Vacancies of judges remain high, cases pile up: India Justice Report

Context: The India Justice Report 2022, says that Indian courts are jammed with cases and are seeing pendency increase by the day. At the same time, they are also functioning with fewer judges than the sanctioned number.

India Justice Report

  • The India Justice Report is a first of its kind national periodic reporting that brings together, hitherto siloed information, to measure the capacity of four pillars of the justice system – the police, the prison system, the judiciary and legal aid—in each state.
  • The report is the result of collaboration and research between six organisations:
  • Centre for Social Justice (IDEAL)
  • Common Cause
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  • TISS–Prayas
  • Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy

Findings of this report 

  • Against a sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges, the High Courts were functioning with only 778 judges. 
  • The subordinate courts were found functioning with 19,288 judges against a sanctioned strength of 24,631 judges.
  • The number of cases pending per judge is rising in most States over the past five years.
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  • The report found that the High Courts are clearing more cases annually than the subordinate courts.

Challenges Pertaining to Indian Judicial System

  • Pendency – One of the essential issues with the Indian legal framework is the pendency of cases. 2.84 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, the backlog clogging the High Courts and Supreme Court (SC) is 43 lakh and 57,987 cases, respectively.
  • Vacancy –  There is persistent tussle between the executive and the judiciary over the appointment of Judges of the Supreme court and the High Courts. This has resulted into unwarranted vacancies which further accentuates the issue of pendency. As per the India Justice Report of 2022 Against a sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges, the High Courts were functioning with only 778 judges.
  • Lack of transparency – Judiciary does not come under the ambit of the Right to the Information Act. In the functioning of the Indian judiciary system, the substantial issues like the quality of justice and accountability are not known to the citizens properly. There is also a need for transparency in the appointment of the judges.
  • Lack of interaction and information among people and court – For any Judiciary to be fruitful, it is vital that the overall population must know the mechanics of legal. The general public must take part in the court procedures. Indian Judiciary system lacks such linkages and interactions. 
  • Less use of technology – Indian courts have exhibited less use of technology in their functioning. Considering the quantum of work, this non-inclusion of technology in their working further complicates the matters.

Way Forward

  • Need to Reduce Disposal Time for Cases – Disposal time is measured as the time span between the date of filing and the date when the decision is passed.
  • Need to better Case Clearance Rate (CCR) – CCR is the ratio of the number of cases disposed of each year to the number of cases instituted in that year, expressed as a percentage. It is mainly used to understand the efficiency of the system in proportion to the inflow of cases.
  • Streamline Judicial Appointments – by identifying vacancies across sections of lower and higher judiciary.
  • Shifting Court workloads through creating Special Courts (255th Law Commission) – based on specialised areas such as commercial cases can be transferred to the commercial division and the commercial appellate division of High Courts. Similarly Special Courts within High Courts can be set up to address litigations pertaining to land, crime, Traffic Challans etc.
  • Merge and rationalize tribunals to enhance efficiency – Appointments to tribunals must be streamlined either through a specialized agency or under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).
  • Need to Create Separate Administrative Cadre in the judicial system – This will relieve the Judges who are also involved in administrative capabilities to take care of the day to day functioning of High Courts as well as Lower Courts under Article 227. Problem – Handling administrative responsibilities by Judges reduce time available for dispensing cases pending in the Courts.
  • Creating Indian Courts and Tribunal Services (ICTS) – It will focus on the administrative aspects of the legal system. The major roles to be played by ICTS will be provide administrative support functions needed by the judiciary; identify process inefficiencies and advise the judiciary on legal reforms
  • Creating All-India Judicial Services – merit based all India examination to appoint Judges for Higher Judiciary as per Article 312(3) which was added by the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976.
  • Increase number of working days for judiciary to increase productivity – reducing length of summer and winter vacations in High Courts and Supreme Court.
  • Deployment of Technology to improve efficiency of Courts – One major effort in this direction is the eCourts Mission Mode Project that is being rolled out in phases by the Ministry of Law and Justice. This has allowed the creation of the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). The system is already able to capture most cases, their status and progress.
  • Appointing More Women Judges at all levels – will promote women empowerment and make judgments involving cases of women more gender sensitive.

PYQ – 2017

Critically examine the Supreme Court’s judgment on ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014’ with reference to appointment of judges of higher judiciary in India.

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