‘District courts will take 10 years to clear cases’

At the rate at which cases were disposed by India’s district courts last month, India could get rid of all pending cases in ten years, an analysis of new official data shows. Six states, however – Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir – disposed fewer cases than were filed during the month, indicating that at this rate, they would never be able to clear all pending cases.

Last week, the Supreme Court launched the public access portal of the National Judicial Data Grid with daily updated information on civil and criminal cases filed and disposed every day in India’s district courts. At the moment, the portal has data for 15,340 judges in 459 district courts across the country and information on the performance of these courts for the last month.

As of 5 pm on Friday, there were 2 crore cases before district courts, two-thirds of them criminal cases. Ten per cent of these cases had been pending for more than ten years – in Gujarat, nearly 25 per cent of cases were pending for over ten years, while in Sikkim and Punjab fewer than 1 per cent were pending for over ten years. 18 per cent of cases nationally were pending for five to ten years and 30 per cent were pending for two to five years. The largest share – 42 per cent of all cases in the system – had been pending for less than two years.

“I would classify any case pending for more than 5 years as delayed - a total of 56 lakh cases across all 15,000 courts across the country [based on the NJDG data],” Alok Prasanna Kumar, Senior Resident Fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, told The Hindu. “Whereas the number "3 crore cases" is trotted out repeatedly as the total number of cases pending, there's little discussion on how many are actually delayed. Now we get a precise figure and break up,” Mr. Kumar said.

Of the 5.33 lakh cases filed across India last month, over 1 lakh were filed in Maharashtra alone, and it was not able to dispose as many. Uttar Pradesh saw the next highest number of cases filed, but disposed over 1.12 lakh cases during the month. In all, India’s district courts disposed over 6.9 lakh cases last month, 21,000 of which had been pending for over ten years.

The data also shows the wide variation between states and districts in the rate of disposal of cases, according to an analysis done by Open data campaigner Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu and his team at the public data website ‘Factly’ calculated the ratio of cases disposed last month to those filed for each state and applied it to that state’s pending cases. They found that that at last month’s rate, it would take India around 10 years to clear all pending cases in its district courts. Nine states including Kerala, Karnataka and Assam could clear their backlogs in fewer than five years given the rate of disposal last month and the size of their backlogs. Six states including Gujarat and Bihar would never be able to clear the backlog given last month’s performace.

“One month is of course not representative, but given that it was in many ways a normal month, it is useful to analyse the performance of district courts,” Mr. Dubbudu said. The NJDG portal in its current form does not help litigants but is useful for analysis and decision-making, he said; “We appreciate that this data has been made available, but a lot more needs to be done. It is currently in a closed format which defeats the purpose of transparency and is only available for a one month period,” he added.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 10:02:07 PM |

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