Despite 1,000 fast track courts, 32 millions cases still pending

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Supreme Court
New Delhi, Dec 23: India's over 1,000 fast track courts, set up for moving the wheels of justice faster, have decided more than 3.2 million cases in the past 11 years, but a whopping 32 million cases are still pending, according to available official data.

Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal said in the Lok Sabha that a total of 3,292,785 cases were disposed of by the 1,192 Fast Track Courts (FTCs) till March 2011. He said there are more than 32 million pending cases in high courts and subordinate courts across the country.

Leading the chart of cases tackled, Gujarat's 61 fast track courts disposed of 434,296 cases, followed by 153 courts in Uttar Pradesh, which decided 411,658 cases. Maharashtra's 51 courts concluded hearing of 381,619 cases while 84 courts in Madhya Pradesh decided 317,363 cases and 49 courts of Tamil Nadu heard 371,336 cases.

During the time of central funding of fast-track courts, between 2000 to 2011, Bihar ran the maximum number of such courts, 179. This also resulted in the disposal of a large number of pending cases in the state -- 159,105 cases till March 2011.

Sibal told the Lok Sabha that FTCs were set up to handle long pending cases on the recommendation of the Eleventh Finance Commission from year 2000.

As per December 2012, there are at least 27.6 million cases pending in subordinate courts while 4.4 million are pending in various high courts.

Retired Delhi High Court judge Justice S.N. Dhingra said the government must "appoint more judges" to try the pending cases. Dhingra told IANS that such courts were established for "clearing the massive backlog in court cases on a priority basis".

"Fast track courts, which are meant to expeditiously clear the colossal scale of pendency in the district and subordinate courts in a time-bound manner, are suffering due to staff crunch," he added.

For speedy disposal of cases, the central government had released funds directly to state governments. An amount of Rs.870 crore was allocated to state governments from 2000-01 to 2010-11, Sibal said.

The highest funding was granted to Uttar Pradesh, at Rs.136 crore, while Bihar was given Rs.93 crore.

The funds were sanctioned to states as "upgradation grant for judicial administration" for the 11-year period.

Senior advocate Sushil Kumar feels that one of the reasons for high pendency is "public prosecutors are overburdened". With too many cases one cannot give sufficient time to every case, Kumar told IANS.

Kumar recommended that the government appoint more public prosecutors.

He said most of the cases are progressing at a snail's pace for want of public prosecutors.

"Sometimes a single prosecutor has to appear in two or more cases that are being listed at the same time in different courts. Due to one case the other case suffers," Kumar told IANS.

The government discontinued the fast-track courts scheme on March 31, 2011, after running it for over 11 years.

However, some states have continued FTCs with their own expenditure, Sibal told the Lok Sabha.

A total of 701 fast track courts are working under the funds released by state governments, while 183 courts are functioning in Bihar and 100 courts are working in Maharashtra (till Dec 2012), law ministry said.

Sibal said necessary steps should be taken to establish a suitable number of FTCs to hear "offences against women, children, differently abled people, senior citizens and marginalised sections" of society.

The Supreme Court upheld April 19, 2012, the government's policy to stop funding fast-track courts, which were created a decade ago to speed up trial in pending cases.

The apex court had also directed the centre and states to create 10 percent additional posts in the lower judiciary.

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