The draft Direct Taxes Code Bill seeks to consolidate and amend the law relating to all direct taxes and will replace the Income Tax Act, 1961.  The draft Bill, along with a discussion paper, was released for public comments in August 2009.[1] Following inputs received, the government proposed revisions to the draft Bill in June 2010. The table below summarises these revisions.  The government has not released the changes proposed in the form of a revised draft bill however, but as a new discussion paper.  The note is based on this discussion paper.[2] The Code had proposed a number changes in the current direct tax regime, such as a minimum alternate tax (MAT) on companies’ assets (currently imposed on book profits), and the taxation of certain types of personal savings at the time they are withdrawn by an investor.  Under the new amendments, some of these changes, such as MAT, have been reversed.  Personal savings in specified instruments (such as a public provident fund) will now continue to remain tax-free at all times.  The tax deduction on home loan interest payments, which was done away with by the Code, has now been restored. However, the discussion paper has not specified whether certain other changes proposed by the Code (such as a broadening of personal income tax slabs), will continue to apply.

Issue Income Tax Act, 1961 Draft Direct Taxes Code (August 09) Revisions Proposed (June 2010)
Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) MAT currently imposed at 18% of profits declared by companies to shareholders. To be imposed on assets rather than profits of companies.  Tax rate proposed at 2% (0.25% for banks) MAT to be imposed on book profit as is the case currently.  Rate not specified.
Personal Saving / retirement benefits Certain personal savings, such as public provident funds, are not taxed at all. Such savings to be taxed at the time of withdrawal by the investor. Such savings to remain tax-exempt at all stages, as is the case currently.
Income from House Property Taxable rent is higher of actual rent or ‘reasonable’ rent set by municipality(less specified deductions). Rent is nil for one self-occupied property. Taxable rent is higher of actual rent or 6% of cost /value set by municipality (less specified deductions). Rent is nil for one self-occupied property. Taxable rent is no longer presumed to be 6% in case of non-let out property. Tax deductions allowed on interest on loans taken to fund such property.
Interest on Home loans Interest on home loans is tax deductible Tax deductions on home loan interest not allowed. Tax deductions for interest on loans allowed, as is currently the case.
Capital Gains Long term and short term gains taxed at different rates. Distinction between long and short term capital gains removed and taxed at the applicable rate; Securities Transaction Tax done away with. Equity shares/mutual funds held for more than a year to be taxed at an applicable rate, after deduction of specified percentage of capital gains. No deductions allowed for investment assets held for less than a year. Securities Transaction tax to be ‘calibrated’ based on new regime. Income on securities trading of FIIs to be classified as capital gains and not business income.
Non-profit Organisations Applies to organizations set up for ‘charitable purposes’. Taxed (at 15% of surplus) only if expenditure is less than 85% of income. To apply to organizations carrying on ‘permitted welfare activities’. To be taxed at 15% of  income which remains unspent at the end of the year.  This surplus is to be calculated on the basis of cash accounting principles. Definition of ‘charitable purpose’ to be retained, as is the case currently. Exemption limit to be given and surplus in excess of this will be taxed.  Up to 15% of surplus / 10% of gross receipts can be carried forward; to be used within 3 years.
Units in Special Economic Zones Tax breaks allowed for developers of Special Economic Zones and units in such zones. Tax breaks to be done away with; developers currently availing of such benefits allowed to enjoy benefits for the term promised (‘grandfathering’). Grandfathering of exemptions allowed for units in SEZs as well as developers.
Non-resident Companies Companies are residents if they are Indian companies or are controlled and managed wholly out of India. Companies are resident if their place of control and management is situated wholly or partly in India, at any time in the year.  The Bill does not define ‘partly’ Companies are resident if ‘place of effective management’ is in India i.e. place where board make their decisions/ where officers or executives perform their functions.
Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements In case of conflict between provisions of the Act, and those in a tax agreement with another country, provisions which are more beneficial to the taxpayer shall apply The provision which comes into force at a later date shall prevail.  Thus provisions of the Code would override those of existing tax agreements. Provisions which more beneficial shall apply, as is the case currently.  However, tax agreements will not prevail if anti-avoidance rule is used, or in case of certain provisions which apply to foreign companies.
General Anti-Avoidance Rule No provision Commissioner of Income Tax can declare any arrangement by a taxpayer as ‘impermissible’, if in his judgement, its main purpose was to have obtained a tax benefit. CBDT to issue guidelines as to when GAAR can be invoked; GAAR to be invoked only in cases of tax avoidance beyond a specified limit; disputes can be taken to Dispute Resolution Panel.
Wealth Tax Charged at 1% of net wealth above Rs 15 lakh To be charged at 0.25% on net wealth above Rs 50 crore; scope of taxable wealth widened to cover financial assets. Wealth tax to be levied ‘broadly on same lines’ as Wealth Tax Act, 1957. Specified unproductive assets to be subject to wealth tax; nonprofit organizations to be exempt.  Tax rate and exemption limit not specified.
Source: Income Tax Act, 1961, Draft Direct Taxes Code Bill (August 2009), New Discussion Paper (June 2010), PRS

[1] See PRS Legislative Brief on Draft Direct Taxes Code (version of August 2009) at [2] Available at


Recently, the Supreme Court collegium reiterated its recommendations for the appointment of 11 judges to certain High Courts.  It had first recommended these names earlier this year and in August last year, but these appointments were not made.  The Indian judiciary faces high vacancies across all levels (the Supreme Court, High Courts, and subordinate courts).  Vacancy of judges in courts is one of the reasons for delays and a rising number of pending cases, as there are not enough judges to hear and decide cases.  As of today, more than four crore cases are pending across all courts in India.   In this blog post, we discuss vacancies across courts over the years, delays in appointment of judges, and methods to determine the adequate judge strength required to handle the caseload courts face.

High vacancy of judges across courts

Vacancies in courts keep on arising periodically due to retirement, resignation, demise, or elevation of judges.  Over the years, the sanctioned strength of judges in both High Courts and subordinate courts has been increased gradually.  However, vacancies persist due to insufficient appointments (see Figures 1 and 2).  Between 2010 and 2020, vacancies increased from 18% to 21% across all levels of courts (from 6% to 12% in the Supreme Court, from 33% to 38% in High Courts, and from 18% to 20% in subordinate courts). 

Figure 1: Vacancy of judges in High Courts

Figure 2: Vacancy of judges in subordinate courts



Sources: Court News 2010-2018; Vacancy Statement, and Rajya Sabha replies, Part I, Budget Session (2021), Department of Justice; PRS.

As on November 1, 2021, the Supreme Court had a vacancy of one judge (out of a sanctioned strength of 34).  Vacancy in High Courts stood at 37% (406 posts vacant out of a sanctioned strength of 1,098).  Since May, 2021, the Supreme Court collegium has recommended more than 130 names for appointment as High Court judges.  In three High Courts (Telangana, Patna, and Calcutta), at least half of the posts are vacant (see Figure 3).  The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (2020) noted that every year, 35-40% of posts of High Court judges remain unfilled. 

Figure 3: Vacancy of judges across High Courts (in %) (as on November 1, 2021)


Source: Vacancy Statement, Department of Justice; PRS.










Appointments of High Court judges are guided by a memorandum of procedure.  As per this memorandum, the appointment process is to be initiated by the concerned High Court at least six months before a vacancy occurs.  However, the Standing Committee (2021) noted that this timeline is rarely adhered to by High Courts.  Further, in the final stage of the process, after receiving recommendations from the Supreme Court collegium, the executive appoints judges to the High Court.  No timeline is prescribed for this stage of the appointment process.  In 2018 and 2019, the average time taken to appoint High Court judges after receiving the collegium’s recommendations was five to seven months.

As of today, over 3.6 crore cases are pending before subordinate courts in India.  As on February 20, 2020, 21% posts for judges were vacant (5,146 posts out of the sanctioned strength of 24,018) in subordinate courts.  Subordinate courts in Bihar, Haryana, and Jharkhand (among the states with high population) had a high proportion of vacancies of judges (see Figure 4).  Note that the Supreme Court is monitoring the procedure for appointment of judges to subordinate courts.

For an analysis of the data on pendency and vacancies in the Indian judiciary, see here.

Figure 4: Vacancy of judges across subordinate courts (in %) (as on February 20, 2020)


Source: Report No. 101, Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (2020); PRS.


How many judges do we need?

The Law Commission of India (1987) had noted the importance of manpower planning for the judiciary.  Lack of adequate number of judges means a greater workload per judge.  Thus, it becomes essential to arrive at an optimal judge strength to deal with pending and new cases in courts.  Over the years, different methods of calculating the required judge strength for subordinate courts (where the backlog of cases in the Indian judiciary is concentrated) have been recommended (see Table 1). 

Table 1: Methods recommended for calculating the required number of judges for subordinate courts

Method of calculation

Recommendation and its status

Judge-to-population ratio: optimum number of judges per million population

The Law Commission of India (1987) had recommended increasing this ratio to 50 judges per million people.  This was reiterated by the Supreme Court (2001) and the Standing Committee on Home Affairs (2002).  For 2020, the judge-to-population ratio was 21 judges per million population.     Note that this figure is calculated based on the sanctioned strength of judges in the Supreme Court, High Courts and subordinate courts.

Rate of disposal: number of additional judges required (to clear the existing backlog of cases and ensure that new backlog is not created) based on the average number of cases disposed per judge

The Law Commission of India (2014) proposed this method.  It rejected the judge-to-population ratio method, observing that filing of cases per capita varies substantially across geographic units depending on socio-economic conditions.

Weighted case load method: calculating judge strength based on the disposal by judges, taking into account the nature and complexity of cases in local conditions

The National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMS) (2016) critiqued the rate of disposal method.     It proposed, as an interim measure, the weighted case load method, which addresses the existing backlog of cases as well as the new flow of cases every year in subordinate courts.     In 2017, the Supreme Court accepted this model.

Time-based weighted case load method: calculating the required judge strength taking into account the actual time spent by judges in different types of cases at varying stages based on an empirical study

Used widely in the United States, this was the long-term method recommended by the NCMS (2016) to assess the required judge strength for subordinate courts.  It involves determining the total number of ‘judicial hours’ required for disposing of the case load of each court.  The Delhi High Court used this approach in a pilot project (January 2017- December 2018) to calculate the ideal judge strength for disposing of pending cases in certain courts in Delhi.

Sources: Reports No. 120 (1987) and 245 (2014), Law Commission of India; Report No. 85, Standing Committee on Home Affairs (2002); Note for Calculating Required Judge Strength for Subordinate Courts, National Court Management Systems Committee (NCMS) (2016); Imtiyaz Ahmad vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, Supreme Court (2017); PRS.