Consultation Paper on the Supreme Court’s Burgeoning Backlog

Reports by Judicial Reform · October 1, 2015
Author(s): Alok Prasanna, Ameen Jauhar and Faiza Rahman

The Supreme Court of India is intended to be Constitutional Court for India tasked with, inter alia, the interpretation of the Constitution, protecting fundamental rights of citizens, and adjudication of Centre-State and inter-State disputes. It is also the apex appellate Court exercising special leave jurisdiction over all the courts in India.

However, there is a growing sense that the Supreme Court’s appellate workload has expanded to such proportions that it is no longer able to fulfill its constitutional functions effectively. Despite having a working strength of between 25-30 judges, the backlog of cases has been on a steady increase over the last decade and currently stands at 61,500 as per latest figures put out by the Court. This can also be attributed to the record number of new cases being filed in each year, with 2014 seeing 71500 new cases being filed. Unless measures are taken, the Supreme Court’s backlog could become unmanageable and delays ever more intractable.

In addition, the issue of accessibility is also one which has been raised by litigants and lawyers across the country. Located in Delhi, approaching the Supreme Court as a remedy seems to be deterring many litigants across the country as seen in the skew in the origin of cases from the High Courts geographically closest to the Supreme Court.

Keeping in view these problems, we have tried to empirically assess the functioning of the Supreme Court to see if the data bears out the issues that have been raised.

This Consultation paper, we hope, is the start of a larger process of judicial reform that will examine the Supreme Court’s functioning and result in the necessary changes that will allow the Supreme Court to carry out its intended constitutional role in a coherent manner and is accessible to litigants across the country.

Download the full Consultation Paper on the Supreme Court’s Burgeoning Backlog


About Alok Prasanna:

Alok Prasanna Kumar is Senior Resident Fellow and Team Lead, Vidhi Karnataka. His areas of research include Judicial Reforms, Constitutional law, Urban Development, and Law and Technology. He graduated with a B.A. LL.B. (Hons) from the NALSAR University in 2008 and obtained the BCL from the University of Oxford in 2009. He writes a monthly column for the Economic and Political Weekly and has published in the Indian Journal of Constitutional Law and National Law School of India Review apart from media outlets such as The Hindu, Indian Express, Scroll, Quint and Caravan. He has practiced in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court from the chambers of Mr Mohan Parasaran, and currently also co-hosts the Ganatantra podcast on IVM Podcasts.


About Ameen Jauhar:

Ameen is a Senior Resident Fellow at Vidhi, and is leading advocacy for the JALDI mission, which is a collaboration between Vidhi and Tata Trust. His work at Vidhi deals with judicial reforms and access to justice issues in India. Ameen is interested in furthering evidence-based policy, following which he recently completed his master’s programme from the Institute of Education (University College London), focusing on the use of research evidence in policy processes, and was awarded an MSc. with an overall distinction. Before this, he completed his undergraduate legal studies from the W.B. National University of Juridical Sciences [B.A. LL.B. (Hons.)] in 2012. Prior to Vidhi, Ameen worked at J. Sagar Associates, in the firm’s regulatory and policy team. He has practised in the Supreme Court of India, the Delhi High Court, and numerous tribunals. Link to full bio


About Faiza Rahman: