Pandemic blues: Lower court pendency at record 4 crore now

New Delhi, Sept 15 (KMS):  Pendency of cases in lower courts of India has soared to a new record, crossing the four-crore mark for the first time. The total pending cases in district and subordinate courts stood at 4,00,25,060. It was 3.2 crore at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020.

In the three-tier judiciary, including in the Supreme Court and 25 high courts of India, the pendency of cases has significantly increased in the past one-and-a-half years, from 3.7 crore in March 2020 to 4.6 crore now — almost one crore cases were added during this period. The SC alone has 70,000 cases currently pending, which was 60,600 in March last year.

One of the reasons behind such a significant rise in pendency is the inability of the justice delivery system to adapt to the new challenges and swiftly migrate to the digital format and the e-courts system.

A software is now being used by every court to accept e-filing, e-pay of court fees, and issue of e-summons. Issues like video conferencing, broadband, high-speed internet connectivity and computerisation of courts have long been addressed.

After the outbreak of the Covid pandemic and the lockdown, there had been an initial hesitancy and reluctance from the Bar associations in several states who refused to accept e-courts and digital hearings. The higher judiciary, too, didn’t compel them or initiate full court proceedings even in state capitals where high-speed internet connectivity was not an issue.

Coming in the backdrop of a huge backlog of cases, the sharp rise in pendency in the past 18 months is extremely worrying. The judiciary should not overlook this development and find creative ways to reduce pendency.