A Public interest litigation has been brought before the Supreme Court, highlighting the question of long-standing cases before subordinate courts in India, requesting, inter alia, formal rules and the code of procedure for the selection of judges within a time-limited span of time.
The petition was filed by Shrikant Prasad, a final-year law student, alleging that the delay in the administration of justice causes both victims and accused to be mentally harassed and amounts to the deprivation of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petitioner pointed out that in Indian District Courts, about 3.5 crore cases are pending, out of which about 2.5 crore cases are criminal in nature. In addition, some 56,000 lawsuits have been pending for more than thirty years.
“The issue of judicial backlog and delay is widely acknowledged and extensively written about, but it seems to be nowhere close to being resolved. Today, a litigant can be stuck in court corridors for decades…the original litigant may not even be alive by the time the court resolves the issue. It is a stretch to describe any verdict given after decades as ‘justice’, ”states the plea.
The petition claims that the primary reason behind such delays in justice is due to lack of Judges & corresponding Staff in subordinate Courts. The Petitioner submitted that there are only 20 judges per 10 lakh people in the country, as compared to 17 in 2014 by relying on a 2019 report published by the Union Law Ministry.
This result in so many cases being listed on each day before a judge, and it becomes difficult to hear too many cases meaningfully, thereby eventually leading to numerous adjournments, the plea stated.
In addition, the subordinate judiciary needs more than 5,000 courtrooms to accommodate more than 20,000 judicial officers, as per a study published by the Supreme Court. More than 40,000 workers slots, which have been empty for several years, need to be filled as well.
In this context, the petitioner urged the Court to direct the authorities concerned to fill the vacant posts of the subordinate courts and also to increase the number of judges to the proportion decided in the All India Judges Association & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., SC 247, 2002. In this case, the Supreme Court directed both the central government and the state governments to raise the number of judges in the trial courts in order to minimise the delays.
Furthermore, the petitioner has proposed that, in the exercise of their powers under Article 127 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the High Court can appoint effective and efficient judges as AD-HOC judges.