While responding to the respondent's argument for asking for the adjournment
of the case due to the non-availability of the senior council, CJI Uday Umesh
Lalit highlighted the case burden of the courts in his remark. "Matters do come
up but they don't get disposed of, so they keep adding to the burden," the CJI
said. This opens the eyes to various aspects of court management and the speedy
disposal process of Indian courts.
According to an article in The Hindu, 4.7 crore cases are still pending at the
different levels of the judiciary. As on August 2022, in a statement by Law
Minister Kiren Rijiju in Rajya Sabha, Supreme Court has 71,411 pending cases of
which 56,365 are civil matters and 15,076 are criminal cases. Out of these,
around 10,491 are in line for disposal for over a decade, 18,134 between five
and ten years and around 42,000 are pending for less than five years. The
statistics were presented by the Minister based on data from the Supreme Court.
This is not just a case for the Indian judicial system. The burden of cases is
not less in the world anywhere in which the pandemic has contributed to a large
extent. In USA courts, according to the statistics of US courts, USA courts have
50,258 cases pending which is 24.7% more than the last year. In the OECD
area, the average length for disposal of a case is 240 in the first instance, in
which some cases last more than 7 years.
India is leading the world in the pendency period of cases which is at an
average of 1446 days (approximately 4 years), when we accumulate the data of 21
High Courts, the average comes at 1,128 (2 years and 1 month) and in the case of
subordinate courts, the pathetic state of affairs shows that it takes around
2,184 days (six years) for disposal of cases. This means that to get your
justice from the apex courts, starting from the subordinate courts, you will
complete your adulthood.
Over pendency of cases displays the dickey situation of the Indian judiciary.
Many factors contribute to the low rate of disposal of cases in the judiciary.
Firstly, the Judge-Population ratio in India is very low. In February, in a
written reply, Cabinet Minister of Law Kiren Rijiju in Rajya Sabha, the
Judge-Population ratio of the Indian judiciary stood at 21.03 per million.
Indian judiciary has to fight with the vacant seats of judges. Case backlogs and
excessive caseloads are signs that there are judicial vacancies, which is an
issue. In High Courts, a total of 336 seats out of 1108 seats are vacant. But
this problem is seeming to be settled as in 2021, former Chief Justice of India,
Justice Ramana, recommended the appointment of 9 judges in the Supreme Court
which was accepted on 17th August last year.
Secondly, every district court, high court, and the lower court in the country
shall monitor the static data on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, biannually, and
annual basis. This duty should ideally fall to a designated managerial
specialist who is equipped to gather and analyse pertinent data locally.
Despite the present efforts to fix the issues of the judiciary, there are still
serious flaws, like the lack of standardisation and uniformity throughout many
regional courts. For reasons of tradition, history, and heritage, high courts
throughout the nation utilise a dizzying array of nomenclatures and acronyms to
refer to the same thing. For instance, at least ten high courts have various
descriptions of writ petitions. The need for standardisation and consistency is
critical and urgent. In the lack of any homogeneity, a comparative analysis is
impossible. The same homogeneity assumption also underlies technology-based raw
Lastly, the pandemic has caused the caseloads multiplier. The COVID-19 pandemic
in 2020 significantly increased the number of pending cases, and the Court had
to deal with both the sick judges and the absence of physical sessions. In the
initial waves of the pandemic, the virtual courts were not widely set in place,
and got notably affected by this effect. The number of cases which were pending,
increased by 14.7% from March 2021 (61,142) to February 2022 (70,154) when the
lockdown was imposed.
However, the early months of the national lockdown and the operating
restrictions in the courts did not have an impact on the pendency. Pendency was
basically unchanged between March 2020 and June 2020. This can be linked to a
sharp decline in the number of court cases filed. However, former CJI S. A.
Bobde introduced an electronic filing system in May 2020 to allow litigants to
remotely submit cases and pay court fees. In the following months, there were
more cases submitted, which caused the backlog to expand proportionately.
Article 21 declares that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal
liberty except according to the procedure laid by law."
When addressing the bail petition in Babu Singh v. State of UP
Krishna Iyer made the following observations:
"Our justice system even in grave cases, suffers from slow motion syndrome which
is lethal to 'fair trial' whatever the ultimate decision. Speedy justice is a
component of social justice since the community, as a whole, is concerned in the
criminal being condignly and finally punished within a reasonable time and the
innocent being absolved from the inordinate ordeal of criminal proceedings."
The idea of right to speedy trial is becoming more and more important because
the delay is case disposal implies neglecting the access to justice in the
correct sense to the common man.
The Bombay High Court while hearing the petition on the death of Stan Swamy said
that the "Right to speedy trial is a Fundamental Right". NCRB data highlights
that many incarcerated dies in the prison in the long last wait for justice. The
concept of speedy trial not only awards justice in the true sense but also
relieves the court's burden, therefore, the right to speedy trial as a
fundamental right can't be neglected.
Many scholars and judges have remarked their opinion on the pendency of cases in
recent times. Recently, former CJI N.V. Ramana in his farewell speech regrated
that he could not contribute much to the problem of pendency of cases in his
tenure. He said that the use of AI and technology might be the probable solution
to tackle this situation but he also reminded about the secrecy of court
proceedings and dissonantly expressed his regret that "we could not make much
progress". Justice Ramana said that the needs of the judiciary are different
from the rest.
Mr. Dushyat Dave, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association was of the
opinion that the power to assign the list of cases should not lie in CJI's hand
but it should be fully automated system of allocation of the cases in the court.
This problem of selection of cases is largely faced by young lawyers in getting
their cases listed.
The pendency especially in the cases of economic matters and cases related to
commercial matters affect the economic growth of a country. It discourages
investment and can also create an impact on tax collection.
Additionally, the 12th Law Commission of India stated its worry about the court
system's incapacity to provide prompt justice due to the number of judges being
out of proportion to the population, which has led to a significant backlog of
cases, in its 245th Report.
Therefore, case burden is a major problem for developing India which is aspiring
to see itself as a global power in the future. Indian economy is one of those
major economies which even flourished at the time of the pandemic but for the
sustainable growth of the country, the judicial system has to work efficiently.
The use of technology can put much help in binding the pendency but
simultaneously, we have to take care of the integrity and security of the
courts, as Justice Ramana has pointed out in his farewell speech. The
development of a country is also determined by the manner in which the judicial
system is working and how effective it is.
In order to ease the rapid disposal of criminal cases and to lessen the burden
on the courts, the Law Commission of India and the Malimath Committee proposed
that the concept of plea bargaining should be implemented in the Indian criminal
justice system. However, the system is failed to ensure the speedy disposal of
cases. The system needs many changes at the management level as it creates the
whole process lengthy which, as a result, wastes the time of the courts.
The system has to adopt technological changes and govt has to ensure the
fulfilment of vacancy of judges in courts to reduce the judge-population ratio
in the nation. A nation's power lies in the hand of the judiciary which
determines the actual position of a common man in society and if a common man
will not get justice promptly, then it will adversely affect the progress of a
- Babu Singh v. State of UP [1978 AIR 527]
- Sumeda, Explained | The clogged state of the Indian judiciary, The
Hindu, May 10, 2022, 11:30 IST,
- uscourts.gov, https://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/federal-judicial-caseload-statistics-2020-tables,
last visited Date: Nov 10, 2022
- Oecd.org, https://www.oecd.org/economy/growth/judicial-performance.htm,
last visited date: Nov 10, 2022
- Babu Singh v. State of UP, 1978 AIR 527
- 12th Law Commission of India, Report No. 245