‘Judiciary without judges’ a hollow system

In an alarming scenario, a whopping 2.8 crore cases are pending in district courts across the country which are short of nearly 5,000 judicial officers.

The situation has led to suggestions in two Supreme Court reports; ‘Indian Judiciary Annual Report 2015-16’ and ‘Subordinate Courts of India: A Report on Access to Justice 2016’ to increase the judicial manpower ‘manifold’ at least seven to overcome the crisis by appointing about 15,000 more judges in the coming few years. “Justice is one critical component of citizenship which cannot be neglected.” said the report.

Data showed that district courts across the country are grappling with a backlog of 2,81,25,066 civil and criminal cases in the period between July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. But a large of matters, 1,89,04,222, were also disposed of during the period.

Additional judicial manpower and support staff, as well as infrastructure, is required immediately to handle the situation, the report stated. The recent data from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which showed that with the present strength of judicial officers in district courts, trial in only approximately 13 per cent cases was completed under the IPC during a year.

The figures compiled in the annual report till June 30, last year, show that the district courts in Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were the worst affected as they were short of 794, 792 and 624 judges respectively. While the strength of judges in lower courts is 1953, 1825 and 2394, the number of working judicial officers are only 1159, 1033 and 1770.

According to the annual report, district courts in UP peaked in the pendency of cases at 58.8 lakh, including 43.73 lakh criminal cases. Maharashtra had the second highest tally of pending cases across states with a backlog of 31.8 lakh matters, which include 20.39 lakh criminal and 11.4 lakh civil, followed by West Bengal at 26.95 lakh, Bihar at 20.56 lakh undecided ones.

The difference is also huge in Delhi where the total sanctioned strength is 793 while there were only 486 working judges, with 307 positions being vacant. The pendency in Delhi stood at 5.98 lakh, comprising 4.32 lakh criminal and 1.65 lakh civil matters.

The data on vacancy of judges shows that trial courts in North-eastern states, Sikkim, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya were the only ones where the vacant positions were the least, with only 4, 11, 29 and 16 vacancies.

Highlighting the importance of judiciary and timely delivery of justice, the reports said that the appointment process “cannot be stalled” due to non-finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), it also criticised the overdue progress in processing files pertaining to judges’ appointment.

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