India Justice Report 2022 | Judge vacancies remain endemic

According to the India Justice Report (IJR) 2022, as of December 2022, against a sanctioned strength of 1,108 judges, the High Courts were functioning with only 778 judges

April 04, 2023 04:10 pm | Updated 10:44 pm IST

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: AP

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, the India Justice Report (IJR) 2022 said.

As of December 2022, 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.

Rising pendency

Correspondingly, the number of cases pending per judge is rising in most States over last five years while the sanctioned strength has remained more or less the same.

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“At High Court level, Uttar Pradesh has the highest average pendency; cases remain pending for an average of 11.34 years, and in West Bengal for 9.9 years. The lowest average High Court pendency is in Tripura [1 year], Sikkim [1.9 years] and Meghalaya [2.1 years],” the IJR report said.

Increasing caseload

The number of cases a judge has to deal with has also steadily increased. Between 2018 and 2022, the caseload per judge increased in 22 States and Union Territories, the report revealed.

The case clearance rate (CCR), or the number of cases disposed of in a year, measured against the number filed in that year is a common metric used to determine the rate at which cases are disposed of. A CCR of more than 100% indicates that the number of pending cases is reducing.

The IJR report found that High Courts are increasingly clearing more cases annually than subordinate courts.

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Between 2018-19 and 2022, the national average improved by six percentage points (88.5% to 94.6%) in High Courts, but declined by 3.6 points in lower courts (93% to 89.4%), IJR said.

At the same period, Tripura is the only State where the CCR in district courts remained above 100%, with the exception of 2020 — the year of the pandemic.

“In 2018-19 only four High Courts had a CCR of 100% or more. In 2022 this more than doubled to 12 High Courts. The High Courts of Kerala and Odisha have higher case clearance rates — 156% and 131% respectively — while the High Courts of Rajasthan [65%] and Bombay [72% ] have the lowest case clearance rates,” the IJR report said.


Nationally, the number of court halls appears sufficient for the number of actual judges, IJR said, however, it added that space will become a problem if all the sanctioned posts are filled.

In August 2022, there were 21,014 court halls for the 24,631 judges’ posts sanctioned at the time — a shortfall of 14.7%, the report said. “In Delhi, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand there were no court halls for the 86, 82, and 35 serving judges respectively,” it added.

“If every State appointed each of its sanctioned judges, only four States and four UTs would have enough court halls. In 11 States/UTs there would be a shortfall of more than 25%,” the report said.

IJR is a collaborative effort undertaken in partnership with DAKSH, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Common Cause, Centre for Social Justice, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and TISS-Prayas.

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