Fast track courts deliver slow speed in rape trials

Fast track courts are not fast as all, as there are much more cases pending before these courts, which have crossed beyond the fixed time period of six months.

The gruesome gang-rape of a 23-year old girl in New Delhi in December last year had sparked nationwide outrage, forcing the government to assure speedy justice.

Three days after the incident, the Delhi High Court took a suo motu cognizance of the incident and decided to supervise the probe. After another four days, it pronounced that the trials for all the sexual assault cases in the capital would be conducted on a daily basis and in January 2013, the case was shifted to a fast track court.

It is a fast track trial that has been going on from last eight months. The defence lawyers alleged that the delay is because of the large number of accused presented in the case and the prosecution responded to the same by saying that the number of witnesses are comparatively high because they wanted to guarantee a fair trial.

The horrendous crime had sent shock waves down the spine of the country that has been long suffering from the violence against its women. Hundreds of thousands of protesters hit the streets demanding justice and the pressure led to the creation of a fast-track court for brutality against women. However, the speed of these fast track courts are so overstrained that even a petty crime trial can elongate to over a decade. Though, the optimists say that a verdict would be delivered in the month of September.

Fast track courts are not fast as all, as there are much more cases pending before these courts, which have crossed beyond the fixed time period of six months.

The situation is no different in Mumbai, where a 22-year-old photojournalist was raped by five men in an abandoned textile mill complex in the posh Lower Parel area last week after her male colleague was beaten and tied-up.

The Maharashtra police pulled up their socks and arrested all five accused within three days of the incident. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde assured that the state government will ‘do its utmost’ to complete the investigation and the accused will be prosecuted speedily.

But the circumstances continue to be the same in Mumbai as in Delhi, it’s been more than nine years that the fast track courts were set up to ensure speedy trials in high-profile criminal cases. However, the city is still struggling hard to fulfil their purpose. Only six out of the 13 fast-track court rooms are operational at the Sewri sessions court.

The major reason behind the delays in delivering justice is the shortage of judges in India- a country with the population of 1.2 billion people. As posted by Associated Press, according to a 2009 report by India’s Law Commission, which was set up by the Law Ministry to suggest reforms, India has roughly 11 judges for every million people, compared with approximately 110 per million in the United States.

The problem does not end here; there are other problems of widespread corruption, which holds the process of collecting evidences. Court trials require flexibility. The commission suggested revamping of the entire legal system, with the appointment of more judges, time limits for trials and bans on useless postponement.

But the question continues to be the same that who will keep a track of time taken by these fast track courts to deliver justice?

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