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Case pile growing, courts struggle to keep pace

india Updated: Aug 31, 2009 01:41 IST
Nagendar Sharma

Justice in India is indeed delayed. The number of pending cases in the Supreme Court have more than doubled during the last decade, while in high courts and lower courts across the country, the number has gone up by 50 per cent, according to a new study.

“Assuming there are no fresh cases and no increase in judge strength, it would take nine months for the Supreme Court and nearly three years for high courts on an average to clear all pending cases,” says a latest study by the PRS Legislative Research, a Delhi-based organisation.

In the year 2000, the number of pending cases in the Supreme Court was 20,000, which now stands at 53,000 (an increase of 139 per cent). In 21 high courts across the country, the number has jumped from 27 lakh (2.7 million) to 40 lakh (four million), during the same period.

The lower courts, which have been the worst victims of litigation explosion saw the number of unresolved cases go up from 1.9 crore (19 million) to 2.7 crore (27 million) in the last 10 years. The study noted, “one-fourth cases in high courts remained unresolved for more than 10 years.”

Though the number of cases being decided by Indian courts has gone up during the last few years, they have not been able to “keep pace with the fresh cases filed,” the PRS said.

“Since fresh cases exceed the number of cases getting resolved every year, this leads to an increase in pendency,” the study noted.

It identified the large number of vacancies for judges and low judge-population ratio, as the “two main reasons behind pendency in courts.”

The Law Commission of India, in a recent report had pointed out that the Supreme Court had one of the lowest working days in the country as it was closed for nearly six months each year.

According to the latest figures, there are 3,000 posts of judges vacant in lower courts across the country and 232 in high courts. The Supreme Court last week appointed five new judges, and will now have 28 judges out of a sanctioned strength of 31.

India has one of lowest judge-population ratio. In the US, there are 104 judges per million (10 lakh) population, both Canada and Britain have nearly 60, while India has 12.5 judges for every one million population.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, had expressed concern at the pendency and vacancies in courts, at a recent chief justices conference.