The disposal rate of PILs across 23 high courts was 83.7 per cent until August 2021 -- the highest in four years.
Although the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) as an instrument was introduced as a much-needed measure in the 1980s -- until then only the aggrieved party could file a case -- over the last two decades, governments and the court have made several comments about the growing menace of frivolous PILs.
In June, a vacation bench of Justices B R Gavai and Hima Kohli had remarked that 'We highly deprecate the practice of filing such frivolous PIL as it is nothing but abuse of the process of the law. They encroach upon valuable judicial time which could otherwise be utilised for considering genuine concerns. It is high time that such petitions are nipped in the bud so that development work is not stalled.'
Besides the frivolous nature, the other issue plaguing the system has been the rising pendency of PILs.
One of the first businesses of Chief Justice of India U U Lalit has been to address the growing burden of PILs.
Last month, the Supreme Court listed over 200 PILs for hearing to clear the backlog. Before he stepped down, then Chief Justice of India N V Ramana apologised for not doing enough to address the listing and posting of matters.
According to the last available data, 2,871 PILs were pending with the Supreme Court until August 2021.
A Business Standard analysis found that, overall, 12,651 PILs were pending at the Supreme Court and high court levels till August 2021.
While pendency at the apex court and high courts increased between 2020 and 2021, analysis shows that the high courts had a faster disposal rate for PILs.
In 2019, 10,540 PILs across 25 high courts were awaiting resolution.
The number declined from 10,985 in 2020 to 9,772 until August 2021.
Madras high court, which accounts for one in ten pending PILs, reduced its pendency of PILs by 55.6 per cent compared to 2019.
Fourteen of the 25 high courts registered a decline in pending PILs in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic period (2019), but the likes of Delhi added 49.5 per cent more cases.
Chhattisgarh recorded a 133 per cent increase in pendency, and Karnataka recorded a 185.9 per cent rise.
Further analysis indicates that the disposal rate of PILs across 23 high courts for which data was available was 83.7 per cent until August 2021 -- the highest in four years.
In 2019, high courts had cleared 77 per cent of the instituted cases for the year.