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5 Reasons Why There Are Nearly 3 Crore Pending Cases In Indian Courts

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By Amrita Singh:

A view of the Indian Supreme Court building is seen in New Delhi December 7, 2010. The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the appointment of the country's top anti-corruption official, local media and a lawyer said, in a victory for the opposition and another blow for an embattled government that has become mired in corruption charges. REUTERS/B Mathur (INDIA - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTXVHUX
Image credit: Reuters/B Mathur.

CJI T.S. Thakur’s emotional address to the public brought the paucity of judges into focus last month. We have about 13 judges per one million people in our country where the ideal requirement is 50 per million. But this isn’t the first time this issue is surfacing, in 1987 too, the Law Commission had recommended increasing the number of judges from 10 judges per one million people then to 50. The result of not taking the issue up in due time has resulted in over three crore cases being pending in court.

Power Battle Between The Executive And Judiciary

The process of selection of judges has been a bone of contention between the executive and the judiciary since last year. To decide the new Memorandum of Procedure, appointment of new judges was adjourned for a year. The proposed MoP which gave the Centre the power to reject any name on the ground of national security, was consequently shot down by the SC. Consequently, the disposal rate of High Courts and Subordinate Courts decreased over the past year. To end the stalemate, it was decided to follow the old procedure of selection for immediate relief wherein the collegium selected the name and sent it to the IB for vetting.

At the event, the CJI said, “If you have 170 names sent to you (for appointment of HC judges) for two months, I don’t understand why they are held up, where are those proposals stuck, we should know… Why should the Intelligence Bureau take months to send its report (on judges’ appointment)? Why can’t the Prime Minister’s Office ask the IB to send its report within 15 days?” It’s only after the IB vets and approves the collegium’s recommendations that the list reaches the Centre for a final approval. One aspect which is getting ignored is that only 170 names were provided as opposed to the need of 462 judges.

Other Contributing Factors

Increasing literacy

Albeit at a slow pace, the number of cases being filed every year is increasing. An interesting reason for the same, apart from depleting moral conscience, is increased awareness, with increased literacy. Kerala, for example, gets 28 new cases per 1,000 people. It has a literacy rate of over 90%. Jharkhand, which has a literacy rate of around 53%, gets four cases per 1,000.

Lower Courts

According to the National Judicial Data Grid website as on December 31, 2015, 2.6 crore cases are pending only in lower courts of which 41.38% cases have been pending for less than two years and 10.83% have been pending for over 10 years. This is a resultant of rampant “bribes for bail” and postponing dates, so much so that former Chief Justice of India V.N. Khare said in an interview, “Judges are only human, like us. They come from the same society. Our society is all about quick successes. Short cuts are taken. Even by the judges.”

Indian government – the largest litigant

Another interesting aspect is that the government is the largest litigant in India, responsible for nearly half the pending cases. Many of them are actually cases of one department of the government suing another, leaving decision-making to the courts.

Fast Track Courts

graph_3
Source: Factly.in.

Fast Track Courts was the first implemented and successful solution to the problem. Out of 36 lakh cases that were transferred to the FTCs, close to 30.7 lakh have been disposed of.

graph_2
Source: Factly.in.

Fast Track Courts were started in 2005 but in 2011, the Centre cut off funding and made it the State’s responsibility to fund the FTCs out of their own budgets. Since then 60% of these courts have shut down even though the programme only requires approximately 0.1% of the state budget.

Increasing budget allocation, setting up E-courts and fast track courts can escalate the process of clearing out pending cases. Judicial infrastructure needs to be given equal importance as well because even if the 20,502 posts of judges in the subordinate judiciary are filled, we’ll need almost 4000 extra courtrooms to accommodate them. Retired judges have been appointed in High Courts on an ad hoc basis under Article 224-A of the Constitution.

To conclude, one must keep in mind that there are multiple factors that have contributed to judicial pendency, and one can’t simply blame one party for it. As quality and quantity always go hand in hand, the problem isn’t restricted to pendency, it extends to the judiciary not being able to give time to each individual case in order to achieve swift disposal. One silver lining is that even though the backlog seems insurmountable right now, the pendency rate isn’t increasing, it’s constant. So even if minute measures are taken, disposal of the backlog can accelerate easily. Hopefully, due to increased discourse on the topic, significant measures will be taken soon and we will never have to taunt the system with ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ again.

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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