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Updated: Oct 4, 2021

Author: R. Priyadharshini, IV year of B.A.,LL.B from Chennai Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Pudupakkam.

Co-author: Hemavathy.P, IV year of B.A.,LL.B from Chennai Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Pudupakkam.


Justice is a basic right for every citizen . Courts are meant for solving the people's issues and to serve justice to them. But the pendency of cases is a long ailing problem faced by the Indian Judiciary. Pendency of cases is riddled with different causes and at different levels. People didn't get the speedy justice in most of the cases. Victims are waiting for justice for many years. Judicial pendency has a deep impact in social infrastructure as well as economy also. This article will address the various reasons behind the huge pending cases in Indian courts. Furthermore, elucidating the response of the judiciary in speedy justice and will suggest the solution to solve most of the pending cases.

Keywords Pending cases, long-term lawsuit, delayed justice, social impacts.



According to many legal scholars, judicial pendency problem came into being in the late 1970s. In the decade after the national emergency the number of cases pending in the Supreme Court started to escalate peaking to one lakh in the year of 1991. Mounting pendency of the cases from the Supreme Court to the Lower Courts has only worsened in the Covid pandemic between March 2020-April 2021. The number of pending cases in India increased by 19% in between the March 2020 to April 2021. In approximate, there are 3crores of cases are pending throughout all forums in India .There are various reasons behind this problem. The government has taken many steps to address these problems like, introducing fast track courts, Lok Adalat , special courts, tribunals etc. But this problem still continues in our judicial system.


In India more than 2 million cases disposed off and 50,000 judgements delivered since inception. But the Supreme Court of India is still plagued by more than 67,000 pending cases as on April 2021. The problem worsens when we consider High Courts and Subordinate Courts. The number of cases pending in High Courts amount to 57.53 lakhs whereas in the case of Subordinate Courts the number is 3.81 crores. Though there is no data on cases pending in the tribunals, the 272nd report of the law commission found that just 5 tribunals had around 3,50,000 pending cases till July 2017.


  • The vacancy of judges in Indian Courts is a serious issue to watch out. India has 10 judges as per 10 lakh people on an average. Law commission had recommended to rise the number of judges from 10 judges per 10 lakh people to 50. Around 6000 posts are lying vacant in the Subordinate Courts. There is a serious shortage in the number of Judges when we compare our country with the USA and the UK where this number is 107 and 51 respectively.

  • In every sector, workers need the adequate infrastructure to do their work fastly. Likewise, Courts also needs sufficient infrastructure to fast the justice delivery system. Digital infrastructure is essential one for every court to monitor the status of the pending cases. The vision of digital Courts has come alive again due to the pandemic but we are still lacking the funds and resources to digitalize the Court procedure. Our honourable former judge of the Supreme Court Madan B lokur inaugurated the National judicial data grid website, which shows the record of pending cases in district judiciary across the country.

  • Adjournment is the complex reason behind the pending cases. Lawyers aren't preparing for the backlog cases and they ask for adjournments , adjournments are given quite liberal in the courts. Asking adjournments takes a long time to reach a verdict in cases. Although there is a limit of a maximum of three adjournments per case in the Indian judicial system, it is not followed in more than 50% of the cases.

  • Public interest litigation was introduced for the protection of 'public interest '.but some people use this mechanism for their personal interests. Many people file the PIL for frivolous matters because to get fame in the society. This results in proliferation of many cases. It is rather being used as private interest litigation for personal, monetary and political interests. In a recent hearing the Delhi high Court imposed a fine of rupees 20 lakhs on actress turned activist Juhi Chawla. The court mentioned the reason that the suit was filed only for media publicity.

  • Appealing the cases is a useful mechanism to get strong justice. But sometimes it changes to the reason for pendency. Increasing appeals from lower forums to the upper forum has also led to increased burden of the apex Court.


Even after 73 years of independence, India is still under the grasp of delayed decisions and denied justice. There are huge number of cases which set the instance of our main subject “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

  • One of the most noticeable cases of delayed justice is the Assn. Of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy vs Union of India and Ors, it took 18 years for the forum to provide justice to 59 people who lost their life and more than 100 others who got affected in a fire that broke out in the cinema hall on June 13, 1997. Gopal and Sushil Ansal, both of them are got away with a fine of Rs.60 crores without amount to any imprisonment. This case is evidence to show the delayed justice and disproportion injustice.

  • In Safdar Hasmi murder case, the victim was killed by opponents of political parties, the criminals of this case were punished after a long 14 years. Here the two of the guilty had already died before the judgment delivered by the forum.

  • In, Sr. Sephy vs Central Bureau of Investigation, Catholic nun Abhaya was found deceased in a well on March 27, 1992.Now 28 years later, a special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram has found that the two accused guilty of murdering her. In between the 28 years Abhaya father and mother died. Here a question arises, for whom the justice was delivered?

  • The contemporary example of justice delayed is Mukesh & Anr vs State for NCT of Delhi & Ors, the Nirbhaya (the fearless one) tragic case. The incident held (December 16, 2012) in Delhi where she was gang-raped and murdered. In this case the justice was delivered after seven years from the date of the offense occurred. Here the delay caused by plenty of loopholes in the judicial system.

  • The above said cases reminded the excruciating delays in India’s judiciary system. Besides, majority of Indians are poor and uneducated but still they manage to go to courts by paying their hard-earned money to advocates, law clerks but fail to get justice. This has been a curse and a major defect to Indian judicial system.


The deep impacts of judicial pendency have considered in two aspects. The first, social impacts and the second, Economic impacts. An infirm judiciary has a negative effect on social development. In 2015 NCRB released a report that, 67.2 percent of prisoners are under trial prisoners in India, which means that, 2 out of every 3 prisoners in India is an under trial. This is a grave human rights violation. According to economic survey of India, pendency hampers dispute resolution, discourage investments by stalling projects, hampers tax collection, it also leads to escalated legal costs which increasing cost of doing business. The judicial delay cost in India around 1.5% of gross domestic product annually. Roughly rupees 50,000 crore has been locked up installed projects and new investments are declining.


In Indian society most of the people lose hope and faith towards judiciary because of the time taken by it in delivering justice. Judiciary must overcome from these challenges; people should not hesitate before going to the court. The delay is caused mainly due to various factors like, insufficiency of judicial officers, inadequate ministerial staff, personal factors, defects in the procedure, lack of infrastructure, abuse of process of law etc., the solution we would like to suggest a way forward in dealing with the situation. First of all, we should create another supreme court in our country to deal the upcoming cases, constitutional issues and appeals, this will definitely reduce the pendency of cases in India. Judiciary should not delay to scrutinize the situation behind the case. There has to be a regular and continuous discussion at top levels in our government to find the root cause of the delays. Increasing the number of judges seems to be the next best solution. The supreme Court could have special benches across the country to increase access of the citizens. Govt rules, orders and regulations should be thorough and comprehensive to avoid unnecessary litigations. The progress of the country depends on a strong judicial system that can deliver speedy justice because justice delayed is justice denied”.


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