In the first week of April, the Supreme Court of India unveiled an AI-powered initiative called the Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court’s Efficiency (SUPACE) in a bid to address one of the overarching problems of the country — the huge backlog of pending cases in various courts.
SUPACE helps judges and law clerks in their research by extracting information quickly from huge volumes of legal data. “The role of AI will be the collection and analysis of data. It will process facts and make them available to judges looking for input for a decision. We are not going to let it spill over to decision making,” said the then Chief Justice of India SA Bobde during the launch.
Behind SUPACE is the startup ManCorp Innovation Labs, based out of Pune, Nagpur and Delhi, which is leveraging technology to ease the justice delivery process. They have conducted pilot projects in the High Court of Patna, to build an AI solution to help with allocation of cases, as well as the High Court of Bombay, using optical character recognition (OCR) to machine encode handwritten or printed text, and the High Court of Jharkhand, where they created a chatbot named Jharkhand Samwad.
“The Jharkhand High Court did not have enough staff to assist the judges. The chat bot would answer questions the same way a law researcher would by reading the case,” says Manthan Trivedi, who founded the company with Rathin Deshpande and Vishnu Gite in 2018.
Trivedi was at Harvard University in 2015 when students were conducting literature reviews of research papers every day. “I came across the statistics that thousands of research papers are published every hour and that 60 per cent of the studies that are published could make the current best practices redundant. That’s the time I had an idea to create a system that would tell us what the new best practices are, and what the old and now-outdated ones are,” says Trivedi, who subsequently dropped out of Harvard and travelled through India to test his idea and conduct workshops on using data in decision making.
“The impression that I got of digitisation of India was that it was understood as a scanning of papers. It was ineffective because you cannot search through scanned media, which are images. We started working on technology that would convert such pixelated content into computer-readable text,” he adds.
A new smart solutions product from ManCorp Innovation Labs is an integrated system that brings multiple systems such as Microsoft Word, PDF reader and editor, Zoom or Google Meet on one platform and helps those working remotely. ManCorp Innovation Labs is also working with the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal to explore solutions for an automated defect identification system.
“When you file an Income Tax case, it takes days for you to be informed if there are defects in your application. We are trying to automate the process. As soon as you upload your application, you will get a notification if there is a mistake that needs to be rectified,” says Trivedi.
ManCorp Innovation Labs involved an initial self-investment of almost a million dollars and has started surveying the market for $1-1.5 million funding to enter the B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) markets. Though the company has found a firm footing among government organisations, its primary focus is B2B.
“The unorganised sector, such as small construction businesses and legal practices, do not get the benefit of using technology because these are either not available or unaffordable. We are coming out with a product for all that is affordable. Businesses can get clients on board, team members on board and manage various permission and authorisations and coordinate in real time. Our aim is to uplift the economy of the country, give power to the people and be able to help the industries become more organised. Only when businesses are more organised and can anticipate things happening in the future can they benefit the economy,” he adds.