Backlog of 2.5 crore cases

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has strongly pressed the Supreme Court and high courts to expeditiously hear cases pending for more than five years and decide on appeals filed by people lodged in jails for a similar period of time.

The CJI, as chief patron of the National Legal Services Authority, knows about the plight of poor people held in jails for years and initiated the unique step that requires state legal services authorities to provide an advocate free of cost to poor jail inmates. The service will be provided to those who have been in prison for more than five years and the advocates will argue appeals before the SC and HCs during priority hearing. The CJI has written to the chief justices of HCs providing them with the guiding framework to deal with a large number of criminal appeals and jail appeals pending in their courts. CJI Dipak Misra said “delay in disposal of these appeals raises a question about the efficacy of the administration of justice as a whole and (the) criminal justice system in particular“. The CJI's appeal to the chief justices of HCs to hold court on Saturdays to hear appeals filed by those in jail for more than five years received an overwhelming response, and except for three small high courts, all others have started holding special hearings on Saturdays to dispose of old criminal appeals. In just nine such sittings in the last two months, the HCs have decided nearly 1,000 cases.

The CJI is monitoring the early listing of old criminal cases and jail petitions by the HCs on a daily basis and has opened constant communication with these courts to fine-tune the mechanism. With smart management of case dockets and bunching of cases, besides the extra efforts put in by SC judges, pendency in the apex court has come down by 3,013 cases in just 60 days of Misra taking over as CJI, sources said. The pendency on September 1 was 58,272 cases, which came down to 55,259 on November 1.

However, the huge pendency of 2.54 crore cases in trial courts continues to pull down the speed of disposal in subordinate courts, which have a sanctioned strength of nearly 22,000 judges but about 5,000 posts vacant.

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