#DailyGFX: No fast track courts in 7 of the 10 states with maximum crime against women
Fast track courts were supposed to alleviate the trial courts’ backlog of 3.1 crore cases. Guess what? The plan failed.
In 2014, the government had proposed setting up of 1,800 fast-track courts across the country to speed up disposal of cases pertaining to land acquisition and property disputes besides those involving heinous crimes such as rape, murder and dacoity.
However, only 581 (32.2 per cent) such courts were found to be functional until March 31, 2019, a Lok Sabha reply by law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad showed.
What’s worse is the fact that seven out of 10 states and union territories with maximum offences against women don’t even have a single fast track court. And this figure includes Assam and Odisha, the second and third most unsafe state for women.
The 14th Finance Commission allocated Rs 4,144.14 crore to set up 1,800 fast track courts for a period of five years until 2020, out of 1,023 would be for sexual offences against women and children.
As per the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, there were 1.33 lakh rape cases and 90,205 (89.6 per cent) POCSO cases pending trial at the end of 2016.
In 2012, the Supreme Court had directed that 10 per cent additional position of judges be created in the subordinate courts, which comes to 1,800.
These courts will have the mandate to try all cases of heinous crimes such as murder, rape, dacoity, kidnapping, human trafficking and dowry deaths.
They will also settle civil cases involving senior citizens, women, children, disabled and litigants afflicted with HIV/AIDS and other terminal ailments.
However, questions have also been raised over the slow and inefficient working of the fast track courts. Since its inception, close to around 39 lakh cases were transferred to them out of which, 4.2 lakh cases are still pending with them.
India’s ailing judicial system awaits more judges
The Law Commission of India, in its 120th report recommended that the strength of judges per one million population should be increased from 10.5 to 50 judges.
However, the judge-population ratio in the country works out to be only 20 judges per 10 lakh people in the country. Oh, one more thing. The population is calculated based on Census 2011 data. Add eight years of 1.2 per cent average annual growth rate to that, and you’ll be shocked.
Also, just to offer you a perspective: there are 107 judges per million people in the US, and 51 per million people in the UK.
The Supreme Court, which recently attained its full strength of 31 judges after more than a decade, has 26 cases pending for 25 years, 100 cases for 20 years, 593 cases for 15 years and 4,977 cases for 10 years.
Though the sanctioned strength of high court judges has increased from 906 judges to 1,079 judges in the last four years, their working strength remains only 673. About 37 per cent positions lie vacant.
How to deal with pendency of cases
The Law Commission of India in its 230th report has offered a long list of measures to deal with the pendency of cases. These include providing strict guidelines for the grant of adjournments, curtailing vacation time in the higher judiciary by about 10-15 days and extending the working time by at least half an hour, and reducing the time for oral arguments.
Courts should also seriously consider adding technology into their system. Digitising courts records has been a good start!