While Uttar Pradesh has the most cases pending due to this reason, an analysis of a few randomly selected states shows thousands of such cases in the pendency list. Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, UP, and Bihar together account for 77.7% (or more than 49 lakh) of the 63 lakh such cases.
Advocate KV Dhananjay said a variety of reasons could be attributed to this: Death of lawyers, unaffordability of advocates when cases drag on, delay in fixing of lawyers by prosecution, and inefficiency of free legal services.
Anisha Gopi, team lead of Nyaaya, an initiative helping citizens understand legal rights, said: “Delay is one of the major barriers and this happens for a variety of reasons like a large volume of cases, not enough judges and adjournments for various reasons (one of them being lawyers not being available).”
Gopi said, “Lawyers are often overburdened. The way the registry in our courts functions, case listings come up at the last minute and lawyers are then often forced to miss either of the hearings. Another reason is that an average case in India takes four years to be completed. When litigation continues for longer than anticipated, the aggrieved person may run out of resources to continue paying hefty legal fees.”
Separate data from the Union law ministry shows that between 2017-18 and 2021-22, over one crore people have benefited from pro-bono legal services offered through the legal services authorities, in sharp contrast to the performance in the previous decades.
The five states that saw the maximum increase in 2021-22 were MP, UP, Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam. Together, these states accounted for 94% (58.6 lakh) of the 62.2 lakh beneficiaries in 2021-22, while they account for 70.4% or 73.1 lakh of the 1.03 crore beneficiaries in the past five years. However, experts argue that the exponential increase the data shows was hard to accept and called for a more detailed study.