The slow pace in which judicial cases in the country are resolved is well known. A staggering 4.47 crore cases are pending in courts across India as per the latest figures from the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). Among the 25 premier High Courts, the Allahabad High Court leads with 10.74 lakh cases, followed by the Bombay High Court with 7.13 lakh cases and High Court of Rajasthan with 6.67 lakh cases.

The large population in some areas could be leading to more litigations and therefore more pending cases. Advocate Tanvi Dubey says, “Most High Courts with higher pendency rates are in states with large areas and populations. The lack of timely appointments of judges can be another major factor contributing to higher pendency in courts.”

The number of pending cases in these courts has increased since 2018. For instance, the pending cases in Allahabad High Court increased 50.95 per cent from 7.11 lakh in July 2018. The pending cases in Bombay High Court similarly increased 53.85 per cent.

Around 86 per cent of the pending cases are at subordinate courts, 13.9 per cent at High Courts, and 0.2 per cent at the Supreme Court of India.

A total of 62 lakh cases are pending in all the High Court, with 71.6 per cent of cases being civil suits and 28.4 per cent being criminal suits.

One reason for the large number of pending cases could be an inadequate number of judges. According to news reports, as of May 2022, around 25,600 judges are tasked with hearing or deciding on over 4 crore pending cases.

The age-wise distribution of pendency shows that cases in High Court are more likely to linger for a minimum of five years for litigants. According to the data, around 24.83 per cent of cases are pending for 5-10 years, and 18.25 per cent of cases are pending for 10-20 years.

Various cases are being filed in the High Court, and they have to pass through certain stages to reach a judgment. The data shows that most of the pending cases remain at the admission stage (10.95 lakh), followed by orders (6.10 lakh) and hearings (3.74 lakh). The Supreme Court Observer (SCO) analysis reveals that a minuscule number of cases get admitted every year at the admission stage.

Advocate Shahrukh Alam said, “The government is the biggest litigant in Courts. We need more analysis on why the government is in the courts so much and how that might be streamlined. On the criminal side, the criminal investigative system puts too many suspects into the court system, adding to the volume. This happens both because the offences are becoming vague and overbroad and also because of the ease with which arrests are made and people are kept in detention.”

However, Dubey added, “Despite higher pendency, there is still scope for change, as courts are moving towards reforms, such as embracing the use of virtual mediums. This makes it cost-effective and affordable for people to appear in court without boundaries.”