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Pendency In The Indian Criminal Process: A Creature Of Crisis Or Flawed Design?

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
Generally, people go to court with the hope that they will get justice; but, when justice is delayed, they lose hope, and justice is denied. Former British Prime Minister William Edward Gladstone coined the phrase "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied," which means that if justice is not served at the appropriate time, even if it is served later, it is not real justice, because there was a perversion of justice when the demand for justice was made.

"Tareekh pe tareekh, tareekh pe tareekh, tareekh pe tareekh milti gayi My Lord, par Insaaf nahi mila" This dialogue from Damini reflected the citizen's views on the current legal system's meandering path to justice, which takes years. Our country's judicial system started functioning on January 28, 1950.

Despite the significant achievements in the past 70 years, it is still facing various problems that have been made worse by the various factors that have been affecting it. Some of the primary issues confronting our judicial system are slow delivery of justice, conflicts surrounding the appointment of judges, and inefficient disciplinary measures. After 70 years of our judicial system still there is no change.

Despite the various problems that the judiciary faced, the public still remains faith in its ability to deliver justice. whenever there is any conflict between people they say I will see you in the court which indicate that despite all the problems people have trust that they will get justice in the court. Paucity of funds, judges, courts etc. these concerns not only cause delays in the administration of justice, but they also reduce the chances of citizens having access to justice, which is essential for the enjoyment of human and fundamental rights.

Lord Dinning's once said Law does not stop; it moves continuously. If this being the purpose of law, then the judges and the courts do their best to do justice at the fastest possible time.[1]

Number Of Pendant Cases
Pendency and delay are endemic to courts in India. The data has been taken from National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), which is not 100% accurate but has the reliable figures.
Date High Court District/Subordinate Court
Dec 2018 49.79 lakh 2.92 crore
Mar 25, 2020 46.43 lakh 3.21 crore
Jun 23, 2020 47.96 lakh 3.29 crore
Jan 30, 2021 56.62 lakh 3.72 crore
Apr 15, 2021 57.53 lakh 3.81 crore
[2] In supreme court there are 69,922 pending matters as on 01.10.2021.[3]

Major cases which prove the inefficiency of our judicial system
Even if justice is delivered, it takes a long time, underlining the flaws of the judicial authorities. According to nationwide research, just 37% of reported rapes are prosecuted. Only 18% of rape cases that are prosecuted result in a conviction. Thousands of rape cases go uninvestigated because it has become the mindset of people, which is true, that the court will take 8-10 years to decide the case.[4]

Upphar Cinema case [5]
It took the court 18 years to get justice to the 59 people who perished and over 100 others who were injured in a cinema fire on June 13, 1997. Gopal and Sushil Ansal were fined Rs. 60 crores but were not sentenced to prison. The Uphaar cinema case is a notorious example of delay and unjust treatment, with protests, reduced compensation, and no penalty.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy case.[6][7]
More than 5 lakh people were displaced by the Union Carbide Factory disaster, and the aftermath continues to disturb the lives of those who live in the region. The case dragged on for years in court, but only 7 of the company's employees were sentenced to two years in prison, and the company avoided culpability by paying $470 million in compensation. However, many victims have yet to get any remuneration for the irreversible harm that adversity has caused them.

Aarushi murder case,[8]
Despite a paucity of evidence, witness statements, and even narco tests, the court found Aarushi's parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, guilty of the double murders. Since 2008, there has been minimal movement in the case, which is stuck in a Catch-22 situation, causing inextricable delays in justice for the victims.

Nirbhaya Case [9]
Nirbhaya, a 23-year-old physiotherapy graduate, was assaulted by a group of six, one of whom was a juvenile, inside a moving bus in Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012. One escaped punishment due to Juvenile Justice laws, another committed himself in his detention cell, and the remaining four men were found guilty of the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case and sentenced to death finally after 7 years.

A study by the Supreme Court of India, "Subordinate Judiciary-Access to Justice 2016," shows that capacity constraints are at the root of the huge number of outstanding cases. The 3 report states that the mounting backlog of cases in subordinate courts is caused by the lack of courtrooms, secretarial and support staff, and adequate accommodation for judges and their families.[10]

The subordinate judiciary has been operating with a deficiency of 5,018 courtrooms because the existing 15,540 court halls are insufficient to accommodate to the strength of 20,558 judicial employees as of 31.12.2015. There were 41,775 vacant staff positions as of December 31, 2015. The major element contributing to the ongoing delays is a paucity of judges in the courts. According to an official document released by the Union Law Ministry in March 2018, India has only 19 judges per 10 lakh citizens on average, with scores of judge's seats in courts vacant.

Another factor is incompetent and ineffective judges. Lawyers are often employed to resolve disputes and give proper justice by representing the case before a court; nevertheless, lawyers are now known to take adjournments. Lawyers get paid for their time and appearance, but with each dismissal, the expense and duration of a case rises. More than justice they care about their profit.

The procedure and formalities are so complicated and filled with complexities that they stymie petitioners at every turn. Jurisdictional arguments, sufficiency of notices, causes of action, and other procedural difficulties waste a lot of time. Even after the initial decisions have been issued by the court of law, the number of counter appeals in higher courts is one of the causes for the delay in the administration of justice.

Unfortunately, despite its many successes, the Indian judiciary still faces several structural difficulties, which hinders it from doing its job effectively and efficiently. There are many reasons behind the ineffectiveness and delay of the law, unlike in the past, due to the availability of more data. Compared to the past, this structural mess can be analyzed in a more clear way in the current era, due to better data availability.

Impact of pendency
The presumption of innocence governs criminal law, with an accused person presumed innocent unless proven guilty. However, the duration of a criminal trial has a significant impact on an accused person's liberty and presumption of innocence, particularly if they are imprisoned pending trial. According to the National Crime Record Bureau ("NCRB"newest )'s "Jail Statistics India - 2015" report, under trial prisoners account for 67.2 percent of our overall prison population.

That indicates that two out of every three inmates in India are awaiting trial, i.e., someone who has been accused or charged with a crime but has not been convicted and is still believed innocent[11]. Since 2000, the proportion of under-trial prisoners as a fraction of the total population has only risen.

On the civil side, constitutional rights, among other things, are affected. Due to wasted days and a state of suspension of operations, high pendency and delays have monetary expenses. It's no surprise that India scores low on the World Bank Group's Ease of Doing Business Index. Apart from government and public administration inefficiencies, contract enforcement laxity also plays a role in the justice system.

The delayed justice system has a significant impact on the economy's growth and development, as international investors are hesitant to invest in India because they are concerned that if they get into a dispute, their legal issues will not be resolved in a timely manner.

Injustice is the result of delayed justice. After 20 years in prison, Vishnu Tiwari was found not guilty of rape by the Allahabad high court in March of this year.[12]

The essential improvements will not happen overnight, but they will come if we work hard for them. Despite several flaws and deadlocks, India's justice system need overhaul. There are a variety of ways to bring about this shift.

Every citizen of the country needs to be aware of the importance of law, order, and an individual's right to seek justice.
The most essential improvements in the judiciary should be the elimination of superfluous grounds for adjournments, as they are a waste of time for the court and require the court to levy a fine for foolish reasons for adjournment.

The Supreme Court of India is dealing with a number of concerns, including a large number of cases pending. Furthermore, at regular intervals, on one or more pretexts, it is frequently asked to address some pressing concerns, which may have political or national interests, and which impair its functioning, including the clearing of backlog. In this situation, the country will need to create at least two Supreme Court divisions to modify the constitution. One branch should be devoted solely to civil proceedings, while the other should be devoted solely to criminal cases.

The number of judges on both the High Court and the Supreme Court should be raised. Despite the fact that we have highly qualified judges, they have failed to dispense justice. As previously said, we lag behind other industrialized countries in the appointment of judges, which is the primary cause of inefficiency and ineffectiveness.

A Fast-Track Court should be established, and the number of tribunals, judicial and quasi-judicial entities should be increased urgently. Each tribunal must be classified according to the judges' areas of expertise, easing the burden on the courts.

Denial of "timely justice" is tantamount to denial of "justice." Two are inextricably linked. Cases must be resolved in a timely manner in order to sustain the rule of law and provide access to justice, which is a recognized fundamental right. However, as the current study shows, due to a large backlog of cases, the legal system is unable to provide prompt justice.
While the backlog of court cases is a long-standing issue for the Indian courts, it has a variety of causes and manifestations.

Without a doubt, the Indian legal system, particularly at the district level, requires a significant increase in the number of judges and fast-track courts. Cases that have been outstanding for more than a decade must be resolved as soon as possible. To relieve the pressure on higher courts and handle difficult matters quickly, additional Lok Adalats and mobile courts are needed.

The true reasons for the delay in dispensing justice are gaps in current rules and regulations, a lack of information about fundamental rights, unequal access to legal services, and an imbalance in the number of judges to deal with pending cases. It is necessary to have a technologically capable judiciary that can work transparently and respond quickly in order to give justice to all people quickly and evenly.

  1. Projected pendency of 45 million cases in courts an overstatement, uncharitable analysis: CJI Ramana: India News - Times of India The Times of India, (last visited Nov 22, 2021)
  2. Annual Policy Review (
  3. (PDF) access to Justice and judicial pendency: Confluence ..., (last visited Nov 6, 2021)
  4. what percentage of rape cases gets prosecuted? what are ..., (last visited Nov 6, 2021)
  5. All you need to know about the uphaar fire tragedy case iPleaders, (last visited Nov 6, 2021)
  6. Making legal simple, visited Nov 22, 2021)
  7. National Crime Records Bureau, (last visited Nov 22, 2021)
  1. B.P. Achala Anand vs. S. Appi Reddy and Another, (2005) 3 SCC 313
  4. what percentage of rape cases gets prosecuted? what are ..., (last visited Nov 6, 2021)
  5. All you need to know about the uphaar fire tragedy case iPleaders, (last visited Nov 6, 2021)
  6. Assn. Of Victims Of Uphaar Tragedy ... vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Ors, II (2003) ACC 114
  7. Union Carbide Corporation vs Union Of India,1990 AIR 273, 1989 SCC (2) 540
  8. Dr. Rajesh Talwar And Another V. Central Bureau Of Investigation, 2013 (82) ACC 303
  9. Mukesh and Anrs. Vs NCT Delhi (Nirbhaya Case)(2017) 6 SCC 1
  10. As available on the website, accessible at
  12. Vishnu Kumar Tiwari vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh,9 July, 2019
  • B.P. Achala Anand vs. S. Appi Reddy and Another, (2005) 3 SCC 313
  • Union Carbide Corporation vs Union Of India,1990 AIR 273, 1989 SCC (2) 540
  • Mukesh and Anrs. Vs NCT Delhi (Nirbhaya Case)(2017) 6 SCC 1
  • Vishnu Kumar Tiwari vs The State Of Uttar Pradesh, 9 July, 2019
  • Assn. Of Victims Of Uphaar Tragedy vs Union Of India (Uoi) And Ors, II (2003) ACC 114
  • Dr. Rajesh Talwar And Another V. Central Bureau Of Investigation, 2013 (82) ACC 303

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