Amid the national outrage over the barbaric gangrape-cum-murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in Delhi, the Chief Justice of India has asked all high courts to fast-track cases related to crime against women.
He said any delay in the trial of such cases "may be one of the factors contributing to the rise" in such incidents.
In a strongly worded letter to all the chief justices of state high courts, Justice Altamas Kabir observed that because of delays in trial, "deterrence pales into insignificance".
"Time has come when these cases have to be dealt with expeditiously, lest we should fail in our endeavour to arrest the sharp increase of crimes of violence against women," the CJI said in his letter on January 5, 2013.
Justice Kabir noted that rape was not only a physical barbarism but also afflicted the very soul of a victim. Asking the high courts to immediately set up fast-track courts, the CJI expressed his anguish over the recent gangrape case.
"The spontaneous outburst of anger is a measure of how the incident has left an indelible mark and shaken the conscience of the nation," he said.
Justice Kabir said cases of crime against women should be expedited even at the high court level.
As the head of Indian judiciary Justice Kabir can make recommendations to the high courts. His advice is, however, not binding on them.
Keeping the present scenario in mind, the CJI also asked the HCs to identify the number of requisite posts required to be created at the district level to fill up the vacancies that would arise after setting up of fast track courts.
The CJI has asked the HCs to coordinate with respective state governments to appoint judicial officers and also to augment infrastructure.
"I am sure that, judging the present-day scenario, the state government will not decline the genuine demand of the judiciary," the letter noted.
Justice Kabir had last week inaugurated the first fast-track court in Delhi in Saket to hear the gangrape-cum-murder case of the accused arrested for the offence.
The Delhi Government has decided to appoint 150 new judicial officers with support staff of 1,085 posts. At present, 3,670 vacancies exist in subordinate courts as well as HCs.