After Chief Justice of India Tirath Singh Thakur made an emotional appeal to the Centre to look into the legal logjam in India owing to lack of judges, the spotlight is now on the pending cases.
At the micro-level, according to statistics from the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), a public access portal launched by the Supreme Court of India, 3.38 lakh criminal cases have been pending in Mumbai chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) courts.
There are at present 76 magistrates to hear cases in these courts. About 16% (54,101) of these cases have been pending for over 10 years.
Only four civil cases are pending in these courts. Two of these have been pending for over a decade and one for over five years.
Another 19.45% of cases (65,774) have been pending for five to 10 years and 28.7%, (97,067) for two to five years. The remaining 35.85%(1,21,229) of cases were registered in the past two years.
The situation is the same in Mumbai City Civil Courts, with as many as 81,357 cases pending. Of these, 60,927 are civil cases, while 20,430 are criminal cases. There are at present 152 judges to hear cases in these courts.
Of the cases pending in these courts, about 8,522, (10.47%) have been pending for over a decade, 4,963 cases (6.1%) for five to 10 years, 28,708 cases (35.29%) for two to five years and the remaining 39,164 cases (48.14%) for the past two years.
Senior high court lawyer Sujay Kantawala said, “Considering our population, we don’t have the required ratio of judges. We are a society that goes to court for every thing from electricity metres to telephone bills and education. Hence, we need more judges and magistrates. The high court needs a thousand judges immediately. In Maharashtra, we need at least 5,000 magistrates and judges for sessions and city courts. Also, our judges are underpaid. Their salaries need to be increased.”
Kantawala added, “Justice delayed is justice denied. In other countries, cases are disposed quickly, but here, cases remain pending for over two decades. Sometimes witnesses die or turn hostile, and sometimes complainants die, which affects the conviction rate. It also increases the expenses of the complainant and the time and energy spent by him/her over years.”