Sunday, April 17, 2016

India state capability - Judiciary fact of the day

Times of India identifies the chronic state capability weakness that bedevils India's judicial system,
In 2014, the judge-population ratio (sanctioned strength) was 17 judges per million... 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....
To address backlogs in justice delivery, the 120th report of the law panel (in 2014) 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 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.
Sadly, despite this scale of demand on scarce court time, the creeping bout of populist activism that appears to have taken hold, is most certain to worsen the trends. As R Jagannathan has written here, this is seriously undermining the delicate constitutional balance of power. What else can you say when the Supreme Court of India extends its ban on registration of diesel SUVs citing conspicuous consumption by the rich, bullies a private association like the BCCI into its structural composition and its functioning, dictates prudential norms to the banking regulator, and passes populist comments conflating water-use in IPL cricket matches with drought in Maharashtra?

Update 1 (26.04.2016)
Livemint has a nice graphical summary. The High Courts, with 44% vacancy, are the worst affected. The level of pendency is most disturbing. Nearly 58% of the 21.9 million cases pending in district/subordinate courts were pending for more than two years.

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