Why Indian Courts have Lots of Pending Cases?

English Politician and also the former Prime Minister, Sir William Edwart Gladstone (1809-1898) quoted “Justice delayed is justice denied”. This phrase implies that denial of ‘Timely Justice’ amounts to ‘Denial of Justice’ itself. These two are integral to each other. Timely disposal of cases is essential for maintaining the rule of law and providing access to Justice which is guaranteed a fundamental right enshrined by the Preamble of our Indian Constitution.

The Judicial System of India has a bouquet of courts that interprets and applies the law. The role of the court system is to decide the case, including the determination of relevant facts, determination of relevant law and then application of relevant facts to the relevant law. The Judiciary has been classified into three hierarchies. Starting from the apex court which is also known as the Supreme Court of India functioning at the National level headed by the Chief Justice of India.

Moving to 24 High Courts functioning at State and Union territory levels managed and controlled by Chief Justice of the State. Lastly, around 600 District or Subordinate courts functioning at the District level under the supervision and directions of their respective High Courts. The Subordinate courts are further classified into two courts, i.e. Civil Court and Criminal Court. The Ministry of Law and Justice has complete jurisdiction to deal with the issues of the Court System, i.e. From Supreme Court to the Subordinate Courts.

Such an issue of the Judicial System is that India has the notorious reputation of functioning languorously. As per the report indicated by National Judicial Data Grind, there are 32,219,581 cases pending before Supreme Court as on 31st March, 2020 (Including cases which are not ready to be heard for want of procedural matters to be completed).

The total number of cases pending before High Courts are 46,45,017 out of which the total number of Civil Cases pending are 19,32,320, the total number of Criminal Cases pending are 13,34,876 and the total number of Writ Cases pending are 13,77,821. Thus, the report indicates that the Judicial System of India is unable to deliver timely justice leading to a backlog of cases every year. The 24th Law Commission report of 2014 analysed the problems of backlog cases from various angles including arrears, delay, and processes and came up with statistics of how many judges are needed to cater to the demand-supply problem.

The spectrum of Causes for Pending Litigation

1. Increase in the Awareness of Rights by Common Man: – 

The increasing socio-economic development has resulted in bringing awareness of legal rights leading a common man to approach the court of law for seeking justice.

2. Inadequate Number of Judges: – 

There are a large number of existing vacancies in the Judiciary. The current judge to population ratio in India is 20 to 1 Million population. (approx.) The scuffle between the Supreme Court and the Government over the appointment of the Judges has been heavily reported.

3. The Indian Government is the Largest Litigant

Government departments are a party to around 46% of total court cases in India. The Government includes everything from a Local Panchayat to the Prime Minister’s Office.

4. Endless Amendments of Law

In need to modernize archaic and vaguely drafted laws, train our bureaucracy in drafting precise, concise, unambiguous and easily understandable laws. As there are many laws drafted during the British Rule intending to curb the freedom of people endless amendments are bought into law.

5. Unnecessary Utilization of Court time

Train our law students, court associates of judges and entry-level judges better and introduce tools, this will lead to more productivity in Judicial Systems. Experienced members at the Judiciary would, in turn, consume the minimal time of Courts.

6. Ambiguity in Lower Courts

Inadequacy of quality staff and low infrastructure facilities, leads to low judicial quality. It is also observed that often there is ambiguity in the judgments passed by the subordinate courts which lead to the filing of appeals.

7. Case Load on Judges

The delay stems from an imbalance between high demand and insufficient capacity in the courts. When the court’s cases load exceeds capacity, the courts become congested. Frivolous and petty complaints consume the court’s time.

8. Lengthy Procedure

According to the procedural provisions, the stage of admission/denial of the documents of the case is bought to the hearing. After this hearing, the court will first decide if it is a case that requires going to trial. If the court has arrived at that decision, then it will pass an order framing issues in the suit, setting out the list of witnesses to be examined by the opposite party, fixing dates for evidence, written and oral argument are presented before the judge and final hearing is been dispensed. Even after final disposition certified copies of order and other necessary documents consumes litigant’s time to access justice.

9. Lack of Facilities

Judges have to overwork and have to deliver justice despite questionable infrastructure. They have to share stenographers, have access to old computer systems and have to deal with a mammoth number of cases every day.

10. Litigation Explosion

We are living in an era of litigation explosion where courts are clogged with cases. From filling the case as an original litigant to again appearing as appellant litigant the courts are often overburdened.


If litigation were a disease, we could call the present situation an epidemic. Rising population, increasing crime rates, increase in awareness, lack of literacy and multitude of laws are the basic factors that are not adding credibility and trust in the Judicial System.

Judiciary is unable to handle the “avalanche” of litigation. Judiciary becomes overworked and lose its efficiency. We justified that Justice Delayed is Justice denied. However, Justice hurried is justice buried.

This article is authored by Adv. Himadri Gotecha, (BLS LLB from KES’s Jayantilal H. Patel Law College)

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