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Artificial Intelligence: Will it prove to be a Solution to India's case pendency problem?
sharda sahu 12 Jul 2018

Artificial Intelligence: Will it prove to be a Solution to India's case pendency problem?

The issue of case pendency in India is not new and dates back to 250 years of the British Raj era.

In fact, it has been more than 250 years since the common law system – a system of law based on the recorded judicial precedents – was first introduced in India by the British East India Company.

The East India Company was under the governor general Warren Hastings when 'Dewani' (civil) and 'Fauzdari' (criminal) court systems were established in India. Further, most of the civil and criminal laws had been codified as a result of the stupendous work done by the first Law Commission in India, set up in India in 1834, during the British Raj era. And it was after the recommendations of the first law commission of India that led to the enactment of Civil Procedure Code in 1859, Indian Penal Code in 1860 and Criminal Procedure Code in 1861.

The codification of civil and criminal laws led to a tremendous spurt in litigation, which eventually abolished the traditional Panchayati raj system. By 1920, when India’s population was estimated around 11 crore, the courts have already started witnessing the case pendency problem. Following this, the British set up a commission headed by Justice Rankin to study the problem and recommend ways to control pendency.

The Rankin Committee in its report, in 1925, submitted:

Unless a court can start with a reasonably clean slate, improvement of methods is likely to merely tantalise. The existence of a mass of arrears takes the heart out of a presiding officer. He can hardly be expected to take a strong interest in preliminaries, when he knows that the hearing of the evidence and the decision will not be by him but by his successor after his transfer. So long as such arrears exist, there is a temptation to which many presiding officers succumb, to hold back the heavier contested suits and devote attention to the lighter ones. The turn-out of decisions in contested suits is thus maintained somewhere near the figure of institutions, while the really difficult work is pushed further into the background.”

Nearly 100 years have passed since the Rankin Committee submitted its report, yet the findings hold good for trial courts even today.

In fact, after the Rankin Committee, several committees and commissions have been formed to analyse the reasons for the existence of mass arrears in the courts. The fact-finding bodies have even submitted reports suggesting ways to address the issue of case pendency. Yet, 3 crore plus cases are pending in Indian courts.

The Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra also expressed his concern over the backlog of pending cases and wrote a letter to all the High Court Chief Justices, suggesting implementation of a new 'Disposal Review Mechanism' for speedy disposal of pending cases in the Indian judiciary system.

Read Here: Set up Mechanism to Accelerate Disposal of Cases, Fill up Vacancies: CJI to HCs

Aside from the CJI recommendation on introducing a mechanism for speedy disposal of cases, there has been a spurt in ventures aiming to integrate technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) with legal research. One such venture is AI-powered comprehensive software developed by a young advocate, Karan Kalia and his team.

Kalia recently gave a presentation, to the Supreme Court’s eCommitte led by Justice Madan B Lokur, on his software programme and how it can assist in speedy disposal of trial cases.

Kalia’s software is so designed that it the trial judge can browse through millions of records and gets the most relevant results in a matter of few seconds.

Going by Rankin Committee’s report that said, most trial judges are unwilling to take up lengthy matters as they know that they won’t be able to write a judgement for it. However, with the help of Kalia’s programme, the judge who succeeds a transferred/retired judge can recall the summary of a judgement at the mere touch of a button.

While Kalia’s system gives us hope that ‘Artificial Intelligence’ can be the solution to India’s case pendency problem, we may have to wait to witness more such ventures making their way into the mainstream.

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