- The Union Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, agreed on Tuesday to extend the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme (CSS) to 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs), including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts, from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2023.
- The Cabinet has set aside Rs 1572.86 crore for the purpose (Rs 971.70 crore for the central share and Rs 601.16 crore for the state share). The Nirbhaya Fund, which is administered by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, provides the central share.
Scheme for fast track special courts
- On October 2, 2019, the Scheme was officially launched. Nirbhaya Fund will be used to fund the Central Share.
- The Central Government enacted “The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018” to include more stringent measures and expedite the trial and disposition of such cases.
- It stipulated harsh penalties, including the death penalty, for rape perpetrators.
- According to government officials, there were roughly 1.67 lakh rape and POCSO cases in 2019, but that number has risen to 2.34 lakh as on Wednesday. One of the causes for the increase, they claim, is a backlog of cases due to the pandemic.
Need of Fast Track courts:
- Getting rid of a large number of outstanding cases: The main motivation for establishing fast track courts was to get rid of a large number of pending cases and relieve some of the strain on district and high courts. Another motivation was to give sexual assault cases the attention and time they deserved.
- Expected to lower the number of undertrials in jails: India has one of the highest numbers of individuals in prison (about 2.8 lakhs) awaiting or undergoing trials, and this figure continues to rise every day as new cases are brought to light and fresh accused are imprisoned. Fast track courts are needed around the country to minimise this number.
- The importance of providing a timely trial and justice in a society where hundreds of crimes are committed every day is critical. A speedy trial, which is also a fundamental right, has failed to attain its goals, necessitating the use of fast-track courts.
- The commitment of the judiciary to end sexual and gender-based violence: Fast track courts seek to ensure that victims of gender and sexual assault receive prompt and correct justice. It demonstrates that the legal system is dedicated to reducing sexual and gender-based violence.
Fast track courts have the following advantages:
- Reducing the overall caseload burden: The fast track courts’ goal of resolving over a million cases and reducing the backlog of other courts has proven to be tremendously useful to the judiciary..
- Promotes specialisation and professionalism: It has assisted in the employment of thousands of people from various disciplines, as well as retired judges from the high courts and district courts. The creation of fast track courts has aided the specialisation of a legal field.
- Improves judicial efficiency and effectiveness: Fast track courts improve judicial efficiency and effectiveness by making optimal use of the judiciary and expediting trials and judgments.
- High case clearance rate and swift trial rate: India’s Fast Track courts have the highest case disposition rate due to their quick trials and decisions. As a result, it is effective at solving cases in a limited amount of time.
- Fast track courts feature a high performance rate and are solid and steady, ensuring stability and predictability. It is extremely accurate when it comes to delivering justice.
Problems with fast track court:
- Adhocism: The establishment of FTCs was frequently in response to specific instances such as securities scams, rape cases, and sexual harassment of children, rather than true problems of pendency.
- According to NCRB data from 2018, 78 percent of the almost 28,000 trials held in Fast Track Courts across the country in that year took more than a year to complete, putting trial courts at the bottom of the rung in terms of time spent among all Indian courts. In reality, nearly half of all trials lasted more than three years, and about one-fifth of all cases took more than half a decade to conclude.
- Large number of cases pending: The 11th Finance Commission suggested the establishment of 1734 FTCs to expedite the resolution of cases sitting in lower courts. However, as of March 31, 2019, there were only 581 FTCs operating in the country, with around 5.9 lakh cases pending. Furthermore, there were no FTCs in 56 percent of the states and union territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.
- Non-uniformity in Case Kind: The types of cases handled by these courts vary dramatically between states, with some allocating rape and sexual assault cases to them and others allocating a variety of other matters.
- Lack of focus on systemic issues: While enormous quantities of money and attention are spent on creating new postings, little is done to identify and fix the systemic issues that are common.
- Infrastructure Issues: Most FTCs were based in an existing court and did not have their own infrastructure or facilities. In addition, several states appoint special judges from the present pool of judges to serve on the FTC. The burden of the remaining judges will be significantly increased.
- Several FTCs had the technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of victims, and many lacked regular employees.
- In India, tribunals are overseen by several ministries, and fast-track courts and special courts are governed by different judicial bodies, with no coordination or standardisation.
The Way Forward:
- States should engage with principal and senior district judges to obtain a sense of the challenges the courts are facing in various districts, identify systemic issues, and resolve the concerns in order for the Fast track courts to be successful.
- Furthermore, the establishment of FTCs for both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas requires equal attention.
- It is critical to guarantee that the many components of the overall system operate efficiently and without hindrance in order for the system to function effectively.
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 (Vulnerable section, Judiciary)