GS 2, MAINS: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
The FTCs were established to expeditiously dispose of long-pending cases in the sessions courts and long-pending cases of undertrial prisoners.
Increasing the number of courts as a recourse to deal with the mounting backlog has been a common practice. However, while large sums of money and attention are being devoted to creating additional posts, little is being done to identify and address the prevalent systemic issues.
Despite spending as much as Rs 2,993 crore from 2016 to 2019, the results have not been encouraging. Speedy justice now forms a part of fundamental rights and the FTCs were supposed to cater to it but are performing much below expectations.
THE SCHEME OF FAST TRACK COURTS:
The Eleventh Finance Commission recommended a scheme for creation of 1734 Fast Track Courts (FTCs) in the country for disposal of long pending Sessions and other cases.
In this regard, the Commission had allocated Rs 500 crore. FTCs were to be established by the state governments in consultation with the respective High Courts. An average of five FTCs were to be established in each district of the country.
The judges for these FTCs were appointed on an adhoc basis. The judges were selected by the High Courts of the respective states
CHALLENGES FACING THE FAST TRACK COURTS:
There are insufficient numbers of fast track courts for the number of cases that are required to be disposed. This leads to overburdening of the courts and causes delay in disposal of cases.
FTCs follow the same procedural laws that are followed by regular courts. Moreover, even if a case in a FTC is disposed of within the time specified by procedure, cases which are appealed to the high courts and the Supreme Court are not fast-tracked at those stages.
Designated staff working solely in a FTC is not always present. Sometimes, staff from other (regular) courts end up working in FTCs as well. Staffs working in some FTCs are on contractual appointments; so they can leave at any time, and they do not completely understand their responsibilities.
Certain categories of offences are singled out over others, and thus are given more importance by being allotted to and decided by FTCs. However, the basis of giving priority to some cases has not been thought through before implementation. It is a fact that all litigations have the right to fast delivery of justice. But this phenomenon of fast-tracking of some cases has led to slowing down others.
Some FTCs do not have the equipment needed to conduct video and audio recordings of victims. Designated Vulnerable Victims Deposition Complexes, where testimonies can be conducted, are set up only in few court complexes. Since a different level of sensitivity is required to hear and handle such cases, such designated rooms provide a conducive atmosphere and great comfort to vulnerable victims to share their thoughts in a free manner.
In the police part of the system, there are no designated investigating officers who only investigate cases filed in FTCs. Investigating officers also do normal policing duties, so their time is shared. Additionally, if an accused is in custody (rather than on bail), then police tend to work faster. Further, if offences take place in different parts of the country, then also it takes more time.
The forensic science laboratories, which are crucial to the working of FTCs, are highly understaffed and not well-equipped. They deal with reports relating to both regular courts and FTCs. This leads to delay in submitting expert reports to courts.
FTC personnel are not given training specific to cases and offences that they will deal with while working in such courts. There is also a lack of adequate funds being given to FTCs to appoint sufficient staff and to have modern infrastructure like computers, audio-video recording devices, air-conditioning equipment, etc. The sorry state of the system is further borne out by the fact that most cases filed before such courts result in acquittals.
SOLUTIONS AND WAY FORWARD:
Identifying systemic issues and addressing the concerns is as important for timely disposal of cases as increasing the number of judges.
given the vacancies in subordinate courts across the country, it also needs to be seen whether States will hire additional judges or appoint FTCs from the current pool of judges. For instance, in the case of commercial courts, several States designate special judges from the current pool of judges. Such a move could prove to be problematic as it would increase substantially the workload of the remaining judges.
The final responsibility of making sure that the entire exercise results in a positive change vests with the States. For the FTCs to become successful, States will need to take stock of the issues at the ground level. It is important that States engage with the principal and senior district judges to get a sense of issues the courts are facing in various districts. Equal attention must be paid to both the metropolitan and far-flung metropolitan areas.
Critical issues such as inadequate court staff improper physical and IT infrastructure and understaffed forensic labs, which affect the day-to-day functioning of the FTCs, must be comprehensively addressed.
PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:
Critically examine the Supreme Court’s judgement on ‘National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014’ with reference to appointment of judges of higher judiciary in India. (2018)
What was held in the Coelho case? In this context, can you say that judicial review is of key importance amongst the basic features of the Constitution? (2017)
Resorting to ordinances has always raised concern on violation of the spirit of separation of powers doctrine. While noting the rationales justifying the power to promulgate ordinances, analyze whether the decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue have further facilitated resorting to this power. Should the power to promulgate ordinances be repealed? (2016)
Whether the Supreme Court Judgement (July 2018) can settle the political tussle between the Lt. Governor and elected government of Delhi? Examine. (2015)
Starting from inventing the ‘basic structure’ doctrine, the judiciary has played a highly proactive role in ensuring that India develops into a thriving democracy. In light of the statement, evaluate the role played by judicial activism in achieving the ideals of democracy. (2014)