Whether it is implementation of Unique Identification number scheme(AADHAR), divestment of Public sector undertakings, distribution of natural resources, affairs of sports regulation bodies or even providing of shelters for poor in the chilling winters, almost every issue today ends at the doors of higher judiciary.
The higher Judiciary has always received high regards from the common man, but the rising pendency of cases is the biggest challenge which may severely affect the image of judiciary as well as quality of judicial decisions.
Though, the problem of pendency of cases has always been there, but the rising shortage of judges at different High Courts may proliferate the burden of pendency to unmanageable extent.
Judicial review of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act aggravated the problem as for almost a year no appointment could have been made to High Courts and to the Supreme Court. While, the NJAC Act was finally held unconstitutional the new memorandum of procedure of Collegium is yet to be implemented. Alarmed by the huge pendency of cases, the collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India T S Thakur has set wheels in the motion. But, the collegium of 5 senior most judges of the Supreme Court has an ardent task of filling up more than 400 vacancies at different High Court.
With pendency of more than 9 lakh cases (till December 2015) Allahabad High Court is still facing shortage of Judges with 72 serving Judges against the sanctioned strength of 160.
The Supreme Court too has five vacancies and a pendency of over 60,000 cases. While, High courts across the country has pendency of around 4.5 million cases.
The lower judiciary has staggering number in terms of pendency, according to National Judicial Data Grid more than 26 million cases are pending in district courts. If the current trend continues the overall pendency of cases across the country (Lower as well as Higher judiciary) will cross 40 million mark.
Indian Judiciary has inherent problems of lack of infrastructure and poor judges to population ratio. In comparison to most of the advanced countries ratio of judges in India is abysmally low. Judge-population ratio is below 14 while United States has more than 100 judges per million population.
According to the data collected by National Judicial Data Grid, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Bihar are at the tail end of the list.
Pendency of cases:- *
Uttar Pradesh -23.43%, (48,30,463 cases)
Maharashtra -14.3 %, (29,63,216 cases)
Gujarat -10.55%, (21,74,366 cases)
Bihar -6.75%, (13,91,922 cases)
West Bengal -6.7%, (13,90,787 cases)
*Till 23 January 2016
While, the political parties have never overtly criticized the Judiciary on pendency of cases, quashing of NJAC has changed the scenario. Comparatively smaller but a section of politician has started questioning the pace of judicial proceedings. At the same time judiciary does not shy away to hold successive governments responsible for not providing adequate funds (lower than 1 % of annual budget) to the Judiciary.
But, eventually it is a common litigant whose quest for justice sometimes becomes a never ending wait.