80,221 cases pending in the Supreme Court in January 2024
The SC maintained its steady disposal rate in the first month of the new year, leading to a reduction in pendency numbers from December 2023
At the end of 2023, the Supreme Court was saddled with 80,439 pending cases. Yet, we didn’t report that story with a tone of resignation. There was hope, because the Court’s rate of disposal in recent times has been on a healthy trajectory. There was a sense that this momentum would carry on in the months to come.
Our hunch was correct, at least for January. The Court has managed to knock off another 218 cases from its pendency list. While this figure may not appear impressive at first glance, it needs to be looked at along with the number of fresh cases being filed every day.
In January 2024 alone, 1,966 cases were filed in the top court. It cleared 2,420 cases the same month.
We’ve pulled out these numbers from the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). The Virtual Justice Clock, launched by the Supreme Court in November 2022, also offers data on the institution and disposal of cases. The numbers however do not match. While the NJDG shows a total institution of 1966 cases, the Justice Clock shows that 4,974 cases were filed. Similarly, the NJDG shows that the Court cleared 2420 cases— far less than the Justice Clock’s claim that the Court cleared 5,750 cases. Persuaded by the Supreme Court’s press release from last month, where it said that the NJDG is “unparalleled as a single source of data”, we have considered the NJDG data as collected on 1 February, 9:40 AM in our assessment.
Increase in pendency lowest in five years
Despite the irregular datasets, it is clear that the Court has had a productive January, disposing of more cases than were filed.
Though pendency has increased this year, it’s only by 1,821 cases. In contrast, pendency had increased by over 8,000 cases from January 2022 to 2023. Before that, the Court was grappling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had impaired the Court’s functioning to a significant degree. The jump in the number of pending cases from January 2023 to 2024 is the lowest that the Court has seen in five years.
The Court worked for 20 days in January 2024. Based on the NJDG data, the Supreme Court cleared an average of 121 cases per day. With the appointment of Justice P.B. Varale on 25 January 2024, the Court has once again reached its full strength of 34 judges. February could be another productive month for the Court, especially since there are no public holidays.