NEW DELHI: The wheels of justice at India’s top court is seemed to be clogging with the pendency of cases reaching an all time high of almost 68,000. There is a steep rise in pending cases especially during the period of January 2021 till May 2021.
In 2020, there was rise of pendency of 1.4% and in 2019 it was 1.7%. But in 2021, there is rise in cases by 4.3%. Though the Supreme Court worked more during the Covid-19 restrictions than what it does in normal years, still the pendency has touched an all time high. The main reason for the high pendency is the restricted physical hearings and shifting the whole judicial work online. In the beginning only important cases were taken up for hearing but gradually miscellaneous cases too were taken up.
If we compare the month-wise pendency, in 2019 there were rise in 822 cases, in 2020 it rose to 1,024 cases and in 2021 there was a steep rise by 2,811 cases. Similarly, in January 2019, the pendency stood at 59,859, in 2020 it reached 58,168 and in 2021 it stands at 67,897 cases.
The pendency is going to increase further as the top court continues to function with 27 judges, seven short of the sanctioned strength of 34 judges. Two more judges are retiring this year and three others are due to retire next year. Despite increasing the strength of judges to nearly four times from 1950 to 2021, pendency still haunts the Supreme Court.
A mere look at the data also reflects how the number of cases filed in the apex court rose from 1,215 in 1950 to 67,897 till May 2021, making it one of the most overburdened constitutional courts in the world.
The key reason for the mounting of pending cases can be attributed to shifting the role of the Supreme Court from adjudicating cases of constitutional significance into a regular court of appeals.
According to legal experts, most of the cases that the Supreme Court was handling daily are either appeals from various high courts or cases of gross violation of individual’s fundamental rights. But this role was never meant for the apex court. It is because of frivolous PILs and various government policies which are challenged by the people that takes up most of judiciary’s time.
Rise in number of judges not helping this matter
From 1950 to 1921, the number of Supreme Court judges has increased nearly four times. Even then, case pendency has steadily kept rising. Frivolous PILs play a part in this.