Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Are more fresh filings causing judicial pendency?

Are more fresh filings causing judicial pendency? 

By Surya Prakash B S 

Have the number of cases filed in courts gone up so substantially as to be the main reason for the backlog of cases in courts? In the opinion of Justice Gopala Gowda, that is indeed so.

Speaking at the Lok Adalat organised by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority on 12 December, Justice Gowda remarked, ‘The judiciary is not responsible for cases not being resolved in a timely manner.  The government is not establishing courts in proportion to the increase in population and cases filed. Disposal of cases is being delayed due to this. The courts and judges are doing an excellent job in the disposal of cases. If there were an increase in courts appropriate to the increase in filings then there would be no question of judicial delays at all.” (as reported in the Kannada daily, Prajavani, on 13 December 2015).

So we asked ourselves: Is there really an increase in filings? And if yes, at what rate is it increasing?

Here are three time trends from the last updated data reported in ‘Court News’ reported by the Supreme Court ( can accessed here http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/courtnews.htm). 

In the Supreme Court


Figure 1: Trend of fresh filings and disposal in the Supreme Court over 10 quarters











Table 1: No. of fresh filings and disposal at the Supreme Court during the quarter:


Q112
Q212
Q312
Q412
Q113
Q213
Q313
Q413
Q114
Q214
Fresh filings
21,706
15,187
22,403
17,621
21,342
15,551
22,813
17,036
22,287
22,459
Disposal
20,409
11,152
21,604
15,579
20,714
13,425
25,656
17,290
24,306
20,819


In the High Courts


Figure 2: Trend of fresh filings and disposal in the High Courts over 10 quarters














Table 2: No. of fresh filings and disposal at the High Courts during the quarter:


Q4 11
Q1 12
Q2 12
Q3 12
Q4 12
Q1 13
Q2 13
Q3 13
Q4 13
Q1 14
Fresh Filings
 4,58,885
 4,79,042
 4,40,324
 5,31,292
 4,63,103
 4,95,746
 4,88,186
 5,60,889
 4,53,438
 5,08,727
Disposals
 4,07,265
 4,64,312
 3,82,189
 5,10,841
 4,34,049
 4,37,176
 3,94,487
 4,98,202
 4,22,947
 4,86,115



In the sub-ordinate courts

Figure 3: Trend of fresh filings and disposal in the Subordinate Courts over 10 quarters














Table 3: No. of fresh filings and disposal at the Subordinate Courts during the quarter:


Q4 11
Q1 12
Q2 12
Q3 12
Q4 12
Q1 13
Q2 13
Q3 13
Q4 13
Q1 14
Fresh filings
 41,46,123
 43,37,836
 44,66,303
 48,82,975
 44,33,166
 43,50,524
 44,52,506
 47,36,967
 51,28,312
 48,66,618
Disposed Cases
 44,00,718
 44,82,366
 43,18,734
 50,44,185
 43,11,269
 43,88,859
 40,75,708
 44,19,310
 58,55,480
 43,44,835


As can be seen from the charts, there has been some increase in the fresh cases being filed at all levels.

In the Supreme Court there has been a 3% increase of filings in Q2 ’14 as compared with filings in Q1 ’12. In the High Courts there have been a 10% increase of filings in Q1 ’14 as compared with filings in Q4 ’11.  And in the Subordinate Courts there have been a 17% increase of filings in Q1 ’14 as compared with filings in Q4 ’11. 

Clearly the level of increase is not drastic. In fact, the disposal level too seems to follow the trend of fresh filings. Therefore the rate of increase in the fresh filings does not appear to be the chief cause of judicial pendency.  Or rather it can not be said to be the only cause. 

Practitioners and scholars alike have pointed out may factors like management of court diary, too many adjournments, lack of judges, etc., that contribute to the pendency  problem. Understanding the chief causes for the steady worsening of the judicial pendency situation needs a closer scrutiny of the day to day operations of the judiciary.

(With inputs from Krithika Gururaj, student of Master in Public Policy programme at the Crawford School of Public Policy)



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