According to the available data, as of 30 April, 2016, over 2.18 crore cases were pending in Indian courts, of which more than 22.5 lakh cases were those that had failed to be decided in the last 10 years — or, 10.3 per cent of the total pendency. The statistics present a grim picture of the courts of law in India.
Former chief justice of India, T.S. Thakur brought to focus the paucity of judges as one reason why so many cases are still pending in courts. There are about 13 judges per one million people in our country whereas ideally there should be 50 per million.
The number of cases filed every year has been steadily increasing with growing literacy and awareness. A report in the Hindustan Times cited an example: "Kerala, with a literacy rate of more than 90%, has some 28 new cases per 1,000 people, as against some four cases per 1,000 in Jharkhand, which has a literacy rate of around 53%."
A Supreme Court-appointed panel has estimated that the number of cases filed per 1,000 people will increase from the current rate of about 15 — which is up from roughly 3 per 1,000 cases some three decades ago — to about 75 in the next three decades.
Also, the government is the largest litigant in India, which means that most of these cases are just one department of the government suing another and over-burdening the judiciary.
But there could be another reason that no one seems to be paying much attention to. A post on Reddit.com by an unnamed practicing advocate blamed the snail's pace at which the judiciary operates on the increasing length of judgments.
"Until 1970, the judgments of both High Courts and the Supreme Court were of adequate length. These judgments were easy to peruse and were on point. I don't know what happened, but after 1970, a majority of the judges started writing longer judgments, fluffing them up with completely useless content," he writes.
The advocate also claims that a recent Supreme Court judgement that he read was 10 pages long "but of which the first 9 pages had nothing to do with the 10th page, which was the only page that talked about the final order and the reasoning behind said order."
He suggests that the time that is spent in writing these judgments could easily be used to expedite cases. Plus, advocates would also save up on time if they didn't have to go through lengthy and complicated judgments.
Legal judgments, with their Latin terms and complicated jargon, are not entirely comprehensible to most who aren't trained in the law. As the Reddit posts says, "organizations reporting judgments of upper courts find themselves with far too many big judgments to go through, and consequently are unable to produce summaries for most judgments. Even the summaries that they produce are often inaccurate." In which case, would it not be a better idea to write simpler, to-the-point judgments? Because, justice delayed is justice denied.
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