- A look on Fast-track courts (FTCs) in India
- Why FTCs failed in solving the pending cases?
- IT’s Input
- Fast Track Courts (FTCs) scheme
- Successfulness of the FTC scheme
The hard realities of India’s fast-track courts
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Why it was in news?
- Recently, Minister for Women and Child Development proposed to set up 1,023 fast-track courts in the districts with more than 100 cases pending under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
A look on Fast-track courts (FTCs) in India
- The first FTC was established in the year 2000.
- Currently, there are 581 functional fast track courts present in India with approximately 6 lakh pending cases.
- Uttar Pradesh has the most number pending cases (4.25 lakh), followed by the Maharashtra.
- Sikkim, with just 11 pending cases in the fast track courts, is at the bottom of the list.
- However, 56% of the States and Union Territories, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, had no FTCs.
Why FTCs failed in solving the pending cases?
- It was observed that there is a huge variation in the kinds of cases handled by FTCs across various States.
- There are some States which primarily allocates rape and sexual offence cases to FTCs while other States allocates various other matters to them.
- Further, several FTCs lacked technological resources to conduct audio and video recordings of the victims and many of them did not have regular staff.
Number of judges
- Data collated from the Supreme Court’s between 2010 and 2017 shows that:
- In Karnataka, the number of working judges increased between 2012 and 2017 but pendency cases did not reduce.
- In other States, such as Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi and West Bengal, increase or decrease in the number of judges did not affect pendency of cases.
- In the case of fast track commercial courts, several States designate special judges from the current pool of judges. This could prove to be problematic as it would increase the workload of the remaining judges.
- Inadequate staff and IT infrastructure, delay in getting reports from the understaffed forensic science laboratories, frivolous adjournments and over-listing of cases in the cause list are some of the factors which have impacts on disposal of cases.
- States need to engage with the principal and senior district judges to get a sense of issues the fast track courts are facing in various districts.
- Equal attention must be given to both the metropolitan and far-flung non-metropolitan areas in addressing issues related to FTCs.
- Critical issues affecting the day-to-day functioning of the FTCs must be comprehensively addressed like inadequate court staff, improper physical and IT infrastructure and understaffed forensic labs.
- Hence, for the FTCs to become successful, States will need to deliberate on the issues at the ground level.
- Identifying systemic issues and addressing the concerns is as important for timely disposal of cases as increasing the number of judges.
- It is also important to ensure that various components work efficiently for the overall system to work productively.
Fast Track Courts (FTCs) scheme
- The Eleventh Finance Commission recommended a scheme for creation of 1734 Fast Track Courts (FTCs) for disposal of long pending Sessions and other cases.
- The scheme was for a period of 5 years.
- The FTCs were established to expeditiously dispose of long pending cases in the Sessions Courts and long pending cases of under trial prisoners.
- The term of scheme on the Fast Track Courts which were recommended by the Eleventh Finance Commission ended in 2005.
- The Supreme Court, through the case of Brij Mohan Lal Vs India observed that the scheme of Fast Track Courts should not be disbanded and directed to continue scheme till 2010.
- After 2011, It was then decided that there would be no central funding to FTCs beyond 2011 and States were given the liberty to either continue the FTC Scheme or to discontinue it as per their discretion.
Successfulness of the FTC scheme
- Out of 1734 FTC established in 2011, only 1562 were functional by 2005 when this scheme was supposed to end in 2005. The central government in 2005, decided to continue its support for the 1562 functional FTCs till 2011.
- By the end of 2011, only 1192 FTCs were functional. This is also the year when the central government stopped financial support to the FTCs.
- The states were supposed to continue FTCs with expenses met from their own funds and hence not many states were interested and more than 60% of these FTCs were closed down.