India has 17 judges for a million people, 5,000 posts vacant
shruti aggarwal 7 Feb 2017

India has 17 judges for a million people, 5,000 posts vacant

A 1987 report of the law commission had drawn a blueprint of the manpower required in the judiciary. At that time, the strength of the judiciary was 7,675 judges, or 10.5 judges per million people. The judge-population ratio (sanctioned strength) has since increased to 17 judges per million but the vacancies have surpassed the 5,000 mark and so have the backlogs.

The current sanctioned strength of the subordinate judiciary is 20,214 judges while that of the 24 high courts is 1,056 and the pendency of cases has remained abnormally high at 3.10 crore.

On the sanctioned strength, there are 4,600 vacancies of judges in the subordinate judiciary which is more than 23% of the strength. The situation in the high courts is worse with almost 44% (462) judges' posts vacant. The Supreme Court too has six vacancies on a sanctioned strength of 31.

The appointments have been held up following a standoff between the apex court collegium and the government over the finalization of the memorandum of procedure for selection of judges.

To address backlogs in justice delivery, the 120th report of the law panel had proposed to increase the strength to 50 judges per million people — less than the US where the judge-population ratio then was 107. In case of UK it was 51, for Canada it was 75 and Australia 42.

The 50 judges-per-million view was supported by the commission in its 245th report submitted to the government in 2014, an exercise carried out after three decades of the first manpower assessment without any substantial follow up action. The 20th law commission study found at the current rate of disposal, HCs require an additional 56 judges to break even and an additional 942 judges to clear the backlog. This estimation was based on the sanctioned strength of the HCs at 895.

"Bihar, for example, requires an additional 1,624 judges to clear backlog in three years," the 20th law panel observed.

The problem of backlogs is compounded by the fact that in some states courts are unable to keep pace with new filings. As data shows, even where the courts are breaking even, the system is severely backlogged and requires urgent intervention.


Given the large number of judges required to clear pendency and the time to complete selection and training processes, the law commission recommended that the recruitment of new judges should focus, as a matter of priority, on the number of judges required to break even, and to dispose of the backlog in a three-year time frame.

Simplification of court procedures is another problem area. Different HCs have different procedures and rules. There is no uniformity, despite the fact that the government has repeatedly written to the chief justices to develop common court procedures.



Source: TOI

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