New Delhi: The central government’s plan to set up Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) across the country to deal with cases of sexual offence against women and children has hit a roadblock even as such cases show no signs of abating.
This is because several state governments have told the central administration their inability to shell out their share of funds to set up the courts, sources in the central government told ThePrint.
The Modi government, according to the plan announced last year, had decided to expedite setting up of 1,023 FTSCs across the country to deal with cases of rape of women and those registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Of the 1,023 proposed FTSCs, as many as 389 will exclusively deal with cases under the POCSO Act.
The government estimated that each court would require an annual expenditure of Rs 75 lakh, 60 per cent of which would be provided by the central administration and the rest 40 per cent is to be borne by the states.
The sources told ThePrint that the central government has already released its share of funds for 346 FTSCs.
Incidentally, even the Supreme Court also ordered in July this year to set up the FTSCs to exclusively deal with sexual offences against children.
Courts expected to dispose of 41 cases each quarter
The central government expects each FTSC to dispose of 41-42 cases in each quarter and at least 165 cases in a year.
These courts were to be established in districts where the number of pending cases under the POCSO Act is more than 100.
According to central government data accessed by ThePrint, there are 389 districts across the country where the number of pending cases under POCSO Act exceeds 100.
According to figures finalised at the end of June this year, Uttar Pradesh leads the country with highest number of pending cases under the POCSO Act and rapes of women at 42,379, followed by Maharashtra (19,968), West Bengal (12,748), Madhya Pradesh (10,141), Bihar (8,169) and Kerala (6,649).
The data also showed that over 1.60 crore cases of rape and those under the POCSO Act are pending.
States cited poor fiscal health
Sources said the states cited poor fiscal situation and want the central government to bear the entire cost of Rs 767 crore to set up the proposed FTSCs.
“Many states have told us they don’t have finances to spare for setting up these courts. The discussions are continuing,” a senior government functionary told ThePrint.
The states also pointed to the fact that the central government is sourcing its funds to set up the courts from the largely-unused ‘Nirbhaya Fund’, set up after the December 2012 gangrape-murder of a woman in Delhi.
The sources told ThePrint the central government doesn’t want to bear the entire expense and wants the states to provide 40 per cent of the total cost.
The states that have agreed to give their share include Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Odisha, Kerala and Karnataka, added the sources.
Another, and possibly more important, factor behind the failure to establish the FTSCs is the large number of vacancies in the subordinate judiciary across the country.
The number of vacant posts in subordinate judiciary was around 4,400 in 2014. The figure was 5,133 in June 2018 and over 6,200 until the end of November 2019.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)