Keep the fast track courts active

Keep the fast track courts active

As the trial of the Delhi gang rape case gets under way the role of fast track courts is getting renewed attention. By many accounts like this , this and this there is a backlog of cases spanning several hundred years. Reform of the current moribund judicial system has been a long pending demand of liberal minded Indians. The slow pace of work in lower courts is placing a huge burden on India''s supreme court too.

Pious sounding leaders express their outrage at crimes like the Delhi gang rape and continue to ignore long standing problems in the law and order system. For politicians facing criminal charges, it is convenient to let the judicial system remain in it''s current state of funk. Here is what has happened to funding of fast track courts since 2011(emphasis added by me):

As per the latest available information received from the High Courts/State Governments, 32.34 lakh cases have been disposed off by these courts, out of 38.90 lakh transferred to these courts leaving 6.56 lakh cases pending for disposal.
The scheme of central assistance for Fast Track Courts was extended for a period of one year i.e. upto 31.3.2011. It was decided that there will be no central funding for Fast Track Courts beyond 31-03-2011.

In the coming months, all major political parties will launch their 2014 election campaigns and their respective manifestos.This time, a clear cut promise of police and judicial reforms in their manifestos should be held as an acid test of their sincerity. Activists should campaign for the creation of special fast track courts to try elected politicians charged with serious offenses.This should be done both at the state and central levels.

Apart from cases involving serious crimes , there are decades worth of civil law suits languishing in the system causing enormous economic damage. Disputes like land ownership/acquisition, graft charges against civil servants rarely get resolved in a reasonable time frame.

With the next parliamentary elections due in 2014, UPA-2 is unlikely to enact any serious legislation for judicial reforms. Fast track courts, which can reduce some of the logjam need additional funding and support. There is a danger of the focus on fast track courts fizzling away after the Delhi rape case has been adjudicated. Until permanent reforms are enacted, civil society and pro-reform Indians should fight to keep the fast track courts open and productive.

Department of justice web-site.