The Kashmir Walla

Indians under trial exceed Dutch population

A cameraman setting up his equipment in front of the Supreme Court in Delhi in February 2014.

For the 13 years the Salman Khan hit-and-run case was in trial, it was one of 18.5 million criminal cases pending in India’s district and lower courts, and the 50-year-old Bollywood star was one of 22.2 million people under trial.

Driven by a shortage of prosecutors, judges and courts and—among other reasons—slow procedures, there are more people under trial in India than there are people in the Netherlands or Kazakhstan.

In 2013, the cases of as many as 85% of people put on trial were pending, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data:

Source: National Crime Records Bureau; Figures as on April 1, 2014.

Let us look at the rates of pending cases in a variety of courts across India:

Source: Supreme Court News; Figures as on April 1, 2014

Criminal cases form 19% of the Supreme Court’s pending cases and 25% of the settled cases.

In high courts, 23% of pending cases (a million of them) are criminal cases, while 6.9% of those settled are criminal cases. In district and subordinate courts, 67% of pending cases are criminal.

New cases flood in, and together with the backlog, they outnumber settled cases and increase the caseload. For instance, in the first quarter of 2014, the Supreme Court had 5,466 new criminal cases and 12,211 cases carried over from the previous year, but only 5,267 of those cases were settled.

What India needs: Judges—and more judges

India has 15 judges for every million people, one of the world’s lowest ratios.

Lower-court vacancies are a leading cause of pending trials, IndiaSpend previously reported, as the table below indicates:

Source: Supreme Court News; Figures as on April 1, 2014

The lower courts were 22% (or 4,288) short of judges, as of April 2014, the high courts 29% (256) and the Supreme court, 19% (six).

Source: Supreme Court News

Source: Supreme Court News

Delays tend to be higher in lower courts and correspond with the number of judicial vacancies. High courts with the most pending cases are also those with the most vacancies, the data show.

Salve is a policy analyst with IndiaSpend.

Additional research by Aadya Sharma and Pratiksha Wadekar.

This article was originally published on, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.