Except for Delhi and Chandigarh, no State or Union Territory devotes more than one per cent of its total annual expenditure to the judiciary.
Karnataka tops the list of States and Union Territories in providing access to justice and three other southern States figure among the best five, according to the India Justice Report 2022.
The IJR, which was released in New Delhi on April 4, said except for Delhi and Chandigarh, no State or Union territory devotes more than one per cent of its total annual expenditure to the judiciary; and the vacancy of judges in High Courts stands at 30 per cent.
The IJR, an initiative of the Tata Trusts launched in 2019, said as of December 2022, the country had 19 judges for every 10 lakh people and a backlog of 4.8 crore cases. The Law Commission had suggested, as early as in 1987, that there should be 50 judges for every 10 lakh people in a decade’s time.
The statistics were shared in the IJR, which ranked States and UTs on various parameters such as vacancies in the judiciary, budgetary allocations, infrastructure, human resources, legal aid, condition of prisons, functioning of police, and State human rights commissions. The Tata Trusts website describes IJR as a “unique initiative” that “ranks individual Indian States in relation to their capacity to deliver access to justice”.
Key issues facing system
Karnataka topped the charts among 18 large and mid-sizes States having a population of over 1 crore each, and was followed by Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh. The list of seven small States, having a population of less than 1 crore each, was headed by Sikkim, followed by Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.
“The justice system as a whole remains affected by low budgets. Except for two union territories, Delhi and Chandigarh, no State spends more than 1 per cent of its total annual expenditure on the judiciary.
“Vacancy is an issue across the police, prison staff, legal aid, and judiciary. For 1.4 billion (140 crore) people, India has about 20,076 judges, with about 22 per cent sanctioned posts vacant. Vacancy among High Court judges is at 30 per cent.”
“In the police, women are only about 11.75 per cent, despite their numbers doubling in the last decade. About 29 per cent of the officer positions are vacant. The police to population ratio is 152.8 per lakh. The international standard is 222,” the report said.
It said prisons are over-occupied at over 130 per cent and more than two-thirds of the prisoners (77.1 per cent) are awaiting the completion of investigation or trial.
“About 30 per cent (391 prisons) record occupancy rates of above 150 per cent, and 54 per cent (709 prisons) run above 100 per cent capacity. With the exception of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, and Madhya Pradesh, the undertrial population of all States and Union Territories exceeds 60 per cent,” the report added.
The IJR said most of the States have not fully utilised the funds given to them by the Centre and their own increase in spending on the police, prisons, and the judiciary has not kept pace with the overall increase in State expenditure.
Justice Madan B. Lokur (retd) of the Supreme Court said: “The third IJR shows that States are making a substantive improvement over the last two ones in terms of adding new dimensions on diversity, training, and infrastructure. Some States have dramatically improved their performance but there is a lot that needs to be done on the whole.”
“So far as the police is concerned there does appear to be a shortage of women officers in police. Legal aid is doing better but still a lot of people need to be provided quality free legal aid, we need to increase the confidence that people have in our services,” he added.
Maja Daruwala, Chief Editor of IJR 2022, said as a member of the comity of nations and, more importantly, as a commitment to itself, India has promised that by 2030 it will have ensured access to justice for all and built effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
“But the official statistics brought together in the IJR this year show that we still have a long way to go. I would again urge that the provision of affordable, efficient and accessible justice services to each one of us be treated as necessary as food, education, or health. For this to happen more resources need to be ploughed into it, much more capacity built and much more attention paid to curing long standing deficiencies,” she said.
Social justice and women’s representation
The report said Karnataka remains the only State to have consistently met its quota for SC, ST, and OBC positions, both among police officers and the constabulary.
“In the judiciary, at the subordinate/district court level, no State met all the three quotas. Only Gujarat and Chhattisgarh met their respective SC quotas. Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana, and Uttarakhand met their respective ST quotas. Kerala, Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana met OBC quotas,” it said.
On the share of women in key positions across the justice system, which includes the police, prisons, the judiciary and legal aid, the report stated that one out of 10 positions was held by a woman.
“While the overall share of women in the police force is about 11.75 per cent, in the officer ranks it is still lower at 8 per cent. Only 13 per cent of High Court judges and 35 per cent of subordinate court judges are women. Among prison staff, they are 13 per cent. A majority of states have increased the share of women panel lawyers. Nationally, the share has increased from 18 per cent to 25 per cent,” it said.
According to the report, one in four police stations does not have a single CCTV and nearly three in 10 police stations do not have women help desks.
The report said about 30 per cent (391) of prisons record occupancy rates of above 150 per cent and 54 per cent (709) run above 100 per cent capacity. “With the exception of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, and Madhya Pradesh, the undertrial population of all states and union territories exceeds 60 per cent,” it said.
On the aspect of workload in the judiciary, the report said in 28 States/Union Territories, one in every four High Court cases has been pending for more than five years. In the district courts of 11 States/UTs, one in every four cases has been pending for more than five years.
The IJR said the population per subordinate court judge and High Court judge was 71,224 persons and 17,65,760 persons respectively.
With regard to budgets, it found the national per capita spend on legal aid, including the expenditure of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the State/UT governments themselves, was a meagre Rs.4.57 per annum. Excluding NALSA, this figure drops to Rs.3.87 and, if only NALSA’s budget (2021-22) is considered, the per capita spend is Rs.1.06 only, it said.
It said the national per capita spending on prisons was Rs.43. Nationally, the annual average expenditure per prisoner has gone down to Rs.38,028 from Rs.43,062. Andhra Pradesh records the highest annual spending on a prisoner at Rs 2,11,157.
“The national per capita spend on the judiciary stands at Rs.146,” it said, adding that the national per capita spend on police was Rs.1,151.
“IJR 2022 has reiterated both immediate and foundational corrections. It has flagged urgent filling of vacancies and increased representation. To effect an irreversible change, it has exhorted that justice delivery be designated as an essential service,” it concluded.
The third IJR also assessed the capacity of the 25 State Human Rights Commissions (SHRCs) and found that there were 33,312 cases pending before these panels in March 2021 and that the national average vacancy across 25 SHRCs was 44 per cent. Statistics showed that nine States have been working with 50 per cent or more vacancies among members in SHRCs and only six States have women in their executive staff.
(with inputs from PTI and ANI)