163,112 cases pending before fast-track courts in Maharashtra

PUNE: In a reflection of the seriously slow pace of trials, there are as many as 163,112 lakh cases pending before various fast-track courts in Maharashtra with the state ranking second in terms of pendency of cases before fast-track courts, the ministry of law and justice stated in a reply in parliament
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Published on Sep 13, 2021 10:12 PM IST
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ByNadeem Inamdar

PUNE: In a reflection of the seriously slow pace of trials, there are as many as 163,112 lakh cases pending before various fast-track courts in Maharashtra with the state ranking second in terms of pendency of cases before fast-track courts, the ministry of law and justice stated in a reply in parliament. The mammoth pendency assumes significance in the wake of two recent rape-related deaths in Mumbai, and an underage girl recently raped by six persons in Pune where the police have promised fast-tracking of the case. Both Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and Pune police commissioner Amitabh Gupta have promised fast-tracking of these cases for speedier delivery of justice.

According to the department of justice, ministry of law and justice, the fast-track special courts’ scheme has been mooted for expeditious disposal of cases of rape and the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Fast-track courts address different kinds of cases pertaining to crimes against women, child trafficking under the POCSO Act, crime against senior citizens, crime against the disabled, and other heinous crimes. In 2018, 1.60 lakh cases were disposed of by fast-track courts while 29,779 cases were decided by fast-track courts in 2019. Till May 2020, only 5,119 cases were decided by the fast-track courts.

Advocate Milind Pawar said, “The sluggish working of fast-track courts defeats the very purpose of the institution whose main objective is faster disposal of pending cases. Factors such as the lack of physical infrastructure, shortage of dedicated judicial officials and clear mandates, less staff strength, and procedural reforms are essential elements that can fix the current situation.”

Recent incidents of rape and gang-rape of minor girls and other heinous crimes against women have shaken the nation’s conscience. To prevent such crimes, “the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018” has been introduced to strengthen the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC); Evidence Act; and Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and provide for stringent punishment for the rape of children and women. The key motive behind introducing harsh punishment is to create deterrence against such crimes. However, it is only possible if the trial in the court is completed within the timeframe and justice is delivered expeditiously to the victims. This view is further supported by the proposed ‘National Mission for the Safety of Women’ anchored with the ministry of home affairs (MHA). One of the mission’s key objectives is to expedite trial and dispose of cases involving women and children by setting up fast-track special courts (FTSCs). The POCSO Act also mandates that the investigation in these cases is to be completed in two months and the trial in six months. However, despite a strong law and policy framework, a large number of rape and POCSO Act cases are still pending in various courts in the country, the ministry of law and justice said.

In 2018, there were 22,775 cases pending under the POCSO Act and 138 fast-track courts were proposed. While in 2019, 19,968 cases were pending trial and 138 fast-track courts were operational for handling such cases in the state according to information made available by the department of justice, ministry of law and justice.

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