In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, technology and innovation have become integral to every facet of our lives, and the field of law is no exception. There is no doubt that the legal landscape is changing rapidly as we move into the 21st century. Gone are the days when the stereotypical image of a lawyer involved poring over tons of documents. The emergence of legal technology is revolutionizing this profession. Legal technology, also known as legal tech or law tech, plays a significant role in the Indian legal system. It encompasses the use of various technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Automation, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Data Analytics, to improve the efficiency, accessibility, and effectiveness of legal services. Below are some of the key roles played by legal technology in Indian law:
The adoption of technology in law offers several benefits that positively impact the legal profession and the administration of justice. It has replaced traditional approaches with modern methods revolutionizing today’s legal landscape. Some of the benefits of Legal Technology include increased efficiency, improved collaboration, fast process, enhanced access to information, large data storage space, enhanced legal research, cost savings, easy access, increased transparency, data analytics, predictive insights, and improved case management. Technology automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks, such as document management, legal research, and scheduling, allowing legal professionals to work more efficiently. This leads to reduced administrative burdens, improved productivity, and the ability to handle larger caseloads.
During the recent COVID-19 crisis, Judges, Advocates, Lawyers, and other staff members of the Court were forced to use virtual software to adhere to the ‘New Normal’. Also, the pandemic taught people to find long-lasting and alternative solutions with the help of available resources. Legal professionals used tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Docs, Legodesk, and others to work together. The Cloud-based platforms and collaboration tools not only allow lawyers to work on documents simultaneously, but also share information in real-time, and communicate more effectively. Legal Tech provides legal professionals with instant access to vast databases of legal information and facilitates faster as well as more accurate legal research. It enables lawyers to find relevant precedents, analyze legal issues, and develop stronger arguments.
The Supreme Court of India, High Courts, and various other law firms, for the past few years, are taking certain essential steps to adapt and embrace the technology for completing their chores easily and quickly. In the matter of Swapnil Tripathi vs. Supreme Court of India (2018), a nine-judge bench gave significant decisions on concepts of access to public information, Open justice, and transparency in the judicial process. Also, the main question addressed was, “Whether there should be live streaming of court proceedings or not?” The Supreme Court held that “Live-streaming of court proceedings is manifestly in the public interest. It is important to re-emphasize the significance of live-streaming as an extension of the principle of open justice and open courts. However, the process of live-streaming should be subjected to carefully structured guidelines.”
Earlier on August 26, 2014, the E-committee in discussion with the Supreme Court and High Courts discussed essential rules for live streaming of Court proceedings as well as addressed the concerns of confidentiality and privacy of litigants and witnesses. It was observed that “Courts must also take the aid of technology to enhance the principle of open courts by moving beyond physical accessibility to virtual accessibility.” E-committee submitted that so far in the Legal landscape, ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is incorporated in the Indian judiciary. Also, “a single unified Case Information System (CIS) Software has been developed for catering to the diversified requirements of the country in terms of local procedures, practices, and languages.” Other platforms for service delivery were also mentioned by the E-committee in their report including e-Courts Portal, Mobile App, SMS Push, SMS Pull, Automated eMails, E-Payment, E-Filing, Touch Screen Kiosks, and Service Centre.
On May 23, 2023, the Supreme Court of India invited Financial Bids, Technical Bids, and EMD for the Design, Development, and Implementation of AI tools for transcribing Court proceedings and arguments. As per the published notice, the meeting for the same was to be conducted on June 12, 2023, where the main focus of discussion was “Design, Development, and Implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Solution, Tools for Transcribing Arguments and Court Proceedings at Supreme Court of India.” Recently on July 03, 2023, the Supreme Court reopens after summer vacation with a major digital change in the courtrooms with a futuristic LED video wall, state-of-the-art digital video conferencing for communication and collaboration, and free WiFi facility. Earlier in an event, CJI DY Chandrachud indicated the next step of the Indian Judiciary is the use of AI for translating judgments into different regional languages of India. The idea was applauded by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi terming it as a ‘Laudatory thought’.
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Various technologies have been incorporated into the judicial system which are helping in speeding up the judicial processes in the Courts. Below are a few of the technology-based tool which helps in enhancing the overall efficiency of the judicial processes.
e-Courts project is an initiative by the Government of India to digitize the judicial system and provide electronic services for the efficient and transparent functioning of courts. It integrates with the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), which is a centralized database of case information from various courts across India. The project is based on the grounds of “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary,” as mentioned by the Supreme Court’s e-Committee. It aims to enable litigants, lawyers, and other stakeholders to access court-related information and services online. e-Courts platform provides online access to case information, including case status, case history, and next hearing dates. It also allows the electronic filing of cases, petitions, and documents as well as helps in maintaining a cause list.
e-SCR stands for Electronic Supreme Court Reports and refers to the digital or electronic versions of the official reports of judgments and orders issued by the Supreme Court of India. It allows lawyers, legal professionals, researchers, and the general public to search for specific cases, review past judgments, and stay updated on the latest decisions of the Supreme Court.
On the momentous event of Constitution Day, SUVAS (Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software) was presented to the Hon’ble the President of India in 2019. As per the press release on November 25, 2019, “SUVAS is a Machine-assisted translation tool trained by Artificial Intelligence. This Tool is especially designed for Judicial Domain and at present, has the capacity and capability of translating English Judicial documents, Orders, or Judgments into nine vernacular languages scripts and vice versa. This is the first step towards introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the Judicial Domain.” Nine Indian Languages include Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Urdu, Assamese, Kannada, Odiya, and Tamil.
SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court’s Efficiency) is an AI Research Assistant tool that helps in upgrading the productivity of legitimate analysts and judges by improving proficiency and reducing pendency. It provides information in a couple of seconds even from thousands of pages of documents.
To conclude, Legal Technology has affected almost every aspect of the Legal domain and helped legal professionals become proficient. Despite the various benefits of advanced technologies in the law field, it is of main concern to implement them thoughtfully and ethically, with considerations for data privacy, cybersecurity, and maintaining the human element in legal practice. Legal professionals should continue to exercise their judgment and expertise, using technology as a tool to enhance their capabilities and improve the delivery of legal services.
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