March 20, 2012 : As on March 15, 2012, the Supreme Court had six posts of judges vacant against sanctioned strength of 31 posts. The number of posts of judges vacant in country’s high courts was 270 against sanctioned posts of 895. The High Court of Gujarat had 14 vacancies of judges against 42 sanctioned posts, whereas the same for High Court of Jharkhand was 08 against 20 sanctioned posts of judges. The shortage of judges could also be one of the reasons for piling up of the cases in the country’s courts.
In accordance with Salman Khurshid, the union minister of law and justice, 59,368 matters were pending in the Supreme Court as on March 14, 2012 out of which 53,174 matters were of less than five years old. He was replying in rajya Sabha in response to the plethora of questions on judicial delivery, pendency of cases and strengths of judges etc raised by a rajya sabha member Parimal Nathwani.
The minister stated that huge backlog of cases and high pendency in courts was one of the major problem affecting the judicial administration and justice delivery in India. As per the information available, 37 lakhs 35 thousand two hundred four cases in country’s high courts and two crores twenty one lakh twenty thousand eight hundred eighty two cases in subordinate courts were pending as on December 2010; the minister stated. He said 21 lakhs 98 thousand nine hundred twenty five cases in high courts and one crore sixty seven lakhs thirty eight thousand four hundred fifty one cases in subordinate cases were pending for less than five years.
About the per head load in terms of average number of cases per judge, the minister informed that the national average for disposal of main cases per judge per year in the high court was determined at 2324. For high courts of Gujarat and Jharkhand, however the average rate of disposal per judge per year in respect of main cases was 1346 and 1444 respectively.
Khurshid stated that a National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms has been set up. The objective was to pursue certain strategic initiatives viz. (i) policy changes (ii) re-engineering of procedures (iii) measures for human resources development and (iv) leveraging of information and communication technology for better justice delivery; he added.
He said that the fast track courts set up under recommendation of the 11th Finance commission disposed 33 lakh cases over a period of eleven years from 2000-01 to 2010-11. The Gram Nyayalaya Act, 2008 has been enacted for establishing Gram Nyayalayas at the grass-root level for providing justice to citizens at their door-steps. There was however no proposal to set up the National Commission on Justice, the minister informed.
The government has been periodically reminding the Chief Justices of the high courts to initiate proposals in time for filling the existing vacancies as well as the vacancies anticipated in next six months in the high courts; Mr Khurshid stated and added that the judge strength of high courts was reviewed periodically through a triennial review taking into account the institution of cases and past pendency. The last triennial review took place in 2006.