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Report No. 245

2. The Ideal Case Load Method

Another method sometimes advocated for fixing the appropriate judge strength is the ideal case load method. This method requires a determination of the ideal number of cases that a judge should have on his/her docket. The total caseload (existing pendency plus new institutions) can then be divided by the ideal case load to estimate the number of judges required by the system. Where the number of cases per judge is disproportionately higher than the ideal case load, additional judges are required to be recruited.26

26. See, e.g., National Court Management Systems: Policy and Action Plan 34 (September 2012), at ΒΆ 5.3; Resolutions of the Chief Justices' Conference, 2004 (proposing a norm of 500 cases per year for senior judges and 600 cases for junior civil judges and Metropolitan Magistrates).

The ideal case load method seems difficult to implement in practice. One is absence of any exhaustive study, one does not find any fixed criteria for determining what the ideal case load should be. Generally, ideal case loads are fixed on an ad hoc basis. To give one illustration, the Law Commission vide letter no. 6(3)/224/2012-LC(LS) dated 28.05.2012 had asked High Courts to provide "reasonable workloads that each category of Courts (DJ, Sr. Civil Judge, Jr. Civil Judge/Magistrate) can bear in order to establish better and speedy access to justice."

However, the information received from various High Courts revealed that measurements of ideal case load for each cadre of judge varies widely across states. Thus for instance, the reasonable workload for the Higher Judicial Service was suggested to be 120 in Madhya Pradesh, 500 in Andhra Pradesh, 750 in Jammu and Kashmir and 1000 in Orissa. This wide variation across states is a result, in part, of the lack of a rational basis for determining the ideal case load.27

27. In another example, the Chief Justices' Conference 2004 proposed a norm of 500 cases per year for senior judges and 600 cases for junior civil judges and Metropolitan Magistrates. These figures have been critiqued for not being based on any detailed analytical and empirical assessment. See India Development Foundation, Judicial Impact Assessment: An Approach Paper 72 (2008) available at
<http://lawmin.nic.in/doj/justice/judicialimpactassessmentreportvol2.pdf>

Second, different types of cases require different amounts of judicial time. A murder trial is generally likely to consume much more time, for example, than a summary trial in a petty offence. An ideal case load approach that looks only at the number of files before the judge, will treat both cases as equal even though a judge with 500 murder cases is likely to be over-stretched and one with 500 summary trials, under-utilized.

To be fruitful, the ideal case load method requires some analysis of the types of cases likely to come up before a judge. Also, there is need to analyze as to the amount of time each type of case normally takes. Such analysis may probably give an idea of what should constitute 'ideal case load' before a judge. However, there is need to be cautious because the existing case mix can change fairly quickly, for instance, through the emergence of new laws and increased rights awareness.

For example, The present section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, was a result of an amendment in 2002 vide the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2002 (55 of 2002). This provision has been wide used and has drastically changed the number and type of cases in the case mix before the Subordinate Judiciary.

Finally, if we were to do the study into the case mix and case times required to operationalize the ideal case load method, this information can be directly used to determine the appropriate number of judges required by the system. The via media of ideal case load would not be required. The method to determine the appropriate number of judges by using case mix and case times is discussed below.



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