New Delhi: Highlighting the need for robust functioning of fast-track courts (FTC) and fast-track special courts (FTSC) for the safety and security of women, children and citizens belonging to the marginalised communities, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has, in a letter to chief justices of all high courts, raised concern about the pendency of cases in these courts.
The letter also points out under-utilisation of funds earmarked to establish FTCs and FTSCs and urges the chief justices to personally look into the matter. To underline his concern over pendency of cases in these courts, Rijiju has provided state-wise analysis of the functioning of FTCs and FTSCs. These courts, the letter added, were set-up under a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for expeditious trial of rape and POCSO cases (involving juvenile victims).
The 14th Finance Commission had recommended setting-up of 1,400 FTCs by the state governments to fast-track criminal cases of heinous crimes. However, till 31 July, 2022 only 896 FTCs were established in 24 states/union territories, in which 13,18,427 cases are pending. During the analysis, it was also noticed that while 88,000 monthly cases are registered, case disposal is approximately 35,000, leading to an ever-increasing pendency of cases.
As far as FTSCs are concerned, they were started under the CCS in October 2019, pursuant to Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 for quick disposal of rape and POCSO cases. While the scheme envisaged 1,023 FTCs, including 389 exclusive POCSO courts (the figure was based on the then pendency data), only 731 FTCs with 412 exclusive POCSO courts are operational in 28 states and union territories as on 31 July, 2022. These courts have cumulatively disposed 1,08,702 cases.
“On a analysis, it reveals that monthly 10,000 new cases are registered, while disposal is 6,000 and hence pendency is continuously increasing,” Rijiju’s letter states. The latest data shows that more than 3,28,000 cases are pending, which the letter describes as an “alarming situation”.
‘Under-utilisation of budget’
Adding that the Centre has been allocating sufficient funds in every year’s budget for the FTSC scheme, the letter further says that the Department of Justice, under Ministry of Law, has been following up with state governments and high courts to avail the allocated funds and its timely utilisation.
Despite the follow-up, in many states the pre-requisite compliances for the release of CSS funds under the Public Financial Management System are not fully complete or are partially complete, leading to “under-utilisation” of allocated budget, the letter claims.
Asking the chief justices to personally intervene in the matter, Rijiju has asked them to set-up the remaining number of FTCs and FTSCs under their respective jurisdiction, as envisaged under the 14th Finance Commission and CCS.
The letter emphasises on creating a strong justice delivery system through FTCS and FTSCs. “To ensure the speedy disposal of cases and prevent creation of backlog, necessary instructions and support may be given to the courts concerned and a strict monitoring mechanism may be set up for the timebound disposal of cases by the FTCS/FTSCs,” it added.