Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, citing the pendency of 40 million cases in trial courts and several million cases in the high courts, on Friday said that a "pall of gloom settles" and it is a "hopeless situation".
In his address at a reception held by the Supreme Court Bar Association for Chief Justices of various high courts, he said that technological advancements adopted by the judiciary have enabled it to track the pendency of cases and added that an e-committee headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, is putting the entire data on the National Judicial Data Grid.
"When we see the result, a pall of gloom settles... you find that you are in a hopeless situation, a feeling of hopelessness starts developing."
He said there are 24,000 judges at the trial court level and over 600 judges at the high court level. "The arrears in the trial courts are 40 million cases. So far as the pendency in high courts is concerned -- 4.2 million civil cases, 1.6 million criminal cases," he said.
The event was attended by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, judges of the Supreme Court and members of the Bar.
Venugopal added that in trial courts, cases are pending for 30 years, and at the high court level cases are pending for 15 years, 10 years and so on. "Therefore, the question is with an average pendency of 8 years in the trial court, 8 years in the high court. How would you believe that the public has confidence in the justice delivery system," he asked.
He added that the top court judgments say access to justice is a fundamental right, but against whom the poor undertrial, who is detained for the same number of years as he would have been punished, will enforce fundamental rights. "According to me it has to be against the government of India, the government of states as well as the judicial system itself," he added.
Citing pendency, the AG said this is the most pressing issue so far as the justice delivery system is concerned and the Chief Justices of the high courts would have to innovate and find reforms by which the entire arrears can be done away with.
The AG said there are 5,000 vacancies at the trial court level and some high courts are working with only 50 per cent judges. He added that the judges, governments, and lawyers have to work together to address this issue.
"76 percent of the inmates in jail are under trial and this is the highest in 25 years.. These are poor people who cannot even furnish bail and they rot in jail for years... something drastic has to be done. We have to all put our heads together to remedy this situation so that the justice delivery system can regain its position as an effective cure to the deep menace and disease which has crept into the system," he said.
Chief Justice Ramana said he fully endorses what AG has said.