New Delhi: Over two crore cases are pending in the country's lower judiciary, out of which more than 10 per cent have remained unsettled for over 10 years, the latest Law Ministry data says.
As per available data on the National Judicial Data Grid website as on 31 December, 2015, there are a total of 2,00,60,998 cases pending across the district courts in the different states.
Out of these, 83,00,462 or 41.38 per cent cases are pending for less than two years. At the same time, 21,72,411 or 10.83 per cent cases are pending for over 10 years, a note prepared by the Department of Justice for a high-level meeting on Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms says. The meeting will be held next week.
While referring to the data available on NJDG website, the note clarifies that it does not cover all courts across the country, therefore, the Department of Justice periodically collects the data on pendency of cases from the 24 high courts and the Supreme Court.
The data states that 36,30,282 or 18.1 per cent of the cases are pending for the last five to ten years.
The number of cases pending between 2 and 5 years stands at 59,83,862 or 29.83 per cent of the total cases.
In a written reply, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda had informed Lok Sabha in December last that the subordinate courts settled 1,9019,658 cases in 2014.
He had said that the 24 high courts disposed of 17,34,542 cases in 2014. The pendency in the high courts was estimated at 41.53 lakh at the end of December 2014.
The Supreme Court disposed of 44,090 cases last year till 1 December, while the pendency there has been estimated at 58,906 till the beginning of December 2015.
Regarding the pending cases, the Department of Justice says that one of the biggest problems facing policy makers in this field is the "lack of any benchmark" to determine when a case should be considered delayed.
"For example, if a case is not disposed of within a year of it being instituted, will it be considered to be delayed? The lack of a clear criterion to determine what constitutes delay poses a hurdle to determine the policy changes needed to address the issue," the note reads.
The usual attempts to reduce pendency include increasing the number of judges or creating additional benches, and while there is no disagreement that the number of judges does need to be increased, this cannot be the only measure to reduce the pendency, it says.
"A linear formula applied across the different states without taking into consideration the actual reasons behind the delay as well the socio-economic factors of the different states is not going to be too effective in reducing pendency," the government feels.
The e-committee of Supreme Court had launched the National Judicial Data Grid to provide data on cases pending in the district courts across the country.
The data is segregated into civil and criminal cases and further broken down on the basis of the number of years the cases have been pending.