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  • May 30, 2019
    The pendency of cases has been a problem in the judiciary since a long time and this challenge doesn’t seem to be getting any better. In my opinion, the root cause of the problem is division of work and the judges to people ratio. Last year the Former Chief Justice Dipak Misra sounded the alarm on rising pendency and said how the situation is going out of hand with the backlog touching 3.3 crore cases. While 2.84 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, the backlog clogging the High Courts and Supreme Court is 43 lakh and 57,987 cases, respectively. According to National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the five states which account for the highest pendency are Uttar Pradesh (61.58 lakh), Maharashtra (33.22 lakh), West Bengal (17.59 lakh), Bihar (16.58 lakh) and Gujarat (16.45 lakh).From these statistics we can see that the population of a state does play a role in the pendency of cases as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and West Bengal are among the most populated states in the country. It is also to be noted that of all the pending cases, 60% are more than two years old, while 40% are more than five year old. In the Supreme Court, more than 30% of pending cases are more than five years old. 8.3% of all cases pending are over a decade old. Out of the pending cases in India, 83,00,000 cases pending are civil cases and 1,93,00,000 cases are criminal cases as per NJDG.   There is one judge for 73,000 people in India and in Delhi there is one judge for 4,93,000 people. In Delhi each judge has 1450 pending cases. This alarming judges to people ratio does indicate that we don’t have enough judges in India. The judges to people ratio in India is worse than most other countries. Also, looking at the number of pending cases in the country, there is a need to appoint 50 judges per 10,00,000 population. Currently it is only 10 judges. Comparing this ratio to United States where there are 107 judges and England where there are 50 judges, we understand that there is an urgent need for more judges in our country. In the Indian High Court, there is vacancy for 434 judges. So why don’t we have enough judges? The reasons could be that firstly it is not easy to become a judge and there are some eligibility requirements beyond a LLB degree that one needs to become a judge. For example, to become a Judge in the High Court, a person should have held a Judicial Office in India for 10 years or has experience of 10 years of practice as an advocate in a High Court or of two or more such courts in succession. Due to such reason, it is very difficult to find the right talent pool of judges. Another reason is the low motivation. There is no denying that money is a motivation for many and judges are just not paid in par with corporate lawyers and some litigation lawyers who earn lakhs per hearing. Last year we saw a salary hike from 1 lakh rupees a month to 2.5 lakh rupees a month for Supreme Court judges. This should be able to bring a positive change.   Some other reasons for the large backlog could be Increasing number of state and central laws Mounting number of appeals Delay in hearing of cases of common civil rights in High Courts Appeals in High Courts against orders of the quasi-judicial bodies Petition for revision and appeal in cases Continuous adjournment Indiscriminate utilisation of writ rights Inadequate system for monitoring cases Difficulties in tracking trials Lack of infrastructure in courts   Here are some of the solutions that I propose apart from the obvious increase in number of judges. Firstly there needs to be an increase awareness about the different dispute settlement options and such should be encouraged. Secondly, we need separate tribunals for some of the civil matters such as a traffic court that looks into only traffic violations like how it is done in United States. Lastly, end to end of the case need not be handled by the courts alone. Initial part of the process like filling of the documentation, can be outsourced to a pre-qualified legal agencies and court can take up only arguments and judgement and we can start thinking in this direction.     But again, for this to be implemented we would require better facilities and infrastructure. Without the right infrastructure and facilities, being able to resolve the challenge of pending cases will only get difficult.
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