Justice Delayed: Pending cases weigh down India’s justice delivery system

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Published: May 14, 2019 6:36:42 PM

Pendency of court cases in India: According to latest official data, more than 25 lakh cases are pending at district court level for a decade or more.

Access to justice in India is painfully long.

Pendency of court cases: Wait for justice in India can be agonisingly long as the first tier of the country’s justice administration system, district courts, is burdened with over 30 million pending cases and this number is increasing. More than two thirds of the pending suits are criminal cases, showing a lack of effective prosecution and early disposal.

Large number of pendency of criminal cases are worrisome for two reasons. Firstly, it denies the access to justice to a large number of victims of crime. Secondly, because of slow progress of the criminal cases, a large number of undertrial prisoners continue to languish in jails, sometimes, they end up spending more time in jail as undertrials than the prescribed term of imprisonment for the crime they have been accused of committing.

In September 2018, just before taking the charge, Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi had expressed concern over the huge pendency of court cases while addressing a group of young lawyers.

“Two things are troubling me. One is pendency of cases. It is bringing a lot of disrepute to the judicial system. The problem has the potential of making the system itself irrelevant,” Mr. Gogoi had said.

In June 2018, Dipak Mishra, then Chief Justice of India, had also expressed concerns over the huge pendency of the case.

“Efforts must be made to ensure that at least the overall disposal matches with the overall institution of cases,” Dipak Mishra had written to chief justices of all high courts in the country while expressing his concern over the increasing pendency.

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According to the latest official data, over 3 crore cases are pending, of which over 70% or 2.17 crore cases pending at district level are criminal cases and remaining 86.8 lakh or over 28% cases are pending before the civil courts.

More than 3 crore court cases are pending at district court level.

It’s not the sheer number of cases, which is just one aspect of the problem. The prolonged pendency is another big issue. Of the total 86.8 lakh civil suits, nearly two-third of them are pending for more than a year. And nearly 7% cases or more than 5.87 lakh cases are pending fore more than a decade.

Similarly, in the matter of criminal cases, nearly two-third cases or 1.42 crore criminal cases are pending for more than a year and there are 19.38 lakh cases that are pending for more than a decade.

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Overall, nearly 25 lakh cases, both civil and criminal, are pending at district court level for more than a decade.

“Accused in criminal cases are getting hearing after serving their sentence and in civil disputes the parties are getting judgements after 2-3 generations. It is a serious problem,” Mr Gogoi had said while addressing young lawyers in national capital Delhi.

There are more than three thousand district and sub-district courts in the country, on an average, a district or subordinate court is handling around 10 thousand court case, an enormously large number to deal with.

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