Can Big Data & Analytics clean up India’s Judicial Mess?
As India moves towards the election year we need to look around the issues that we would like as a country to address that will help India to become a better place to live. India’s judicial system is one such place which has affected all of us. The current state of our judicial system is such that it takes decades to get a verdict and even worse are many million cases that have not seen the light of the day and it is difficult to see any hope for them.
- Setting up of more number of fast track courts to quickly resolve the cases
- Improvement in Judicial Procedures
- National Litigation Policy – The Centre has formulated a National Litigation Policy to reduce the cases pending in various courts in India under the National Legal Mission to reduce average pendency time from 15 years to 3 years.
- Setting up of Judicial Appointments Commission
However, this data is no good without anything to make sense of it. This is where algorithms step in to frolic in massive data sets. The intelligent extrapolation from large amounts of data can be used to make sense of our world. Using analytics, correlations can help to predict earthquakes, divorce, elections, better allocate resources, optimize sporting endeavors, and revolutionize healthcare provision and countless other uses.
The question is whether this new explosion in data could provide a backdrop to a fundamental change in law. The probable answer is Yes, Big data works with huge volume of data and as I just mentioned above we have millions of resolved and pending cases. Therefore the technology that can be used to predict election results, can be used in medical transcription can definitely be used in the field of law.
Clinical v Mechanical Prediction
First -The clinical method. ‘From my experience and in my opinion, it is likely that you have a good/bad case.’ This method of handling data is informal and subjective. It is the method that prevails today. The legal expert determines from his opinion, experience and expertise the most likely outcome of the case before him.
The second approach is known as mechanical or actuarial prediction. With this method, we look to statistical means of prediction. The opinion of the lawyer is irrelevant in this context. Rather, the outcome is predicted by following an analysis of patterns ensconced in previously acquired case law and general legal data.
If you think this mechanical method sounds inflexible and entirely robotic, you are not alone. However, empirical research has consistently and definitively proven this type of prediction to be superior to clinical prediction. For our actuarial prediction we look for as large a data set as possible. This data would tell us about cases and how they were decided. More data means a better chance to find correlations.
India should be seriously looking to explore this option and more discussions are required to identify the level till which this technology be used to help aid our judicial system. While some may argue that this should be limited to be used only for lawyers or law firms I see it having a role even on the desk of the judges at least in the lower courts. My argument stems in the fact that most of the court cases in the lower court are more about judicial procedures and the application of correct laws for a particular case. Say for e.g. take the case of thousands of pending accidental claims cases which usually takes 6-7 years to get a verdict however if we look closely into the case details we will see that it is investigation by the police (which gets ready within in matter of weeks) that remain as the most conclusive piece of document on which the judgment will be based. What if this assumption is verified by an analytic system which across millions of cases in the past is able to tell the judge and the lawyers that the party against which the investigation report was based lost the case in a majority number of times? Will the party who is supposed to lose the case will still spend a considerable amount of time and money on such a losing case?
On the question of quality we need to look into perspective, to reduce the number of pending cases a huge number of fast track courts were set up. More than 1,000 fast track courts have disposed of more than three million cases in past few years however in order to achieve quick resolution did they compromised on quality ? Hasty trials raise fears of possible miscarriages of justice. But what if the fast track courts were given a helping hand in the form of big data technology where the judges took a leaf out of millions of similar cases to arrive to a quick judgment, definitely this will improve the quality of the judgment.
The technology may even flag a possible judgment as against the popular predictable judgment which happens a lot in cases being fought for the poor people. The judges may then have to give an extra explanation as why did they choose to give a judgment against the normal sense. While technology may not be binding it will introduce accountability in the system as the system will question on the wisdom of the judges. This may come as an extra benefit for the use of technology.