More than 57,500 cases involving crimes against women are currently pending in the various sessions and magisterial courts across Maharashtra. The pendency figures revealed in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query show that as of July 1 this year, 45,239 cases of crime against women are pending before magisterial courts, while 12,366 such cases are awaiting a hearing in the sessions courts.
These statistics were submitted before the Bombay high court on Wednesday during the hearing of a bunch of ongoing public interest litigations (PILs) seeking swifter hearings in cases involving atrocities against women and children, setting up of fast track courts in the state, and better policing, among other things.
Incidentally, figures of pendency of such cases submitted in the high court reveal a consistent rise in the pendency before the lower courts over the years. The RTI replies received over the years revealed that while in 2008, there were 35,000 cases of crimes such as sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence, assault and other atrocities against women pending in the lower courts in the state, the figure rose to 49,000 in 2013 and to about 54,000 in 2014.
The statistics that were submitted by Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Durve show that this year, between January 1 and July 1, the sessions and magisterial courts disposed of just more than 5,000 and 1,500 cases of crime against women respectively.
A bench of justice Naresh Patil and justice SB Shukre, who were presiding over the matter, have now sought a response from the state government on its efforts to set up fast track courts to deal with cases of crimes against women. The bench expressed its dismay over the delay in dealing with such cases especially in the light of “a worrying rise in the instances of crimes against women in the city as well as across the state.”
In February 2013, the Bombay HC had issued an order directing all district courts in the state to expedite trial in cases related to offences against women. And last year, during a previous hearing of the above PILs, the HC had directed the state to consider the creation of permanent fast track courts to deal with such offences. However, the same is still under consideration by the state government.
The PILs have sought directions from high court to the state seeking effective steps to establish a suitable number of fast-track courts to ensure that cases of crimes against women are promptly decided and do not linger for years.
The petitioners have also brought to the HC’s notice that the Maharashtra state commission for Women has been functioning without a chairperson since September last year. The bench has now also sought a report from the state government’s women and child development department on the same.