There have been Chief Justices in India who have given us rhetorical speeches and there are who have been silent but for the person holding the apex position to leap forward beyond the designated shackles of the aura of that office and to almost shed tears in front of the PM of India points out the extremes of the Judicial inefficiency we have attained and how much urgently we need to revisit the whole foundation of Judiciary to know both in the parameters of quantity and quality, the situation of judges in the third and in the light of judicial activism perhaps most reliable voice of all of us.

In the month of May, 2016 Chief Justice of India expressed his deep concern through these words “He referred how the Law Commission in 1987 had recommended 40,000 judges in the country to tide over the problem of pendency of that time. Its report had said that there were only 10 judges to a million populations when there should be at least 50 judges per 10 lakh population.

Noting that population has increased by over 25 crore since 1987, Chief Justice Thakur said the only solution to this extraordinary situation was to bring back proven judges from retirement in a bid to dispose of cases which are more than five years old. ’’[1]

The data relied upon by Hon’ble T S Thakur can be founded in the landmark case of All India Association v Union of India [2] in which  Apex Court expressed its desire that the number of judges be increased in a phased manner in 5 years so as to raise the Judge-Population ratio to 50 per million. This case founds its support in the report published by Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice by Justice V.S.Malimath.[3]

In another landmark case, P Ramachandra Rao v State of Karnataka[4] in Para 11 court clearly mentions that “The root cause for delay in dispensation is poor judge-population ratio”

Going further the judges sternly says that “Touch of sad sarcasm is difficult to hide when the Law Commission observed (in its 120th Report, ibid) that adequate reorganisation of the Indian judiciary is at the one and at the same time everybody’s concern and, therefore, nobody’s concern.”

Law Commission in its 125th report relied upon P Ramachandra  Rao v State of Karnataka to raise the issue of judge-population ratio in India.[5]

While definitely concerns have been raised by Law Commission as back as 1987 when they noted the low Indian ratio of 10.5 judges per million people and recommended increasing it to 50 with immediate effect and to over 100 by 2000[6] , none significance steps have been taken. Law Commission’s recommendation was reiterated by a Parliamentary Standing Committee in February 2002 when it stated that a low judge-population ratio have caused a formidable accumulation of cases and inordinate delays in the dispensation of justice. [7]

But worry starts when India’s judge to population ratio is still significantly lower compared to developed economies [8] and has the lowest number of judges among the major democracies of the world.[9]

In another committee, Committee on empowerment of Women stated in 2013 that “There are about 13 judges for every one million population. This is against an average of 50 judges per one million population in developed countries and 35-40 in some other developing countries…in the High Courts, there are 895 permanent judges, whereas the actual strength is less than 700. [10]

The number of judges per million of population is 10.5 judges per million.[11]

In a question put which was put forward in Lok Sabha on 14.7.2014, judge/judicial officers population ratio was stated as 16.8 Judges per million population.[12]

While data’s pertaining the issue we are involved with are definitely depressing, a ray of hope rises when Alok Prasanna Kumar argues that the nonetheless of the existing low-judge-population ratio our judges are disposing of the number of judges in the proportion of the cases which are being filed in court. So, the focus perhaps should be  on disposing back-log cases. For instance, between July 2014 and July 2015, with a working strength of between 15,500 and 15,600 judges, the subordinate courts in India disposed of about 18,730,046 cases as against 18,625,038 cases which were filed in the same period — just a little more than the number of cases filed.[13]

While courts have resorted to mediation and conciliation proceedings, setting up of tribunals and temporary courts, the amount of cases pending are increasing and one can resort to bringing retired judges to deal with them.

While arguments are definitely in favour of increasing the judge-population ratio but one cannot completely be in ignorance of the criticism which judiciary itself will face pertaining the credibility driving such high rate of disposal of cases. Undoubtedly we need more judges but simultaneously also maintaining the loyalty which Judiciary has shown to Constitution of India.

If one moves beyond the border of India, then following are the data’s showing their judge-population [14]

Country Judges per million
Australia 41
Canada 75
England 51
USA 107

These datas have been innumerably cited in various reports and analysis but if we take a fresh perspective then we must understand Singapore who being among the countries with the fewest judges per 100,000 capita (0.64) has one of the highest clearances rates of all the surveys countries (94 %) or how judge-population ratio across countries have been decreasing only but in country like Germany it has not been a cause of delayed justice.[15]

Indeed India’s muddles are significantly different considering our complex variations and increasing politicization of Judiciary but these reasons however strong must not deter us from paving the path of a more efficient and independent judiciary reaffirming the faith of people in the second largest Democracy of the world.

By: Neha Panchpal


[1]Krishnadas Rajgopal, CJI made emotional appeal to Modi to protect Judiciary (last visited on 4 July 2016)

[2] (2002) 4 SCC 247

[3] (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[4] (2002) 4 SCC 578

[5] (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[6] (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[7] The law and delays, V Venkatasan, last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[8] (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[9] accessed on 4 July 2016)

[10] (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[11] R.C. Lahoti : Envisioning Justice in the “21st Century” 2004(7) SCC Journal p 13

[12] (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[13]Alok Prasanna Kumar,Growing Backlog:How many Judges does India really need? (last accessed on 14 July 2016)

[14] C.J. Bharucha: Speech Delivered in Kerala organized by the Bar Council of India and Bar Council of Kerala Published in India Bar Review Vol XX VIII (4) 2001 p 2 (last accessed on 4 July 2016)

[15]  Maria Dakolias, Court Performance Around the world: A Comparative Perspective, (last accessed on 4 July 2016)