Report No. 189
(e) Fast-tracking criminal cases
Over two crore cases are pending in about 13000 district subordinate courts. About two-third of these cases are criminal cases. And about a million are sessions cases which involve heinous offences such as murder, rape, dacoity etc. About 30 per cent of sessions cases have been pending for three years or more. When trial gets delayed, witnesses lose interest. They often get coerced and justice becomes a casualty. The conviction rate in offences under the IPC fell from 65 per cent in 1970s to about 40 per cent in 2000. Justice delayed is justice denied. One of the main reason for delay in administering justice is that the courts have to deal with more cases than their capacity. Result is that courts have no options but to give frequent adjournments. Expeditious trial of cases require more Courts.
As mentioned above, this plan investment in the administration of justice is totally inadequate. It was for this reason that the Dept. of Justice approached the 11th Finance Commission for non-plan assistance to set up additional Courts for expediting the trial of long pending sessions cases.
The 11th Finance Commission, after discussing with Law Secretaries of major States, recommended a grant of Rs.502.9 crores under Article 275 of the Constitution of India to set up 1,734 additional Courts known as Fast Track Courts. These Courts are to continue till 2005. The grant covers the entire functioning of fast track Courts. So far States have notified 1,366 fast track Courts and the Central govt. has released about Rs.360 crores. As grants under Article 275 of the Constitution are a devolution to the States, the Union Territories were left out. The Delhi High Court proposed setting up fast track Courts in Delhi and so did the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Funds were provided in the current financial year for setting up fast track Courts in Delhi.
These fast track Courts have been assigned 3,14,777 cases and by June 2003, fast track Courts had disposed of 1,60,487 cases - more than half of the total number of cases transferred to them. It is a significant progress. If the Central Govt. continue to give adequate financial support to the States for better administration of justice, obviously quality of justice will improve and there be no need to put more monetary burden on litigant.
These fast track Courts address the problem of only sessions cases and of cases pending in the Magistrate Courts. Therefore, the Dept. of Justice approached the Twelveth Finance Commission in March 2003 with a proposal to set up fast track magisterial Courts.
In this scenario, more allocation is necessary from the general taxes received by the Government. There is no justification in enhancing the court fee structure. It is true that with the passage of time the cost of administration of justice is increasing but to meet this increased cost of administration of justice enhancing the court fees is not the proper approach. On the contrary, it will be a roadblock to the access to justice, which is recognized as a basic right world over.