Coronavirus impact: Pending cases in courts increase manifold
The coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions that came with it have adversely affected the functioning of the judiciary, with the number of pending cases reaching an all-time high. According to National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), the backlog of cases has swelled at all levels of the judiciary. A staggering 66,727 cases are pending at the Supreme Court, the highest-ever, reports Indian Express.
Between December 31, 2019, and December 31, 2020, the backlog increased by 18.2% in district courts. Between 2018 and 2019, the rise was recorded at 7.79% and at 11.6% in the year before that. In 25 High Courts of the nation, the pendency increased by 20.4% in 2019-20. It had increased by 5.29% in 2018-2019. The country's apex court is also buried under cases.
From March 1, 2020, to March 1, 2021, the backlog of cases in SC went from 60,469 cases to 66,727 cases. This is the sharpest increase since 2013 when the apex court started revealing pendency data for the public. Even in absolute terms, the top court has never seen a backlog of 66,727 cases. SC held nearly 32,000 hearings during the lockdown, the Law Ministry had informed the Parliament.
SC Bar Association President Vikas Singh termed the backlog worrying but claimed that it doesn't reveal the true picture. "The filing also had gone down during the pandemic. If you take into account cases that would be usually filed, the backlog for last year would be even higher," he said. Vacant judges' positions and restricted functioning of courts led to this situation, he explained.
On Thursday, an SC bench, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and including Justice Surya Kant and Justice SK Kaul, took up the matter of pending cases in HCs. Nearly five lakh cases are pending in HCs, TOI claimed. The bench toyed with an unprecedented idea of involving retired judges to clear the backlog. It also wondered why the Centre wasn't approving 45 recommended names for appointments at HCs.
"Judges who have retired after spending 15-20 years in HCs would be eminently suitable to adjudicate old cases. Once the pendency is dealt with, their tenure can come to an end," CJI Bobde suggested.