Pending cases in India: A cartographic view

The trailer for the recent Hindi movie The State v/s Jolly LL.B. 2 opens with a statement about the grossly small number of judges in India.

There are only 21000 judges for 1.25 Billion people. And there are more than 35 Million pending cases.

Curious by these statistics, I decided to look at the numbers. The data for the judicial system in India is available at the website of National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). The number stated in the movie are fairly accurate.

Recently, I’ve caught the cartography bug, mainly facilitated by Mike Bostocks’s excellent write-up on Command-Line Cartography. I decided to make some maps to understand this better. No statistical analysis was conducted, which is deferred to another post, just the choropleth maps of Indian states were created to get a view of the situation.

What do these numbers mean ? How many judges do we need ?

In the 120th report of the Law Commission of India, it was argued that we should have 50 judges per Million of population. Last year, T.S Thakur, then Chief Justice of India, speaking about the judicial delays and the burden on judiciary, stated that we need 70,000 more judges to wind the pending cases.

Let’s look at the number of people served by a judge in Indian states:

Population under judges

It appears that Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and the states of North-East are particularly bad in aspect. Based on their size, I kinda expected MP and West Bengal to be on the top here, but the North-Eastern states are a surprise. In fact, Meghalaya is top of the list, with more than 150,000 people served by a judge.

Q: Does Meghalaya need a lot of judges ? Is population a good criterion for number of judges ?

Let’s look at the pending cases in each state :

pending cases in states

An observation in place is that North-Eastern states have the lowest number of pending cases among Indian states. Even though number of judges in North-Eastern states is very small, there are a lot less pending cases.

Another metric worth looking is the number of pending cases per 1000 people.

Pending cases by population

For North-Eastern states, the number of people governed by a judge is larger, but these people are also contributing far less cases to a judge’s burden. Worth noting here is that, Gujarat has the highest number of pending cases for every 1000 people. Also high on this metric are Goa, Chandigarh, and Delhi. The investigation of why these states have higher ‘crime rate’ is a good political (or data science!) project.

Now that it seems appropriate that the number of judges in a states should be decided by number of pending cases, and not population. Let’s look at the number of pending cases per judge.

Pending cases per Judge

Uttar Pradesh and Kerala have the largest number of pending cases per judge, followed by Gujarat and Odisha. These are the states where more newly appointed judges should be sent.

This was just an attempt to get a better view of the numbers, without any statistical analysis. The biggest motivation was to practice cartography, and try to arrive at useful questions. I’m hoping to do a more rigorous analysis for a future post.


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