The Centre has made a fresh push with certain states to operationalise special fast track courts 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 (FTSCs), 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 (UTs). The FTSC scheme was launched two years ago on Gandhi Jayanti.
Against the total intended fast track special courts, 674 including 367 POCSO courts have been made operational in 27 states and union territories, and till August this year they have disposed of 56,267 cases despite the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.
According to government sources, 28 states and union territories have given their consent for the FTSC scheme. West Bengal (which was earmarked 123 such courts), Andaman and Nicobar (which was to get one FTSC) and Arunachal Pradesh (which was earmarked three FTSCs), have not yet given their consent.
Arunahal Pradesh has told the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry that, for the time being, such courts are not required in the states due to low number of cases.
Goa was earmarked two FTSCs. It gave consent for one FTSC, but is yet to operationalise 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 Department of Justice is corresponding with states which are yet to operationalise 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 operationalise all the FTSCs earmarked to them. For instance, Andhra Pradesh has operationalised nine out of 18 such courts. Bihar was earmarked 54 FTSCs, but 45 have so far been operationalised.
Similarly, Maharashtra, with a quota of 138, has so far operationalised 33 such courts.
There are 17 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Nagaland which have operationalised 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 lakh with one judicial officer and seven support staff.
On August 4 this year, the Union Cabinet had approved the continuation of 1,023 Fast Track Special Court, including 389 exclusive POCSO courts as a centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2023 with an outlay of Rs 1,572.86 crore (Rs 971.70 crore as central share and Rs 601.16 crore as state share).
The central share is to be funded from the Nirbhaya Fund. The Scheme was launched on October 2, 2019.