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Economic Survey Flags Ballooning Pile of Pending Cases, Says 8,500+ Judges Needed to Clear Backlog

By: Ghazanfar Abbas

Edited By: Nitya Thirumalai


Last Updated: July 04, 2019, 15:23 IST

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

The Economic Survey estimated that eight additional judges are needed in the Supreme Court in the next five years to clear the backlog.

New Delhi: Economic Survey 2018-19 released on Thursday expressed concern over huge pendency of cases in Indian courts due to shortage of judges, saying India needs additional 8,521 judges in the next five years to clear the backlog.

Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had raised similar concerns over a year ago when 3.3 crore cases were pending. That figure burgeoned to 3.53 crore on July 1, 2019, with all high courts and lower courts short of 5,535 judges.

As per the data on Supreme Court website, 58,669 cases are pending in the apex court. There is no shortage of judges at present in the Supreme Court where the approved strength is 31. The Economic Survey, however, estimated that eight additional judges are needed in the top court in the next five years.

High Courts

Across high courts, a total of 43,63,260 cases were pending as on July 1, according to the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). Among these, 18,79,399 are civil cases, while 12,18,499 are criminal and 12,65,362 are writ petitions.

Of the total cases, 27.42 lakh have been pending for more than one year, while 8.43 lakh cases are 5-10 years older, 6.86 lakh cases are 10-20 years older, 1.04 lakh are 20-30 years older. A whopping 44,409 cases have been pending for more than 30 years.

The data further suggestions that a high number of cases filed by senior citizen (1,11,343) and women (1,00,535) are pending in the high courts.

The Allahabad High Court accounts for the maximum number of pending cases at 7,30,305, followed by Punjab and Harayana High Court (4,52,221), Rajasthan High Court (4,32,038), Madras HC (4,00,276) and Madhya Pradesh HC (3,46,365).

District and Subordinate Courts

A total of 3.11 crore cases are pending in district and subordinate courts, of which 2,23,05,498 are criminal cases and 88,15,608 pertain to civil matters.

While 2.25 crore cases (72.4 per cent) have been pending for more than a year, 45.26 lakh cases have been unresolved for 5-10 years, 20.49 lakh are pending for 10-20 years, 3.86 lakh are 20-30 years old and 76,200 cases have been awaiting verdicts for more than 30 years.

The five states with maximum pendency in district and subordinate courts are Uttar Pradesh (74,78,043), Maharashtra (37,01,785), West Bengal (22,71,075), Bihar (27,17,093) and Gujarat (16,97,814).

Shortage of Judges in High Courts and Lower Courts

With shortages of judges contributing to the pendency of cases, the Economic Survey has estimated that high courts need 361 additional judges, and districts and subordinate courts need 8,152 more judges in the next five years.

As of now, comparative to the maximum pendency of cases, Allahabad High Court has shortage of 34 per cent judges (54 vacancies out of 160 approved).

As on July 1, there was shortage of 403 (35 per cent) judges out of total approved strength (1,079) in all 25 high courts. Among them, maximum shortage of judges comparative to the approved strength is in Andhra Pradesh High Court where 24 out of 37 positions (65 per cent) are vacant, followed by Telangana HC followed by Karnataka HC (30 out of 62), Odisha (13 out of 27) and J&K (eight out of 17).

As far as district and subordinate courts are concerned, 5,132 judgeships are vacant across India, according to a submission made by former MoS for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary in Parliament in February this year. The total strength in all lower courts is 22,833.

Percentage-wise, the shortage is most severe in Meghalaya where 58 out of 97 approved positions (around 60 per cent) are vacant. Puducherry (14 out of 26), Uttar Pradesh (1,208 out of 3,225), Tripura (40 out of 115) and Bihar (622 out of 1,845) follow. It must be noted that in absolute terms, UP suffers the maximum shortage of judges in district and subordinate courts.

Ten states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Maharashtra - have combined vacancies of 3,978 or 78 per cent.

Last month, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking increase in the judges’ strength in the Supreme Court. He had also sought raising the retirement age of high court judges from 62 to 65 years. Gogoi urged the PM to make tenure appointments of retired apex court judges and high court judges under articles 128 and 224A of the Constitution, respectively, to clear the logjam.