The Cabinet has approved the continuation of 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) for another two years, at an outlay of ₹1,572.86 crore.
- The Centre’s share of ₹971.70 crore will come from the Nirbhaya Fund.
About Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs):
- Origin: they were established in the year 2000 following the report of the 11th Finance Commission.
- Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) are being setup as a part of the National Mission for Safety of Women (NMSW).
- They are special courts for speedy trials. Fast track courts deal with speedy disposal or solution of cases to make the judiciary more effective and to avail justice as fast as possible.
- They are ‘special court’ is one which is to deal with special types of cases under a shortened and simplified procedure
- Implemented by the Department of Justice of the Ministry of Law and Justice
- In 2019, the union government set up 1,023 fast-track courts (FTCs) for expeditious trial and disposal of pending cases of rape and offences against children under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012.
- The NMSW covers all aspects from free medical care to legal aid to the victims of sexual assault by engaging public prosecutors in states and setting up nearly 1,023 fast track courts for speedy justice.
- The Supreme court in a Suo moto order directed the government to set up special courts in the districts with more than 100 cases pending under the POCSO Act.
- Funding: it is a centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) with a 60:40 funding ratio between Union and states respectively, 90:10 for special category states.
- Implementation: It is being implemented by the Department of Justice of the Ministry of Law and Justice since 2019 as a CSS. Since the setting up of FTSCs, over 51,600 cases of rape and POCSO offenses have been expeditiously disposed of through 660 FTSCs in 26 states.
How it came into existence:
Recent incidents of rape and gang rape of minor girls below the age of twelve and similar heinous crimes against women shook the conscience of the entire nation. To prevent such crimes, stricter laws were introduced through “the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018”. It strengthened the relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), Evidence Act and Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and provided for stringent punishment for rape of children and women. The key motive behind introducing harsh punishment is to create deterrence against such crimes. However, it is only possible if the trial in the court is completed within the time frame and justice is delivered expeditiously to the victims. Further, the proposed ‘National Mission for Safety of Women’ anchored with M/o Home Affairs (MHA), supports the view. One of its key objective is to expedite the trial and disposal of cases involving women and children by setting up Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs). The POCSO Act also mandates that the investigation in the cases is to be completed in two months and trial in 6 months. However, despite a strong law and policy framework, large number of rape and POCSO Act cases are pending in various courts in the country.
To assist the implementation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2018, the recent amendments to POCSO Act, 2019 and the directions of the Hon’ble Apex Court, a key intervention would be, setting up specific courts for time bound disposal of Rape and POCSO Act cases. This will include specific courts for POCSO Act
- The 1023 FTSCs will dispose off 1,66,882 cases of Rape and POCSO Act, that are pending trial in various courts.
- The above number is derived from the data provided by all High Courts as on 31.3.2018. However, keeping in mind the directions of the Hon’ble Apex Court on 25.7.2019, the latest data (as on 30.06.2019) on pending POCSO Act cases was collected from various High Courts.
- A State/UT-wise break up of such pending cases of both Rape and POCSO Act
- A total of 1023 FTSCs will be set up under the Scheme out of which 389 FTSCs will exclusively handle POCSO Act cases as per directions of the Hon’ble Apex Court.
- The remaining 634 FTSCs will deal with either rape cases or both rape and POCSO Act cases depending on the pendency and requirement.
- Each FTSC is expected to dispose off, 41-42 cases in each quarter and at least 165 cases in a year.
FUNCTIONING OF THE FTSCs
- FTSCs are set up for one year initially (subject to approval). Therefore, the Scheme does not intend to create any permanent infrastructure. The courts will be made functional in suitable premises taken on lease or as decided by the States/UTs and respective High Courts.
- Each FTSC will have one Judicial Officer and seven staff members. The Judicial officer and staff will work exclusively for disposal of Rape and POCSO Act cases as per this Scheme. Additional charge of the FTSCs will not be given to any existing Judicial Officer or court staff.
- States/UTs may engage judicial officers and court staff on contractual basis where sufficient manpower is not available. Services of retired judicial officers with relevant experience may also be engaged to dispose of cases in the FTSCs.
- The responsibility of setting up of FTSCs lies with the State & UT governments. The State/UT governments will take requirements from the High Courts and draw up an action plan of implementation.
- Each FTSC will exclusively handle pending cases of Rape and POCSO Act. No other cases of crime against women and children should be transferred to these courts.
- FTSCs will function full time.
- FTSCs will be linked to National Judicial Data Grid.
- The Scheme will be implemented by the State/UT Governments and High Courts in close coordination.
- The Scheme will be launched, first in those States and UTs which have conveyed their preparedness to the Department of Justice. The remaining States & UTs will be taken up subsequently. States & UTs/High Courts desirous of on-boarding into the Scheme may convey their concurrence by December 31, 2019.
- The Scheme will be implemented in the following manner:
- Department of Justice will assist all States & UTs and High Courts for implementation of this Scheme. The participant States & UTs /UTs will be apprised with the entire implementation framework of Scheme to help them understand their roles and responsibilities.
- States/UT Governments will take requirements from High Courts and set up FTSCs, appoint judicial officers and staff and make necessary arrangements for functioning of these courts.
- A review of the case disposal will also be tracked from NJDG database regularly.
- Data Collection and Analysis: Data will be collected from the quarterly reports submitted by High Courts and NJDG database by the Department of Justice. It will analyze the data and draw a comparative analysis of performance of FTSCs across States & UTs to identify good practices and good performance. Besides this, insights will be gathered on the challenges faced by FTSCs in following fast track procedures. This analysis will be shared with Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, Judiciary and other key stakeholders for supporting policies and procedures for strengthening justice delivery for victims of heinous crimes of rape and POCSO.
- Coordination between Department of Justice, Law Departments of States/UTs and High Courts: For a smooth initiation and functioning of the FTSCs, it is important that:
- Firstly, rape and POCSO Act cases pending in other courts are segregated and transferred to the newly constituted FTSCs under this Scheme. Secondly, each FTSC will be ascertained as Fast Track Court in Master Data and J.O. Code of the Presiding Officer will be tagged with such FTSC while linking it to National Judicial Data Grid. This will ensure efficient tracking of disposal of cases by the FTSC. A proforma for providing the JO code for the FTSCs is placed at Annexure 5 which may be filled up by the High Courts and sent to Department of Justice within 15 days of receipt of this Scheme guideline. Thirdly, for a timely and efficient implementation of the Scheme, a separate budget head for receiving the above funds for the FTSCs may be created. Law Departments in the State/UT may convey action taken in this regard at the earliest. This will help the Department of Justice in processing the transfer of funds at an early date.
- States/UTs will appoint/ designate a nodal person in the High Court to facilitate better coordination with the Department during the course of the Scheme.
- A quarterly progress report comprising of physical and financial in a prescribed format will be shared with the Department of Justice.
- Progress Review: The Scheme will be monitored as per the output and outcome framework placed at Annexure 3.
- For clarification on any point, you may get in touch with the resource persons of the Department whose names and contact details are enclosed in Annexure 6. The Department of Justice is committed to extend all requisite assistance to the High Court and the State & UT Government in setting up these courts. It is endeavored to start the FTSCs on or before October 2, 2019.
- Director (J-II), will be the overall in charge of implementation of this Scheme in the country under the overall supervision of Joint Secretary (Justice-II) and the Secretary Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice.
- The Director (J-II) shall be assisted by a team of personnel. This team shall be responsible to roll-out the scheme, organize workshops, timely release of funds to the States/UTs, receive physical & financial progress reports and conduct periodic monitoring, capacity building of stakeholders.
- At the State/UT level, the Registrar General of High Courts and Law Secretaries shall be responsible for the implementation of the Scheme and achievement of targets. A nodal officer from the High Court as well as the Law Department will be appointed who will assist the High Courts and States/UTs respectively in different tasks under the Scheme such as identification of premises for FTSCs, preparation of contracts for staff, compilation and submission of reports, coordinate and the Department of Justice (DoJ) team.
Need for FTSCs
- Rising violence against women and children: there were around 1.67 lakh cases of rape and cases under the POCSO Act in 2019, which has increased to 2.34 lakh cases as of 4 August 2021.
- Covid-19 impact: resulted in a backlog of cases as courts were not functioning effectively. This is one of the reasons for a huge jump in the cases.
- To ensure Speedy justice: more than 3 crore cases are pending in the lower courts across the country, resulting in delayed justice for victims of rape and POCSO.
- This nudged the government to set up FTSCs to provide quick justice to victims of sexual crimes.
- Reducing the number of undertrials: according to official data, more than 60% of the prisoners are undertrials. Fast track courts will help in providing relief to undertrials and lessen the burden on prison infrastructure.
- For the overall system to work productively, it is important to ensure that its various components work efficiently and without any hindrance.
- The time is ripe for a lead agency to be established by Central and State Governments to review the functioning of courts, gauge the need for improvements, and allocate adequate resources for their functioning in a systematic and streamlined manner.
- Government should also focus on creating adequate infrastructure by allocating more financial resources for justice delivery systems. This will facilitate access to speedy justice delivery to the people of India.
Source: The Hindu