Fast Track Courts (FTCs) – Speedy justice is still a rarity

Question – In Fast Track Courts (FTCs) established in the early 2000s to reduce the time taken to settle court cases, speedy justice is still a rarity. Discuss the causes and diagnosis. – 16 October 2021

Answer – Fast Track Courts (FTCs) in India were established in the year 2000 on the recommendation of the 11th Finance Commission to reduce the burden of cases (over 2.69 crores) in lower courts and provide speedy justice. Judges are appointed on an ad-hoc basis and retired judges are eligible for appointment.

Importance of FTCS in India:

  • The FTCS ensures speedy trial so they are set up to provide expedited rial of victims of specific domain-related matters such as gender and sexual violence. Speedy trial was marked as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in the year 1986.
  • One of the major reasons for setting up fast track courts is to reduce overcrowding in prisons mainly due to undertrials. This gives rise to various issues such as lack of basic facilities, security concerns in prisons, etc.
  • Fast track courts solve the problem of manpower shortage in the judicial system through the appointment of retired judges.
  • The Supreme Court has directed setting up of fast track courts to try cases registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act (POCSO) during the hearing of a case.

Concerns about the FTCs

  • According to a survey conducted by the National Law University Delhi (NLU), there is considerable variation in the way FTCs are resolved in different states.
  • Cases related to rape and sexual offenses are referred to fast track courts by some states, while other cases are also referred to fast track courts by some states.
  • Without optimizing the existing system and solving the problems, increasing the number of judges will not yield the desired results.
  • Many fast track courts are unable to record audio and video recordings of witnesses due to lack of technical means, and do not have regular staff.

Some Measures to Improve the FTC’s Practice

  • Rationalization of judicial structure by establishing a lead agency by the Central Government and State Governments to review the functioning of courts in a systematic and time bound manner and ensuring coordination between fast track courts and special courts.
  • To provide additional judges including judicial chambers, technical facilities and new infrastructure.
  • To make permanent appointment of ad-hoc judges and support staff, as suggested by the Supreme Court.
  • Sensitizing the State Governments for setting up of suitable number of fast track courts and providing adequate finance.
  • A holistic approach of expediting investigations should be adopted to complement the fast track courts.

Way Forward:

Delays in receiving reports from labs related to forensic science, staff strength and IT infrastructure, frivolous advertisements and a growing list of cases are some of the problems that should be resolved at the earliest.

Also, adequate attention should be given to hearing pending cases in respect of both metropolitan and non-metropolitan cities.

Necessary action should be taken by taking serious note of some of the complex issues affecting the day to day functioning of fast track courts like irregular staffing, lack of physical infrastructure, shortage of staff in forensic laboratories etc.

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