The Chinese Authorities have announced this week that they are planning to execute digitalization of their courts with artificial-intelligence (AI) judges, cyber-courts, and verdicts delivered on chat apps. Supreme People's Court of China said in a policy paper that the move is being encouraged to streamline case-handling using cyberspace and technologies like blockchain and cloud computing.
The Court further stated that the proceedings are likely to be conducted under a 'mobile court' offered on popular social media platform WeChat that has already handled more than three million legal cases or other judicial procedures since its launch in March.
The paper was released as judicial authorities gave journalists a glimpse inside a 'cyber court', established in 2017 in the eastern city of Hangzhou to deal with legal disputes that have a digital aspect. As seen by the journalists, the Hangzhou Internet Court operates featuring an online interface with litigants appearing on video chat as an AI judge prompts them to present their cases.
The AI judge in a black robe asks: "Does the defendant have any objection to the nature of the judicial blockchain evidence submitted by the plaintiff?". To this, a human plaintiff answered: "No objection".
Online trade disputes, copyright cases, and e-commerce product liability claims form the type of cases handled at the Hangzhou Internet Court. To obtain their verdict from this court, litigants can register their civil complaints online and later log on for their court hearing.
Officials claimed that when such functions are handled by a virtual judge, it helps ease the burden on human judges who monitor the proceedings and make the major rulings in each case. The move is a result of the growing caseload created by mobile payments and e-commerce in China.
Hangzhou Internet Court Vice President Ni Defeng told the media, "(Concluding cases) at a faster speed is a kind of justice, because justice delayed is justice denied".
The use of blockchain technology was particularly useful, helping to streamline and create clearer records of the legal process, Ni added. China has set up similar chambers in Beijing and the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.
With that about 118,764 cases have been accepted and 88,401 concluded, the Supreme People's Court said that the 'mobile court' option on WeChat allows users to complete case filings, hearings, and evidence exchange without physically appearing in court which has been launched in 12 provinces and regions.
Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme People's Court, said that courts nationwide are experimenting with a range of online tools. He added that more than 90% of China's courts had handled cases online to some extent as of October.
(With inputs from PTI)