Judges to population ratio

From Justice Definitions Project

What is judge to population ratio?

The concept of measuring "judges to population" refers to the ratio of the number of judges in a legal system to the total population of a given area, which may also be expressed as the number of judges per million people. This ratio is used to assess judicial capacity and workload in a country. The judge-population ratio is a crucial indicator as it helps in assessing the adequacy or inadequacy of the judicial resources in relation to the population. A higher ratio suggests a relatively greater judicial capacity, potentially indicating a more robust legal system that can efficiently handle legal matters.

India currently maintains an estimated judge-population ratio of around 21 judges per million people[1]. This calculation is based on the Department of Justice's approach, which incorporates population data from Census 2011 and information on the sanctioned strength of judges in the Supreme Court, high courts, and district and subordinate courts for the specific year.

The typical formula to calculate the judges per population ratio is:

Ratio = total number of judges / total population

Official definition

120th Law Commission report[2]

In its 120th Report on Manpower Planning in Judiciary (July 1987), the Law Commission of India highlighted a stark contrast in the judge-population ratio between India and other countries. According to the report, the judge-population ratio in India, based on the 1971 census, stood at a mere 10.5 judges per million population. In comparison, Australia had a ratio of 41.6, England 50.9, Canada 75.2, and the United States an impressive 107 judges per million population.

The Law Commission suggested that India required 107 judges per million of Indian population; however to begin with the judge strength needed to be raised to five-fold, i.e., 50 judges per million population in a period of five years but in any case not going beyond ten years.

India Justice Report[3]

In India, the India Justice Report is a national periodic report that brings together, hitherto silo-ed information, to measure the capacity of four pillars of the justice system - the police, the prison system, the judiciary and legal aid - in each state, against its own declared standards or benchmarks.

A screenshot from Indian Justice report showing the statistics on sanctioned and actual strength of judges.

As of December 2022 (based on population projections for March 2022), India has 15 judges per 10 lakh population against a sanctioned strength of 19 judges per 10 lakh population according to the India Justice Report. The data source for the 2022 Indian Justice report is Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 2116, submitted by the Government of India Ministry of Law & Justice[4]. The difference in judges per population ratio of every Indian state can be analyzed by the data mentioned below:

A screenshot from Indian Justice report showing judges per population of various High courts

International Experience

The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, issues periodic reports (European Judicial Systems CEPEJ Evaluation Report) on judicial data of 44 European countries [5]. The CEPEJ aims to provide policy makers and justice professionals a practical and detailed tool for a better understanding of the functioning of justice in Europe, in order to improve its efficiency and its quality. The formula used by CEPEJ, is the same as the formula used by other reports as mentioned above.

Number of judges per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020
Professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants (average and median)

Research that engages with

  • Calculating Judges’ strength in India a time-based weighted caseload approach[6]: The report "Calculating Judges' Strength in India" navigates the challenge of determining the most effective method for calculating judge strength. Critiquing prior approaches, it proposes a novel time-based weighted caseload formula, incorporating judicial time. Drawing inspiration from the successful Delhi High Court's Zero Pendency Project, the report highlights the drawbacks of the judge-to-population ratio, emphasizing the need for nuanced criteria tailored to each state due to diverse socio-economic factors and varying case filings across India.
  • Judicial Delays in India: Causes & Remedies[7]: The research paper, "Judicial Delays in India: Causes & Remedies," points out a declining justice delivery system. A major factor in this crisis is the inadequate number of judges, currently at 13 per million, significantly below the recommended 50. The All India Judges Association's Case suggests a phased increase over five years to reach the desired ratio. Emphasizing the pressing need for reforms, the paper highlights through international comparisons the substantial lag in India's judicial capacities.


  1. PTI (2023). India’s judge-population ratio stands at 21: Law Minister tells LS. [online] Hindustan Times. Available at: https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/indias-judge-population-ratio-stands-at-21-law-minister-tells-ls-101702050805063.html [Accessed 2 Jan. 2024].
  2. Available at: https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s3ca0daec69b5adc880fb464895726dbdf/uploads/2022/08/2022080852.pdf
  3. Available at: https://indiajusticereport.org/files/IJR%202022_Full_Report1.pdf
  4. GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MINISTRY OF LAW & JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE LOK SABHA UNSTARRED QUESTION NO. 2116 TO BE ANSWERED ON FRIDAY, THE 29.  Available at: https://theleaflet.in/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/AU2116.pdf [Accessed 1 Jan. 2024].
  5. Available at: https://rm.coe.int/cepej-report-2020-22-e-web/1680a86279
  6. Calculating Judges’ strength in India a time-based weighted caseload approach. (2020). Available at: https://dakshindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Judge-Calculation-Paper_FINAL.pdf [Accessed 2 Jan. 2024].
  7. Kumar, V. (2012). Judicial Delays in India: Causes & Remedies. Online), [online] 4. Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/234649558.pdf.
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