The Weight of Backlog of Cases in India.

It is very well defined by Walter Savage Landor that denial of timely justice equates to injustice itself. Thinking and speaking of this statement, assuming that a single case affects on an average two lives, there are about 7 crore people who continue to face injustice in this so-called democracy which boasts about equality and justice as its core principles, not to forget that the actual number can be and is quite large, as a case not only affects the lives of plaintiff and defendant but of society as a whole. The courts should understand that their duty is not only restricted to settling disputes between two parties, it also involves protecting the right and liberty of individuals. Also as defined in the preamble of our constitution, the first role of the government, the state is, to secure for all its citizens: Justice, social, economic, and political implying that how a strong justice system can change everything, how it can make or break the country, highlighting and emphasizing the importance of timely justice.

Understanding the Problem

For any country to work effectively and efficiently it’s important for the country to enforce the rule of law which unfortunately demands an effective judicial system. Speaking of which, though India accounts for a well established 3 tier court system, it still fails to provide “the ideal and effective judicial system”, thanks to the huge number of cases pending. This ritual and problem of the huge backlog of cases is not a new concept in India. Alas! The system instead of fighting and preventing seems to get trapped in its vicious circle. With the cases increasing at an alarming rate, the number of pending cases in India stands at 3.14 crore as quoted in November 2019, 87% of which are still stuck with the subordinate courts, a number of cases being a decade older. While the number of cases pending is huge, the fact that that the case filed in the next three decades will be over 15 crore is horrifying. A large section of cases pending in supreme and high court are generally the ones referred by the subordinate or the lower courts. While it is the right of every individual to file for justice to the point he/she is not satisfied, the courts should come up with certain provisions to control the situation.

While the transfer of cases among the level of courts is one reason, another major barrier in providing timely justice is the unnecessary lavish lifestyle of the Indian judiciary system who instead of working wholeheartedly for the public believes in enjoying their long vacations reason for which is not yet specified. For instance, the apex court of India, The honourable Supreme Court, the high courts, and the district courts work for on an average 190,210 and 245 days respectively with over half a year as vacation and not to forget that these figures are exclusive of the casual, medical and paid leaves provided to the judges working for the state. With the useless vacations interrupting the hearing of many crucial cases, the system fails to work hand in hand with the core principle of the judiciary as well as the constitution, not providing timely justice to the people affected.

Thus, it is quite evident that to correct the system, these routine vacations need to be shortened as they are quite obsolete and doesn’t make the system efficient, the way it should be. Following this, the Law Commission of India ordered that the working hours of courts be increased and these long, extensive, and worthless vacations be minimised if not abolished. With the commission finally working waking up and working towards the cause, it opens up about yet another reason that accounts for a large section of cases still pending in the courts and that is lack of adequate manpower.

Yes, you heard it right. Apart from an inefficient and complicated system, flexible working hours, lack of manpower stands as another reason justifying the huge number of pleas, justice for which is still under process. Figures state that as per 31 January 2020, about 37% of sanctioned judge strength was vacant, which naturally disturbs the impetus of judicial work. As per the census of 2014, India has 17.48 judges per million people as compared to 19.66 in 2011 which is highly contradictory to the level stated by the Law Commission of India which states that the minimum ideal ratio should be 50 judges per million people. While the state and central government continue to fight its cold war concerning the appointment of judges, it does no good to people, with a large number of lives still struggling, running from court to court with the hope of seeking justice. Even after witnessing the incompetence and helplessness of the judiciary system, the centre fails at extending its support to the same. With almost zero support to the system in the context of budget and resources, it seems that the government is negligent about the justice system in India, taking no action to increase the number of courts and judges in the country which is not just okay. It’s time that the centre upscales its level and takes necessary steps to establish the principle of justice and equality in the country.


Though the judiciary, despite all the flaws, still tries to do its best to provide justice to the independent citizens of independent India, it’s time that the centre takes the lead and resolve the issues existing in the system as a futile judiciary not only fails to explain the meaning of democracy but also lose its existence, with its people losing its faith in the system and power. While a delay in civil cases is problematic, pending criminal cases make the situation much more vulnerable. The prison instead of being a centre for guilty people overflows with the people who are under trial, unaware of the fact that they may or may not be guilty, living, or serving as a pawn to an incompetent judicial system.

The 239th Report of the Law Commission of India on the same quoted that, delays in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases not only erodes the faith in the rule of law but also questions the legitimacy of the Judiciary. Thus there is no doubt that in order to curb the situation and prevent it from deteriorating it’s important the centre takes some workable initiatives like increasing the manpower and cutting the holidays provided to the judicial workers because it’s high time that now the issue of backlog of cases be considered as a national emergency, so as to develop a coherent system and provide the real justice because delayed justice can never compensate for the true meaning of justice because both justices denied and hurried is nothing but a synonym for the term injustice.