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Prelims Capsule


Why Justice takes so Long In India ?

Why Justice takes so Long In India ?


  • GS 2 || Polity || Judiciary || Supreme Court

Why in the news?

Delay in justice and pending cases in court.

Introduction to Indian Judicial system:

  • The Indian judicial system follows the common law system based on recorded judicial precedents as inherited from the British colonial legacy. The court system of India comprises the Supreme Court of India, the High Courts and subordinate courts at district, municipal and village levels.
  • Hierarchy of courts:
    • Supreme Court: It is the Apex court of the country and was constituted on 28th January 1950. It is the highest court of appeal. The Supreme Court is comprised of the Chief Justice of India and 25 other judges. Articles 124-147 of the Constitution of India lay down the authority of the Supreme Court.
    • High Courts: High Courts are the highest judicial body at the State level. Article 214 lays down the authority of High Courts. High Courts may even take appeals from lower courts.
    • District Courts: District Courts are established by the State Governments of India for every district or group of districts based on the caseload and population density. District Courts are under the direct administration of High Courts and are bound by High Court judgments. Every district generally has two kinds of courts: Civil Courts and Criminal Courts
    • Lok Adalats/Village Courts: These are subordinate courts at the village level which provide a system for alternate dispute resolution in villages.
    • Tribunals: the Constitution provides the government with the power to set up special Tribunals for the administration of specific matters such as tax cases, land cases, consumer cases etc.

Characteristics of Indian Judiciary:

  • One of the Oldest Judicial Systems in the World:
    • India’s judicial system is one of the most well-known in the world, and it is used to interpret and enforce the country’s laws.
  • Single and Integrated Judicial System:
    • In India, the Constitution established a judicial system that is both integrated and separate.
    • The combined system’s highest court is the Supreme Court. There are state-level High Courts in addition to the Supreme Court.
  • Independence of Judiciary:
    • It indicates that the executive and legislative arms of government do not obstruct the ability of the court to function. Other organs recognise the court’s decision and do not interfere. It also indicates that judges can carry out their responsibilities without fear of retaliation
  • Judicial Activism:
    • Judicial activism is a term that originated in the United States. In the context of unrestrained action by the legislative and executive branches, the concept of judicial activism grew quickly and acquired widespread acceptance among Indians.
  • Judicial Review:
    • In the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, the concept of judicial review was originally proposed in the United States of America.
    • In India, however, the Supreme Court and High Court have the jurisdiction to do so under the Constitution, and the Supreme Court of India has decided that the power of judicial review is a fundamental aspect of the Constitution that cannot be eliminated even by a constitutional amendment.
  • Interpreter of the Constitution:
    • The Supreme Court of India interprets the Indian Constitution and is the country’s highest court with the jurisdiction to do so.

Constitutional Provisions that ensure Judicial Independence:

  • Judges serve until they attain retirement age, which is 65 years for Supreme Court justices (Article 124(2)) and 62 years for High Court judges (Article 217(1)) for both.
  • They can only be removed from office by the President’s decision, and only if misbehaviour and incapacity have been established.
  • A resolution must also be passed by a majority of each House’s overall membership, as well as a majority of no less than two-thirds of those present and voting.
  • No Supreme Court or High Court judge has ever been removed under this rule due to the difficulty of the procedure.

Functions and role Of Indian Judiciary:

  • Fair Administration of Justice: The primary function of the court is to apply the law to specific situations or to resolve disputes. The evidence supplied by the participants is used to “judge the facts” when a disagreement is brought before the courts. After that, the law determines which law applies to the case and puts it into effect. If the accused person is found guilty of breaking the law during the trial, the court will impose a penalty.
  • The emergence of judge-made law: Judges are frequently unable or unwilling to select the most relevant legislation for application. In such cases, judges utilize their discretion and common sense to assess what legislation is appropriate’.
  • The Constitution’s Guardian: The Constitution is guarded by India’s top court, the Supreme Court. The court decides on jurisdictional issues involving the federal government and state governments, as well as the legislature and the executive branch. Any bill or executive order that violates any provision of the constitution is declared invalid or null and void by the courts.
  • Fundamental Rights Defender: The judiciary ensures that the government and other authorities do not infringe on people’s rights. Higher courts issue writs to enforce fundamental rights.
  • Supervising functions: The higher courts in India are also in charge of overseeing the lesser courts.
  • Advisory functions: The SC also serves as an advisor in India. It has the authority to provide constitutional advisory opinions. This is done when there are no conflicts and the executive wishes it.
  • Non Judicial and administrative functions: The courts are responsible for a wide range of nonjudicial and administrative functions. The courts have the authority to grant licences, handle estates, and appoint receivers. Marriages are recorded, and guardians for minors and insane people are appointed.
  • Special responsibilities in a federation: In a federal system like India’s, the judiciary is also in charge of addressing critical matters involving the centre and the states. It also acts as a go-between in inter-state disputes. Judiciary investigations: Judges are frequently selected to lead commissions that investigate cases of public servant errors or omissions.

Pendency of cases:

  • The 25 High Courts have a combined sanctioned strength of 1,080 judges. As of March 1,2021, the current working strength is 661, with 419 openings. The Supreme Court cited this as one of the reasons for the judicial system’s backlog of cases. The judicial system’s case backlog is a long-standing issue.
  • Causes for Pendency of cases
    • An increase in the number of cases: Increases in literacy, population expansion, and the development of citizen-friendly instruments such as PIL have resulted in a massive surge of cases in courts.
    • A lack of Judicial Administration
    • Lack of infrastructure
    • Issues in the Indian Police system.
    • Tussle between Executive and Judiciary
    • Vacancies are increasing: The courts are operating at a lower capacity than mandated. Out of a sanctioned strength of 1,079 judges, the High Courts had 403 vacancies as of 2017. However, there has been no progress in filling vacancies. Subordinate courts, meanwhile, have 5,676 vacancies out of a total of 22,704 judges. The increase in vacancies is due to the delay in appointments..
    • Rigid Procedural Requirements: Each case requires a significant amount of documentation, which can cause unnecessary delays.

# For example, the Allahabad high court recently acquitted Vishnu Tiwari of a fraudulent rape case. For 16 years, his case had been pending in the Allahabad High Court. The causes for this were documents that were missing or were in the inappropriate format for listing the case.

  • Lawyers’ Poor Conduct: They have been caught engaging in collusive corruption, particularly at lower levels, in order to stretch the case out. Furthermore, the lawyers demand multiple adjournments for illegitimate grounds.
  • Police personnel inefficiencies: They are sometimes perceived as complacent in completing charge sheets and conducting rapid investigations, causing a delay in delivering timely judgment. Law schools are more concerned with developing attorneys than with developing future members of the judiciary.

Reason for pendency of case:

  • Vacancies persist: Across India, there exist vacancies against even the sanctioned strengths of courts, with vacancies exceeding 30% in the worst-performing states. As a result, the typical trial wait time in lower courts is roughly 10 years and 2-5 years in higher courts.
  • Poor State of Subordinate Judiciary:District courts around the country suffer from inadequate infrastructure and bad working conditions, which must be drastically improved if they are to fulfill the higher judiciary’s digital requirements.
    • In addition, there is a significant digital divide between urban courts, practitioners, and clients and those outside of them. It will take years to overcome the obstacles of ageing infrastructure and digital illiteracy.
  • Government, the Biggest Litigant: The Government is the Biggest Litigant: Poorly drafted directives have resulted in disputed tax collections totaling 4.7 percent of GDP, and the number is growing.
  • Crowding out investment: Around Rs 50,000 crore is stranded in stalled projects, and investment is dwindling. Both of these issues have emerged as a result of injunctions and stay orders issued by the courts, mostly owing to rulings that were poorly prepared and reasoned.
  • Budgetary allocation is lower: The judiciary receives between 0.08 and 0.09 percent of GDP in funding. Only four countries, Japan, Norway, Australia, and Iceland, have a lower budget allocation and do not face the same debt problems as India.

Challenges Faced in Ensuring Judicial Independence:

  • Political Influence in Judge Appointment and Transfer: Appointment procedures can be impacted inappropriately by the political or personal interests of the appointing authorities. It is vital to ensure that procedures are transparent, objective, and non-discriminatory in order to prevent this risk.
  • Post-retirement appointments: If governments can compel, entice, or undermine judges and their rulings – directly or indirectly, publicly or privately – judicial independence suffers. Judges’ post-retirement appointments could be a roadblock to obtaining judicial independence.
  • Threats and Assaults on Judges: Threats and assassinations of judges are a source of concern when it comes to preserving the judiciary’s independence. The recent assassination of a judge in Jharkhand raises concerns about the protection of judges. The judges’ safety must be safeguarded in order for them to render impartial rulings.

Steps that needed to be taken:

  • Strengthening the Indian Judicial system:
    • It is necessary to strengthen the Judicial Service and to fill vacancies as soon as possible. It should begin with the lower courts and work its way up to the upper courts.
    • Administrative and technological assistance must be offered to the subordinate judiciary.
    • At each level, training, promotion, and development should be provided.
  • Correcting historical inequalities:
    • Equal participation from all segments of society is essential, particularly from women judges and judges from historically marginalised castes and classes.
  • eCourts project:
    • The Supreme Court should concentrate on the eCourts project, which aims to completely turn Indian courts into a digital platform.
    • Judges and lawyers can use electronic payment methods, summons, hearings, and judgments to ensure that deadlines are met.
  • Proper budgeting:
    • Appointments, upgrades, and infrastructure must all be budgeted properly.
    • The shortage of finance has been criticised by the Fifteenth Finance Commission and the India Justice Report 2020.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution:
    • It should be made necessary that business litigation be considered only after mediation or conciliation has failed.
    • It is critical to make efficient use of existing systems such as Lok Adalat, Gram Nyayalayas, and ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution).


Because it is the only institution that can control and pronounce judgement when there is a conflict between the Center and the State, the State and the citizens, or between the states, the Judiciary is the government’s backbone. The rulings of the judiciary are binding on all parties involved, including people and the government. The judiciary in India is the guardian of human rights, defender of the constitution, and promoter of peace and harmony. It serves as a check and balance on the executive and legislative actions of the government. It’s a difficult question to answer if Indian judges are free of political influence.. As we all know, the Supreme Court and high courts in India are solely responsible for safeguarding the fundamental rights of Indian citizens.