The Honorable Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque (Judge, the High Court of Kerala) has a vision. He’s the kind of leader India now needs to lead its legal tech innovation foreword. Already identified by some as an eminent jurist, he’s now heading the digital innovation of The Kerala High Courts. In this interview, we discuss how technology will change legal practice and the judiciary. We also discuss emerging areas of law including space law, and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practice in India.
What made you interested in space law?
I began my career as a lawyer. While practising at the High Court, it dawned upon me that the scope of the legal profession is much beyond what I had actually understood it to be. It was around this same time that I happened to attend a conference on International Space Law at Bangalore. After having attended the same, I was so inspired and intrigued by Space Law that I then set out on a mission to carefully study the subject in depth. At that time there were not many space law professionals in India and such a void drew me further towards it as I was thoroughly convinced by the immense potential held by the realm of space.
In India, the law relating to space law has not yet been commercialized thereby currently preventing the common man from making the best of its huge possibilities. The space activities are under the purview of ISRO and only if they are commercialized by the national legislation it will benefit the common public. This has already been made possible in countries like the USA, Australia etc. I am of the strong opinion that space law could be an extremely promising area as far as practicing lawyers are concerned considering its huge potential as mentioned previously and its ability to contribute to various sectors such as healthcare, navigation, etc. I have always been particularly interested in satellite navigation systems and have also written articles and presented papers on the same in the past.
Can you explain the scope of space law briefly?
Due to his many limitations on earth, man started exploring space, contemplating the many ways as to how he can best utilize it. Under such circumstances, it is important to have specific laws to govern such aspiring individuals and their advances in that regard. Only a legal professional can address the need for it, structure it and help to utilise it in the most efficient way. Space holds immense potential. The GPS we use today is actually a space navigation system. It is in fact an American defence system that gives away free signals and can be turned off any time much like the internet. People are already very much dependant on such navigation systems for travelling. Similarly, the health services will also undergo revolutionary changes if the large potential of space is rightly utilized. There will no longer be any space constraints or distance constraints.
Recently America has formed a task force for space. What is India doing for space technology when viewed likewise?
India has so far been using space only for scientific purposes and as a part of certain space conventions, India is currently severely constrained and is therefore acting very much within its permitted limits as far as technological developments are concerned.
As a legal professional who is enthusiastic about technology, how do you think technology will affect/change the legal system in the future?
I would like to drive your attention towards a book authored by Klaus Schwab titled ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. The first revolution was in the field of agriculture. Then came the industrial revolution. The third one was the digital revolution and if one was to go by the book, it currently is the era of technological revolution. In the book, he talks about the tipping points where a company’s director would one day be a robot, where implants in the human body would diagnose issues and prescribe necessary medication, etc. Technology is therefore well capable of ruling the future. Artificial intelligence systems with cognitive skills that can think like humans are being developed. This will bring about drastic changes in the legal field. One can even say that it has already begun. AI robots that can give legal opinions, make arguments and predictions and scrutinize documents will soon penetrate the markets. Artificial intelligence is therefore definitely the next big thing.
What will be the effect of technology on the Indian legal system?
It will have similar impacts on India too. Artificial intelligence will soon be put into use. Robots that can give quick and efficient legal opinions better than humans will soon be made. They will be able to provide authentic legal opinions that are on par with judgements. In fact, artificial intelligence will grow in such a manner that it will soon even replace in-house counsels.
How will Artificial Intelligence affect regular court practice?
It will not affect regular court practice as such. It will however help increase the efficiency of the system. For example, if instead of spending hours and hours on research, we refer the problem to a robot, it will give us an immediate and accurate answer. If we need to frame a question of law, it will do that too accurately. This way we can save a lot of time and work. For example in America, Lexis Nexis has a program that reads necessary documents and predicts the judgement according to the judge concerned. It also helps to study the behaviour of judge and pattern of orders being given.
What do you think about the morality issue that comes with such predictive software systems?
Such a software is basically used to analyze the behaviour of a particular judge. In a way, it would help formulate the outcomes. It shall be considered as being part of a skill. It would however be ethically wrong to assess a judge and to predict beforehand that his judgement would be such. But in this new era, we need to look at it from an enitrely different level of understanding.
What advice do you have for the future lawyers?
You need to identify the needs of society and work towards accomplishing it. Only those who are flexible in relation to the changing society would withstand competition. A conventional lawyer spends time in the realm of motor accident claim cases or family dispute matters, etc. But a contemporary lawyer needs to explore and identify the technological lacunae that exist in the field of law and respond to it in a top-notch approach which would set him apart from others in the field. For example, Uber is the largest online taxi company although it does not own a single car; Airbnb does not own a single real estate building and yet is the largest real estate owner. It’s all about tapping the right market. Lawyers have immense potential. They have to put the right effort and tackle the situation presented before them.
Lawyers must concentrate more on creating legal instruments that are capable of making the law more accessible and easier for people. The future success of a lawyer is dependent upon his ability to combine the advent of technology into the field of law and thereby making law accessible to the common man. Though there are many corporate law firms in India, no one has attempted to change the instruments of the corporate world. Only a lawyer competent in technological knowledge would be able to identify the kind of instruments that are required in connection with his profession in the corporate world would be able to deploy them effectively. Our world has progressed a lot in business and technology through the advent of globalization and liberalization and it is up to us to exploit the opportunities that have come with it. With the help of private international law one can change such instruments using law and technology and it will thereafter definitely bring about commendable changes.
Could you give us an example of such an instrument?
There are one or two laws of similar nature that are currently operational. Service of summons, notice, etc. can be done with the help of foreign courts via similar tools in India. Evidence can also be taken in similar fashion. This became possible as a result of the intergovernmental efforts like Hague Conferences.
What do you have to say to the community of lawyers?
A lawyer should be able to identify the needs of the society and bring about tools to address them efficiently. The role of a lawyer is beyond ordinary litigation. The peculiarity of lawyering is the intimate relationship they have to maintain with every aspect of society.
Justice A.MUHAMED MUSTAQUE
Born on 1st June 1967, Native of Thana, Kannur. Obtained Law Degree from V.B College of Law, Udupi. Obtained L.L.M from M.G. University in Labour Law.
Enrolled as a lawyer on 1/10/1989. Practised 7 yrs before various courts and statutory authorities in Kannur. Obtained Master 2 in Space and Telecommunication Law, a funded programme of the French Government from Paris XI University. Did a Private International Law course at Hague Academy of International Law. Did an advanced course on E- Commerce and Intellectual Property from WIPO. Trained as mediator by a European Team from the U.K. and also by MCPC of the Supreme Court of India. Has many international publications to his credit including papers presented at the International Astronautical Congress held in Hyderabad, Daejon in Korea and Naples in Italy. Attended various professional advancement courses, international conferences and workshop on subjects relating to law.
Practised as a Ligation Lawyer, Arbitrator, and served as a Mediator of Kerala Mediation Center. Was Standing Counsel for Kannur University, appeared for educational institutions, telecom companies, local authorities etc. Practised in civil , commercial constitutional, administrative service, criminal, telecommunication, IP and IT Laws.
Was Faculty for training on mediation with IIAM (Indian Institute of Arbitration and Mediation), Panel Arbitrator of ICADR AND IIAM and Member of International Institute of Space Law and Indian Society of International Law. Worked as Managing Editor of online news legal news letter L.I.N.K. Published from Luxembourg, a Charter Member and Treasurer of India International ADR Association and Secretary of Mediators’ Council of India.
Sworn in as Additional Judge of the High court of Kerala on 23rd January, 2014.
Appointed as Permanent Judge of the High Court of Kerala with effect from 10-03-2016