Court Data

April 2024: Largest increase in pendency numbers so far this year

Fewer working days and two nine-judge benches in April meant that the Court closed the last full working month with a high pendency

April 2024 ended with 80,701 cases pending at the Supreme Court. This is an increase of 507 cases from March 2024 (80,194 pending cases), marking the biggest jump in pendency so far this year. With the Supreme Court’s summer vacation beginning 20 May and going on until 7 July, pendency is likely to go up further.

Figure 1 shows that the number of pending cases is slowly shooting up this year. In the first four months of the year, February was the only month which saw a drop in pendency numbers.

In April, two factors may have contributed to the relatively slower rate of case clearance—lesser working days and two nine-judge Constitution Bench cases.

The Court worked for 19 days in April, and cleared 4813 cases, coming up to 253 cases disposed per day. The number of working days has a direct connection with the disposal of pending cases. In January the Court had reduced the pendency figure by 218 cases from December with 20 working days. February was even more impressive—with 21 working days, the Court managed to reduce pendency by 763 cases. In March, the Court functioned for just 15 days which increased pendency by 428 cases. 

Out of the 19 working days in April , the Supreme Court heard nine-judge Constitution Bench cases for 10 days. This means that for 10 working days, 9 judges were completely occupied in a Constitution bench hearing with the other 25 judges tackling the day-to-day workload of the Court. Nine-judge Constitution Benches heard two cases over the span of these 10 days. For six days, the Court heard arguments on states’ power to regulate industrial alcohol. For four days, the Court heard a case filed in 1992 on whether a private property is a “material resource of the community under Article 39(b). Both are reserved for judgement. 

Further, Justice Aniruddha Bose retired on 10 April 2024, which means that the Court functioned with a strength of 33 Judges for 11 of the 19 working days. The Court was last functioning with 33 judges in January, before the appointment of Justice P.B. Varale. In February and March, the Court functioned at full capacity. 

Constitution Bench Pendency

In April 2024, the Supreme Court did not deliver judgements in any Constitution Bench cases. Figure 2 shows that 50 Constitution Bench cases remained pending at the end of April, with 463 connected matters. 35 five-judge Bench cases, eight seven-judge Bench cases and nine nine-judge Bench cases. 

April was the last full-functioning month before the Supreme Court’s 49-day vacation. There are only 13 working days in May. As evidenced in our 2023, 2022 and 2021 pendency studies, the pending cases figure shoots up dramatically in the vacation months. Though vacation benches are constituted, they are tasked with hearing urgent cases, and cannot clear cases at the rate a full-functioning Court does.  

When the Supreme Court was on summer vacation in June 2023, pendency reached that year’s highest figure of 81,509 cases. In June 2022, there were 72,062 pending cases, also the highest figure of that year. When the Court returned from vacation in 2021, pendency stood at 69,212 cases.