A man accused of assault and murder stood in court this week as a judge in the Indian city Chandigarh opened ChatGPT and asked the AI-run app if he should be let out on bail.
The judge’s use of AI technology is historic in India, which has one of the oldest and most overburdened legal systems in the world.
Anoop Chitkara, a judge at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, opened the chatbot on Monday while Jaswinder Singh, who was arrested in 2020 for allegedly assaulting and killing an individual, sought relief from imprisonment during the trial.
“What is the jurisprudence on bail when the assailant assaulted with cruelty?” Chitkara typed into ChatGPT. To which, the chatbot responded: “If the assailants have been charged with a violent crime that involves cruelty, they may be considered a danger to the community and a flight risk. In such cases, the judge may be less inclined to grant bail or may set the bail amount very high to ensure that the defendant appears in court and does not pose a risk to public safety.”
The chatbot added that presumption of innocence is also a fundamental principle of the justice system and that bail is often granted if the judge is sure the accused doesn’t pose a risk. Chitkara decided that Singh did act with cruelty before the victim died, denied his bail request and moved on to his next case.
Courts in India are notorious for case backlogs. One study showed that over the last two years, there have been 23 new cases filed in Indian courts every minute. According to the National Judicial Data Grid there are currently nearly 6 million pending cases in high courts across the country.
Some legal experts say ChatGPT could be the future of courtrooms despite the reputation of AI chatbots for being biased and discriminatory. Last month, Colombia made history when a judge used the AI tool to decide whether an autistic minor should receive coverage for medical treatment. Israeli President Isaac Herzog has used ChatGPT for his speeches, as did U.S. Congressman Jake Auchincloss earlier this year.
Chitkara, the judge in Chandigarh, also later clarified that he didn’t use ChatGPT to decide whether the accused was guilty of murder, he just used it to decide his bail.
"Any reference to ChatGPT and any observation made hereinabove is neither an expression of opinion on the merits of the case nor shall the trial Court advert to these comments,” he told the court.
“This reference is only intended to present a broader picture on bail jurisprudence, where cruelty is a factor.”
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