The number of cases filed is more than the number of cases settled in a month. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, as many as 7.28 lakh cases were settled in August last against 7.7 lakh cases registered the same month. It is for this reason that the number of pending cases has been increasing over the years. Given the imbalance, it is futile to expect clearing of all the pending cases in the near future. While there are some states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala which cleared the backlog to some extent during August, there are also states like Delhi whose performance has been the worst. Delhi was able to settle only 17,000 cases while it registered 30,000 cases the same month.
One of the main reasons for the present situation is the lack of adequate number of judges. While the population has been increasing by leaps and bounds, there has been no corresponding increase in the number of judges. And to confound the problem, there is a shortage of judges in most high courts. The shortage is to the tune of 40 per cent. Even the number of judicial magistrates and sessions judges is inadequate. It should not be difficult for the Central and state governments to appoint judges as soon as such vacancies arise. For that, the Centre has to come to terms with the Collegium system of appointment of judges.
Far more fundamental steps are required to sort out the issue in a long-term manner. There can be no denying that the courts waste a lot of their time in hearing frivolous cases. More important is the need for judicial reforms. Many of the cases which are now being heard by the courts can be settled through arbitration. Also, in many cases, arguments can be heard through written affidavits without the need for cross-examining witnesses. The judges can be given the freedom to decide cases by choosing the appropriate method for hearing both sides. In any case, the present one-shoe-fits-all system should change.