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A Quantitative Analysis of the Indian Supreme Court's Workload

Authors

  • Nick Robinson


  • I thank Sidharth Chauhan for his help in framing this project and his support throughout it. Vrinda Bhandari, Utkarsh Saxena, and Vivek Shivakumar provided valuable research assistance. Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Abhayraj Naik, Shishir Bail, Vikas Kumar, and Manavi Belgaumkar from Azim Premji University gave useful feedback that made this article considerably stronger, as did Marc Galanter, Sarayu Natarajan, Prashant Reddy, and Sushant Sinha. Numerous individuals, including both current and former Supreme Court judges, as well as Supreme Court staff, helpfully answered questions and provided information during the course of research for this project. All errors are my own.

Centre for Policy Research, Dharam Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi—110021; email: nickrobinson5@gmail.com.

Abstract

This article analyzes the Indian Supreme Court's docket in detail from 1993 to 2011. It also draws on available data to describe more broadly the workings of the Court before 1993. The article explains how deficiencies in the way data are currently collected and categorized by the Court presents challenges in developing a full picture of its workload. Using the admittedly imperfect data set, it then analyzes the Supreme Court's caseload by geographic region of appeal, subject matter category, petition type, and other classifications. Among other findings, this analysis shows that the Court is disproportionately accessed by those close to Delhi and with more resources and that the Supreme Court's multiplicity of benches and cases may be undercutting precedent following in the Indian judicial system.

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