Judicial Pendency

[op-ed snap] How to make Indian courts more efficient

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Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The article deals with an all time hot topic of Judicial Pendency.



  1. The article talks about the problem of ‘Pendency’ in Indian Judicial System

Clearing out of Long Pending Cases

  1. Lower courts in Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and Chandigarh have disposed of almost all cases that had been pending for a decade or more
  2. It is a welcoming and surprising news
  3. Today, there are only a total of 11,000 cases pending for over 10 years in these four states and the Union territory of Chandigarh
  4. This is impressive given that the national pendency count is at around 2.3 million cases
  5. Delhi, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka are also close to clearing out long-pending cases

Lessons that Indian Judicial System can learn from lower courts of Punjab and Haryana

  1. The high court of Punjab and Haryana has jurisdiction over the lower courts of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh
  2. Almost a decade ago, it set up a case management system—i.e. a mechanism to monitor every case from filing to disposal
  3. It also began to categorize writ petitions based on their urgency
  4. In addition, it set annual targets and action plans for judicial officers to dispose of old cases,
  5. And began a quarterly performance review to ensure that cases were not disposed of with undue haste
  6. All these measures ushered in a degree of transparency and accountability in the system, the results of which are now apparent

Judicial Case Management

  1. In this system, the court sets a timetable for the case and the judge actively monitors progress
  2. This marks a fundamental shift in the management of cases—the responsibility for which moves from the litigants and their lawyers to the court

Measures from the Law Commission of India’s Report

  1. The Law Commission of India in its 230th report has also offered a long list of measures to deal with the pendency of cases
  2. These include
    (1) providing strict guidelines for the grant of adjournments
    (2) curtailing vacation time in the higher judiciary
    (3) reducing the time for oral arguments unless the case involves a complicated question of law
    (4) and framing clear and decisive judgements to avoid further litigation

The Way Forward

  1. The courts should also seriously consider incorporating technology into the system
  2. Digitizing courts records has been a good start in this context
  3. Just like automation powered by Artificial Intelligence is already helping doctors, it can also be leveraged to assist judges and lawyers
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