Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, August 10, 2021: Quoting data of the National Judicial Data Grid, the Ministry of Law and Justice has apprised members during the ongoing Parliament session that over 3.93 crore cases are pending in the lower and subordinate courts in the country as on July 30, 2021.  

The pendency in criminal cases is almost double than the civil cases, the data reveals. Of the total pendency, 2.88 crore are criminal cases while 1.05 crore cases are of civil nature. 

The ministry’s document further reveals that the maximum pendency is for cases pending between zero to five years. Nearly 30% cases (1.17 crore) are less than one year old. Another 30.34% cases (1.19 crore) are pending for one to three years, while 16% cases (63.88 lakh) are between three to five years old. 

Then there are another 60.85 lakh cases (15.48%) which are pending between five to ten years, which indicate the need to put thrust on a speedy justice system. Another 27 lakh cases (7%) are quite older, between 10 to 20 years, while there are 4.85 lakh cases (1.25%) which are even older, between 20 to 30 years. 

Surprisingly, over 1 lakh cases which are older beyond 30 years are still in progress in the lower and subordinate courts, revealed the data. 

In its reply, the Ministry stated that the disposal of pending cases in courts is within the domain of the judiciary. No time frame has been prescribed for disposal of various kinds of cases by the respective courts. 

According to the Ministry, the Government has taken several initiatives to provide an ecosystem for faster disposal of cases by the judiciary. 

The National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms was set up in August, 2011 with the twin objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system and enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities. 

The Mission has been pursuing a co-ordinated approach for phased liquidation of arrears and pendency in judicial administration, which, inter-alia, involves better infrastructure for courts including computerization, increase in strength of subordinate judiciary, policy and legislative measures in the areas prone to excessive litigation, re-engineering of court procedure for quick disposal of cases and emphasis on human resource development.

Shortage of Judges 

As per the data, the sanctioned strength of judges in the  country’s district and subordinate courts is 24,368 as of July 29, 2021, whereas the working strength of judges is 19,259. 

The Ministry stated that from May 1, 2014 to March 1, 2021,  35 Judges were appointed in the Supreme Court, and 602 new Judges were appointed and 551 Additional Judges were made permanent in the High Courts. Filling up of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary falls within the domain of the state governments and the High Courts concerned, the document pointed out.

The Ministry further stated that the Fourteenth Finance Commission endorsed the proposal of the Government to strengthen the judicial system in states which included, inter-alia, establishing Fast Track Courts for cases of heinous crimes; cases involving senior citizens, women, children etc., and urged the state governments to use the additional fiscal space provided in the form of enhanced tax devolution form 32% to 42% to meet such requirements.

As on April 30, 2021, 870 Fast Track Courts are functional for heinous crimes, crimes against women and children etc. To fast track criminal cases involving elected MPs / MLAs, 10 Special Courts are functional in nine States/UTs (one each in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and two in NCT of Delhi). 

Further, the government has approved a scheme for setting up 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) across the country for expeditious disposal of pending cases of Rape under IPC and crimes under the POCSO Act. 

As on date, 28 States/UTs have joined the scheme for setting up of 842 FTSCs including 363 ‘exclusive POCSO Courts’. Rs.140 crore was released in the financial year 2019-20 and Rs.160 crore has been released during the financial year 2020-21 for the scheme. Rs. 39.77 crore has been released till June 2021 for Financial Year 2021-22. 

In addition, to reduce pendency and unclogging of the courts, the Government has recently amended various laws like the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Commercial Courts (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Ministry said.

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