6% increase in pendency under CJI Gogoi
After Ranjan Gogoi was appointed as Chief Justice there was a statistical increase in pendency of matters before the Court.
When former Ranjan Gogoi CJI was appointed as Chief Justice in October 2018, he repeatedly emphasised that one of his main aims would be to increase the administrative efficiency of the judiciary. Symbolically, he even took suo motu cognizance of judicial vacancies in the lower courts. An expectation that followed was that Gogoi CJI would prioritise reducing the Supreme Court’s massive backlog of cases – its “pendency”.
He affirmed his commitment to reducing pendency in February 2019, when he had the Registrar discontinue the practice of accepting fresh cases that are missing relevant documents or annexures. Roughly 20% of cases pending before the court are non-hearable. Rejecting cases that lack relevant documents is one way to chip away at this non-hearable bucket. On March 26th 2019, Gogoi CJI even summoned litigants in 750 non-hearable cases and warned them that he would dismiss their cases en-masse, if they failed to immediately clear defects.
So, has CJI Gogoi successfully reduced the Supreme Court’s pendency? Unfortunately, pendency during Gogoi CJI’s tenure has increased from 56,320 cases to 59,867 cases – roughly a 6% increase. This is not to conclude that the administrative changes he has brought about have had no effect on pendency. This would be very difficult to measure. Changes in pendency are determined by changes in institution and disposal rates (see 245th Indian Law Commission Report). These in turn are effected by a wide range of factors, such as the interests of parties and their capacity to litigate. As such, it is difficult to measure the effect of administrative changes on pendency. Therefore, it is important to emphasise that this 6% increase in pendency may have little to do with Gogoi CJI’s actions.
As Figure 1 illustrates, pendency increased every month during Gogoi CJI’s tenure, except for between January and February, and June and July. The largest increase happened between April and June, where pendency went up from 56,168 to 59,695 cases in just two months. Towards the end of Gogoi CJI’s tenure, growth in pendency flattened out, increasing only by roughly 200 cases after August.
It is important to understand this increase in pendency in the context of more long-term changes. We see that over the past decade (see Figure 2), pendency has been relatively stable, fluctuating roughly between 55,000 and 65,000 cases. Hence, given that at the start of Gogoi CJI’s tenure, pendency was nearing a 56,000 low, it is not surprising to see that it has begun another growth cycle.
Institution represents the number of new cases filed for a given time period. Disposal represents the number of cases disposed of for a given time period.
Read more about pendency, institution and disposal here.