Govt makes fresh push with states to operationalize special fast-track courts for sex offence cases

NEW DELHI, 24 Oct: The Centre has made a fresh push with certain states to operationalize special fast-track courts launched on Gandhi Jayanti two years ago to deliver swift justice in sexual offence cases.

After the passage of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2018, the central government had decided to set up 1,023 fast-track special courts (FTSC), including 389 to deal exclusively with cases related to violation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, in 31 states and union territories.

Against the total intended FTSCs, 674, including 367 POCSO courts, have been made operational in 27 states and UTs, and till August this year they have disposed of 56,267 cases despite the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.

According to government sources, 28 states and UTs have given their consent to the FTSC scheme. West Bengal, which was earmarked 123 such courts, Andaman & Nicobar, which was to get one FTSC and Arunachal Pradesh, which was earmarked three FTSCs, have not yet given their consent.

Arunachal Pradesh has told the union law ministry’s justice department that for the time being, such courts are not required in the state due to low number of cases.

Goa was earmarked two FTSCs. It gave consent for one FTSC, but is yet to operationalize it, the sources said.

The consent of states is a must as FTSCs are part of a centrally-sponsored scheme where both the Centre and the state chip in with funds.

The justice department is corresponding with the states which are yet to operationalize all or some of the FTSCs earmarked to them.

Fresh letters were sent to these states recently, the sources said.

There are 10 states which are yet to operationalize all the FTSCs earmarked to them. For instance, Andhra Pradesh has operationalized nine out of 18 such courts. Bihar was earmarked 54 FTSCs, but 45 have so far been operationalized.

Similarly, Maharashtra, with a quota of 138, has so far operationalized 33 such courts.

There are 17 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Nagaland, which have operationalized all the FTSCs earmarked to them.

Each FTSC was conceived to try between 65 and 165 cases per annum. The annual expenditure to run one court was pegged at Rs 75 lakhs with one judicial officer and seven support staff.

On 4 August this year, the union cabinet had approved the continuation of 1,023 fast-track special courts, including 389 exclusive POCSO courts, as a centrally-sponsored scheme (CSS) from 1 April, 2021 to 31 March, 2023, with an outlay of Rs 1,572.86 crores (Rs 971.70 crores as central share and Rs 601.16 crores as state share).

The central share is to be funded from the Nirbhaya Fund. The scheme was launched on 2 October, 2019. (PTI)