More than nine years after they were set up to ensure speedy trials in high-profile criminal cases, the fast-track courts in the city are struggling fulfil their purpose, as they are saddled with responsibilities usually assigned to regular courts.?
Following the Apex Court's advocacy of fast-track courts, the state had constituted the fast-track court at Sewri where 13 court rooms were supposed to conduct trials on a day-to-day basis to clear pending cases. Even during the trial of some of the important cases, like those pertaining to the 1993 communal riots, five additional court rooms had been created across the city.
However, only six of the 13 fast-track court rooms are operational at the Sewri sessions court, and, burdened with judicial responsibilities of regular courts, they, too, are now struggling to cope with pendency. The fast-track courts are burdened with jurisdiction over 20 police stations of Central Mumbai and have to hear applications arising from cases registered in these police stations.
Advocate Wahab Khan who appears regularly before these courts, said, "They now deal with anticipatory bail applications, revision applications and appeals against the orders of the lower courts. These responsibilities have reduced the burden on the city civil and sessions court, but affected cases referred to be fast-tracked.
Some cases assigned to fast-track court have been pending for five years, said advocate Vishal Ingawale. "I represented a man accused in a bank fraud case, which was tried before the Sewri fast-track court. The case, which was registered in 2007, came up for hearing in 2009. The final argument of the case was submitted before the court in April 2011. However, after the final argument, the judge was transferred and the case is yet to move forward," Ingawale said.
Even after final argument was over, there was no judgment for months together.
Ingawale then requested bail for the accused. His client was released on bail in October 2011. Ingawale has been waiting for a judgment for more than a year now. It is now listed on January 22 for hearing, Ingawale added.
"The courts set up in 2003 were only asked to conduct trials of pending cases," said a source in the sessions court on the condition of anonymity. "These courts were a great success - cases assigned to them were heard on a day-to-day basis and many were cleared within a month."