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“Let there be no doubt that technology is now bringing focus on judges-

How we conduct ourselves, how long we sit in court, the seriousness with which courts are handled and cases are conducted, the courtesy which judges show to the members of the bar and litigants, particularly those lawyers who are not in the higher echelons in the hierarchy of the bar”, pointed out Justice DY Chandrachud on Monday.

The judge was speaking at the E-Inauguration of Justice Clock & e-Court Fee System for High Court of Gujarat & District Judiciary.

“Technology is opening us up to the world outside. But we must also understand that all these initiatives which we are adopting have now brought focus on judges…Every once in a while, we see a video doing a viral round of an exchange between a lawyer and a judge in the court. There have been quite a few of these in recent times. But there is a strong message in this for all of us that technology has completely transformed our lives and it is important that we as judges, as all stakeholders, as all members of the bar, adapt to the needs of technology. Because technology is here to stay. I don’t think we can say anymore that we can stand aloof from the winds of change which are sweeping every aspect of our society”, said Justice Chandrachud.

‘Next step should be evaluating the prospect of using artificial intelligence technology in court processes’

“At the initiation of the lock down, all courts worked to ensure that the delivery of justice was not interrupted. High Courts were steadfast in adoption of model rules for video conferencing and e-filing that was shared by the SC e-committee. Pursuant to the letter that I wrote in December, 2020, the High Courts also actively took part in increasing the accessibility of their websites for persons with visual impairment by introducing audio captchas, providing screen reader access. I have also shared an SOP with the chief Justices of the High Courts for reconfiguring existing filing practice to make filing accessible to persons with disabilities. I encourage the High Courts to adopt the SOP in its letter and spirit. Sustained cooperation would enable us to reduce regional disparities in the level of technological development and adopt the best practices. The technological milestone reached by one High Court serves as an inspiration and model for best practices for other High Courts”, urged Justice Chandrachud.

“While facilities of e-payment, e-filing and NSTEP have automated manual processes, the next step should be evaluating the prospect of using artificial intelligence technology in court processes. Across the world, AI algorithms are used for advanced caselaw search engines, online dispute resolution, assistance in drafting deeds, analysis that is predictive and scaling up analysis, categorisation of contracts according to different criteria and detection of diversion and incompatible contractual clauses and chat box to inform litigants or support them in the legal proceedings”, he continued.

Justice Chandrachud canvassed that one area where AI technology has been incorporated in India is the virtual courts which are being used to adjudicate upon traffic challans, that These courts are functional in 12 states-they receive challans from offences captured by CCTV cameras.

“We have also developed an advanced judgment search portal which provides access to judgments and final orders provided by various high courts in the country. Judgments can be searched based on several criteria. The most important feature of the portal is the free text search engine which finds out judgments based on a given key word. 55,27,000 judgments from across 19 High Courts are currently available. The embedded filtering feature allows for the further filtering of available results, thus adding value to the search”, he explained.

“We can consider how AI’s use of predictive technology can assist us in identifying frivolous litigation, reducing the pendency of cases and improving productivity. The use of artificial intelligence would be a guide for the state governments, and I would appeal to the government of Gujarat to use AI to have better predictive outcome in cases like that of land acquisition. In motor accident claims also, the insurance companies can predict what is the likely outcome of the case so that you can settle in advance, given the time value of money”, he discussed.

The judge cautioned, “At the same time, you would have to be wary of the possibility that AI generated outcomes are not predicated by any bias which can crop in how algorithms analyse data. A healthy balance between the use of data and human intervention has to be maintained”

“Technology must be understood as the facilitator of change, but the driver of change has been and must be the human mind. The only limitation on the human mind is human commitment to change and to adapt”, he added.

‘I intend to write to all Chief Justices to replicate Virtual Justice Clock not only in High Courts but all courts’

“Very often, the criticism expressed is that Justice is oblivious of time. Some of our own failings in the judiciary or in the legal system have been immortalised on the screen, both on the large screen and on the small screen. Unfortunately, it is true that we forget the clock when we do justice. In a way, it is good that we forget the clock because judges work oblivious to the demands of time. Once you handle a case in the court, no case is too big, no case is too small because it represents a human face behind the dispute. Equally, technology has taught us that we must respect the time value of all stakeholders”, expressed Justice Chandrachud.

He was of the view that the Justice clock installed about 17 feet from the ground is a “reminder to us that there are some higher values which guide our functioning and ultimately, we are here to subserve those higher values, namely, of dispensing justice to the common citizen”

He expressed that the Justice clock aims to disseminate information on the disposal and pendency of cases, spread legal awareness and provide details of court services; that a virtual Justice clock is also being launched as a digital replica of the Justice clock for convenient remote growing; that the e-court fee system enables payment of court fees without the hassle of obtaining physical judicial stamps- “Both these measures will benefit litigants and the public at large.

Residents of Gujarat are known to be extraordinarily mobile, they have a great spirit of entrepreneurship which only this state has. So somebody sitting in New Jersey or somebody in Durban in South Africa or somebody in Wellington in New Zealand will now be able to view the virtual Justice clock. I think this is a remarkable change which has been brought in. And What to speak about people abroad- Every Indian citizen will be able to know what is happening in the legal system”.

“I do believe that this initiative of the High Court of Gujarat will spread not only to all the district courts in the state but to all the other states in India as well where a justice clock in its virtual replica will become a permanent feature of every court establishment in the country. I thank Brother Justice M. R. Shah for making this suggestion and I intend to write to all chief Justices to replicate this not only in High Courts but all courts in the states”, asserted Justice Chandrachud.

The judge also commended the Gujarat High Court for being the first High Court to launch live streaming of proceedings and to continue to provide so even when the courts are functioning physically, and that the same would go a long way in achieving transparency and openness.

“A unique aspect of the e-committee’s work has been the collaboration between the judiciary across all states to build a digital infrastructure which is scientific, efficient and useful. The technological enablement of the judiciary has been made possible through constant deliberation, coordination and cooperation among the High Courts, the union and the state governments and other service providers”, he said.

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