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The Indian Judicial System by Numbers (Part I)

Aparna Chandra and Rishabh Sharma

Researchers working on the Indian judicial system are constantly hampered by the paucity of data on the system. Even where such data is available, its quality is often suspect (an issue this blog has had occasion to discuss earlier here and here).  As such, policy making in this field is often impressionistic, relying on anecdotal evidence rather than data driven approaches. To aid researchers working in the area, in this two part blog post, we provide a compilation of publicly available empirical data sources on the Indian judicial system. All these sources contain statistical information about the judicial system. This post covers data provided by government sources. Part II covers non-governmental sources. For ease of access, links to the data sources and reports is also provided.

A. Government Sources

  1. National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG):The National Judicial Data Grid provides data on the number of cases pending and disposed of by courts across India. For the purpose of analysis, the NJDG classifies data in various categories such as nature of the suit, the duration of its pendency, suits by women and senior citizens etc.
  1. E-courts Website: The E-courts website provides data on pending and disposed of cases categorized by state, district, court-complex, judge, charging Act & Section etc. While NJDG provides an overview of data and its analysis, the E-Courts website delves into details and provides the flexibility to generate one’s own reports for study.
  1. Supreme Court Annual Reports: Available from 2005-2006 onwards, the Supreme Court publishes its annual report with details pertaining to the Apex Court. All the reports contain data on institution, pendency and disposal of cases in the Supreme Court. These reports also provide details of the number of Writ Petitions (WP), Special Leave Petitions (SLP), and Public Interest Litigation (PIL), suo moto matters, constitution benches formed, and matters adjudicated. The latest report of 2014-15 contains relevant data from page 76 onwards.
  1. Annual Reports by various High Courts: Like the Supreme Court, many High Courts have started the practice of publishing their annual reports. Examples include the Delhi High Court, Orissa High Court, Madras High Court, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Rajasthan High Court, amongst others. High Court Annual Reports generally follow the same pattern as the Supreme Court Annual Report. They list information and data on institution, pendency and disposal of cases, and vacancies. The National Portal of India provides a one-point access to all High Court websites.
  1. Court News: Court News is published by the Supreme Court of India and is issued for every quarter. It covers information on various issues relating to judicial administration across all courts. Court News lists vacancies at all levels, data on pendency and disposal of cases, and major events and initiatives taken by the Supreme Court.
  1. Crime in India (National Crime Records Bureau): National Crime Records Bureau which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, regularly collects and analyses crime data, and publishes it for public perusal. The latest report is available for 2014. Pages 128 to 146 contain data relating to the judiciary.
  1. Prison Statistics India (National Crime Records Bureau): NCRB also publishes Prison Statistics India which focuses on data relating to prisons and prisoners, including numbers of under trials and convicts. The latest report of Prison Statistics India is for the year 2014.
  1. Law Commission of India, 245th Report – Arrears and Backlog: Creating Additional Judicial (wo)manpower: Graphs depicting pendency estimates and trends are contained in pages 12-18. Page 30 onwards, the report contains data on pending cases, institutions and disposals in various high courts.
  1. Law Commission of India, 229th Report – Need for division of the Supreme Court into a Constitution Bench at Delhi and Cassation Benches in four regions at Delhi, Chennai/Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai: The report discusses the working and functioning of the Supreme Court, and the proposal for setting up National Court of Appeal in different parts of the country. The Appendix of the Report contains data on institution, disposal and pendency in the Supreme Court from 1950 to 2008.
  1. Law Commission of India, 120th Report – Manpower planning in Judiciary: A Blueprint: In this report the Law Commission discusses restructuring of judicial administration. The report also makes a comparative study of number of judges per million in India and other developed as well as developing countries on page 3. In India this number at the time of the publication of this report was 10.5 and the report emphasised on the need to take concrete step to increase it up to 50, so as to ensure speedy disposal of trials.
  1. Law Commission of India, 79th, 77th& 14th Report – The 79th report discusses ‘Delays and Arrears in High Courts and other Appellate Courts’. Pages 11-12 provide data on the number of pending cases in the High Courts on as of December 31, 1977, compared to data on pendency as on December 31, 1972. Chapter 3, part I of the report contains information on the numerical strength of High Courts, as well as the pendency and disposal details of these courts.

The 77th report focuses on Delays and Arrears in Trial courts. Appendix 1 on page 63 onwards, provides pendency and disposal data for trial courts.

The 14th report was an early attempt to identify and resolve the issue of arrears and backlogs. A comparative study of civil suits and criminal matters is made on pages 20-23. Data on appeals referred to the Supreme Court is on pages 58-63.

  1. Judicial Impact Assessment’ by ‘Justice M Jagannadha Rao Committee’ (Volume 1 and Volume 2): In Volume 1, from page 43 onwards, the committee analyzes data on pendency and disposal by all the three levels of the courts in India during the period of 1999 to 2006.
  1. Malimath Committee Report 2003: This report focuses on ‘Reforms of the Criminal Justice System’. Page 11 contains data pertaining to ‘Total police strength in all states and the total number of cases investigated by them and the cases tried in the courts’ during the period of 1996 to 2000. Pages 14 & 15 contain data on crimes against women and children. The number of crimes committed against persons belonging to SC & ST communities is listed on page 16-17.
  1. Malimath Committee Report 1989-90: The report studies causes of accumulation of arrears in High Courts, alternate modes of dispute resolution and classification of cases for determining judge strength in the High Courts. It contains consolidated data on annual institution, pendency and disposal; sanctioned, actual and required judge strength in the High Courts from 1968-89 at page 56. Annexure III, page 146 onwards the report provides data on pendency and judge strength for various High Courts during 1986-1990.
  1. National Court Management Systems: Policy and Action Plan: The Supreme Court set up the National Court Management System (NCMS) to improve the overall quality, responsiveness and timelines of courts. In its Policy and Action Plan document, NCMS details statistics pertaining to the Indian judiciary and infrastructure at page 15 onwards.
  1. Planning Commission (12th Five Year Plan): The Planning Commission’s 12th five year plan contains the report and recommendations of the working group for the Department of Justice. It contains data on planned budgetary allocations for the judiciary.
  1. Justice Sobhag Mal Jain Memorial: This memorial lecture on ‘Delayed Justice’ by the then Chief Justice of India, Justice Y.K. Sabharwal provides data on institution, disposal and pendency of cases in the High Courts and the Subordinate Courts from 1999 to 2005.

If we have missed out any source, please add to the list in the comments!

About the Authors

Aparna Chandra is an Assistant Professor and Research Director, Centre for Constitutional Law, Policy and Governance (CLPG), NLU, Delhi.

Rishabh Sharma is the DAKSH-CLPG Research Fellow at CLPG, NLU, Delhi.


Aparna Chandra

Aparna Chandra

Rishabh Sharma

Rishabh Sharma


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