The government has recently proposed to set up 1,023 Fast-Track Courts (FTCs). This was with the backdrop of Supreme Court in a suo moto petition, issued directions to set up special courts.
The SC stated that the districts with more than 100 cases pending under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act must set up special courts to deal with these cases.
According to National Judicial Data Grid Statistics, there are about 3 crore cases pending in the SC, HCs and the subordinate courts across the country. Focusing on the FTCs to solve this issue is the need of the hour.
Since its establishment, these special courts have disposed of more than three million cases. However, FTCs is currently decreasing and its potential is not fully realized as it lacks basic infrastructure, technological resources, and manpower.
Courts are an essential service for civil society. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts across India have gone into an urgent-only, online-only mode with electronic filings, email mentions and online hearing for select cases via video conferencing/audio facilities. This is a necessary step to the already burdened judiciary to dispose of the pending cases before the lockdown is lifted. Many have readily adapted to this swift change during these trying times. However, the concept of e-court or a virtual court still has limitations and issues, though the scopes are many. Therefore, necessary solutions must be put forth so that the concept of e-courts is made permanent to certain hearings.
Recently, the Supreme Court of India taking suo motu cognizance of some of the key issues related to Covid-19 management which included the supply of oxygen and essential drugs and declaration of lockdowns noted that the matter being heard in the several High Courts is ‘creating confusion’ and ‘diversion of resources’. Various High Courts were dealing with such cases when the Supreme Court of India took up the issue to itself and decided to pass some orders on the issue of ‘distribution of essential supplies and services during pandemic’. Additionally, the Court issued an order asking the State governments and the Union Territories to “show cause why uniform orders” should not be passed by the Supreme Court. It thus indicated the possibility of transfer of cases to the Supreme Court which it has done on various occasions. The recent incident brings out the issue of judicial federalism to the fore and highlights its functioning in India.