AI, technology and virtual courts: Legal services meet discuss future of Justice system in India

Enhancing the use of technology for better access to legal services was an important theme at the All India District Legal Services Authority Meet at the Vigyan Bhawan on Saturday.

Justice DY Chandrachud, chairman of the E Courts Committee of the Supreme court, informed the delegates that the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for phase 3 of the E Courts project had been finalised, with over 3500 crore worth of projects proposed.

PM Narendra Modi as Chief Guest at the event emphasized the need to use “next gen technology” and digital platforms for access to Justice. Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana and NALSA Chairman Justice UU Lalit also spoke of the use of technology for betterment of legal aid services.

“Technology has emerged as a great enabler,” said the CJI.

Justice Chandrachud, in the technical session on Use of Technology, also mentioned the great leaps taken and the proposed projects for E-Court, virtual courts, and digital technology.

19.2 million cases were heard via video conference by HCs and district courts during Covid lockdown. 1.78 crore cases were disposed or via Videoconferencing. The National Judicial Data Grid has data of about 17 crore cases.

Justice Chandrachud also mentioned the future programs for using technology.

The Gram panchayat level common service centers, which are run by the local administration, are in the process of being integrated with the E Courts facilities.

4.21 lakh CSCs integrated with E Courts system are “already functional and others are being built with the vision of having one CSC in each gram panchayat,” said justice Chandrachud.

This means that any person who wants to access legal advice can get access through Tele-Law and online advice facilities and can access information regarding the status of their cases and file documents without physically going to the court premises.

Apart from e-filing, touchscreen kiosks, automated systems, the phase 3 proposal aims to “develop virtual courts to reduce footfalls in the court.”

Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the use of macro data based artificial intelligence processing, automated processes have been put in place for Traffic challan courts in Delhi.

The virtual courts can run 24×7, and can be managed by a much smaller number of Judicial officers and staff.

“As of yesterday, almost 283 crore rupees have been collected as fine through the virtual traffic courts with proceedings completed in 1.7 crore cases saving hours of judicial time as well as time of litigants while providing them a convenient interface,” said Justice Chandrachud.

“Phase III of the e-Courts project further envisions additional infrastructure for the judicial system that is natively digital, while improving existing physical processes. It does not merely digitise paper-based processes, it transforms processes for a digital environment,” said Chandrachud.

“Phase III will enable any litigant or lawyer to file a case from anywhere, at any time, without having to go to multiple windows in the premises of any specific court. It seeks to create a reality in which lawyers and litigants can effectively plead their cases with certainty of optimal hearings,” he added.

Justice (retired) AP Sahi, head of the National Judicial Academy also discussed the issues and problems involved.

The issues of accessibility, lack of internet network in remote areas and the poorest districts were flagged as a serious concern in the discussion.

In addition, Sahi also pointed out that for the future use of digital technology, the judiciary would also have to consider the legal requirements of change in the Evidence Act provisions to allow courts to accept the evidence submitted.

Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal also pointed out that there could be problems with using artificial intelligence as a management decision making tool- due to inherent biases in the AI ​​which come from the inputs by the human user.

Supreme court Justice PS Narsimha also called for creation of training and support systems for the Judicial officers at the lowest level.

The NALSA has in the last few years pushed digital technology for Online Lok Adalats, a Tele-Law- telephone based legal advisory service by lawyers. In addition, the web based Case information System (CIS), National Judicial Data Grid and e-filing and E payments systems have also been expanded.

The E Courts project is also creating a unified Law Library for all Judicial officers across India, which allows judges to access all judgments, books and information.

Justice Chandrachud also said that use of AI technology for scanning large volumes of documents and providing summaries was being used as a pilot exercise. The scanner programs are capable of reading through long documents, and can even collate evidence for the judges.

Earlier this year, NALSA also launched an AI chatbox ‘Ask Vidhi’ on its website and App, which provides information on access to judicial institutions. NALSA is also in the process of acquiring a Whatsapp-based chat bot to allow litigants to access basic information and advice via phones.

Justice UU Lalit, Chairman of NALSA has, however, pointed out that “The aim of legal aid is for the poorest and most marginalised, who may not have access even to a smartphone.”

As legal aid apparatus, we must develop ourselves as the medium of communication using technology,” said Justice Lalit.

He also pointed out that there is also question of security risk involved with creating the infrastructure in a jail premises, in case of misuse. In addition, Justice Lalit also said that the system has to be created where procedural delays do not keep a person away from accessing legal aid, since at present, legal aid authorities at the ground level may not have information about or access to all cases.

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