Judicial Pendency

Retirement spree in SC may affect efforts to scale down pendency


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Resolving judicial pendency

The retirements in the topmost rung of the judiciary in 2022 will encompass changes in the powerful Supreme Court Collegium and see two new Chief Justices in a span of months.

Why in news?

  • The retirements come at a time when the court is in the process of steadying itself after particularly brutal waves of the pandemic.

Pendency in Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court’s statistics show that 70,362 cases are pending with it as on April 1, 2022.
  • Over 19% of them are not ready to be placed before a Bench for judicial hearing as they have not completed the required preliminaries.
  • While 52,110 are admission matters, 18,522 are regular hearing cases.
  • The number of Constitution Bench cases (both main and connected matters) totals 422.

General scenario: Pendency of Cases

  • India’s legal system has the largest backlog of pending cases in the world – as many as 30 million pending cases.
  • This number is continuously increasing and this itself shows the inadequacy of the legal system.
  • And also due to this backlog, most of the prisoners in India’s prisons are detainees awaiting trial.

Factors leading to under-performance of Indian Judiciary

  • The issue of heavy arrears pending in the various courts of the country has been a matter of concern since the time of independence.
  • The primary factors contributing to docket explosion and arrears as highlighted by Justice Malimath Committee report are as follows:
  1. Population explosion
  2. Litigation explosion
  3. Hasty and imperfect drafting of legislation
  4. Plurality and accumulation of appeals (Multiple appeals for the same issue)
  5. Inadequacy of judge strength
  6. Failure to provide adequate forums of appeal against quasi-judicial orders
  7. Lack of priority for disposal of old cases (due to the improper constitution of benches)
  8. Issue of appointment in Quasi-Judicial Bodies

Way ahead

  • For pendency, time limits should be prescribed for all cases based on priorities.
  • So setting time standards is essential and it will vary for different cases, and also for different courts depending on their disposal capacity.
  • Alternative disputes resolution (ADR) mechanisms should be promoted for out-of-court settlements.


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