Pendency OF CASES IN the Indian Judicial System


Judiciary is an essential organ of the Government, its role being stern and crucial. It acts as the custodian and protector of law and justice. Without a strong bench, no democracy can thrive. In this regard, Lord Bryce aptly remarked, “There is no better test of excellence of a government than to check efficiency of its judicial system.”

Indian judiciary had a considerable repute and a strong history of landmark judgments, yet there are many challenges or roadblocks. One of the biggest issues that it faces pertains to the judicial pendency. India has the world’s highest number of pending court cases with numbers increasing each day. As ofApril15th, 2021, 67279 cases were pending in Supreme Court, 57.53 Lac in High courts, and 3.81 Crores in district courts.

The outbreak of the virulent COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the problem. According to National Judicial Grid (NJG), amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the pendency of cases rose by 10.35 percent in Supreme Court, 20.04 percent in 25 High Courts, and 18.2 percent in District Courts in one year. Sensing the seriousness of the matter, the SC bench headed by the then CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde noted that the number of pending cases ‘has gone out of control’.

The challenge of judicial pendency in India is a matter of grave concern, and reasonable promptness in delivering justice is the need of the hour. Unjustified delay in court proceedings hampers the purpose of the law and the justice system. Because of the delayed justice system, the victim of an offense undergoes additional pain and suffering. A lot of times, due to the initially slow justice delivery system, victims of crime die in the fretful wait of justice, and in many cases, offenders go unpunished. No one is, for example, a stranger to the Nirbhaya Case (Delhi Gang Rape Case, 2016), which, despite getting wide national as well as international attention, took 7 long years to reach a conclusion. The perpetrators of such a heinous crime, which shocked the conscience of the world, took seven years to be punished! In this context it becomes important to remember the oft-quoted statement of William Ewart Gladstone, a British statesman, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” We also have been witnessing the situation as it is with regard to the civil litigation in the country. Courts are flooded with cases which are even a hundred years old, going on for generations without an end. These cases constitute a vast majority of backlog in our courts, so much so that the benches keep on changing but the case remains.


There are various reasons behind the litigation pendency in India. The two most fundamental causes include less judge-population ratio and judicial vacancies or recruitment delays. According to Ministry of Law and Justice data, the current judge population in India is 19.49 judges per million people, which is relatively low. In 1987 the judge-population ratio in India was around ten people per million judges per one million people. After an interlude of approximately 35 years, there is a paltry increase of only nine judges against million people. At that same time, i.e., in 1987, compared to India, there were 41judges in Australia, 51 judges in the UK, 75 judges in Canada, and 107 judges in the USA against one million people. In the same year, in 1987, the Law Commission report recommended a 50 to 1 million judge-population ratio for India, which is yet unaccomplished after the lapse of 34 years.

According to data available on the official the Ministry of Law and Justice website, as of June 1st, 2021, the total sanctioned strength in the 25 High courts across the country is 1098. However, the present working strength is 649, with 449 vacancies (nearly41%). The working power of judges in five leading High courts - Patna (37%), Calcutta (43%), Rajasthan (46%), M.P.(54%), and Andhra Pradesh ( 51%)speak volumes. Similarly, of the total sanctioned strength of 34 judges, the Supreme Court is working with 27 judges, leaving 07 vacancies (nearly 21%) as of June 1st.

The other major causes include frequent frivolous litigation by the Government, the practice of seeking adjournments by lawyers, low budgetary allocation for the judiciary, and lack of infrastructure.

The central government is litigant to 46% of cases pending in courts, as per law ministry. The Supreme Court has time and again expressed concern over the increase of frivolous litigation by the Central and State governments, but so far all in vain. Besides lawyers seeking repeated adjournments is creating havoc. Such is the adjournment culture among lawyers of our country that ,an advocate namely KS Sidhu, appearing before Punjab and Haryana High Court, pleaded adjournment of the hearing invoking “bad mood” of the court as the group for adjournment.

The budget allocated to the judiciary is also very low. Nationally it is between 0.08 and 0.09 per cent of the total GDP. Similarly, Delhi( 1.9%) being exception, on an average, all the other state and union territories spend less than 1% of SDP on its judiciary. Due to Less budgetary allocations our courts lack the infrastructure and lack of infrastructure adds to judicial pendency.


Though the Government and courts are taking several measures to reduce the problem of litigation pendency, to solve this insurmountable problem, we need to have an efficacious and expeditious approach. The best way to circumvent a problem is to uproot its root causes. Thus, to tackle the issue of judicial pendency would be to uproot the aforementioned causes.

The recruitment delays should be avoided, and the judge-population ratio increased. We should pull all the stops to avoid recruitment delays. Recruitment delays are proving highly ravaging. Similarly judge- population needs to be without further ado increased. In 2019 the strength of SC judges was increased from 31 to 34 judges including the Chief Justice of India. However, this increase in strength of SC judges was exiguous. We need to post-haste take some exceptional measures with regards to increasing the strength of judges in lower courts, high courts and the Supreme Court. Government should take immediate steps to improve the judge-population balance to 50 judges per one million people, as recommended by the 1987 Law Commission Report.

The quality of judges and infrastructure at courts should be enhanced so that appeals are not filed in higher courts against their decisions. Often times, appeals are filed to higher courts because of incompetence of judges at lower courts. So we need to devise a mechanism to recruit best brains even at the lower courts. Moreover, as Government is the largest litigant in India, it can play a significant role in resolving this problem by simply refraining from frivolous litigation and appeals. If government shows reluctance from indulging in frivolous litigation, the honorable Supreme Court should lay down some guidelines in order to circumvent frivolous litigation from government. Last but not least, the administration Mechanism of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) like Lok Adalats and Gram Nyayalayas could also help in reducing the burden on Courts.

About the Author: The Article has been written by Ummar Jamal who is a law student at the University of Kashmir. Umar is a frequent contributor to various news dailies of Jammu And Kashmir.

Disclaimer: This article was initially published in The Rising Kashmir 0n July 19th, 2021, both in print as well as digital edition

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