As many as three crore cases are pending in courts across India even as 5,111 posts of judges in subordinate courts, across 28 states, remain vacant. The Centre and the Higher judiciary have been at loggerheads for quite some time over a host of issues including vacancies. Yet nothing has happened and the situation in the subordinate courts remains alarming.
Reportedly, there is a shortage of over five thousand judicial officers who run subordinate courts, the backbone of country’s justice delivery system. As against the total sanctioned strength of 21,303, the lower courts are functioning with 16,192 judicial officers — a shortage of 5,111. The 24 high courts face a shortage of nearly 450 judges.
In 11 states the recruitment of subordinate judiciary is done by the high courts, while in 17 states it is done by the state public service commissions.
With 794 vacancies, Gujarat tops the list among states with the highest number of vacant posts. It is followed by Bihar with 792 vacancies. UP stands at number three with 595 vacancies in lower courts.
A note prepared by the Law Ministry for the Advisory Council of National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms said that “the linking of the problem of pendency of cases in courts with the shortage of judges alone may not present the complete picture”.
It said that an analysis of the figures regarding the number of civil cases instituted per annum in the district and subordinate courts between 2005 and 2015 reveals that the number of cases instituted has come down from 40,69,073 civil cases in 2005 to 36,22,815 in 2015 — a decline of 11 percent.
During the same time, the pendency of civil cases has increased from 72,54,145 in 2005 to 84,056,47 in 2015 — an increase of 16 percent.
“It is pertinent to note that in 2005, the working strength of the judges in the district and subordinate courts was 11,682 which increased to 16,070 in 2015. Despite the increase in the number of judges and a decline in the number of cases being filed, the pendency of civil cases has increased,” the document observed.