Indian judge uses ChatGPT for views on bail plea of murder accused

The court has clarified that any reference to ChatGPT was not an expression of opinion on the merits of the case

ChatGPT has stunned the tech community and masses with its writing ability and responses to requests. AFP
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An Indian judge used ChatGPT to make a decision on the bail plea of a man accused of murder — the first such use of artificial intelligence by a court in India — sparking outrage and appreciation on social media.

A bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara at the Punjab and Haryana Court in northern Chandigarh city on Monday sought the AI tool's help while hearing the bail application of Jaswinder Singh, accused of rioting, criminal intimidation, criminal conspiracy and murder.

ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot created by San Francisco-based OpenAI, which was co-founded by Elon Musk. It has stunned the tech community and wider public with its writing ability and responses to requests, which some people claim match the responses of experts.

Others caution that the technology can give confident but dangerously incorrect responses and is not yet advanced enough to think logically.

Mr Singh was arrested in 2020 and appealed to the High Court seeking bail. He is accused of a fatal assault on a man.

The bench hearing his bail plea surprisingly asked ChatGPT on the “jurisprudence on bail when the assailants assaulted with cruelty”.

The AI tool came up with the response that bail would depend on the “specific circumstances of the case” and the “laws and regulations” of the jurisdiction.

“The severity of the assault, the defendant's criminal history, and the strength of the evidence against them are all factors that a judge will consider when deciding whether to grant bail,” ChatGPT also suggested in a lengthy paragraph.

The court, however, clarified that any reference to ChatGPT was not an expression of opinion on the merits of the case and it was only intended to present a broader view of the bail jurisprudence where cruelty is a factor.

It also denied Mr Singh bail as he had a criminal history of two attempted murder cases and there were concerns that he could either abscond or commit another crime.

“Causing death itself is cruel but if the cruelty causes death, the tables turn. When the physical assault is done with an element of cruelty, the parameters of bail also change,” the bench said.

But the court’s decision to use the controversial AI tool has shocked many internet users.

“Would urge caution and restraint in the use of AI tools such as ChatGPT in criminal cases. It is a textbook form of mechanical reasoning. Prone to falsification, invention of facts, and contains biases that build off training data,” Apar Gupta, lawyer and advocate for digital rights, tweeted.

Another Twitter user, Deb Jit, said: “Indian judicial incompetency has reached next level.”

“So should all the legal research be left to the mercy of the chatbots? It is outrageous to rely on AI in criminal matters. What about the human element, forensics and other evidence then?” Kartikey, also writing on Twitter, said.

But there were also people who appreciated the judge’s use of the AI tool.

India has a sluggish judicial system, where cases can drag on for decades because of a huge backlog of cases and an inadequate number of judges.

“ChatGPT should be used for giving judgments and speedy closure of cases. The number of cases pending will reduce. Our legal system wastes a lot of resources — time, effort, etc of all for sub-optimal judgments. The complainant is usually at upper hand,” Shriram Subramanian, a Twitter user, wrote.

Updated: March 29, 2023, 8:59 AM