The laws are codified, and different types of punishment are given depending
upon the crime of the culprit. The Indian judiciary comprises levels of judicial
bodies in India. The hierarchy is as follows, The Supreme Court, The High
Courts, The District Courts, The Village Courts/Panchayats.
All these courts have their jurisdictions and are to follow the laws according
to the Constitution of India. Scrutinising any act of the legislature or the
executive, who otherwise, are free to enact or implement these, from
overstepping the boundaries set for them by the Constitution. The Indian
judicial system is independent from legislative and executive bodies in India.
The most important aspect in a democracy is that all individual judges and the
judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of all external pressures and
of each other so that those who appear before them and the wider public can have
confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the
law. The judiciary is more important than ever now because injustice against
people has risen to a great extent in India.
The citizens of India need to be monitored for their crimes and be punished for
them so everyone feels a sense of safety. Various issues of low judges strength,
appointment problem, less number of high courts, less use of technology, weak
subordinate courts, distant justice, corruption, pending cases, lack of
transparency and Costly justice in the judiciary cannot be avoided. Thus if the
judicial system removes these backlogs, the faith of the common person in the
judiciary may be restored before it's completely lost.
Objectives of Study
Identify the causes for pendency of court cases in High Courts and Subordinate
Courts by analyzing a sample of cases. Understand the pattern, if any, of case
pendency for each class of cases. Identify principles to be adopted for reducing
pendency and thereby improving court management.
The Supreme Court of India comprises one Chief Justice and 30 Judges, the
selection of whom is done through the collegium system. The main function of the
Supreme Court is to review the judgment given by the High Courts, however one
can also directly file a petition in the Supreme Court. There are 25 High Courts
situated in different states and union territories.
The High Courts have their jurisdictions limited to their related states or
union territories. A petitioner can appeal to a High Court as per article 226 of
the Constitution. The district courts are established by the state governments
in a different district of the states depending on the population and number of
Pending cases leading to delayed justice
As on March 30, 2020, the Supreme Court has approximately 61,000 pending cases,
official figures say. The high courts face a backlog of more than 40 lakh cases,
and all subordinate courts together are yet to dispose of around 3 crore cases.
At all three levels, courts dispose of fewer cases than are filed. The number of
pending cases keeps growing, litigants face even dimmer justice. The Indian
judicial system is unable to provide timely justice due to the huge backlog of
In September 2017, a special court sentenced gangster Abu Salem and others for
the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts. It took 25 years for the Indian judiciary to reach
the stage of final judgement for a person who had perpetrated one of the
bloodiest acts of terrorism on Indian soil.
Cases from session courts move to High courts then to SC, this process takes
10-20 years. Civil Revision Petitions are decided in 77 days on an average in
the High Court of Bombay, Civil Appeals take 2,303 days to be decided on
average. The number of hearings and the time period taken to dispose of cases
across the system suggest that there is a serious problem of cases management in
procedure law in India .One possible explanation for the numbers discussed above
is that adjournments are granted too easily and freely,and in the absence of a
fixed time table to dispose of cases leads to delays in disposing the case.
Putting light on Article 21 of the constitution which is supposed to be a
guarantor of the protection of life and personal liberty. How does one claim the
guarantee if the path to seeking it is slow. Timely delivery of justice is part
of human rights. Denial of speedy justice is a threat to public confidence.
Speedy Trial is a must.
If a case lingers for a long time and justice is not delivered to the rightful
side then the whole purpose of law and justice gets frustrated. Hence, the right
to speedy trial has rightly been remarked to flow from the right to life
guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
In Hussain vs Union Of India
, the appellants contention was regarding
the long period of custody, they were entitled to bail as speedy trial is their
fundamental right. The appeals were disposed off by directing that the pending
trial and the pending appeal may be disposed of within six months. The Apex
court held that the High Courts may issue directions to subordinate courts that
bail applications were to be disposed of normally within one week.
The Magisterial trials, where accused were in custody, be concluded within six
months and sessions trials where accused are in custody are concluded within two
years. Efforts were to be made to dispose of all cases which are five years old
by the end of the year. These timelines are the touchstone for assessment of
judicial performance in annual confidential reports. The High Courts were
requested to ensure that bail applications filed before them are to be decided
within one month and all criminal appeals where accused are in custody for more
than five years are concluded at the earliest.
The High Courts may prepare, issue and monitor appropriate action plans for the
subordinate courts. The Apex court held that the court can always issue
directions to augment and strengthen investigating machinery, setting-up of new
courts, building new courthouses, providing more staff and equipment to the
courts, appointment of additional judges and other measures as are necessary for
the speedy trial.
The Right to Speedy Trial is a Constitutional Right in developed nations of the
United States and Canada. In India the Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of
Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary State of Bihar
held speedy trial as
part of Article 21 of the Constitution guaranteeing right to life and liberty.
The case also observed that if a person is deprived of his liberty under a
procedure which is not 'reasonable fair and just', such deprivation would be
violative of his Fundamental Right under Article 21 and he would be entitled to
enforce such Fundamental Right and secure his release. This case was of the
state of undertrial prisoners in Bihar who were languishing in jail for several
It is the constitutional responsibility of the State to provide necessary
infrastructure and of the High Courts to monitor the functioning of subordinate
courts to ensure timely disposal of cases. When our government will not make any
efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our courts. The mission
is to serve society. The mission would not be achieved if the litigant who is
waiting in the queue does not get his turn for a long long time.
Rather the consequences are increasing daily which are the common man's faith in
the justice system is at an all time low, denial of justice to the poor man,
foreign investors are increasingly doubtful about the timely delivery of
justice, which affects the success of programs like Make in India.
Judiciary being unable to handle the avalanche
Low judges strength and appointment problem
As on 01.04.2020, Calculating the average quantity of people and number of
judges. For example, the capital of India, Delhi, its High Court has only 34
judges and has a population of around 2 crore as on 01.04.2020. Dividing 2 crore
by 34 the result is 5,88,236. Hence a single judge to handle 5,88,236. The ratio
clearly proves the clear reason for a delay in justice due to the lack in
numbers as well.
The Sanctioned strength, Working Strength and Vacancies of Judges in the Supreme
Court of India and the High Courts as on 01.04.2020 are duely to be noted. In
the Supreme Court of India only 34 is the sanctioned strength which is
completely outnumbered for a population of 140 billion. These are the numbers of
the total Sanctioned strength, Working Strength and Vacancies.
|Name of the court
|Common High Court for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir and UT
These shocking numbers for a population of 140 billion are inefficient,
ineffective and at the present rate of disposal civil cases by these number of
judges would never be disposed of and criminal cases will take more than 30
years in calculations.
The previous Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on October 22, 2019 had taken note
of over 5,000 vacant posts of judicial officers in lower courts and lack of
infrastructure for judges, litigants and advocates in such court complexes.
The serious issue lies in the place where the common man comes
in the hope for justice where the vacancies are more than 5000 in trial court
how can there be timely justice.
According to memorandum of procedure for appointment of judges in the high
courts and the apex court, appointments should be initiated at least six months
before a vacancy arises and six weeks of time is then specified for the State to
send recommendation to the Union Law Minister, after which the brief is to be
sent to the Supreme Court collegium in four weeks. Once the collegium clears the
names, the Law Ministry needs to put up the recommendations to the Prime
Minister in three weeks who will in turn advise the President. Thereafter, since
no time limit is prescribed, delays invariably take place at this level bringing
the process to a standstill.
Hence, the procedural delay. The whole system is so
slow that it leads to a tussle between executive and judiciary over who should
be appointing judges. Hence, a simple task of appointment leads to delay and
creation of problems. 40 percent of seats in the high Courts are vacant and
vacancy has never been below 20 per cent in the last decade. If the vacancies
are filled, pendency would go down and make the justice delivery system
Less number of high courts
Budget allocation for the judiciary is just 0.2 percent of the GDP. The
subordinate judiciary has been working under a deficiency of 5,018 courtrooms
because existing 15,540 court halls are insufficient to cater to the strength of
20,558 judicial officers as on 31.12.2015.
Less use of technology
Judiciary is not incorporating much use of technology. A huge amount of
paperwork is involved. This is a method of research to calculate how much paper
is being used in a year. Every year, over 60,000 cases are presented before the
Supreme Court of India. Each document in each case has to be filed in a specific
format. For example, each document can only be typed in a 13-14 font size. They
must also have a 3 cm margin and be double-spaced. However, the most banal rule
seems to be that material can only be printed on ONE side of the paper.
Earlier times, due to low paper and ink quality, the ink printed on one side of
the paper would seep on to the other side, making reading difficult. But why
continue with this rule in an age of superior quality printers and paper.
According to an estimate by IndiaSpend, each case requires 8 sets of files, and
each file has about 100 pieces of paper. So the paper used by the Supreme court
in a year is: 60,000 x 8 x 100 = 48 MILLION PAPERS (Approx).
Adding the 113
thousand cases the Indian high courts hear each month. Assuming 9 months of
functioning for the High Courts (accounting for court holidays) and again, 8
files per case and 100 papers in each file, the estimated number for all high
courts in a year is: 1,13,000 x 9 x 8 x 100 = 813 MILLION PAPERS. So, the tally
as of now, with the Supreme Court and the high courts, is 861 MILLION PAPERS A
YEAR! Still need to add the lower courts to the list.
These courts hear about
12.5 million cases a year. That's another 10 billion sheets. So the total paper
usage in all of India's judiciary, in a year, is: 861 MILLION + 10 BILLION = 11
BILLION (APPROX.) That's how much paper our legal system uses in a year. One
tree can be chopped and pulped to give us 8,333 sheets of virgin paper. And, it
requires approximately 10 litres of water to produce one sheet of paper. So, the
courts in our country use up 1.3 MILLION TREES & 109 BILLION LITRES OF WATER in
a year, JUST FOR PAPER!
Now, this is not to say that these papers are useless
and used without any reason, but the amount of resources used could be brought
down drastically if some slight changes are made in the courts' usage patterns.
For example, if we printed on both sides, then the water saved would be enough
for all of Mumbai for FOURTEEN WHOLE DAYS.
Just Imagine if we use no paper at all and the paper book and all the
preliminaries are e-filed we could save all that paper, water and cost of it.
Lack of transparency
There have been many debates around all over the nation regarding the Collegium
system and the new system that the government wants to introduce for the
appointment of judges, the NJAC. Well, be it the collegium system or the NJAC,
none seem to be transparent enough to make the selection process of judges clear
and understandable to the common public.
All democracies are swiftly moving
toward an open government and a citizen's right to know- an international trend
increasingly being supported by judicial decisions. Further, the right to know
is a part of the freedom of speech and expression and the present secretive
system, as implemented by the collegium system, violates this fundamental right.
The principle of open trials and justice is highly essential for the fair
administration of justice.
The current government led by Prime Minister Modi states that the introduction
of NJAC shall be more transparent in appointment of judges. The supreme court of
India, however, denied the fact and said there is a need for the even higher
level of law for the appointment of judges as NJAC is not perfect
to the SC, the bar council was invited to amend the NJAC saying that the
committee must comprise the Chief Justice of India and four senior judges of the
Well, let's say on this matter the government and the supreme court stand face
to face, but the fact is still unanswered whether the stated amendment or even
the current proposal bring transparency in the selection of judges and make the
framework clear to the common public?
Accused under trial
A major drawback that arises from the above-stated drawbacks is the under trials
of the accused. Precisely, for those who have committed a crime, it is OK, but
is it fair for an innocent to spend more time in jail just for waiting for his
trial? The Indian jails are full of people under trials; they are confined to
the jails till their case comes to a definite conclusion. Mostly, they end up
spending more time in jail than the actual term that might have been awarded to
them had the case been decided at a time and, assuming it was decided against
them. Moreover, all the expenses, pain and agony that are used by them to defend
themselves in courts are worse than serving the actual sentence.
Under trials are not guilty till convicted. On the other hand, the rich and
powerful people can bring the police to their sides, and the police can harass
or silence inconvenienced and poor persons, during the long ordeals in the
courts. As per the latest Prison Statistics India � 2015
by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 67.2 percent of our total prison population
comprises under trial prisoners.
That means, that 2 out of every 3 prisoners in
India is under trial, i.e. a person who has been accused or charged with
committing an offence, but has not been convicted and is still, presumed
innocent. On the civil side, there are consequences to constitutional rights
among other issues. High pendency and delays have economic costs due to lost
days and state of suspension of business. It is no wonder that India ranks
poorly on the Ease of Doing Business Index developed by the World Bank Group.
Apart from inefficiencies from government and public administration, the justice
system also has a role due to laxity on contract enforcement.
Distant & costly justice
When the victim is not economically well off, they need to suffer as they are
financially weak and hence cannot afford high profile lawyers who can win the
case in a limited span of time. Meanwhile, the rich can easily afford expensive
lawyers and change the course of dispensation of justice in their favour (not
necessarily true if the lawyer follows ethical standards). Only one Supreme
Court with no other branch is an issue for many north-east and South Indian
states. Appeals to SC becomes much more hectic.
Like the other pillars of democracy, the executive and the legislative, the
judiciary too (in some instances) has been found to engage in corruption. There
has not been established any system of accountability. In the case of judicial
processes, even the media is unable to give a proper and clear picture of the
corruption scenario. The media seems to be more focused on exposing corruption
in other fields, especially the executive. A minister taking a bribe or
distributing money during elections may become a headline, but a courtroom clerk
taking a bribe and altering the date of the trial remains unnoticed.
As per the constitutional provision, there is no provision yet for registering
an FIR against a judge who has taken bribe without taking the permission of the
Chief Justice of India. Obviously, visiting the CJI, seeking his permission, and
then registering an FIR is not what a poor man will prefer to do. This will
prove to be more expensive and time consuming for him, besides the court and
The Professional arrogance of the judges whereby judges do not do their homework
and arrive at decisions of grave importance while ignoring precedent or judicial
principle delays justice and adds to trial's spam. In 2011, Soumitra Sen, a
former judge at the Calcutta High Court became the first judge in India to be
impeached by the Rajya Sabha alleged for misappropriation of funds.
As a part of the solution, an All India recruitment exam (All India judicial
services) may help in resolving the issue of appointment of judges. There is a
need to use better technology for the recording of statements, there should be
CCTVs for recoveries, chromatography, microscopy, spectrography, laser
techniques, X-Rays etc. If the statements are video recorded, then there would
be much greater credibility.
There is a need for court administrators to manage
the entire process so that the lawyers and judges can concentrate on the cases
they are assigned. Several hundreds of archaic and old laws have been done away
with but still, there are many which require attention. This will ultimately
lead to a decline in the number of cases that are being filed because most of
the laws will not be there in the books.
There can be a Court of Appeal between
the High Courts and the Supreme Court. This is present in Canada, South Africa
and a couple of other countries where the normal cases will go to the Court of
Appeal and these can be decided there itself. Only Constitutional cases shall go
to the Supreme Court which have taken a backseat. There have been
recommendations from the Law Commission of India related to this in the past as
well. E-courts are being run on a trial basis. These will help in filing the
Establishing fast-track courts for cases on sensitive
issues like rape, corruption and high profile cases so that justice is seen to
be delivered and people maintain faith in the system. Setting up of special
courts like property courts, commercial courts and e-courts for speedy disposal
of cases. Further promoting the concept of Lok Adalat, Court on Wheels, Gram
Nyaya Panchayat. In the first instance itself, most people should get justice.
The time taken in courts should be rationed. A judge should be given a workload
like 10 cases per day and they have to be fully solved.
However much the Judiciary pushes the government, it will not work. The default
is not in the Judiciary as they are trying to provide justice within their
limits. But it is the government that we choose that is neither making sure that
the judiciary is well equipped or well numbered. Another reason why the change
is not happening is because the government of India is the largest litigant in
the country itself. How can we bring about a change when our own government has
over half the pending cases in our country.
The courts are crowded, overworked and ultimately there are dates without
outcomes. Cases remain pending for a long time because of which people lose
faith in the judiciary. As far as reforms are concerned, they cannot be
implemented until and unless the existing system is used to the best. Every step
has to be in sync with each other to reduce the burden that the judiciary faces.
Also, there is a need to bring a societal and cultural change of obeying the
law, respecting it and working in accordance with the law. Justice delayed is
justice denied and Justice hurried is justice buried.
A process driven approach with the help of scientifically collected data is the
way forward in bringing down the pendency rates in Indian courts. This
methodical approach would uncover patterns hidden in the huge number of cases
stuck in our courtrooms, particularly lower courts where the bulk of the cases
lie. Such systemic changes would complement the motivation, commitment and
positive attitude in overcoming the challenges in times to come.
- Hussain vs Union Of India AIR 2017 SC 1362.
- Hussainara Khatoon (IV) v Home Secretary, State of Bihar 1980 1 SCC 98