Tuesday, 19 January 2016

What are the Courts Working On?

It is a well-known fact that there are an enormous number of cases that have been filed before the Indian courts. It is an equally well-known fact that many of these cases have been pending before the said courts for several years.  Talks of pendency always seem to centre on these huge, and more often than not, unfathomable numbers. There is however, a third, and lesser discussed aspect to this pressing issue of pendency – the subject matter of these multiple and much delayed cases.

That is the very question we are asking in this blog post– what are the kinds of cases that the courts are working on? To answer this question, we’ve chosen to look at a single High Court from our database - the High Court of Karnataka.

Among the information we collect for each case record we have in our database, we have case types. The table below illustrates the distribution of case types for 2,34,795 case records that we have for the High Court of Karnataka. In addition, the table compares the duration of pendency across these various case types. So without further ado, let’s look at what the High Court of Karnataka is working on.


CASE TYPE
CASE TYPE  FULL FORM
PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL CASES
PENDENCY IN DAYS
WP
Writ Petition
30%
866
MFA
Miscellaneous First Appeal
29%
1,168
CRL.P
Criminal Petition
11%
775
RSA
Regular Second Appeal
7%
1,514
RFA
Regular First Appeal
5%
1,553
CRL.A
Criminal Appeal
3%
1,270
CRL.RP
Criminal Revision Petition
2%
1,025
WA
Writ Appeal
2%
991
COP
Company Petition
1%
2,179
ITA
Income Tax Appeal
1%
1,408
MSA
Miscellaneous Second Appeal
1%
1,015
CRP
Civil Revision Petition
1%
935
CA
Company Application
1%
926
RP
Review Petition
1%
902
CMP
Civil Miscellaneous Petition
1%
806
CP
Civil Petition
1%
782
CCC
Civil Contempt Petition
1%
633
MFA.CROB
Miscellaneous First Appeal Cross Objection
0.50%
1,007
RPFC
Review Petition Family Court
0.50%
745
Others

1%
1043

There are multiple inferences that can be read from this table, but right off the bat, a couple jump out.

The first natural question of course, is, what kind of cases are most prevalent? At the top of the list, with a 30 per cent majority are Writ Petitions (WP). To quickly explain, writ petitions are cases filed by persons whose fundamental right have been violated by the state. So, in number speak, one third of the cases are those filed against the government or government agencies.

For an even larger, but not quite so obvious statistic, consider this: in the second column, just look for the word ‘appeal’ and then add up the percentages next to each of those case types. Together, seven case types – various kinds of appeals – account for 48 per cent of the total. An appeal is in essence a request to a higher court to review and revise the decision of a lower court. That means for about half these cases pending before the High Court, judicial time has already been spent, and this is the second time before a court.

The table also throws up possible correlations (or lack of) between the number of cases and average pendency. According to the data, Company Petitions (COP) have the longest average pendency of 2,179 days, about six years. However, they make up only 1 per cent of the sample. Whereas, Writ Petitions (WP), which make up one third of the total, are pending on average for the relatively shorter time period of 866 days or 2 years and 4 months.

The paragraphs above contain just a few of my thoughts as I created and looked at this table. They are but a tiny speck in the pool of questions that can be asked and the analyses that can be carried out using this data. Ultimately, what this table clearly illustrates is that understanding the composition of judicial workload is a much needed step towards building sustainable solutions to pendency.

Do you have any thoughts, ideas or questions about this data? If you do, let us know by leaving a comment below. We are eager to hear from you. 

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