COVID-19 pandemic offers perfect opportunity to improve India's legal system through disruptive tech, here's why

COVID-19 pandemic offers perfect opportunity to improve India's legal system through disruptive tech, here's why

COVID-19 pandemic offers perfect opportunity to improve India's legal system through disruptive tech, here's why

Technology is transforming many aspects of peoples lives. The legal sector too has witnessed changes globally with disruptive technology generating greater accountability and reducing duration of litigation.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, India too has moved to virtual courts with excellent services. However, application of disruptive technology may do wonders. The Supreme Court recently observed inter alia that there cannot be a refusal to part ways from old practices especially when they have outlived their purpose.

Technology facilitates the digitisation of data and integration of various data repositories some physical and some digital which in the aggregate may constitute a treasure trove of information. The Community Justice and Tribunals System )CJTS), the concept of Future Courts enhancing data analytics capabilities of Data Analytics and Research Department (DARD) in Singapore and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) in the United Kingdom are a few examples. In Brazil, a number of courts have already made the jump from traditional lawsuits to digital disputes with some studying the potential for artificial intelligence.

Big data and machine learning can transform how we handle dispute resolution.

The key is in making sense of all that data and gleaning actionable insights in a way which translate meaningfully into improved processes and better services for our court users. Assessing the benefits against the costs of exploring and exploiting new technologies including artificial intelligence-based prediction systems or legal information retrieval systems blockchain ledger technologies and other nascent technologies may have applications to judicial work.

It is imperative to employ more sophisticated data analytics techniques to better forecast caseloads to enable early resource planning for effective case management which may help state and local courts in India responsible for handling much of the nations judicial caseload.

Technology will continue to advance as will the commercialisation of law in ways which will affect the conduct of litigation with our court operations witnessing more self-represented litigants choosing navigation of court processes on their own. With these longterm trends in mind the three aspects that may need to be emphasised are (i) provision for excellent court services (ii) court processes enhancement and (iii) stakeholder engagement and knowledge sharing.

As far as provision of excellent court services is concerned there is value in providing more holistic court services by tapping on specialist knowledge in other domains such as social services and psychology. Technology needs to be enabled for the improvement of court services increasing both the accessibility and responsiveness of the services we provide.

Two key enduring aspects of an effective and accessible justice system, affordability and efficiency, need to be the mantra. As efficiency is inextricably linked to the complexity of court processes simplifying our procedures to ensure more convenience and less time-consuming may help. As technology will be a pivotal driver for enhancing access to justice in the time ahead India may need to collaborate closely with the innovation teams across the world to explore more transformative efforts and harness technology judiciously coupled with collaborating actively with our community stakeholders to achieve a more integrated justice system and providing better holistic outcomes for our court users.

Even as we recognise the tremendous potential of artificial intelligence (AI) we should ensure that AI applications which we implement are both "accessible" and "inclusive". Less tech-savvy or tech-enabled court users in particular should continue to be assisted as they navigate the justice system.

In the delivery of justice human experience empathy and common-sense reasoning play a critical role.

Thus the continuous evaluation and improvement of existing practices and processes must be an essential undertaking coupled with a strategy map for an adaptive and future ready workforce to deliver excellent court services.

The digital revolution in India is high compared to leading countries across the world. It is therefore imperative that officers in the legal system are further attuned to the advanced technology-driven environment in which they operate.

A strategy needs to be developed to enable the state and local courts to harness technology and transform processes in tandem with the evolving digital environment India needs to adopt a two-pronged strategy to first equip the courts workforce with digital skills and enhance knowledge of digital technology and second to provide resources to apply the skills learnt.

Surjith Karthikeyan is an Indian Economic Service 2010 Officer The views expressed are personal