At present, India has an actual strength of 15,608 judges, which is one of the largest in the world. Despite this fact, the number of judges available per capita of the population is abysmally low.
The Law commission, the parliamentary committee and Supreme court has suggested that Judge-population ratio must be around 50 judges per one million people(this is once again lesser than the international standards). But, the present Judges-population ratio remains as 13 judges per one million people. According to the National Court Management System Report(2012), although the number of judges appointed in the last three decades increased six-fold, the total number of cases freshly filed went up twelve-fold. It is estimated that the number of cases reaching courts would be around 15 crores in the next three decades which in turn require a total of 75,000 judges.
India continues to have lower number of judges because of the following reasons:
Judiciary is considered as a non-productive service:
Basic economics tells us that judiciary, police force and other administrative services are non-productive in nature. They are considered to enhance and be conducive for the efficient functioning of productive endeavours. Hence, the government always try to reduce the amount spent on the Judiciary and the other administrative mechanisms. India spends less than 0.5 percent of its budget on judiciary. While, United States spends less than 1 percent of its budget for the same.
Fallacy of Supply Side Solutions:
It is usual for people to draw conclusions that the backlogs in judiciary is due to understaff or underfunded court system. However, it is quite not true. According to an analysis by Hazra and Micevska (2004), the number of judges may be important but it is hardly the only cause of deficiencies*. This is in line with another significant report by Hammergren(2002) which studied the impact of traditional institutional remedies, such as increasing the number of judges, in Lain America and concluded that it has NOT resulted in any miracles but has often worsened the situation. The real reason is the raise in the demand for litigation. This might be due to lack of reliable bargaining facilities between two strangers outside the courts in the market, and inadequate doctrines governing the law and legal entitlements which results in ambiguity and are consequently disputed.
The same goes true with Indian Judiciary as well. The problem of pendency of cases and under trails is not only due to the inadequate judges but it is mostly owing to the slowness of our judicial system, the complete absence of accountability in judiciary (the RTI act does not include the judges and to file a case against a judge for corruption on has to obtain the permission of the Chief Justice of India, which is tedious and impractical), the presence of too much of laws which are stale and obsolete, the greater number of regulations, procedures and amendments (too many laws, rules and amendments would force a judge to spend considerable time to understand and interpret the intention of the statute in line with the contention or dispute in the case at hand). And the number of ways a person can appeal against a given judgement, and the absence of any time ceiling to finish up a case (Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of Reserve Bank of India, recently noted that India is slipping into “Appellate Raj”, after getting out of the “License Raj”. See:).
Keeping in view of the above said problems, there are some good reforms which are brought by various governments over time on the structural side of the judicial mechanism, such as simplifying the court procedures, scraping old laws and statues, adoption of Alternate Dispute Resolution(ADR) mechanisms like opening up more Fast Track Courts and Special courts etc, trying to make use of Information Technology to bring in transparency and to study the case flow, and certain other measures, like for instance, under Income Tax Act, 1961, there is a rule now which prohibits an appeal when the total amount of tax amount is less than a particular limit, say, Rs.10 lakhs. These reforms are done besides increasing the number of judges and have consistently proven to be effective. Moreover, unless the demand for litigation is reduced, appointment of judges might turn fatal for it would only burden the exchequer without providing any results in the end.
Lack of commitment from politicians:
The most important reason for the lack of any substantive reform in judiciary is the lack of commitment from politicians. Whenever the necessity of increasing the number of judges is brought to the notice of our government, it has been sidelined or have remained unheeded because increasing the judges or bringing judicial reforms does not ring well in a politics driven by populist measures and it may not lead to winning votes. However, by bringing popular awareness on this issue, it could be resolved, for Indians are more and more expecting transparency and efficiency in the governance.
Lack of Funds:
The most usually cited reason is the lack of funds for the creation of new courts and for appointing new judges. Both the Centre and State governments are reluctant to spend for the reasons mentioned already above, and it is expected that unless 70% of the cost of judicial reforms are borne by the Centre, the cash-strapped States would remain reluctant (maintenance of courts, except Supreme court, is placed in the State List by Indian Constitution) for any bringing any new reforms and improvements.
*1. ‘Fallacy of Supply Side solution’ is explained in the Judicial impact assessment approach paper, a work of India Development Foundation.
See: Law Ministry Paper
2. Other data provided above are mined from the following links:
(This article has been published by me in Quora as well, as an answer to the question, “Indian Judiciary: Why the number of courts (per million people) in India are much less than international norms?”).