As per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, the Centre had proposed setting up 1,800 fast track courts at a cost of Rs 4,144 crore.
New Delhi: Despite being touted as the solution to clearing the mounting backlog of cases in the country, 60 per cent of proposed fast track courts are yet to be set up. At least 15 states and union territories do not have even a single fast track court.
Union law ministry data accessed by ThePrint shows India has only 722 of the required 1,800 fast track courts to deal with heinous crimes, specifically involving women and children. States such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala have decided not to experiment with fast track courts.
Glaringly, seven states and union territories that feature in the top 10 ranks for crimes against women do not have even a single fast track court for sexual assault. Assam and Odisha, No.2 and 3 on this list, have zero special courts.
Even Delhi, which tops the list, has only 14 fast track courts, while according to a central government memorandum in 2015, it needs 63.
The fact that some states have zero special courts is bad enough. But it is not picture perfect in states that have special courts, says Surya Prakash B.S., fellow and programme director at Daksh, a Bengaluru-based research organisation.
“The judges are usually told that this work is over and above their usual duties, which makes them ineffective,” he said.
States with the most fast-track courts
As per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, the Centre had proposed setting up 1,800 fast track courts at a cost of Rs 4,144 crore for the trial of cases of heinous crimes, involving senior citizens, women, children, physically challenged, and persons affected with terminal ailments etc.
The Law Commission, in 2003 and 2008, had recommended setting up permanent fast-track courts for commercial cases and ad hoc fast-track courts for other crimes to clear backlogs.
In 2011, the central government had taken a policy decision to stop its funding for fast-track courts, but following the apex court’s intervention, it revised the policy.
Even the Justice J.S. Verma committee on criminal law reforms set up in the wake of the ‘Nirbhaya’ gangrape and murder, urged states to set up fast track courts for trying sexual assault cases to guarantee speedy justice. Some states, such as Karnataka and Rajasthan, initially set up the special courts but rolled them back in just a few years.
With the 14th Finance Commission, the Centre enhanced tax devolution to states from 32 per cent to 42 per cent for setting up of special courts among others. It has repeatedly urged states to meet the agreed terms, and called meetings with home secretaries and registrar generals of high courts for status updates on setting up special courts.
Although there are concerns raised by civil society on the quality of dispensation of justice by fast-track courts, courts and the government continue to look at fast-track courts as the only alternative. Last month, the Centre announced it would set up 12 special courts to exclusively try cases against lawmakers, a move that was supported by both the Election Commission and the Supreme Court.
“The problem is mostly with the judiciary. Courts are unable to spare judges specially trained to handle certain cases. This explains why the state governments are also not nudged enough by the high courts,” added Surya Prakash.
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