GIS– 12 October 2016: A web based question answer and information retrieval system designed for the Mauritian Judiciary is operational as from today. As a first step, some 60 Acts/Statutes and 500 cases can be accessed. This service is meant not only for legal practitioners, academics, and students studying law, but also for members of the public. A demo of the system (which can be accessed freely at http://lawanswers.me/) was presented this morning at the Mauritius Research Council (MRC), Ebène Heights, in Ebène Cyber-city. The system is the result of a research project entitled ‘A Question Answer System for the Mauritian Judiciary’ conducted by a team comprising Associate Professor, Dr R. P. Gunputh, and Senior Lecturer, Mr S Pudaruth, from the University of Mauritius.
Law is a research-orientated profession and legal research is an activity that costs time and money. Information Technology is now revolutionising the way in which legal research is being done. It is against this backdrop that the research project was undertaken under the MRC’s Unsolicited Research and Innovation Grant Scheme.
The research project was geared towards implementing a web based question answer and information retrieval system for the Mauritian Judiciary. The objectives of the Question Answer System are as follows:
- Create a database of statutes of the Republic of Mauritius;
- Create a database of past cases;
- Develop a web-based Question Answer System which can handle queries in natural language;
- Evaluate the answers produced by the system;
- Disseminate the knowledge to relevant stakeholders.
On the www.lawanswers.me portal, users can enter their queries freely using natural language. The system processes the query by extracting the relevant keywords, discards those that do not carry much information and then returns the relevant sections of law which contains these keywords or key phrases.
The system also returns a list of relevant Supreme Court cases. The user can decide on the number of results to be displayed and can also select to have only the names of the relevant acts to be displayed for certain keywords or key phrases.
The system does not require the user to know how the law is structured or how the knowledge-base is built in order to benefit from it. The portal can also be accessed via mobile devices without compromising any of its facilities or user-friendliness. The architecture of the system is as follows: user – query processor – document processor – answer generator – user.
It is expected that the availability of information at the click of a button will help the Mauritian Judiciary to become more efficient and contribute to the reduction of delays in the disposal of cases.
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