While the focus is on shortage of judges in the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts, the situation in the subordinate courts, considered the backbone of justice delivery system, is even worse.
Latest data made available by the Law Ministry shows that there is a shortage of 5,111 judicial officers who run subordinate courts across the country.
As on 30 June while the total sanctioned strength was 21,303, the subordinate courts were functioning with 16,192 judicial officers — a shortage of 5,111.
In most of the big states, the selection of judicial officers is done by the high courts.
In 11 states the recruitment of subordinate judiciary is done by the high courts, while in 17 states it is done by the state public service commissions.
With 794 vacancies, Gujarat tops the list among states with highest number of vacant posts. It is followed by Bihar with 792 vacancies. Uttar Pradesh stands at number three with 595 vacancies in lower courts.
The 24 high courts face a shortage of nearly 450 judges.
Nearly three crore cases are pending in courts across India.
A note prepared by the ministry for the Advisory Council of National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms said that “the linking of problem of pendency of cases in courts with shortage of judges alone may not present the complete picture”.
It said that an analysis of the figures regarding the number of civil cases instituted per annum in district and subordinate courts between 2005 and 2015 reveals that the number of cases instituted has come down from 40,69,073 civil cases in 2005 to 36,22,815 in 2015 — a decline of 11 per cent.
During the same time, the pendency of civil cases has increased from 72,54,145 in 2005 to 84,056,47 in 2015 — an increase of 16 per cent.
“It is pertinent to note that in 2005, the working strength of the judges in the district and subordinate courts was 11,682 which increased to 16,070 in 2015. Despite the increase in the number of judges and a decline in the number of cases being filed, the pendency of civil cases has increased,” the document observed.