Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia on Saturday said every pending case cannot be treated as a judicial arrear — a statement that may not go down well with millions of litigants waiting for justice.
"If I admit a case (for hearing) today, can it be said it is arrear?" Justice Kapadia asked in his address at a seminar on judicial reforms. He, however, clarified that he was "not defending arrears".
Drawing a distinction between judicial arrears and pendency, he said 62% of the cases were only one-year-old. He argued such cases couldn't be treated as judicial arrears and said the calculation had not been done properly even in the SC.
India has one of the highest pendency rates in the world, with over 30 million cases stuck in various courts. Going by the CJI's calculation, the actual arrear of cases in high courts is 2.27 million and in subordinate courts over 10 million only.
He said 30% of the cases relating to cognisable offences under the Indian Penal Code were decided within a year and 66% within three years.
President Pratibha Patil, who described the CJI's speech as "spirited", said: "Now as the CJI has talked about the difference between arrears and pendency in cases, I think we will have to review these figures."
He said a team of statistical experts would classify cases into — sticky, subverted and those delayed by procedural problems. He criticised the government for doing away with the role of high courts in the appointing public prosecutors.