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The Supreme Court Friday asked the government to fast-track the criminal justice system in India for ensuring good governance and gave it four weeks time to come out with a comprehensive framework on how the task could be achieved.
A bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha said speedy disposal of criminal cases cannot be a piece-meal effort. Earmarking courts to hear special cases such as those involving lawmakers or senior citizens and women-related offences was not the solution.
PM Narendra Modi said last month that there should be no criminal in Parliament and requested the SC to complete trials of pending cases against MPs within a year. SC had in March ordered trial courts to conclude such matters within a year after framing of charges against the accused.
But, what is lacking is adequate infrastructure and manpower, the CJI said, lamenting that as the head of judiciary, he too hadn’t been able to do much. “I can only write letters to my chief justices of various high courts to fast-track cases. I can’t constitute courts. Now there is a demand from you (government) to expedite criminal cases against MPs and MLAs. That would not lead to fast-tracking of the judicial system and instead delay the other cases,” he told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh on Pakistani prisoners languishing in jail for years as their trial was not over.
“For good governance, it is necessary that courts are strengthened and criminal justice is fast-tracked. It’s high time that central government takes positive steps in consultation with the state governments in fast-tracking the criminal justice,” it ordered, asking Rohatgi to come out with a proposal before September 5, the next date of hearing.
The CJI noted courts were not a source of revenue earning. “But they ensure law and order and good governance. Strengthening of judiciary is the motto of our constitution,” he added.
The court also underlined the reason for states not augmenting judicial infrastructure. “Difficulty comes in sharing the financial cost to run the additional courts. But in a federal structure, Union of India has to take a lead. Judiciary should be given due respect to make it function well,” said the bench.