Can AI replace judges?

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Artificial Intelligence (AI), sub branch of the information technology, is talk of the town nowadays, and it is going to have huge impact on our lives. AI is already helping us in many areas of our life such as virtual personal assistant like Siri, in fraud detection and in purchase predictions etc. Many experts believe that soon AI will take over the judges in India. But it’s unlikely for AI to replace the judges in near future because AI is still in the nascent stage and lacks in various aspects of human life.

Information technology has changed the landscape of the human life in recent years. It has changed our way of doing business, communication, interaction and many more. IT has increased the efficiency and speed: we can transfer the data or information across thousands mile in fraction of seconds, similarly large and complex calculation, which may take days of weeks to solve if done manually, can be solved in just fraction of second by algorithm. But Information Technology cannot think and act like simple living being, forget about intelligent human being. Scientists have been working on Artificial intelligence since decades and now there is some success on the same. There are two methods to develop AI. One, design algorithm that reasoned according to rules and logic. As mentioned above, personal assistant Siri, fraud detection, purchase prediction and other thing are not just idea but reality. Soon we will see the self-driving smart cars on our roads, and AI will be treating the life threatening diseases such as cancer.

Two, AI can be based on the biology, wherein machine observe, experience, learn and reason its own without the intervention of programmers.

If AI takes over the job of judges in India, many problems faced by Indian judicial system face will be solved to an extent. Judiciary of India is facing multi prong issues such as shortage of Judges, millions of pending cases, lengthy process, corruption and no access of justice to poor.

Last year, Former Chief Justice of India T S Thakur said courts in the country now require more than 70,000 judges to clear the pending cases. India has one of the world’s lowest ratios of judges to population in the world, with only 13 judges for every million people. There are some 25-30 million cases in various courts. The pending number of cases in the Supreme Court has mounted to around 60,000. According to Indian Judiciary Annual Report 2015-2016’ issued by the Supreme Court, 44 percent of post of judges are vacant in the all 24 High Courts of the country. Thus a whopping 40.54 lakh cases are pending across the country in all 24 high courts. Shortage of judges will not be an issue if AI starts performing job judges.

Due to such huge shortage of judges, both side complainant and dependent have to go through long ordeal of our judicial system. It becomes gruesome for an innocent to spend more time in jail just for waiting for his trial. The Indian jails are filled with mainly people who are under trials. Mostly, they end up spending more time in the jail than the actual term that might have had been awarded to them had the case been decided on a time and, assuming it was decided against them. According to research agency Daksh , average pendency of case in the lower court, high court and Supreme Court is nearly six years and three years respectively. Not to forget there are some cases pending in the courts from the 1940 and 1950. Similarly pendency of cases will come down if AI take over the role of judges in the country.

Corruption is also a big problem in our judicial system, over 45% of Indians believe the judiciary is corrupt, a view shared by external assessments. Not only is corruption rampant in the lower courts, some have alleged that this corruption reaches the highest levels. As per the constitutional provision, there is no provision yet for registering an FIR against a judge who has taken bribe without taking the permission of the Chief Justice of India. Obviously, visiting the CJI, seeking his permission, and then registering an FIR is not what a poor man will prefer to do. If implemented, AI will reduce the human interaction and intervention; hence there will be less chance of corruption.

Apart from it, AI can solve the problem inherent biases against the particular group of the society.

Scientists at University College London (UCL) developed a computer algorithm, which can weigh up legal evidence and moral questions of right and wrong and predict the outcome of the real life cases. The program assessed 584 cases pertaining to torture and degrading treatment, fair trials and privacy. In each case, the software analysed the information and made its own judicial decision. In 79% of those examined, the AI verdict was the same as the one given by the court. Many commercial law organizations are making use of similar computer program to help their clients and to predict the outcome of the cases.

But central question is whether AI can take over the role of judges in the country? Answer is No, it’s not feasible at current state for AI to assume the role of judges fully. Firstly, The AI system is very complex that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. In other words, if something goes wrong or unexpected, programmers would not know the reason for this unexpected outcome. Unless engineers find ways of making AI more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users, it will not possible for AI to assume the role of a judge.

Secondly, AI is fast and efficient, can perform multiple task simultaneously, but it lacks in the most important of aspect human life; emotions. No one can not negate the importance of facts, proofs and evidences in the judicial proceedings, but humanly aspects such as emotions, feeling and social value system play important role while sentencing someone for his crime. Judges need to have humility, consciousness and compassion etc. All thefts cannot be equated and treated similarly. For example, if one has stolen money to feed his hungry child and other has stolen money to buy alcohol, both cannot be punished with same punishment. Therefore it’s difficult for AI to take over the judges.

Information Technology have progressed leaps and bounds, but Artificial Intelligence has just started it’s journey in the field of technology and have long way to go. It is helping us in the simple task such as image and voice recognition, search prediction and fraud detection etc. Similarly it can assist judges in relatively simple repetitive task, granting bail in bailable offences and parole etc. But AI will not be able to take over the judge in India because it is not understandable and accountable to its creator and user respectively, and also lack most important humanly features. Dr Nikolaos Aletras, the lead researcher from UCL’s department of computer science, echoed similar view and said: “We don’t see AI replacing judges or lawyers.”