Kerala tops the list of states with the highest number of matrimonial disputes pending in family courts, with over 52,000 cases awaiting adjudication at the end of November 2016, according to data compiled by the Department of Justice. Though the courts wrapped up 50,000 such disputes in 2015, the number of cases on the wait list in Kerala alone is more than the aggregate pending cases of 19 other states.
The state, which accounts for less than 3 per cent of country’s total population, has more pending cases than Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha—states that together make up more than half the country’s total population.
The data shows that 28 family courts in Kerala disposed of 43,914 cases in 2013, 53,564 in 2014 and 51,288 in 2015. However, the latest data shows that 52,446 cases are still pending in Kerala in 2016.
Family courts, which deal with divorce cases while also issuing orders on alimony, ordering custody of children and restitution of conjugal rights, are meant to offer an efficient and expeditious mechanism to deal with discords.
Kerala has now replaced Tamil Nadu as the state with the highest number of pending matrimonial cases. Tamil Nadu, which had the most pending cases among states in 2014 and 2013, now stands at the fifth position with 37,618 cases awaiting adjudication in its family courts. The state’s courts disposed of more than 40,000 cases between 2013-15.
Bihar, whose population is three times that of Kerala and which has an area twice that of the southern state, has the second highest number of cases pending in family courts – 50,847. However, the state’s disposal rate has been sluggish compared to Kerala’s, with its 39 functional family courts disposing of 12,717 cases of matrimonial disputes in 2013, 13,506 in 2014 and 13,756 in 2015 – the aggregate of which is less than the total number of cases pending in its courts in 2016.
Madhya Pradesh is third on the list with 46,866 pending cases while Maharashtra, which has been clubbed with Diu, Daman, Dadar and Nagar Haveli, follows Madhya Pradesh with 45,690 cases.
Uttar Pradesh, the state with the highest population, almost seven times that of Kerala’s, has just 5,466 cases pending in its 76 family courts – the highest number of such courts for any state. Uttar Pradesh’s bare minimum pendency can be attributed to its rate of disposal in the last three years – the state decided more than 2 lakh cases between 2013 and 2015, with the family courts there disposing of over 1.19 lakh cases in 2015 alone.
In the list of top ten states with highest number of matrimonial cases, Karnataka, Odisha, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand occupied ranks 6 to 10. Delhi has 11,862 such cases awaiting adjudication although the courts disposed of more than 12,000 cases every year between 2013-15.
According to the Department of Justice, there are no family courts in Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya while statistics on disposal was not available for some states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.