Costly Justice in Delhi

Indian courts are notorious for prolonging the legal battles. People who filled petitions in their young age of 30 are not alive today to hear the final pronouncement. It takes decades for the courts to arrive at a conclusion. By the time court decides the petitioner is not alive. Due to this inordinate delay few people have faith in the judiciary. Rape, murder, property misappropriation or arson not many people would like to lodge a police complaint and seek judicial recourse. They know very well the petitioner will be harassed endlessly without any justice coming in his or her life time. The immediate help for any justice to the crime committed is underworld and criminal gangs. The instant revenge and justice are vented by these gangsters who are fully time involved in killing. If the situation is allowed to continue the judicial and police systems will lose its relevance permanently.


According to The Times of India report (11.2.2009, p.1 & 7), 3,32,141 cases came up before the Delhi High Court in 2007-08. Each of these cases received five minutes of hearing (4 minutes, 55 seconds to be precise) and each minute of the court’s time cost a staggering Rs.6,327 to the state exchequer. Even adjournements without hearing don’t come cheap. All listed cases cost the court Rs.1,300 (on average), even if many got adjourned. The report released by Chief Justice A.P. Shah, claims HC disposed of 56,612 cases, including 47,017 filled in that year alone.


While clearing 56,612 cases, Delhi High Court worked with 32 judges, much below its sanctioned strength of 48, Chief Justice A.P. Shah said. While pointing to the “Crushing load” on the courts, the Chief Justice said at present rate of disposal, it would take 466 years for the high court to clear its backlog of cases entirely. He, however said “we have been able to reduce the cases of arrears from 79,818 in 2007 to 74,599 in 2008”.


The report adds that the rate of disposal of criminal cases in the year worked out to be 0.5 case per day. While such “working ours” analyses are done every year for bodies like Parliament and state legislatures, this is perhaps the first time a judicial body has come up with its figure.


Case study

No of cases listed before HC 332,141

Total expenditure incurred Rs. 42,45,47,490

No of cases dealt on a single day 64

Total number of working days 213

Time available for one hearing 4 min 55 sec

Cost incurred for one minute of a hearing 6,327

Average number of benches during ’07-08 24(8 division & 16 single)


The time and money spent have been worked out excluding “matters handled during  summer vacation (June) and on three working Saturdays during 2007-08”. In order to calculate the time judges gave for each hearing. HC factored in the total number of cases dealt by judges. Sitting as a single bench or division bench, in a day (64 cases on average) with the total time available for them to hold court (315 minutes).


The total expenditure incurred by the court last year was Rs.42.45 crore for 213 working days. “the average cost of listing each case before a judge worked out to Rs.1,297 and the average court expenditure per minute by the court was Rs.6,327 or Rs.19,93,180 for each working days.


The judiciary must ensure justice is dispensed atleast during the life time of the petitioner if not immediately. With multiple options available for reformation, courts should not delay further. Immediately it should implement all the suggested reforms. Decentralising and expanding the judiciary are two crucial steps. Above all the top leadership should have the requisite will to cleanse the system and make it functional.




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