The Supreme Court of India recently released its annual report on the Indian Judiciary  for 2015-16. Running into nearly three hundred pages, the report reveals some interesting facts and figures with respect to the Supreme Court, the twenty four high courts and the subordinate courts under them.

In the first part of this report, we take a look at six interesting stats pertaining to the apex court, including the number of cases instituted, disposed and pending, and what steps have been taken to improve pendency figures.

1. Number of PILs and writ petitions filed

Till July 31, the number of PILs filed in the Supreme Court of India in 2016 was 31,555. This figure includes 31,395 letter petitions and 160 writ petitions, 137 of which were civil writ petitions and 23 of which were criminal writ petitions.

Here are the numbers since 2010:

Year Letter Petitions Writ Petitions (Civil) Writ Petitions (Criminal)
2010 24,611 115 14
2011 35,026 135 20(1)*
2012 41,314 126 23
2013 45,588 214(3) 45(2)
2014 30,404 332 48(2)
2015 51,203 264(2) 39(1)
2016 31,395 137 23

* figures in brackets denote suo motu writ petitions

As is evident, there was a marked difference between PILs filed in 2014 and those filed in 2015. The number of writ petitions filed has also been increasing steadily, reaching its peak in 2014, with 380 civil and criminal writs filed.

2. Institution, Disposal and Pendency of cases

As of September 2016, the number of cases pending in the Supreme Court was 60,938. This figure is slightly higher than the 59,272 cases pending at the end of 2015.

Till September, the number of cases instituted was 59,386, out of which 57,720 were disposed of. The number of pending cases has been decreasing since 2012, when it was at 66,692.

Year Institution Disposal Pendency
2012 76,917 68,744 66,692
2013 76,742 77,085 66,349
2014 89,164 92,722 62,791
2015 78,444 82,092 59,272
2016 (till Sept) 59,386 57,720 60,938

Here is a monthly status of institution, disposal and pendency in 2016 till September:

Month Institution Disposal Pendency
January 6,588 6,619 59,241
February 7,266 7,266 59,241**
March 6,382 6,068 59,595
April 8,415 7,536 60,474
May 6,092 4,948 61,618
June 1,871 843 62,646
July 7,739 9,622 60,763
August 6,891 7,098 60,556
September 8,142 7,760 60,938
** Although the report mentions the pendency as 59,281, there is a possible discrepancy in the calculations.

3. Measures taken to bring down pendency

So what steps have been taken to reduce pendency over the past year?

Outgoing Chief Justice of India TS Thakur took the initiative of setting up six three-judge Benches, which sat exclusively to decide the matters referred to a larger Bench, post lunch on miscellaneous days. One hundred of these matters were disposed of between January and August last year.

He also constituted two Benches of five judges to deal with constitutional matters, which each sat on every miscellaneous day. According to the report, ten such cases have been decided till August 2016.

Further, special benches were set up to dispose of pending tax matters and matters relating to bail. Consequently, 112 tax matters and 119 bail matters had been disposed of by 30 August, 2016.

Special attention was also given to after-notice matters. Five thousand of these matters were listed before the court, out of which 666 were disposed of during the aforementioned period.

Moreover, vacation benches were set up to dispose of old and urgent matters. During the summer vacation from May 16 to June 28, 301 old regular matters were listed and out of them a total of 123 were disposed of. Additionally, 250 miscellaneous matters were disposed of during this vacation period.

The report also notes that the determination of the Entry Tax matters by a nine-judge bench in November last year “will not only liquidate around 1,240 matters in this Court but also pave way for disposing of thousands of cases across the country”.

4. Reforms in the Registry

With the intention of bringing down pendency and ensuring a smoother administrative process, the Supreme Court Registry introduced a number of reforms.

Among these are:

  • Changing the procedure for preparing formal orders, the procedure dispensing with notice of motion in applications for bringing on record the legal representatives of the deceased parties.
  • Simplification of procedure relating to parties-in-person for oral mentioning seeking urgent directions.
  • 100% notification of defects in the fresh matters has been ensured on the website of the Registry for the benefit of Advocates. Defects are additionally being notified through e-mail/SMS of the AOR/Petitioner-in-Person.
  • In order to provide access to all the information updated by the Supreme Court, a new webpage “Live work done report” has been designed to inculcate more transparency.

5. Law clerks-cum-research assistants and law trainees

During the period of the report, 88 law graduates were engaged as Law Clerks-cum Research Assistants and 72 Law Students have been placed as Law Trainees. The report also notes that law clerks are being paid a monthly stipend of Rs. 30,000.

In 2016 alone, a total of 42 law graduates have been engaged as Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistants and 26 law students have been placed as Law Trainees.

6. National Lok Adalats

During the period between April 2015 and March 2016, a total of 1.93 crore cases were decided by the National Lok Adalats.

Month Subject Disposed Cases
April 2015 Labour and Family 5,31,872
May and June 2015 MACT and Insurance Claims 3,18,724
July 2015 Electricity/Water/Telephone/
Public Utility dispute
August 2015 Banking matters 3,53,167
September 2015 Criminal Compoundable matters 5,71,741
October 2015 Traffic, Petty matters, Municipal matters 16,39,229
December 2015 All cases 1,34,56,127
February 2016 Banking matters 3,63,565
March 2016 Civil and Revenue matters 12,96,663
TOTAL 1,93,99,342

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