Pendency of cases is a major issue that has affected the justice delivery system in India. It has stuck out like a sore thumb across all tiers of the judiciary, whether subordinate courts, high courts or even the Supreme Court.
Numerous chief justices of India have raised this bogey time and again and suggested various solutions to bring down the backlog, if not clear it altogether. Many factors have been tossed up as reasons for pendency, be it pending vacancies of judges, poor judge-population ratio, lack of proper infrastructure and support system for judges and lawyers, frequent adjournments of cases and so on.
A recent Press Trust of India report has quoted figures from the National Judicial Data Grid, which says that out of the 2,20,75,329 cases pending across courts in India, 31,45,059 (14.25 per cent) are cases that have not been given a next date of hearing. Such cases are termed as “undated cases”. Of these, 21,75,750 are criminal cases and 9,69,309 deal with civil matters. The National Judicial Grid data also says that 83,00,462 or 41.38 per cent cases have been pending for less than two years, while 21,72,411 or 10.83 per cent cases have been pending for over 10 years.
Incidentally, Gujarat has the highest number of undated cases at 20.46, followed by West Bengal with 14.96 per cent and Madhya Pradesh at 13.13 cases. Delhi has 3.22 per cent undated cases, says the agency report.
Yet another recent report by Hindustan Times on pendency attributes the backlog to the low judge-population ratio in India. The report cites figures from a National Court Management Systems study of 2012 that says that while the number of judges increased six fold in the last thirty years, the number of cases have gone up 12 fold during that period. According to the report, the number of judges required in the next three decades is about 75,000.
The statistics cited in the Hindustan Times report say that about 22 million cases are pending in the subordinate courts, where the infrastructure is often wholly inadequate and a substantial number of litigants are not economically well-off.
The Hindustan Times story further informs that while the Law Commission Report has calculated that there should be at least 50 judges per million people, there are in fact only 17 judges per million people, as of now.
Recently, the Supreme Court Committee on e-courts met in New Delhi to monitor the implementation of the government’s much-touted e-courts project. One hopes that the project will speed up the judicial process, with computerization of as many courts as possible, connecting all courts to the National Judicial Data Grid and better court management, including modernization of procedures, such as using email, speed post, etc for delivery of summons, gadgets to track process servers and so on.
Image Courtesy: Anthony Lawrence