The Indian judicial system has once again come under the scanner as reports say that fast-track courts (FTCs) — set up for the purpose of expediting the judicial process — are now clogged up too, with the number of pending cases rising 40 per cent in the last three years.
The report says that the pendency of cases has increased from 10.7 lakh cases in 2020 to 15 lakh cases now. The number was 13.8 lakh cases as of last year.
The union government started a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in October 2019 for setting up of 1,023 fast-track special courts (FTSCs), including 389 exclusive POCSO courts.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) courts were set up for expeditious trial and disposal of cases related to rape and POCSO Act, in pursuance to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2018.
Around 1,800 FTCs were planned to be set up by the states as per the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission during the 2015-2020 period. 843 FTCs are functional as of 31 January.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that 764 FTSCs had disposed of more than 1.44 lakh cases, while 1.98 lakh cases were pending in these courts as of 31 January.
The Minister had previously expressed his dissatisfaction over the functioning of these courts and the FTSC Scheme, and asked the states “to do much more.”
Although the major funding of the scheme comes from the Union government, states are primarily responsible for setting up these courts.
Last year, a Parliamentary panel report too criticized the functioning of FTCs and FTSCs and noted that some of them took 10 years to dispose of a case, against the mandated six-week period.
It also observed that a third party evaluation of the scheme conducted by the National Productivity Council (NPC) in 2020 recommended the continuation of the scheme.
However, the NPC had also recommended capacity-building measures and such as strengthening investigation agencies and building Vulnerable Witness Deposition Centres (VWCDs) for children and women.
The panel concluded that there is a need to revamp the FTSCs to make these courts ‘truly fast track’.
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