Over 3.7 million, or around 10% of the 37.7 million cases before high courts, district and taluka courts across India, have remained pending for over a decade, according to National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), which monitors the performance of courts nationally. They include 2.8 million cases in district and taluka courts and 920,000 before high courts. Over 660,000 cases have remained pending for over 20 years and 131,000 for more than three decades.
The Supreme Court on June 15 noted with anguish the pendency of cases, particularly criminal appeals, in high courts as it was hearing a murder convict’s bail plea while his appeal against his conviction is pending before the Allahabad high court. It called “chronic pendency of criminal appeals” a challenge to the judicial system. The Supreme Court noted the right to speedy trial also involves that to speedy disposal of criminal appeals. “If such appeals are not taken up for hearing within a reasonable time, the right of appeal itself would be illusory, inasmuch as incarcerated convicts (who are denied bail) would have undergone a major part--if not the whole of the period of their sentence.”
The Supreme Court asked Allahabad, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Patna, Orissa, Rajasthan, Bombay high courts to submit a detailed plan of action for deciding the pending criminal appeals.
As many as 8.5% of the total of 32.9 million cases pending in district and taluka courts across India, or 2.8 million, have remained so for over 10 years, according to NJDG, which is updated daily and provides consolidated figures of pending cases.
Over 500,000, or 1.5% of cases pending at the district and taluka level, are over two-decade-old while 85,141 cases have remained undecided for over three decades.
District courts fare better than high courts in terms of pending cases. As many as over 4.7 million cases are pending before 25 high courts across the country. Out of them, over 920,000 cases, or 19.26%, have been pending for over 10 years and 158,000 (3.3%) for more than 20 years and 46,754 for three decades or more.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, accounts for 40% of the 2.8 million cases pending for over 10 years at district and taluka courts and for 43% of the 500,000 awaiting completion for over 20 years. As many as 40% or 34,000 out of 85,141 cases pending nationally for over 30 years are in Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad high court has the most pendency of cases among high courts. It accounts for 30%, or 276000, of 920,000 cases pending in high courts for over 10 years. Over 55% of cases awaiting completion for 20 years in high courts are pending at the Allahabad high court. The percentage is 86 (40,374 out of 46,754) when it comes to three-decade-old cases.
“The data reflects the correlation between judicial vacancies and pendency. Importantly, judicial vacancies is a very region centric factor in that it varies vastly from state to state. UP for instance is one of the states where judicial vacancies have been on the higher side and it affects the pendency”, said senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Ameen Jauhar