Bar Speaks: Exploring Possibilities of Artificial Intelligence in the Indian legal system

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As per the reports, DoNotPay has proven to be a valuable resource for individuals seeking legal assistance. Its use of AI and machine learning has made it a unique and innovative tool for navigating the legal system.

An accused person's representation in court by a legal professional, such as a lawyer or advocate, is about to be supplemented by another form of defense: one provided by an artificial intelligence (AI) bot. This new development is set to make history in the United States next month, as the first robot lawyer DoNotPay will be defending someone accused of violating traffic laws.

DoNotPay is an AI-powered chatbot that was created in 2015 by a 19-year-old Stanford University student named Joshua Browder. The chatbot was designed to help people contest their parking tickets in London and New York City.

Since its launch, DoNotPay has evolved significantly and now offers a range of services to help people with a variety of legal issues. Some of these services include contesting speeding tickets, canceling subscriptions, and even helping asylum seekers with their applications.

One of the key features of DoNotPay is its accessibility. The chatbot can be accessed via a web browser or smartphone app, providing users with step-by-step guidance on navigating various legal processes.

In addition to its practical applications, DoNotPay has also gained attention for its use of AI and machine learning. The chatbot uses natural language processing to understand user requests and provide appropriate responses, and it continually learns and adapts as it gathers more data.

At Lawbeat, we consider discourse an important aspect of Legal Journalism which includes inculcating a plethora of opinions and voices from across the board in its ambit to understand various nuances of an issue. This inclusivity of opinions is what Lawbeat strives for, day in and day out. Indeed, discourse is the only way forward for change-making.

Therefore, our team reached out to a cross-section of Former Judges, Senior Lawyers & Lawyers from across the country to get their views on views on whether it is possible to use AI-powered tools to argue a matter in the Indian Legal system, can we expect that AI will replace human lawyers in the near future and in case AI-based tools are used in India, how will it affect the Indian Legal System?

What the Legal Fraternity had to say:

Solely using AI as a tool to argue matters is counterproductive

Advocate on Record, Namit Saxena said, “AI-powered tools cannot argue a matter in the present legal system. Firstly, because the Advocates Act, of 1961 has no such provision. In absence of a statutory framework permitting AI to argue before courts, it cannot be done. Secondly, solely using AI as a tool to argue matters is counterproductive as it leaves much less room for creativity to develop laws on any subject.”

Mr. Saxena opined that “Law is not static but a dynamic field that constantly evolves itself. We need human creativity coupled with experience to improve the law to meet society's requirements.”

However, while exploring possibilities of using AI in the judicial system, Mr. Saxen said, “AI can be used for mechanical and routine cases to assist the courts. We must at all times remember that we have to use AI and not get used to it.”

We must promote the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence

Advocate Dr. Karnika Seth, who specialised in Cyber Laws and is a Tech expert says that AI is a powerful technology that can render efficacy to our Law & Justice system. “It can be leveraged to render more efficacy to the access to the Justice system, legal research, case law analysis, and even decide matters through robots in matters such as deciding traffic challan cases!” Dr. Seth added.

Dr. Seth says that “In India, the practice of law before courts requires enrolment with the Bar Council and as of now, standalone AI cannot substitute an Advocate, though an Advocate may use AI-enabled tools to prepare and argue a matter.”

Given the above, Dr. Seth said that our regulatory system will need a dynamic transformation before such AI robots can argue a case in Indian courts. A plethora of questions emerge such as accountability of AI robots, transparency, liability, challenges to data sampling, data ethics, Machine learning, and Sandbox issues. It will change the dynamics of confidentiality and privacy inherent in an attorney-client privilege too.

Raising the issue of the responsible use of Artificial intelligence, Dr. Seth said that “we must promote the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence and sustainable development even in the legal sector. This aligns with Niti Ayog’s strategy and Roadmap built for the deployment of AI in India. We made this recommendation too as one of the G 100 for G 20 recommendations at the WEF- G100 2022 conference.”

Advocate Dr. Karnika Sethi is working in this domain and is the Country Chair, of G 100, for AI and cybersecurity. G 100 is a global group of women leaders leveraging tech to solve complex global problems.

The legal system would be benefitted in the longer run

Cyber & Privacy Lawyer, Dr. Prashant Mali also took a similar stand that in India to use AI Bot Lawyers in the courts The Advocates Act needs to be amended. However, while looking at the possibilities of using AI, Dr. Mali said, “I feel AI Bot as Lawyers can be used in Arbitration matters and I feel it will be seen while handling grievances when it comes to online Dispute Resolution.”

“I feel we should use AI Bots in courts right away in some works like recording statements etc.,” Dr. Mali added.

However, Dr. Mali also said that the legal system would be benefitted in the long run as many law students are not motivated towards practice as they go more towards corporate jobs. If AI bots trained by a particular lawyer are allowed to attend 5-6 courts at a time simultaneously that will make expert lawyers available in many places. I feel the long pending issue of pendency also will get addressed because AI Bots will not seek frequent adjournments.

Furthermore, Dr. Mali said that “I feel the human dimension in AI bot unless evolved shouldn’t be granted permission to practice or argue.”

“Can improve lawyer’s efficiency and even replace them on a certain level”

Exploring the possible areas where Artificial Intelligence can help the Indian Judicial system, Advocate Bharat Chugh said, “There are indeed areas of law where AI and Chat GPT for instance can improve the efficiency of lawyers and even replace them on a certain level, for instance, legal research is something that AI can help in because of its ability to process a lot of information and give you case laws, or precedents suitable to what you need.”

Tools such as ChatGPT which can understand human language, be responsive, has the ability to craft responses and texts to suit a given situation, and is good at communication may be very helpful in drafting standard contracts.

Whereas, Mr. Chugh also pointed out areas where Artificial Intelligence cannot make an impact, for instance, legal opinions on complex areas of law especially the areas of law that requires an interdisciplinary understanding of law and questions relating to strategy in cases of legal matter where your understanding of different disciplines, your understanding, and recognition of past patterns, your understanding of human behavior or EQ helps you deliver a better solution for your client, these are the areas in which an AI is nowhere close and maybe never will be to replacing human lawyers.

Mr. Chugh also highlighted the area where he finds that AI may not be able to make a dent till human lawyering is cross-examination and arguments. He says, “An argument in a court of law is not just delivering a monologue that you have written, it is about an engagement with the judge, it’s about thinking on your feet, it's about answering questions that a judge puts to you and there is no way to anticipate the kinds of questions that may be put to you while you are arguing a case.

“I think AI systems may find it very difficult to deal with such fluid or dynamic situations where a human touch, an EQ, or a human being’s ability to adapt quickly and deal with another human being may be useful,” Mr. Chugh added.

The world of advocacy is not “The Matrix” and the human element is irreplaceable

Advocate Kanu Agrawal practicing in Delhi Courts feels that it is a bit premature to suggest AI can “replace” actual lawyers. “What AI can certainly do is make a lawyer’s systems better, remove the inequities and lack of access amongst lawyers and enable a more streamlined approach to research and argumentation,” Mr. Kanu added.

In Mr. Kanu’s opinion, one “must not put the cart before the horse with AI, and neither should we sing alarm bells about it. The world of advocacy is not “The Matrix” and the human element is irreplaceable. AI is a welcome addition and not meant to be a replacement.”