Over 400 High Court judge posts vacant, 56 lakh pending cases: Law Ministry

The Law Ministry, while responding to several questions on pendency of cases and vacancies at courts painted a stark picture of an overburdened and under-staffed judiciary

law ministry

On February 3, Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Veena Devi from Vaishali, Bihar, questioned the Ministry of Law and Justice on fast track courts (FTC) in Bihar and the funds released for the same. Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Law Minister, in his written response stated that as per Patna High Court, there are 33 FTCs in the state and the funds released by the state for FTCs has varied over the years. However, compared to 2018-19 whereby Rs. 18.5 crores was released, in 2019-20, a lower amount of Rs. 11.56 crores was released. This could be owing to the allocation made by the state dropping considerably from Rs. 67. 6 crores in 2018-19 to Rs. 40 crores in the following year.

Further, the Law Minister was questioned on pending cases at high court and district level, as well as, about the government’s plan on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) and about the action in terms of vacancies in post of judges.

The Ministry responded that a Committee under the Chairmanship of Justice A. K. Sikri, has placed the first draft of the report for facilitating ODR. Under the e-courts mission, the number of computerised District & Subordinate courts has gone up from 13,672, in 2014 to 18,735 as of January 2021.

It further states that Video Conferencing facility has been enabled between 3,240 court complexes and 1,272 corresponding jails. Further, to try traffic offences, 9 virtual courts have been set up across the country; 2 at Delhi, rest at Faridabad, Pune, Nagpur, Kochi, Chennai, Guwahati and Bengaluru.

To fast track criminal cases involving elected MPs / MLAs, ten (10) Special Courts are functional in nine States/UTs (1 each in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and 2 in NCT of Delhi).

Nationally, there are 609 FTCs out of which 331 are POCSO courts.

Pendency of cases

Pendency of cases in High Courts has increased from over 45 lakh in January 2020 to over 56 lakh pending cases as of January 2021 which is roughly a 25% increase in pendency. This mounting pendency of cases is an expected outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic during which courts had practically shut down, taking up only a handful of “urgent” cases for hearing and restricted to only virtual hearings, making access to justice impossible for the public at large.

As of January 2021, Allahabad High Court has the highest pendency of over 7.7 lakh cases.

At the subordinate courts level, the pendency has gone up from 3.1 cr in January 2020 up to 3.7 cr as of January 2021, with lower courts in Uttar Pradesh having the highest pendency of over 86 lakhs followed by Maharashtra with over 45 lakh pending cases.


The sanctioned strength of judges District and Subordinate Courts is 24,247 and out of these, 4,929 remain vacant.

In another response to a question raised by Vinayak Raut and Rekha Verma, specific to Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, the Ministry stated that in lower courts in Maharashtra, the vacancy of judges stands at 292 while in UP there are 1,046 vacancies.

The strength of Supreme Court judges was increased from 30 to 33 in August 2019 and still 4 of these remain vacant. Further, the sanctioned strength of High Court judges is 1080 and currently there are 418 vacant judges post at high court level. When you compare the vacancies to the number of pending cases, one wonders what is the reason for delay in filling up these posts when clearly the need to elevate judges to high courts is quite dire.

The Ministry states that “Filling up of vacancies in the High Courts is a continuous, integrated and collaborative process between the Executive and the Judiciary. It requires consultation and approval from various constitutional authorities both at state and central level. Hence, the time for filling up of vacancies of the Judges in the higher Judiciary cannot be indicated.”

As per data provided by the Law Ministry, between 2018 and 2020, High Court Collegiums made 505 recommendations, out of which 177 were appointed as recommended by Supreme Court Collegium. 134 of these names were rejected by SCC and the remaining 194 proposals are still under consideration by government as well as SCC.

The answers may be read here

Fast Track Courts

Vacancies of Judges in Supreme Court and High Court

Appointment of Additional Judges

Pending Criminal and Civil Cases

Pending Court Cases



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