A case is solved years after even the witnesses have passed away into some other world. Another case awaits justice, maybe will meet the same fate. And there are millions others. In the meantime the ones accused have lived their life while the victim’s side has suffered a great deal. So, question arises—is justice served, if yes then how?
This situation is not a hypothesis, but reality in India—the number of pending cases being one reason. Seeking justice has become a test of patience and internal strength of families of victims in a country with 18 judges per 10 lakh of population compared to suggested 50: ten lakh ratio by the Law Commission in 1987. Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have the least judge-population ratio which is a little around 10.5 per ten lakh people. In situations with nearly three crore cases pending in court, “tarikh pe tarikh” is the malicious reputation that the judicial system needs to fight.
There is much hullaballoo going around the appointment of judges in the country. The rate of appointments and the problems with appointments have been as a problem adding to the rise in case pending in the courts. Reports suggest that there are 4,432 vacancies in subordinate courts which are the backbone of justice delivery system, while the 24 High Courts suffer a lack of 450 judges, as of December 31, 2015.
However, as stated by a recent note released by the Law Ministry, the problem of pending cases is not solely by the lack of judges. Comparing the data of pending cases in states with high number of judges like Delhi and Gujarat to states like Punjab and Tamil Nadu where the situation is contrary with not only lesser judges but also lesser pending cases it is rightful to state that there are many other reasons. Delhi and Gujarat stand at 2nd and 5th position in terms of judge-population ratio. However, before discussing the various other problems, noteworthy here can be the rate of cases coming up in these states bringing up different results of effectiveness.
Now considering data from 2005 to 2015, the note prepared by Advisory Council of National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms, observes that though there has been a decline of 11% in the number of civil cases, there has been a striking 16% rise in pendency of cases. And this rise is despite the fact that there was an increase in the working strength of judges in sub-ordinate courts.
The various factors affecting put forward for lack of disposal of cases by the ministry are:
Lack of court management systems
Strikes by Lawyers
Accumulation of first appeals
Indiscriminate use of writ jurisdiction
Lack of adequate arrangement to monitor, track and bunch cases for hearing
The factors being discussed here are only the ones resulting in pendency of the cases, just one of the many problems in the Indian Judiciary System like lack of information and interaction among people and courts and under trials of the accused. These justice delayed cases increase the plight of the poor in India and a rise in their distrust. Almost six million of the total pending cases are older than five years and it is no surprise to see cases as old as 15 or 20 years. The attention that the system needs is urgent, something that wasn’t seen in the Budget of 2016 with only 0.2% being allotted to the Law Ministry.
The situation also troubles judges who are under immense pressure, dealing with around 30 to 40 cases per day, left with less than an hour to read through the files of the case. Adding up, sometimes the lawyers try out their tactics like appealing against verdicts, and sometimes adjournments given freely delay the cases. Judges many a times reserve the judgment to go through the documents, arguments, research and then decide on the judgment. The section 353 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1974 does not talk of any time restrictions for such judgments to be made, though it is 30 days in the Code of Civil Procedures, 1908. The need for time restriction also assures lesser miscarriages of justice as they assure faster trials. The system lacks a monitory system to determine the accuracy of how many judgments have been reserved or for how long, as this information is not available on the Supreme Court’s website.
Stretching cases on trivial matters like clerical errors to many years makes people suffer more; many being unable to stick to their routine life, judiciary being an obligation and justice being the right. So much so, that people have started seeing judiciary methods as tiring and too much trouble to take, fearing and thinking many times before filing for one.