The SC ought to cut down on holidays; 100% CCR possible with 2,279 more judges in lower courts and 93 in high courts
Terming judicial delays as arguably the single-biggest constraint to ease of doing business, the Economic Survey said the problem was largely concentrated in the district and subordinate courts (D&S). However, it said a 100% case clearance rate (CCR) could be achieved by appointing 2,279 more judges in lower courts and 93 additional judges in high courts.
To clear the backlog of cases in five years, the Survey said at current working strength, the judiciary would take an efficiency gain of 58%. With full sanctioned strength, high courts would need only 4.3% increase in efficiency to clear the backlog although, given high vacancy rates, the required rate at current working strength is 68%. The equivalent numbers for the Supreme Court are 18% and 31% respectively, the Survey added.
The CCR refers to the ratio of the number of cases disposed of in a given year to the number of cases instituted in that year. Nearly 3.5 crore cases are currently pending in the judicial system, the Survey noted.
“Given the potential economic and social multipliers of a well-functioning legal system, this may well be the best investment India can make,” the Survey authored by chief economic advisor Krishnamurthy V Subramanian said. It added that additional appointment of judges is already within sanctioned strength and only needs filling up vacancies.
Suggesting measures to improve productivity, the Survey said the Supreme Court needed to cut down on holidays to bring it in line with other courts. It said that official calendar for 2019 suggests that the apex court would work for only 190 days for while the average is 232 days for high courts and 244 days for subordinate courts – the same as central government offices.
Additionally, the productivity could be improved by creating a specialised service called Indian Courts and Tribunal Services (ICTS) that focuses on the administrative aspects of the legal system, the Survey said. “There are significant productivity gains to be derived from better administration, increase in working days, and technology deployment (including likely future applications of artificial intelligence),” the Survey said.
The Survey pointed out that the D&S courts received 1.5 crore additional cases in 2018 and had a backlog of 2.87 crore (as on January 1, 2018).
The number of cases disposed of in 2018 was 1.33 crore, leaving a closing closing balance at he end of last year at 3.04 crore. There are currently 17,891 judges compared to the sanctioned strength of 22,750. On an average, a judge disposes 746 cases.