Fast track courts

Fast track courts are seen to be a new dawn in the over burdened judicial system proposing not only justice but timely so.

“Fast track courts” was one of the most influential means of judicial reforms. Over 1700 special courts were established in India exercising on the principle of “justice delayed is justice denied”. The Ministry of Finance sanctioned an amount of Rs. 502.90cr under Article 275 as “special problem and upgradation grant” for judicial administration. These courts are expected to clear the excessive strength of pending cases in the subordinate courts. The previous law minister, K Sibal said necessary steps should be taken to establish a suitable number of Fast Track Courts to especially hear “offences against women, children, differently abled people, senior citizens and marginalised sections” of society. Interestingly these courts are also expected to be cost effective as in the initial months, they will handle petty crimes that have been backlogged and held offenders in jail for longer than required, and this would in turn relieve jails off some of the burdens of over-populating. The fast track courts can thus be seen as an act in furtherance to Art 21 which provides for both right to life and speedy trials.

The scheme says that there must be at least 5 fast track courts in every district. Beyond that the distribution is done on the basis of amount of pending cases. These courts will take state their working first with those cases that have been hung along for 2yrs or more.

“An effective justice delivery system requires that justice should not only be delivered on time, but should also be easily accessible to people, particularly people from vulnerable sections of society,” said President Pranab Mukherjee while delivering a lecture in seminar organised by the Bar Council of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.

For quick and efficient decision making the sub-ordinate courts are being integrated with technological infrastructure. By the end of March 2014, 12000 out of the total 22000 lower and district courts were sanctioned to be computerised.

The Supreme Court in “All India Judges Association vs Union of India & Ors” stated that, “An independent and efficient judicial system is one of the basic structures of our Constitution. If sufficient number of judges is not appointed, justice would not be available to the people, thereby undermining the basic structure.” The court explained importance of fast track courts saying that “to create a court is to appoint a judge”. The appointment of judges in these courts will be done through Chief Justices, further amongst the retired session and additional session court judges; few would be chosen to be ad-hoc judges by the High Court. The credential of judges was also stressed upon by the court. It was observed that a good judge is not when who is good but who’s also thought to be good. Simply stating the trust of public on judiciary not just lies in their trust over the judges. The substantiate this, the Court in its decision in Brij Mohan Lal v Union of India pronounced that no person who was dismissed or removed or compulsorily retired or made to seek retirement shall be considered for appointment under the Scheme. The Court has been monitoring the functioning of fast track courts since this judgement in May, 2002.

The Law Minister and the judicial system seemed to have a strong trust in this scheme and hoped that it would help in eliminating the back-log of cases and make justice readily available to all those who seek it. Unfortunately these courts have failed to live up to their expectations. The 2012 Delhi gang rape case which spurred the need of quick delivery of justice, took 7 months to be resolved. Now, although the judicial system as a whole considers this to be a good start, the hopes of public were much higher. Further despite the Supreme Court direction for setting aside 10 percent of existing courts as additional fast-track courts, no efforts were made in furtherance to it. Hence the Supreme Court upheld the government’s policy to stop funding fast-track courts, which were created a decade ago to speed up trial in pending cases but have failed to deliver.

Although contrasting views on its success, fast track courts are seen to be a new dawn in the over burdened judicial system proposing not only justice but timely so.

Ruchita Sharma is an intern at the Takshashila Institution.

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