Case Clearance Rate

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What it is

The case clearance rate is a measurement of the overall average disposal of cases by a court expressed as a percentage, indicating its efficiency. It does not measure the time taken in resolving specific kinds of cases, delays[1], arrears[2], or the pendency[3] at the court.

In India, delays in the resolution of a court case[4], or an overwhelming backlog[5][6], are all too common. There has been a long-running debate on law reform in the country, dating back to 1958[7], to the point that judicial delays have been considered characteristic of the Indian legal system[8]. When it comes to understanding this, a court’s case clearance rate (or CCR) is one of the indicators of judicial delay. However, the case clearance rate can be used to understand if the court is likely to incur a backlog[9] or to reduce an existing backlog. If the clearance rate is more than 100%, the Court is able to resolve more cases than it received; and if the clearance rate is less than 100%, the Court is able to resolve fewer cases than it received[10][11].

It must be noted that when there are more cases filed than disposed of, the pendency (i.e., the number of pending cases) at the Court increases [11][12].

While valuable, The NCMS baseline report suggests that clearance rates alone do not accurately depict a court's success in moving its entire docket forward in a timely fashion. A court may regularly demonstrate a 100 percent or greater clearance rate while simultaneously keeping a sizable number of cases from being disposed of within applicable time standards. Accordingly, clearance rates should, where predictable, be viewed alongside a measure that gauges the extent to which a court's caseload is pending beyond time standards, such as overage rate.

Official definitions as per legislation, case law or official government reports

While there is no conclusive definition provided in any legislation or by the Supreme Court of India, case clearance rates have been defined and used as such by High Courts such as the Karnataka High Court[13] and the Patna High Court[14] – “Case Clearance Rate is the number of cases disposed of expressed as a percentage of the number of Cases instituted in a period”.

The webpage of the High Court of Karnataka displaying its case clearance rates.
The webpage of the High Court of Judicature at Patna displaying its case clearance rates.


The 2018-19 Union Budget[15] defines case clearance rates as “...the ratio of the number of cases disposed of in a given year to the number of cases instituted in that year, expressed as a percentage”. However, it also states that “It may be noted that the cases disposed of need not have been filed in the same year, as some proportion of them will typically be backlog from previous years – clearance rate is mainly used to understand the efficiency of the system in proportion to the inflow of cases”.

While there are no judicial pronouncements directly referencing case clearance rates, the case of Imtiyaz Ahmed v. State of U.P. mandated the scientific recording of delays and arrears by the Law Commission[16] (resulting in the 245th Report) and emphasised on the citizen’s right to speedy justice without delay[17]. A Chief Justice of India has also emphasised on the difference between delays and arrears, and that a large pendency in the courts should not be mistaken for arrears[18].

Types of Case Clearance Rates

While the term “case clearance rate” is not uniformly used across High Courts (who compile data on behalf of themselves and the multiple district courts within their supervision), some High Courts such as the Madhya Pradesh High Court[19] publish statistics relating to the institution and disposal of cases on a regular basis. These can be used to calculate the case clearance rate of that Court for the given period.

The webpage of the Madhya Pradesh High Court displaying its institution-disposal statistics of cases, which also provides the number of cases instituted and disposed of - comparable to case clearance rates.
A screen capture of a statistical report by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, showing the institutions, disposals, and pending cases during a time period.

Appearance in official databases

National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG)

In both the District and Taluka Courts NJDG and the High Court NJDG, there is data available on the Pending Dashboard on institution vs disposal of cases – it is possible to calculate the national case clearance rates for the district judiciary and the High Courts respectively from 2015 onwards. Furthermore, it is possible to filter by case type and by year.

The table as it appears for the District and Taluka Courts NJDG.

The District and Taluka Courts Dashboard provides case filters such as Original Suits (including types such as – civil, criminal, commercial, land, marriage, labour and industrial, election, etc); Execution Petitions; Appeals (including types such as – civil appeals and revisions, cooperative appeals, and commercial appeals); and Miscellaneous Applications. The reasons for the delay have also been recorded and shown in a table below the Institution vs Disposal, which can be filtered by the reason cited for the delay.

The reasons for delay have also been recorded and shown in the NJDG in a table below the Institution vs Disposal, which can be filtered by the reason cited for the delay.

The High Courts NJDG provides far greater case filters to access statistics on institution vs. disposal, reflecting the many kinds of jurisdiction the high courts exercise. These are Applications (including original jurisdiction applications, arbitration, company, contempt of court, election, execution applications, leave to file an appeal, etc); Appeals of all subject matter (including against district court orders, and criminal convictions or acquittals); Revision (including suo moto cases); Case/Petition (in special subjects, jail and service matters); Reference; First Appeals (in different subject matters and against orders); Second Appeals; Suits (in commercial, original, arbitration, admiralty, and special subjects); Writ Petitions (including Public Interest Litigations, government petitions, and suo moto petitions); and Reviews.

The table as it appears for the High Courts NJDG.

Research that engages with Case Clearance Rates

  • Alok Prasanna Kumar, in his piece entitled “Judicial Efficiency and Causes for Delay” in State of the Judiciary, analyses pendencies at various High Courts based on their clearance rates, the number of hearings taken to dispose of the case, and the time taken to dispose of the cases.
  • Deconstructing Delay: Analyses of Data from High Courts and Subordinate Courts”, authored by Arunav Kaul, Ahmed Pathan, Harish Narasappa in Approaches to Justice analyses the pendency of Indian High Courts along with their workload, the time spent on each phase of the case, and the trends that can be discerned.
  • Performance Indicators: Working of Magistrates’ Courts in India” by Arunav Kaul in Approaches to Justice examines the case flow, workload, case pendency of magistrate’s courts in India and suggests reforms.
  • The DAKSH Database seeks to provide aggregated case data from the NJDG, eCourts.gov.in, and daily case lists of multiple High Courts.
  • The India Justice Report, a national periodic report, assesses the capacity of 4 major pillars of the justice system - police, prisons, judiciary, and legal aid - to deliver against benchmarks in law and public policy. It uses only official government data to rank how well  governments of 18 large and 7 small states have equipped their formal justice systems to administer justice.In their Judiciary analysis and ranking, the India Justice Report measures the case clearance rates of the High Courts and district judiciary from all Indian States/Union Territories. It further provides an aggregate measurement of the case clearance rate across India. Case clearance rates have been defined and calculated in the India Justice Report as:
    • The formula used by the India Justice Report to calculate the case clearance rate of Indian courts.
  • The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) also regularly evaluates the efficiency of European member-state’s judicial systems with parameters including case clearance rates. Alongside its report, the data and responses collected are also made publicly available as a database on CEPEJ-STAT.

Relationship between case clearance rates and other measurements

There are some other quantitative indicators that are utilised alongside clearance rates, that can be used to give a more complete picture of the judicial backlog and its likelihood at a court:

  • Calculated disposition time: A court’s disposition time (or calculated disposition time) is used to forecast the length of judicial proceedings, by estimating how many days should be required to resolve the pending cases based on the court’s current capacity to resolve cases. CEPEJ reports also generally provide both the clearance rate and the disposition time of a court. This is as clearance rates measure the current pace of efficiency, and disposition times predict the length of a case/case type based on that efficiency.[12] It has also been suggested that a clearance rate of 100% or greater would also reduce the disposition time.[20]
    The formula for calculated disposition time as per the CEPEJ Glossary.
  • Overage rate: Overage refers to the extent to which a court’s pending caseload lags beyond the applicable time standards for the resolution of a case. Since it is possible that a court may have a clearance rate of 100% or more while simultaneously continuing to have a backlog of cases (i.e., cases that are pending beyond their expected applicable time standards), the overage rate can be used to measure the size of the court’s backlog.[21] It is expressed as a percentage, with an overage rate of 10% or greater reflecting a case management problem.
Overage rate is obtained by the result of the following formula (given in the NCMS Baseline Report), multiplied by 100.
  • Traffic intensity: Traffic intensity is an indicator of the average time required to dispose off the case and the number of judicial hours available to process cases. If traffic intensity =1 during the specified period, then there will not be an additional backlog. If the traffic intensity is <1, then the existing backlog will decrease. If the traffic intensity is >1, then the backlog will increase.[21]
The formula for calculating traffic intensity as given in the NCMS Baseline Report.

International experiences

The formula used by CEPEJ to calculate case clearance rates, as given in the CEPEJ Glossary.

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) has defined clearance rates similarly to Indian definitions as the “Ratio obtained by dividing the number of resolved cases by the number of incoming cases in a given period, expressed as a percentage”[12].

In the United States, the term “clearance rate” is generally used to refer to the resolution of reported crimes[22][23]. However, CourTools - a service provided by the private non-profit US organisation, the National Center for State Courts, also uses the term in its measurement of court performance statistics.

Section 7, Part C of the Report of Government Services 2023 of the Australian Government Productivity Commission also utilises clearance rates in its study of the efficiency of Courts. It states that the clearance rate “indicates whether a court’s pending caseload has increased or decreased over the measurement period, by comparing the volume of case finalisations and case lodgments during the reporting period[24]. They also note that “the clearance indicator can be affected by external factors (such as those causing changes in lodgment rates), an increase or decrease in the numbers of cases proceeding to a hearing or trial and the time required to finalise them, as well as by changes in a court’s case management practices.

The International Consortium for Court Excellence (ICCE), whose members include the National Center for State Courts as well as the courts of Singapore, Dubai, and Australia amongst others, aim to assess and improve court administration. The ICCE provides an International Framework for Court Excellence laying down 11 parameters to measure the performance of courts globally. Measure 3 of the 11 parameters is the Case Clearance Rate, on which it says “(case clearance rate) is particularly attractive because it is simple, clear, and actionable. Few would argue against a case clearance rate of 100 percent as an unambiguous benchmark of performance…Even in the absence of known causes, lower than expected case clearance rates are actionable insofar as variations in the rates across court levels, courts, court locations, case types, and other variables can pinpoint “trouble spots” where court leaders and managers can focus resources[25].

Data Challenges

  • Judiciary data is maintained at different tiers, beginning at the district courts, NJDG as well as individual high courts’ annual reports. Data, however, is collected and made available to the public at different times. The absence of a specific and uniform time period for capturing and publishing data diminishes the ability to present a holistic picture. Some high courts provide data monthly, others quarterly and others annually. Some agencies capture statistics for the financial year while others use the calendar year. For example, the Supreme Court’s 2020-21 annual report uses the financial year format while the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) records in calendar year format.
  • There is a lack of uniformity between non-government databases (such as the DAKSH Database) and official ones (such as the NJDG).[26]
  • Even within official data sources there are data gaps. The information provided on the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), may not align with the data available on the High Court website.

Way ahead

  • Alternative ways of measuring judicial efficiency can be considered alongside case clearance rates. These can include measuring it by the number of days it takes to dispose of a certain kind of case, or the judicial time a case takes (i.e., the time taken by each hearing of a case).[26]
  • Doing granular measures of case clearance rate by kind/nature of the case.
  • Case clearance rates could be used to provide the empirical basis for an ‘ideal timeline’ within which a case must be resolved.
  • Understanding what could help improve clearance rates and reduce backlogs:
    • What is it that enables courts with consistently high CCRs to perform as they do, and how can that be replicated for other courts?
    • Would it be to arrive at sophisticated case management systems or measures of judicial time management such as the SATURN Guidelines for Council of Europe members?
    • Would it be to pursue procedural simplification, and/ or increasing incentives within the legal system?[27]

Synonymous terms

Institution-disposal rate

References

  1. Defined in the 245th Law Commission Report as “A case that has been in the Court/judicial system for longer than the normal time that it should take for a case of that type to be disposed of”.
  2. Defined in the 245th Law Commission Report as “Some delayed cases might be in the system for longer than the normal time, for valid reasons. Those cases that show unwarranted delay will be referred to as arrears”.
  3. Defined in the 245th Law Commission report as “All cases instituted but not disposed of, regardless of when the case was instituted”.
  4. Thakur, P. (2019, October 21). What delays delivery of justice in lower courts? IIM study finds out | India News. Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-delays-delivery-of-justice-in-lower-courts-iim-study-finds-out/articleshow/71679266.cms
  5. Mohanty, S. (2022, April 30). India has court backlog of 40 million cases, chief justice says. Reuters. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.reuters.com/world/india/india-has-court-backlog-40-million-cases-chief-justice-says-2022-04-30/
  6. Mashru, R. (2013, December 25). Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: India's 30 Million Case Judicial Backlog. The Diplomat :: Asia. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://thediplomat.com/2013/12/justice-delayed-is-justice-denied-indias-30-million-case-judicial-backlog/
  7. See the 14th Report of the Law Commission of India.
  8. Johari, A. (2018, January 24). The Indian justice system is too slow, too complex and too costly, says new study. Scroll.in. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://scroll.in/article/866158/the-indian-justice-system-is-too-slow-too-complex-and-too-costly-says-new-study
  9. Defined in the 245th Law Commission of India Report as “When the institution of new cases in any given time period is higher than the disposal of cases in that time period, the difference between institution and disposal is the backlog. This figure represents the accumulation of cases in the system due to the system’s inability to dispose of as many cases as are being filed”.
  10. Barik, S. (2022, December 30). Orissa High Court records 133.60% Case Clearance Rate. The Hindu. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/orissa-high-court-records-13360-case-clearance-rate/article66320095.ece
  11. 11.0 11.1 India Justice Report. (2022). India Justice Report: Ranking States on Police, Judiciary, Prisons and Legal Aid. Page 99, India Justice Report 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2023, from https://indiajusticereport.org/
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice. (2020). CEPEJ Glossary. CEPEJ Documents - European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ). Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://rm.coe.int/cepej-2019-5final-glossaire-en-version-10-decembre-as/1680993c4c
  13. Case Clearance Rate of High Court and District Judiciary. High Court of Karnataka Official Web Site. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://karnatakajudiciary.kar.nic.in/court-CCR.php
  14. Case Clearance Rate, High Court of Judicature at Patna. (n.d.). The High Court of Judicature at Patna Official Web Site. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.patnahighcourt.gov.in/case_clearance_rate
  15. Ministry of Finance, Government of India. (2019). Ending Matsyanyaya: How To Ramp Up Capacity In The Lower Judiciary. In Economic Survey of the Union Budget 2018-19. Economic Survey. Retrieved May 9, 2023, from https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/budget2019-20/economicsurvey/
  16. Imtiyaz Ahmed v. State of U.P., (2012) 2 SCC 688, para 57 (a) I.
  17. Imtiyaz Ahmed v. State of U.P., (2012) 2 SCC 688, paras 25 and 29.
  18. Inaugural Address by Hon’ble Shri Justice Dipak Misra. Pages 17 and 18, Conference Proceedings of National Initiative to Reduce Pendency and Delay in Judicial System. Retrieved May, 2023, from https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/PublicationOther/Proceeding_Book_SupremeCourt.pdf
  19. High Court of Madhya Pradesh. (2023). Statistics. High Court of Madhya Pradesh. Retrieved May 18, 2023, from https://mphc.gov.in/statistics
  20. Hodzic, A., & Stawa, G. (n.d.). What can be said on clearance rate and disposition time (and some more relations)? Retrieved July 10, 2023, from https://rm.coe.int/what-can-be-said-on-clearance-rate-and-disposition-time-and-some-more-/1680786fc9
  21. 21.0 21.1 Justice Khanwilkar Sub-Committee. (2012). National Court Management Systems Baseline Report on Case Management System [One of 6 reports published by the NCMS Committee created by the Chief Justice of India and the Minister of Law and Justice]. Retrieved July 8, 2023, from https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/NCMS/Case%20Management%20System.pdf
  22. Fahey, M. (2018, November 15). How We Analyzed Rape Clearance Rates — ProPublica. ProPublica. https://www.propublica.org/article/how-we-analyzed-rape-clearance-rates
  23. Kaste, M. (2015, March 30). How Many Crimes Do Your Police 'Clear'? Now You Can Find Out. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2015/03/30/395799413/how-many-crimes-do-your-police-clear-now-you-can-find-out
  24. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, Australian Government Productivity Commission. (2023). Report on Government Services 2023 - Justice (Pat C) [An official government report by the Australian Government's Productivity Commission]. Page 73, C Justice - Report on Government Services 2023 - Productivity Commission. Retrieved May 10, 2023, from https://www.pc.gov.au/ongoing/report-on-government-services/2023/justice/rogs-2023-partc-overview-and-sections.pdf
  25. International Consortium for Court Excellence. (2020). Global Measures of Court Performance (Third ed.). International Consortium of Court Excellence - Global Measures for Court Performance. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from https://www.courtexcellence.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0030/54795/GLOBAL-MEASURES-3rd-Edition-Oct-2020.pdf
  26. 26.0 26.1 Kumar, A. P. (2016). Judicial Efficiency and Causes for Delay. In State of the Judiciary (First ed., p. 96-97). Eastern Book Company.
  27. Botero, J. C., Porta, R. L., López-de-Silanes, F., Shleifer, A., & Volokh, A. (2003). Judicial Reform. The World Bank Research Observer, 18(1 (Spring 2003)), 61–88. DOI: 10.1093/wbro/lkg005
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