‘District courts will take 10 years to clear cases’
At the rate at which cases were disposed of by district courts last month, India could get rid of all pending cases in 10 years, an analysis of new official data shows. However, six States — Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Jammu & Kashmir — disposed of fewer cases than were filed during the month.Last week, the Supreme Court launched the public access portal of the National Judicial Data Grid with updated information on civil and criminal cases filed and disposed every day in India’s district courts. At the moment, the portal has data for 15,340 judges in 459 district courts and information on the performance of these courts for the last month.As of 5 p.m. on Friday, there were two crore cases before the district courts and two-thirds of them criminal cases. Ten per cent of these cases had been pending for more than 10 years — nearly 25 per cent in Gujarat and fewer than one per cent in Sikkim and Punjab. Nationally, 18 per cent of cases were pending for five to 10 years and 30 per cent were pending for two to five years. The largest share — 42 per cent of all cases in the system — had been pending for less than two years.“I would classify any case pending for more than 5 years as delayed — a total of 56 lakh cases across all 15,000 courts across the country [based on the NJDG data],” Alok Prasanna Kumar, Senior Resident Fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, told That.Taking about the precise figure and break up of the pending cases, Mr. Kumar said, of the 5.33 lakh cases filed across India last month, over 1 lakh were in Maharashtra alone, and it was not able to dispose as many. Uttar Pradesh saw the next highest number of cases filed, but disposed over 1.12 lakh cases during the month. In all, India’s district courts disposed over 6.9 lakh cases last month, 21,000 of which had been pending for over 10 years.The data also shows the wide variation between the States and districts in the rate of disposal of cases, according to an analysis done by Open data campaigner Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu and his team at the public data website ‘Factly.’ By calculating the ratio of cases disposed last month to those filed for each State and applied it to that State’s pending cases, they found that it would take India around 10 years to clear all pending cases in its district courts. Nine States, including Kerala, Karnataka and Assam, could clear their backlogs in fewer than five years given the rate of disposal last month and the size of their backlogs. Six States, including Gujarat and Bihar, would never be able to clear the backlog, given last month’s performance.“One month is of course not representative, but given that it was in many ways a normal month, it is useful to analyse the performance of district courts,” Mr. Dubbudu said. The NJDG portal in its current form does not help litigants. “We appreciate that this data has been made available, but a lot more needs to be done. It is currently in a closed format which defeats the purpose of transparency and is only available for a month,” he said.