The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Pratikshit Gupta, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
A 1987 report of the law commission had drawn a blueprint of the manpower required in the judiciary. At that time, the strength of the judiciary was 7,675 judges, or 10.5 judges per million people. The judge-population ratio (sanctioned strength) has since increased to 17 judges per million but the vacancies have surpassed the 5,000 mark and so have the backlogs.
The current sanctioned strength of the subordinate judiciary is 20,214 judges while that of the 24 high courts is 1,056 and the pendency of cases has remained abnormally high at 3.10 crore. On the sanctioned strength, there are 4,600 vacancies of judges in the subordinate judiciary which is more than 23% of the strength. The situation in the high courts is worse with almost 44% (462) judges’ posts vacant. The Supreme Court too has six vacancies on a sanctioned strength of 31. The appointments have been held up following a standoff between the apex court collegium and the government over the finalization of the memorandum of procedure for selection of judges. To address backlogs in justice delivery, the 120th report of the law panel had proposed to increase the strength to 50 judges per million people — less than the US where the judge-population ratio then was 107. In case of UK it was 51, for Canada it was 75 and Australia 42.
The 50 judges-per-million view was supported by the commission in its 245th report submitted to the government in 2014, an exercise carried out after three decades of the first manpower assessment without any substantial follow up action. The 20th law commission study found at the current rate of disposal, HCs require an additional 56 judges to break even and an additional 942 judges to clear the backlog. This estimation was based on the sanctioned strength of the HCs at 895.