RECENT ORDER FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF FAST TRACK COURTS
The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet promulgated an order for the establishment of 218 Fast Track Courts specifically to adjudicate rape and child abuse cases. The order came days after when a fatal burn attack was inflicted on a woman witness, killing her on her way to the court to testify for the heinous Unnao rape case.
Fast Track Courts are unique kinds of courts that have exclusive jurisdiction over a particular form of law. The idea of Fast Track Courts was formulated with the intention of reducing the burden of litigation from high courts and district courts and thus ensuring swift justice. In the year 2000, fast track courts were launched in India.
Approximately 30 million cases were pending in all courts in the country during that time and the 11th finance commission authorized the establishment of 1734 fast-track courts throughout the country for a five-year experimental period to help solve those cases. The Commission allotted Rs 500 crore in this regard. An average of five Fast Track Courts was to be established in each district of the country. But the numbers were generally lesser.
For the next five years (2000-2005) these fast track courts worked efficiently and solved almost 10 million cases. The scheme proved to be very successful. Thus in 2005, the Supreme Court directed the central government to continue with the Fast Track Courts Scheme. The scheme got discontinued in March 2011. Though the central government discontinued financial assistance to the states for establishing FAST TRACK COURTS, the state governments can establish Fast Track Courts from their own funds. As per the current situation, there are only 699 Fast Track Courts are functional across the country.
The responsibility of setting up of such courts lies with the State & UT governments and the concerned government has to consult with the respective High Court and draw up an action plan of implementation. Judges are retired judges of the high court or subordinate judiciary, but sometimes ad-hoc judges are appointed as well. These courts do not have a mention in the hierarchy of the judicial system and no provision concerning them is in the constitution
These Fast Track Courts are dealing with cases related to
- heinous crimes and cases related to women, children,
- senior citizens
- disabled and
- litigants affected with terminal ailments etc.
- Civil natured Cases pertaining to property disputes that are 5 years old.
- More than half of the states and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, have no Fast Track Courts.
- Despite a strong law and policy framework, a large number of rape and POCSO Act cases are pending in various courts in the country. Demands from civil society for expedited justice in rape cases. The POCSO Act also mandates that the investigation in the cases is to be completed in two months and trial in 6 months. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of pending rape and POCSO Act cases
- There is no uniformity in the operation of these courts all over the country. The concentration of courts over the Indian map is arbitrary. There is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by these courts across States, with certain States primarily allocating rape and sexual offense cases to them and other States allocating various other matters such as handicapped persons, SC & ST atrocities, etc.
- These courts lack technological resources to conduct audio-visual recordings of the victims and are deprived of adequate staff and IT infrastructure. Delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, frivolous adjournments and over-listing of cases in the courts itself are some of the problems FTCs face.
Advantages of this scheme
Reduction of the caseload burden on the mainstream judicial hierarchy. The establishment of fast track courts has fostered the specialization of a category of law. Such specialization enhances the judicial effectiveness and performance of these and of the other courts themselves. It allows practitioners working in such courts to imbibe professionalization in specific categories of law. High case clearance rate and speedy trial rate guarantee consistency and predictability.
Fast track courts have turned out to be a good way to deal with sexual harassment and cases of children because they get full attention from the judiciary that was lacking in high courts and district courts due to the number of cases pending. Thanks to its speedy trial and verdict, Fast Track courts have the highest rate of dismissal of cases in India.