– Devika Kannan, Programme Officer
Should states worry about pending cases?
Yes, because that affects their public image and, therefore, investment.
Thirty million cases are pending in Indian courts, some for as long as 20 years. In 2000, the Eleventh Finance Commission set up fast track courts for a five-year period. But there were 3.89 million cases pending in these fast track courts even at the end of 2005. To dispose of these cases, an extension was given until March 2011. The central government did not transfer any funds to these courts after that date. The courts disposed of 3.23 million cases; the rest are still pending. This is the story of pending cases and the judiciary in India. But the performance of the judiciary differs between regions; for example, one million cases were pending in the Allahabad High Court in 2012 but 470,000 in the Madras High Court. One reason for the case load at the Allahabad High Court is that many judiciary positions are vacant there; fewer judges lead to slower delivery of services.
Why should states care about the functioning of their judiciary? A rise in the number of pending cases is a sign of a growth in the number of disputes (which includes industrial disputes) and of the inefficiency of the state judiciary; and reduces public confidence in the governance system. The authors of the book The Paradox of the North-South Divide: Lessons from the States and Regions feel that attracting investors and other development actors to invest in development becomes difficult. Cases in point are Tamil Nadu, which received only 3.9% of the total FDI into the country in 2011-12, and Uttar Pradesh, which received even less (0.4%). As a result, the per capita income was INR 17,129 in Uttar Pradesh, much less than that in Tamil Nadu (INR 53507; net state domestic product at constant prices for 2010-11).