Court Data

Cases at Admission Stage Make up 72% of Pending Cases at the SC

Does the Supreme Court’s real pendency challenge arise from cases at admission stage?

As 2021 ended, there were a shocking 70,000 cases pending before the Supreme Court. The issue of pendency of cases seems to only be growing. When these cases are broken down by the stage at which they are pending, cases at the admission stage make up 72% of the problem. In this post we look at how many of those cases are stuck at the admission stage and how many have proceeded to the regular stage.

When a case is first filed at the Supreme Court, it is heard at the ‘admissions’ stage. If the Court finds that the case involves a substantial question of law the case advances to the ‘regular’ hearing stage. At the regular hearing stage, the Court hears arguments from both parties and delivers a decision based on the merits of the case. 

While the Court may list cases for admission on any day, Mondays and Fridays are exclusively reserved as ‘Miscellaneous days’. Benches of two or three Judges hear up to 45 fresh cases for admission where they decide which cases may proceed to the ‘regular’ hearing stage.

Figure 1 shows the number of pending cases at the admission stage and regular stage in each month of 2021. At the end* of 2021, the Court has 4,46,376 cases pending admission hearings. In contrast, 1,68,572 cases are at the regular hearing stage.

A five-year analysis shows us that only 11% of cases at the admission stage get admitted. This means that a sizable portion of the Court’s time is spent on cases that do not get admitted, and it is left with little time for regular matters that require the Court’s attention. 

Even though few cases at the admission stage get taken forward to regular hearings, it appears that to make a significant dent in the number of pending cases the SC will have to swiftly clear the less important cases at the admission stage. However, a fast growing number of cases filed at the SC ultimately ensures that the Court still has a daunting pendency issue to address.