Justice Delayed is Justice Denied!
State of Pendency in Indian Judiciary
Approx. 3.5 crore cases pending in the judicial system (approx. 88% of pending cases in lower judiciary, i.e. district and subordinate courts).
More than 64% of all cases are pending for more than 1 year.
The Economic Survey of 2019-2020 dedicated a separate chapter to the pendency of tax cases and revenue cases.
Ease of Doing Business Report of the World Bank for 2018 and 2019 shows that the time taken to decide a case has remained static at 1,445 days.
Consistent increase in pendency of cases in the last decade, with the highest number of cases pending in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Number of under-trials in prison is more than double that of convicts.
Reasons of Pendency
Increased awareness of rights of common man due to socio-economic advances, which has also improved capacity to sue.
New mechanisms that have simplified the process of judicial cognizance (E.g.: Public Interest Litigation) and new rights granted to the general public (E.g.: Right to Information), which increases awareness and emboldens litigants.
Vacancies in Judicial posts and lack of sufficient judges, especially in lower judiciary.
Insufficient number of courts.
Increased litigation from the Government (e.g. tax and revenue cases).
Current Affairs POI - Vodafone tax case that has continued and fresh suits filed by the Government, despite a Supreme Court judgement in the matter.
Poor judicial quality in lower courts, dissatisfaction amongst litigants.
Archaic/Vague Laws requiring interpretation from higher judiciary.
Lack of strict timelines for strict proceedings.
Repeated adjournments (Tareekh pe tareekh!).
Consequences of Pendency
Denies the poor man and under-trial prisoners their due justice.
Economic reforms - only on paper without speedier justice system.
Foreign investors hesitate to invest in India due to the delayed delivery of justice, which affects the success of programs like ‘Make in India’.
Judiciary becomes overburdened; loses efficacy and efficiency.
Erodes social infrastructure.
Overcrowding of prisons.
Financial drain of the coffers of the State; judicial delays cost India an estimated 1.5% of its GDP annually.
High time, energy and money costs for litigant/common man, resulting in loss of the common man’s faith in the justice system.
Recommendations to Address Pendency
Malimath Committee Report
Increase in number of courts and judges.
Reduction in period of vacations for the Courts by 21 days.
‘Arrears Eradication Scheme’ – pending cases prioritized and settled through Lok Adalats; no adjournment allowed.
Other Recommendations and Solutions to Address Pendency
Introduce time limits for all cases and having a definite time frame to dispose the cases by setting annual targets, and action plans for the subordinate judiciary and the High Courts (E.g. Introduction of rigid time frames for filing of pleadings in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, by way of Amendment to the Civil Procedure Code.)
Increase in number of judges (E.g. The increase in the number of Supreme Court judges from 31 to 34 in 2019.)
Decentralise working of the Supreme Court by introducing Regional Benches (this recommendation was also put forth by the Law Commission.)
Increase working hours of courts.
Increase functioning and efficiency of ADR; effective utilisation of mechanisms such as Lok Adalats and Gram Nyayalayas.
Establishment of Tribunals, Fast Track Courts and Special Courts to dispense important cases at the earliest.
Introduction of the All India Judicial Services (AIJS) for appointment of members to the lower judiciary. (The Union Government plans to introduce a bill for implementation of the AIJS after consultation with the higher judiciary)
Better case and court management.
Revamping of National Judicial Data Grid.
Use of Information technology (IT) solutions:
Digitization of court registry.
E-filing of suits across courts.
Video conferencing hearings.
Digitization of court database, use of ERP tools for database management.
Real time updates of case status, cause list etc.
(Supreme Court and most High Courts as well as several tribunals and registries have effectively engaged IT solutions for conduct of court proceedings during the SARS-COV-2 pandemic related lockdown).
Measures implemented to reduce pendency
Centre has introduced a mobile application ‘JustIS’ for efficient court management by judges. (App developed by the National Informatics Centre.)
Introduction of “fast-track” courts, jail-adalats (“prison courts”), and plea-bargaining.
Campaign Mode to reduce pendency through Pendency Reduction Campaign in second half of the year 2011.
Resolution aimed at prioritization of disposal of cases through Mission Mode was passed in April 2016.
The Supreme Court, in the case of Hussain & Anr. v. Union of India (2017), issued timelines for completion of criminal trials and appeals and directed High Courts to plan and monitor the speed of trials.
The Supreme Court has, in recent times, given strict guidelines to not allow pleas for unnecessary or groundless adjournments, used as dilatory tactics.