As India’s COVID numbers reached record highs, the Supreme Court on 20th April 2021 decided that only urgent matters would be heard. Summer vacation was also advanced


COVID had a drastic effect on the functioning of the court. The pendency of cases increased by 6.3% in the first half of 2021. The increase in pendency in the last two years was only 2.2% and 0.9% respectively. 


The effect of COVID has not been limited to pendency. Vacancies in the Supreme Court and the High Courts have also reached concerning levels. In 2021 Indu Malhotra J, Ashok Bhushan J and CJI S.A. Bobde retired. Shantanagoudar J passed away. This created four new vacant seats. And took the total vacancies to 8 out of the sanctioned strength of 34. Vacancies in the High Courts have also risen to 449 seats out of a total strength of 1098. 


With the onslaught of the second wave and decreased judicial strength, the Supreme Court published 297 reported judgments in the first half of 2021. When compared to the six monthly numbers, 435 reported judgments were published in 2020 and 678 reported judgments in 2019.


On a different note, the Court’s exercise of their suo moto power has been unprecedented. Indian Courts have been seen as pioneers in their use of suo moto powers. Out of the 13 suo moto cases instituted by the Supreme Court since January 2020, 8 were concerning COVID. 


We have covered the Supreme Court in numbers during the first half of the year here.