15th November – There is nothing ‘fast’ about fast track courts

The Eleventh Finance Commission’s report was submitted in 2000 and its recommendations were for the period between 2000 and 2005.

Findings of the report –

The report said, “We have observed that there is a pendency of about two crore cases in the district and subordinate courts of the states. We are providing a grant of Rs 502.90 crore for creation of additional courts specifically for the purpose of disposing of the long-pending cases… This will enable the states to create 1,734 new additional courts.” This provision was based on an estimated cost of Rs 29 lakh for each additional court.

Fast Track Courts –

  • Though the Eleventh Finance Commission didn’t use the expression, these 1,734 courts were fast track courts (FTCs). The state governments were supposed to establish FTCs after consulting the high courts.
  • The term for the schemes recommended by the Finance Commission for FTCs ended on March 31, 2005. By that date, state governments had notified 1,711 FTCs, of which 1,562 were functional.
  • The performance of these courts varied widely across states. The all-India average of cases disposed per month by a FTC was 15. Originally, the cases disposed per month was meant to be a per judge norm — and not a per FTC norm.

Performance of Fast Track Courts –

  • On December 31, 2018, there were 699 FTCs (some of the courts that were established earlier had closed down). These were for cases against women, children, senior citizens, differently-abled, those with terminal ailments and civil property disputes that were more than five years old. The crime data for 2017 has been published recently. “Crime in India” has information on the IPC crimes tried by the FTCs.
  • The SLL (special and local law) crimes are unlikely to be transferred to FTCs. But yes, those data does not include civil cases handled by FTCs. When will one think that a court is fast track? Probably, when a court disposes the case transferred to it within a year.
  • In 2017, FTCs in Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu disposed off at least half their cases within one year. Chhattisgarh and Punjab missed the cut marginally.
  • If the cut-off is changed from one year to three years, a few other states — Gujarat, Haryana, Telangana, West Bengal and Delhi — will not have poor records.
  • However, the picture in some states is dismal. For example, FTCs in Bihar settled 6,704 cases in 2017. Two thousand five hundred and seven of these cases lasted more than 10 years and 1,655 cases took between five and 10 years. There is nothing “fast” about these courts.

Way forward –

  • There is now (2019) a scheme for fast track special courts (FTSCs) to adjudicate on rape and POCSO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) cases. “The 1,023 FTSCs will dispose of 166,882 cases of Rape and POCSO Act, that are pending trial in various courts.There are 389 districts in the country where the number of pending cases under POCSO Act exceeds 100. Therefore, as per the order of Hon’ble Apex Court, in each of these districts one exclusive POCSO court will be set up which will try no other cases.
  • Depending upon the pendency of POCSO Cases the State/UT Governments in consultation with the High Court could however decide if more number of exclusive POCSO Courts need to be established within overall number of FTSCs provided under this scheme.”
  • The Centre will meet part of the expense of FTSCs with a matching grant by the State/UT — this scheme is till 2020-21. However, the incentive structure of judges presiding over FTCs has a lesson also for FTSCs.

SourceThe Indian Express

QUESTIONIt is being argued that there is nothing ‘fast’ about ‘fast track courts’. Discuss the fiscal and judicial implications of having a ‘non-fast’ courts. Suggest a way forward.

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