With about three crore cases pending in various courts across the country, India is facing an unprecedented litigation explosion. By extrapolation, around 10 crore Indians are awaiting justice, with each case involving an average of three litigants.
Latest figures released by the Supreme Court show that there are over 2.92 crore cases pending in hundreds of subordinate courts, 21 high courts and the Supreme Court.
The figures do not include the cases pending in various tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies such as the Central Administrative Tribunal, Income Tax Tribunal and Debt Recovery Tribunal. If these cases are also accounted for, the arrears would far beyond the alarming figure of three crore.
Out of the total 2.92 crore cases, over 2.54 crore cases are pending in subordinate courts while 37.43 lakh cases are pending in various high courts. The Supreme Court's share of pending cases is 45,887.
Among the states, UP tops the list with 48.74 lakh cases, followed by Maharashtra and Gujarat with 40.45 lakh and 34.20 lakh cases, respectively. West Bengal (including Andaman and Nicobar Islands) and Bihar occupy fourth and fifth places with 21.94 lakh and 13.73 lakh cases, respectively.
Understandably, UP and Maharashtra have the highest number of vacancies in subordinate courts. UP has a vacancy of 521, against a total sanctioned strength of 2,172 judges while in Maharashtra 376 of the total 1,897 posts of judges are lying vacant. Bihar, West Bengal and Gujarat have 248, 204 and 167 vacancies against 1363, 706 and 953 posts of judges.
With an arrear of merely 198 cases, Lakshadweep has the lowest number of pending cases, followed by Sikkim with 788.
Arunachal Pradesh (5,289), Nagaland (5,365) and Mizoram (6,138) are at third, fourth and fifth places, respectively.
Among the high courts, Allahabad tops the list with 8.19 lakh pending cases, followed by Madras with 4.28 lakh cases.
Bombay, Calcutta and the Punjab and Haryana high courts have 3.69 lakh, 2.83 lakh and 2.57 lakh cases, respectively, await disposal.
The Sikkim High Court has just 80 pending cases. Uttaranchal has 20,984, Himachal Pradesh 27,690, Jammu & Kashmir 46,640 and Jharkhand 49,970 pending cases. These are among the lowest in the country.
During the last quarter of 2007, over 35.08 lakh cases were filed in subordinate courts across India while 33.76 lakh cases were disposed of. The gap between filing and disposal added 1.32 lakh cases during the last quarter of 2007. During the same period, 3.68 lakh cases were filed in the 21 high courts while the disposal was just 3.26 lakh cases. This added 41,674 cases to the arrears for the quarter.
But there is good news from the Supreme Court, where disposal was more than filing during January-March 2008. Against a total of 21,429 cases filed, the Supreme Court disposed of 22,68 cases. One only hopes that the trend will percolate to high courts and subordinate courts.