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.
The Indian judiciary has a host of problems acting as hurdles in the speedy delivery of justice. Pendency of cases is one such problem that has been ailing the judiciary for a long time. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem has increased three-fold. Recently, the Supreme Court of India observed that the pendency of cases “has gone out of control”, and said it will issue guidelines for the appointment of temporary judges to help address the backlog. This is not only the situation during the pandemic rather the backlog of pending cases in India has become a burning problem for a long time which denies the people the right to access timely justice. This impacts not just the administration of justice, but it has tremendous consequences for the economy and the functioning of businesses across India as well.
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.
Justice is a foundational value of the Indian value system. After Independence, it expectedly became one of the basic principles on which our constitution is based. Despite that, there is an inequality in justice delivery. The time, space, and money quotient of the current judicial process makes it imperative to search for alternate and complementary mechanisms that can make the justice delivery more accessible, democratic, and effective. The formation of Gram Nyayalayas is such one step.