on comprehensive social development.

One of the main pillars of the legal profession is the process of law-making itself.  In 2017, an article by TOI points that in the last 10 years 47% of the bills were passed in the parliament with NO debate at all. This disturbing trend of reduced discussion time has resulted in the laws passed, being met with several protests due to the lack of inclusion and appropriate accommodation of interests. This shortfall of accommodating diverse interests can be resolved by introducing AI in law-making. AI bots that can capture and display the reservations of people and other legislators regarding a proposed bill, to the ruling government, provide the opportunity to inspect the shortcomings of the bill. Thereby, offering a chance to reach a common consensus and making the law all-encompassing and holistic.

The inclusion of diverse opinions in the legal systems (legislation, legal practice, and adjudication) mitigates the scope for any inherent bias as one cannot stick to ones’ prejudiced views when there is a need to accommodate everyone's interests. Again, AI appears to be a plausible solution to deal with the existing bias in the legal system.

One of the earliest instances where the credibility of AI was put to test was in Wisconsin vs Loomis case (2016). The United States Supreme Court stated that the COMPAS report [a report formed by an AI software that works using an algorithm that considers answers to a 137-item questionnaire] taken into consideration by the judge to sentence the accused, was unbiased and also had a sufficient level of transparency, given the fact that the software was under human supervision and mitigated any chances of error.

In another instance, in January 2019 the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, China, had used the “206 system” for the first time in the criminal trial. This system digitalizes courtroom processes through video evidence, witness testimony via video, maintaining the confidentiality of the case and the identity of the victim. It helped the judge find facts, authenticate pieces of evidence and judge impartially on the trial to prevent wrongfully convicted cases. For this reliability, the integrated AI assistive system for criminal cases has become popular in Chinese trials. This is just the onset of many imminent instances where straightforward civil and criminal cases, having little to no evidence with limited parameters and arguments are aided by AI for the assessment of cases, hence paving way for the seamless functioning of the judiciary.

Thus, the penetration of AI in the legal domain helps in optimizing filing, researching, and drafting. It also enhances the quality of the justice being delivered by incorporating diversity and plays an indispensable role while ensuring access to justice for one and all.

The proliferation of AI in the legal sphere is inexorable. While AI is modernizing this system, it surely needs to be bounded by a strong legal framework to explore its maximum benefits. This will ensure that the legal mechanism is transparent and accountable thereby legitimizing the credibility of AI. It is important to note that while AI augments the legal profession it cannot replace the professionals and their humane attributes. "Our intelligence is what makes us human and AI is the extension of that quality". With advancements in AI, the dream of a fair, accessible, diverse, unbiased, and just legal system will transform into a much-awaited reality.