Quantifying the effect of COVID-19 on the SC
This post quantifies the effect of COVID-19 on the workings of the Supreme Court.
This is a follow up to last month’s post on the swine flu outbreak
Since 16 March, the Supreme Court has been operating at a reduced capacity to mitigate against the spread of COVID-19. First, it restricted access to court rooms. Then, over the course of March and early April, it gradually introduced more and more restrictions, such as partially closing the Registry, only hearing extremely urgent cases and making use of video conferencing. Restrictions appear to be easing now, with the Court on 18 April announcing that it would hear more types of cases.
What effect has the virus had on the court’s ability to deliver orders and judgments in cases?
In the months of March and April, the Court has delivered drastically fewer orders than it has in previous years (in the same months). This is especially true of April, where the Court only delivered 355 orders (as of 28 April). By contrast, in 2018 and 2019, the Court delivered 10,586 and 12,084 orders in April respectively. These reduced numbers are reflective of the fact that the Court has only been hearing ‘extremely urgent cases’, to prevent the spread of the virus.
The story for judgment delivery is slightly different. While the Court delivered a significantly reduced number of judgments in April (compared to previous years’ Aprils), it kept up in March. This year, it delivered 88 judgments in March, which is the same number of judgments it delivered in March 2018. Considering that the Court this year also experienced a swine flu outbreak in early March, this is very impressive. One possible explanation for this high output may be that the Court primarily delivers judgments in cases whose hearings concluded a few months prior.
It will be interesting to see whether the outbreak will have any significant effect on pendency in 2020 – i.e. the total number of pending cases. While the court has heard fewer cases, leading to fewer disposals, it has also likely instituted fewer cases. Due to the lockdown, litigants and advocates may have found it more difficult to file cases. We’ll have to wait for next year’s annual administrative report, which will have detailed monthly data on pendency, institution and disposal.
Method for obtaining data:
- Orders: go to main.sci.gov.in/daily-order – search for orders by ‘ROP Date’ – select target date range (note: the website may have trouble with date ranges greater than 15 days)
- Judgments: go to main.sci.gov.in/judgments – search for judgments by ‘Judgment Date’ – select target date range (note: the website may have trouble with date ranges greater than 31 days)