Issue: Pendency of Cases in Courts

The huge pendency of cases before the Courts of India has raised a serious question on the capacity of the Indian judiciary to impart justice to the aggrieved persons. This is specially the case in district courts and high courts where the aggrieved individuals first approach to. It has also raised a question as to whether the delay in hearings will ensure fair hearing to the individuals. In such circumstances there is a serious need to look into the existing problem of pendency of cases in court and find ways to find some solution to it.

Pendency of cases- Statistics

District Courts

We shall first begin with the lowest Court to look into the shocking statistics of pending cases. The figures are as follows:

  • The total number of cases pending before the district courts across the country is 2.18 crores.
  • There are around 12 states which have about 5 lakh cases pending in their district courts.
  • Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 51 lakh cases or 23% of the case still pending.
  • In some states like UP, Gujarat and Maharashtra there are cases pending for conclusion for more than 10 years.
  • Among the pending cases, the number of criminal matters are double than that of the civil matters.
  • About 20 lakhs of these pending cases have been filed by women. UP, Bihar and Maharashtra are the three states having the maximum number of pending cases that are being fought by women.
  • There are also 3.19 per cent of the pending cases which are filed by the senior citizens.
High Courts

The numbers of pending cases before the High Courts also are shocking.  The data provided by DAKSH Foundation are as follows:

  • Allahabad High Court has the highest numbers of pending cases in the country.
  • Sikkim has the lowest number of pending cases.
  • Jharkhand High Court is the only one where more criminal cases are pending than civil cases.
  • Calcutta High Court has the greatest frequency of hearings amongst all the High Court so the country.
  • Delhi High Court has the least frequency of hearing of cases.
  • 86% of the cases in Gujarat, Bombay, Kerala and Orissa high courts had taken 10-15 years to be disposed.


The statistics indicate certain glaring realities which cannot be ignored. These include:

  • While the criminal matters must be disposed on priority, considering their impact on the proper functioning of State, there is more pendency of such cases in the district courts. This indicates that there is a preliminary delay in bringing in evidence, examination of witnesses and trial of criminals.
  • There are a huge number of cases filed by the vulnerable groups in the society which are still pending before the lowest court. Thus, there is a neglect of the consequences of pendency of cases on the society at large.
  • The situation in the High Courts is slightly different. It is visible that there is an overload of cases on the judiciary which they are unable to tackle without delay. It is evident from the fact that judges in almost 10 High Courts hear an average of 70 cases daily. Thus, they are able to devote only approximately 2 minutes for every case, leading to their pendency day by day.

Why are so many cases pending before Courts?

The reasons are as follows:

Shortage of judges

The shortage of judges is one of the common problems stated by even our previous Chief Justice TS Thakur. There is a huge judicial vacancy which the government has not been able to make up. Statistics show that there are about 24 high Courts which have a 464 vacant posts for judges and there are around 4166 vacant seats in the subordinate courts. Such a huge vacancy is resulting in overburdening of the existing judges which is leading to such a backlog of cases.

Power struggle between Executive and Judiciary

One of the main causes of a standstill in the appointment of judges has been the tussle between executive and judiciary over the proposed Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges. The new MoP was providing for the striking down of any name by the Centre on the grounds of national security was struck off by the Supreme Court. Currently they have reached on an agreement to continue the old collegiums system. But only 170 names have been proposed for appointment as against a need for 462 judges.

Litigations by / against Government

The Indian government is the largest litigant of the country. The cases involve minor issues like one department suing the other. This leads to a further backlog of cases.

Failure of Fast Track Courts

When the Fast Track Courts functioned properly, cases of importance were easily disposed of. But currently, due to lack of funds to these courts, many of them have been shut down. So cases pending there were brought before the other courts, increasing the backlog.

Suggestions to tackle this

The only viable suggestion currently can be to increase the number of judges and invest more on the judicial infrastructure. It should be kept in mind that though the government plays a significant role in appointment of judges in higher courts, in lower courts judges are appointed by State High Courts. So, the entire blame for judicial non-appointment cannot be put on the executive. Some measures like appointing ad hoc judges under Article 224A of the Constitution can be done for immediate solution. Further, some steps must be taken to ensure that there is an increase in number of courtrooms which is also a necessity along with the increase in judges.


Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. If cases continue to be pending like this due to the negligence of judiciary as well as the government, the whole idea of the judicial system shall become futile. So, if the judiciary has to truly serve its purpose of delivering justice, it should take immediate steps to increase the speed of disposal of cases.

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