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8 Years: The Time It’ll Take India’s Lower Courts To Clear Their 25 Million Pending Cases!

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By Himadri Ghosh,

When the Gujarat government decided to build a municipal market in Vadodara in the early 1980s, it acquired land from a man we will call Mr X, who said he was paid nothing. His family does not want him identified because the case is—as they say in legal parlance—sub-judice.

This is the way it has been for 32 years.

Mr X died five years ago. His heirs are now fighting the case. In more than three decades, there was been 200 hearings in Vadodara’s civil court.

“Five lawyers have represented us over three decades,” said one of Mr X’s heirs, requesting anonymity, like the rest of the family. “We still hope that the verdict will be in our favour and that we will get back our money soon.”

Mr X’s family has spent up to Rs 8 lakh on the case. It could be more. “Two generations have passed,” his heir said. “It’s impossible to keep track of the expenses.”

“The family has aged, savings have been eaten into, and public money has been wasted,” said the family’s lawyer, who also requested anonymity. “There is nothing to show for the last 32 years.”

As for the municipal market for which Mr X’s land was acquired, it was never built.

The Great Legal Logjam In India’s Lower Courts

The first part of this series described how 25 million cases were pending in India’s district and sessions courts. Of these, two million have been on trial for a decade or more, according to Law Ministry data.

At the current rate of trials, it will take not less than eight years to clear this backlog, putting considerable strain on the state exchequer as well as individual fortunes.

Data shows that 1.3 million of the 2 million pending trials are criminal cases.

The ratio of criminal-to-civil pending cases is the highest in Bihar, with 83% of criminal trials pending. Tamil Nadu has the least criminal-to-civil pending cases ratio with only 37% criminal cases.

“The law and order situation in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and even Delhi is in shambles,” said Aman Madan, a Delhi High Court lawyer involved in public interest litigation. “History proves that the rate of criminality was always high in these states, and it is continuing.”

The reasons for the logjam range from the backlog itself, too few judges, indifference and apathy of lawyers and political interference.

“Many lawyers often drag cases for their financial benefits, which is a serious problem in our judicial system,” said Sanat Roy, advocate, Calcutta High Court. “Further, political influence slackens the work pace of the district courts.”

The fodder scam of Bihar is an example of delayed justice. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and 55 other accused were charge-sheeted in 1997 for bilking the government of money meant for fodder distribution, but it took the CBI 16 years to convict Prasad.

Another example came to light in August this year. The police in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu did not execute a non-bailable warrant for 20 years. The court criticised the Superintendent of Police (SP) of the district (The SP was later granted relief by the High Court).

Jammu And Kashmir Needs 64 Years To Clear Backlog; Himachal A Year

Uttar Pradesh tops the list of cases older than 10 years with 575,604 (27.4%) cases, as on October 30, 2015, data available from 27 states showed.

At the current rate of trials–calculated based on the average rate at which a judge closes pending cases–it would take the country eight more years to clear the backlog.

While the courts in Jammu & Kashmir will need 64 years to dispose of the cases, the courts in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh would clear them in one year.

“We are following archaic procedural rules that delay proceedings,” said Sarvesh Kumar Sharma, a district court lawyer in Amroha district, Uttar Pradesh.

“Our country has too many forums and procedural laws that aggravate the working of the courts,” said retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hedge. “Those need to be identified and discarded. Laws should be brought in to hold judges responsible for excessive adjournments.”

Every new government that comes to power has tried to set up an alternate system instead of addressing issues in the existing system, said Madan, the Delhi High Court lawyer.

Major BRICS countries have a similar story to tell.

Like India, Brazil also has too many forums in their judicial set-up, which complicates the judicial proceedings. A Yale University research on the performance of courts around world reveals that Brazil had 2,975 pending cases per judge in 1995-96.

According to a UN report, Russia had 19.9 judges per 100,000 population in 2010. In 2013, media reported that a leading European human rights body urged the Russian President to reform the country’s judicial system.

More Judges, More Accountability — And A Time Limit To Decide Cases

The current judge-to-population ratio is 10.5 per million population, although the 120th report by Law Commission of 1987 recommended a judge-to-population ratio of 50 per million population.

To make the judicial system more transparent and accountable, a time limit must be fixed for deciding cases, and accountability of judges is to be determined to complete the target within stipulated periods, said Dipak Das, associate professor of law, Hidayatullah National Law University.

This is the second of a three-part series. You can read the first part here.

This article was originally published on, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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