This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Yashasvini Mathur. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why Do Indian Courts Take So Long To Deliver Justice?

More from Yashasvini Mathur

The Indian justice system is one of the most important pillars of the Indian democracy. But for all its power, it remains erratic, under-staffed and above all slow. The result – prominent cases such as the 1984 Sikh riots still await a final decision with many of the accused and those seeking justice having died in the long 32-year wait. The direness of the situation can be gauged from that particularly embarrassing episode last year when ex-Chief Justice T.S. Thakur broke down in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pleading for more resources to deal with the overwhelming resource crunch. That old saying, justice delayed is justice denied, sadly holds true for India.

The Indian Judicial System follows a three-tier system – the lower courts, the state High Courts and the Supreme Court, India’s highest constitutional court. All three systems, currently face many challenges.

Why Do Courts Take So Long To Deliver Justice?

Securing justice is riddled with difficulties from the very start for the ordinary Indian. The procedural difficulties one faces in getting their case heard is a big contributor to the chaos in the system. From getting an FIR registered to going to a lower court which takes its own time to decide cases and maybe even the High Court or Supreme Court in case of dissatisfaction, means a case can take years to decide. Add to this the huge number of vacancies existing in the Courts, and the situation gets truly distressing.

According to official figures, there are more than 27 million legal cases pending in various courts in India, 6 million of which have been stuck in courts for 5 years or more. To manage this caseload, India has only 16,000 courtrooms and barely enough judges to preside over and carry out hearings. The Supreme Court is currently short of five judges with two due to retire in March 2017. 24 High Courts currently have 464 vacant posts for judges. In subordinate courts, this number is as high as 4,166. There is one judge for every 73,000 people in India, seven times worse than the United States. “If the nation’s judges attacked their backlog nonstop—with no breaks for eating or sleeping—and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up,” Bloomberg Businessweek had calculated.

This, even when the Law Commission of India, had recommended a fivefold increase in the number of judges in Indian courts as far back as 1987. This gaping hole in the vacancies not only creates inordinate delays in getting justice but has brought the entire system to the brink of collapse and repeatedly contributed to what can be rightfully called ‘miscarriage of justice’.

The lack of manpower in the lower judiciary, aka the sessions court, is particularly problematic since a major chunk of pending cases is lying in the subordinate courts. While the wheels of judicial reform through the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act did spin in terms of a new system of recruitment of judges, it got stayed through a court order that is yet to take off again.

The deeper malaise, though, lies not just in the corruption in the system or the quality of workforce but the amount of resources the government earmarks for spending on judiciary. For the 2016 budget, only 0.2% of the budget was dedicated to the law ministry – one of the lowest allocations given to a law ministry in the world. In comparison to India, the United Kingdom allocates up to 1.4% of its budget and USA a whopping 4.3%.

What Can Be Done About It?

To draw the system out of slumber, we need drastic and imaginative steps. Some of them could be:

1. Setting up fast-track courts and benches to speed up pending cases.

2. Implementing a strong reprimand for bringing up flippant cases – This will not only ensure that the cases that come to the lower courts are valid but also those which can be worked on quickly. Moves such as the Supreme Court imposing fines for frivolous cases are a welcome step towards warding off unwanted petitions.

3. A plan to increase the strength of the judiciary fivefold by expanding recruitments on all levels and ensuring proper training and surveillance of new appointees.

4. Keeping the courts open 365 days a year. This, of course, is a long-term goal but one that needs to be seriously pondered upon.

5. Modernisation of courts. When everything is being modernised, why should courts be left behind? Our courts should be fully digitised and technical experts should be brought in to streamline the whole process right from when a person files a case, to updating it, to the final verdict. Using editors to simplify technically dense final judgements could also be another step.

6. Ensure stalling tactics are strongly reprimanded. There is no great mystery to this modus operandi which not only piles up work in the court but also sadly is a reason for the rampant corruption present in the judiciary today. A panel which addresses this problem and gives out remedies is the need of the hour.

7. Revision of old laws and regulations. More than a thousand of India’s laws date back to the British Raj, some of which are mere loopholes in the workings of the court and thus must be done away with in order to ensure that justice can be served quickly and effectively.

The mess in the justice system only ends up harming the interests of the nation. That is why it becomes even more important for the government to solve this crisis. The success of Indian democracy, eventually, depends on this crucial intervention.

Yashasvini Mathur is an intern with Youth Ki Awaaz for the batch of February-March 2017.

You must be to comment.
  1. Rajath K Rajeev

    Terrorism and all the vices of the society are instant, why shouldn’t justice be so? You’re absolutely right, Yashasvini Mathur!

  2. Surajit Roy

    I think the justice delivery system in our country (the courts and the police) have been purposely kept handicapped by our New Maharajas (the political elite). That way, it can be used as a weapon when needed, in the form of multiple criminal cases in various courts across the country, or cases which were in the ‘cold storage’ for long suddenly coming to life when a political opponent suddenly becomes too smart!

    Our laws are copied or just continued from the British system, where the British were doing Raj over us. So our new maharajas want to continue that raj, they want to be our ‘mai-baap’. I’m not an expert in law, but I believe there’s a law where 5 or more people assembled in a public place can be arrested, just like that!

    It is very surprising that in a country filled with brilliant legal minds like Jethmalani and Soli Sorabjee, no one came forward in the last 70 years to bring about any change in our legal systems!

    I guess it’s a win-win situation for the political class: slow justice -> people look for parallel justice system -> local goondas/ corprators/ ‘social workers’ get the job done for you -> gives rise to a new set of ‘leaders’ -> that’s the reason why we have so many criminal background wallas as our mantris -> ‘mai-baap tradition continues! Also the reason why govt does not want to punish rape very stringently – many of the ‘mananiya sansads’ (honourable parliamentarians) have rape cases pending against them!

    The solutions proposed by you are spot on! But expecting our ‘mai-baap’ governments to proactively work on them is a pipe-dream! The people have to wake up and hit the streets and demand action! That’s when something might happen.

    1. Mayank Kumar

      You have provided a very rarely seen angle to why our justice system is reluctant to speed

  3. Tec Creators

    I’m just a kid in front of the law, but what I see when I look through my eyes, is that everybody thinks the law can give justice but, from my point of view they are not. It may be because of corruption or inefficiency or something like lack of support from others for our judicial system, I don’t know. but, it’s not providing us the security and justice that we should get.
    When India is trying to secure its boundary and fly up to the moon, she is not caring about the problems happening inside. We need to think out of the box, we need to bring a change, a Revolution, which can enhance the efficiency of judiciary and peace in our nation.


  4. Jose Thomas

    is it possible for me to file a case to claim loss of revenue due to the dysfunctional court system. or just claim the loss of revenue from plaintiff when the case is baseless and political

More from Yashasvini Mathur

Similar Posts

By Mayank Aswal

By Krishna Singh

By Nivedita Moitra

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        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.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below