Jurisdiction of the Fast Track Court & Fast Track Special Court in India

Law

The Eleventh Finance Commission (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Finance Commission’) allocated Rs.502.90 crores under Article 275 of the Constitution of India, 1950 (in short ‘the Constitution’) for the purpose of setting up of 1734 Courts in various States to deal with long pending cases, particularly, Sessions cases. As allocation of funds made by the Finance Commission stipulated time bound utilization within a period of five years, various State Governments were required to take necessary steps to establish such Courts. It appears that the Finance Commission had suggested that the States may consider re-employment of retired judges for limited period, for the disposal of pending cases, since these Courts were to be ad hoc in the sense that they would not be a permanent addition to the number of Courts within a particular State. Challenge was made to the Scheme known as the Fast Track Courts Scheme in various High Courts, primarily on the ground that there was no constitutional sanction for employment of retired judges and effective guidelines were not in operation. It was also highlighted that infrastructural facilities were not available so as to make Scheme a reality. Several such deficiencies were pointed out. A plea was made that instead of retired officers, eligible members of the Bar should be considered for appointment.

Stand of the Union of India on the other hand was that on the recommendations of the Finance Commission, a note was prepared by the Department of Justice, Government of India. There is no mandatory requirement for appointment of retired Sessions/Additional Sessions Judges or other officers. Ad hoc promotion of judicial officers was also contemplated. It was pointed out that consequential vacancies created on account of ad hoc promotions can be filled up by a special drive so that there is no shortfall in the personnel of the lower Courts.

The Apex Court in the case of Brij Mohan Lal v. Union of India & Ors., (2002) 5 SCC 1, while dealing with the jurisdiction of the Fast Track Court, has held thus:

“9. One of the pleas taken by the parties questioning constitutional validity of the Fast Track Courts Scheme is that the Constitution does not envisage establishment of Fast Track Courts. This plea is clearly without any substance. As observed by a nine-Judge Bench of this Court in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Assn. v. Union of India, (1993) 4 SCC 441, appointment of a person to be a District Judge rests with the Governor, but he cannot make the appointment unless there has been an effective and meaningful consultation with the High Court or the High Court has recommended the appointment. In order that the requirement of consultation does not end up as an empty formality, in the event of difference of opinion, there must be an effective interchange of viewpoints. In cases governed by Article 233(2), as a matter of rule, the High Court’s recommendation must be accepted. Departure from the opinion of the High Court should be a rare event. The Constitution relies on the collective wisdom of the High Court as a body and not that of any single individual. Though the Fast Track Courts Scheme is envisaged by the Central Government on the basis of the views indicated by the Finance Commission, yet appointments to the Fast Track Courts are to be made by the High Court keeping in view the modalities set out.

Therefore, merely because the suggestion has stemmed from the Central Government, it cannot be said that there has been any violation of any constitutional mandate. It is to be noted that Chapter VI of the Constitution deals with subordinate courts. While Article 233 relates to the recruitment of the District Judges, Article 234 relates to the recruitment of members of the judicial service of the State other than District Judges. Under Article 236 of the Constitution, District Judge includes Additional District Judge. The District Judges and the Additional District Judges belong to the same cadre. The power of appointment under Article 234 does not include the power to confirm the promotion of judicial officers other than judicial officers which is vested exclusively in the High Court by Article 234 (sic 235). Any rule which provides that the authority belongs to the Governor in consultation with the High Court, shall be void, as observed by this Court in State of Assam v. S.N. Sen, (1971) 2 SCC 889. While the promotion of District Judges shall be in the hands of the Governor acting in consultation with the High Court in terms of Article 235, the posting and promotion etc. of officers of the State Judicial Services other than the District Judges lie exclusively in the hands of the High Court. The word “control” referred to in Article 235 is used in a comprehensive sense to include general superintendence of the working of the subordinate courts. In others words the control vested in the High Court under this article is complete control, subject only to the power of the Governor in the matter of appointment and promotion of District Judges. The provision under this article is to ensure independence of the judiciary. The above being the position there is nothing constitutionally improper in the Scheme. It is the High Court which has to play a pivotal role in the implementation of the Scheme for its effective implementation and achievement of the above objectives, of course, complying with the constitutional requirements embodied in the relevant provisions of Chapter VI of the Constitution.”

After so holding their Lordships issued certain directions, some of which are necessitous to be reproduced to appreciate the role of the Fast Track Court:

“1. The first preference for appointment of judges of the Fast Track Courts is to be given by ad hoc promotions from amongst eligible judicial officers. While giving such promotion, the High Court shall follow the procedures in force in the matter of promotion to such posts in Superior/Higher Judicial Services.

2. No judicial officer who was dismissed or removed or compulsorily retired or made to seek retirement shall be considered for appointment under the Scheme. Judicial officers who have sought voluntary retirement after initiation of department proceedings/inquiry shall not be considered for appointment.

3. After ad hoc promotion of judicial officers to the Fast Track Courts, the consequential vacancies shall be filled up immediately by organizing a special recruitment drive. Steps should be taken in advance to initiate process for selection to fill up these vacancies much before the judicial officer are promoted to the Fast Track Courts, so that vacancies may not be generated at the lower levels of the subordinate judiciary. The High Court and the State Government concerned shall take prompt steps to fill up the consequential as well as existing vacancies in the subordinate courts on priority basis. The State Government concerned shall take necessary decisions within a month from the receipt of the recommendations made by the High Court.

4. Priority shall be given by the Fast Track Courts for disposal of those sessions cases which are pending for the longest period of time, and/or those involving undertrials. Similar shall be the approach for civil cases i.e. old cases shall be given priority.

5. While the staff of a regular Court of Additional District and Sessions Judge includes a Sessions Clerk and an office Peon, work in Fast Track Courts is reported to be adversely affected due to shortage of staff as compared to regular Courts performing same or similar functions. When single Orderly or Clerk proceeds on leave, work in Fast Track Courts gets held up. The staff earmarked for each such Court are a Peshkar/Superintendent, a Stenographer and an Orderly. If the staff is inadequate, High Court and the State Government shall take appropriate decision to appoint additional staff who can be accommodated within the savings out of the existing allocations by the Central Government.

6. Provisions for the appointment of Public Prosecutor and Process Server have not been made under the Fast Track Courts Scheme. A Public Prosecutor is necessary for effective functioning of the Fast Track Courts. Therefore, a Public Prosecutor may be earmarked for each such court and the expenses for the same shall be borne out of the allocation under the head “Fast Track Courts”. Process service shall be done through the existing mechanism.

7. No right will be conferred on judicial officers in service for claiming any regular promotion on the basis of his/her appointment on ad hoc basis under the Scheme. The service rendered in Fast Track Courts will be deemed as service rendered in the parent cadre. In case any judicial officer is promoted to higher grade in the parent cadre during his tenure in Fast Track Courts, the service rendered in Fast Track Courts will be deemed to be service in such higher grade.

8. The retired judicial officers who are appointed under the Scheme shall be entitled to pay and allowances equivalent to the pay and allowance they were drawing at the time of their retirement, minus total amount of pension drawn/payable as per rules.”

11. Once a Judge, Fast Track Court, needless to say, is selected from amongst the Civil Judges (Senior Division) and carries judicial functions which are to be carried out by an Additional District Judge-cum-Additional Sessions Judge then, for all purposes, he is an Additional District & Sessions Judge though he is an ad hoc Additional District Judge. As far as the jurisdiction is concerned, he is no way inferior to that of the Additional District Judge and, hence, a separate notification is not necessary to confer the power of tribunal on Fast Track Judges since he enjoys the authority / jurisdiction of an Additional District Judge, which has been conferred the power of tribunal, as has been held in the case of Anirudh Prasad Ambasta & ors. (supra).

Quite apart from the above, it is worth noting the Sub Judges have been redesignated as Civil Judges (Senior Division) and are qualified to be appointed to the cadre of District Judge. In fact, they are conferred promotions as Additional District Judges on ad hoc basis by following the procedure of screening and on the basis of `seniority-cum-suitability’. A similar procedure is adopted for appointment in Fast Track Courts to hold the post of Additional District Judges and the procedure of screening is taken recourse to. True it is, they are Additional District Judges under the Fast Track Court Scheme but, a significant one, it would neither be apposite in fact or in law to hold that they are not entitled in law to decide the controversies which an Additional District Judge is entitled under law to decide.

 We have already noticed hereinabove that the Apex Court in Brij Mohan Lal (supra) has authorised in no uncertain terms the Fast Track Courts to dwell upon the civil cases. The said clothing of power by the Apex Court on the Fast Track Courts goes a long way to show that even though the original concept of Fast Track Court was thought of for deciding the pendency of criminal trials in the Court of Session but regard being had to their area of operation, power and function their Lordships of the Apex Court extended the jurisdiction and in the ultimate eventuate they came to possess the jurisdiction to deal with the civil cases. It needs no special emphasis to state that the claim cases are in the compartment of civil cases and the Fast Track Courts being equal to ad hoc Additional District Judges have the authority under law to delve into the merits of the claim cases and dispose of the applications under the Act.

Cabinet approves continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Fast Track Special Courts for further 2 years on 04 AUG 2021

Fast Track Special Courts are dedicated courts for swift justice for victims of sexual offences and strengthen the deterrence framework for sexual offenders

Recent incidents of rape and gang rape of minor girls below the age of twelve and similar heinous crimes against women shook the conscience of the entire nation. To prevent such crimes, stricter laws were introduced through “the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018”. It strengthened the relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), Evidence Act and Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and provided for stringent punishment for rape of children and women.

The key motive behind introducing harsh punishment is to create deterrence against such crimes. However, it is only possible if the trial in the court is completed within the time frame and justice is delivered expeditiously to the victims. Further, the proposed ‘National Mission for Safety of Women’ anchored with M/o Home Affairs (MHA), supports the view.
One of its key objective is to expedite the trial and disposal of cases involving women and children by setting up Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs). The POCSO Act also mandates that the investigation in the cases is to be completed in two months and trial in 6 months. However, despite a strong law and policy framework, large number of rape and POCSO Act cases are pending in various courts in the country. [SCHEME ON FAST TRACK SPECIAL COURTS (FTSCS) FOR
EXPEDITIOUS DISPOSAL OF CASES OF RAPE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AGAINST SEXUAL OFFENCES
(POCSO) ACT 2019]

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the continuation of 1023 Fast Track Special Court (FTSCs) including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) from 01.04.2021 to 31.03.2023 with an outlay of Rs. 1572.86 crore (Rs.971.70 crore as Central Share and Rs.601.16 crore as State share). Central Share is to be funded from Nirbhaya Fund. The Scheme was launched on 02.10.2019.

The Government has always given paramount importance to the safety and security of women and children. Towards empowering the girl child, the Government has already launched several programmes like ‘BetiBachaoBetiPadhao’ etc. Incidents of rape of minor girls below the age of twelve years and women below the age of sixteen years have shaken the conscience of the entire nation. The occurrence of such incidents and prolonged trials of convicts had necessitated the creating of a dedicated court machinery which could expedite trial and provide immediate relief to the victims of sexual offences.

To bring more stringentprovisions and expeditious trial and disposal of such cases, the Central Government enacted “The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018” and made provision of stringent punishment including death penalty for perpetrators of rape. This led to the establishment of the Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs).

Fast Track Special Courts are dedicated courts expected to ensure swift dispensation of justice. They have a better clearance rate as compared to the regular courts and hold speedy trials. Besides providing quick justice to the hapless victims, it strengthens the deterrence framework for sexual offenders.

Currently covering 28 States, it is proposed to be expanded to cover all 31 states which are eligible to join the Scheme. It is supporting the efforts of State/UT Governments for providing time bound justice to hapless victims of sexual offences in the country including the remote and far – flung areas. The expected outcomes of the scheme are as follows:

Further the commitment of the Nation to champion the cause of safety and security of women and girl child.
Reduce the number of pending cases of Rape & POCSO Act.
Provide speedy access to justice to the victims of sexual crimes and act as a deterrent for sexual offenders.
Fastracking of these cases will declog the judicial system of the burden of case pendency.

Fast Track Special Courts s on 11 FEB 2022

The Department of Justice is implementing a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) including 389 exclusive POCSO (e-POCSO) Courts since October 2019. 700 FTSCs (68%) including 383 e-POCSO courts have been made operational in 27 States/UTs up to December 2021. As per information made available by High Courts the details of the target set for establishment of FTSC in the country along with the number of FTSC set up and functional against the set target is given at Annexure below:

Status of Earmarked and Functional FTSCs (as on 31.12.2021)

S.No.

State/UT

Earmarked FTSCs

Functional FTSCs

   

FTSCs including ePOCSO

ePOCSO

FTSCs including ePOCSO

ePOCSO

  1.  

A&N

1

1

0

0

  1.  

Andhra Pradesh

18

8

10

10

  1.  

Arunachal Pradesh

3

0

0

0

  1.  

Assam

27

15

15

15

  1.  

Bihar

54

30

45

45

  1.  

Chandigarh

1

0

1

0

  1.  

Chhattisgarh

15

11

15

11

  1.  

Delhi

16

11

16

11

  1.  

Goa

2

0

0

0

  1.  

Gujrat

35

24

35

24

  1.  

Haryana

16

12

16

12

  1.  

Himachal Pradesh

6

3

6

3

  1.  

J&K

4

0

4

2

  1.  

Jharkhand

22

8

22

8

  1.  

Karnataka

31

17

18

16

  1.  

Kerala

56

14

28

0

  1.  

Madhya Pradesh

67

26

67

56

  1.  

Maharashtra

138

30

34

22

  1.  

Manipur

2

0

2

0

  1.  

Meghalaya

5

5

5

5

  1.  

Mizoram

3

1

3

1

  1.  

Nagaland

1

0

1

1

  1.  

Odisha

45

22

36

15

  1.  

Punjab

12

2

12

3

  1.  

Rajasthan

45

26

45

30

  1.  

Tamil Nadu

14

14

14

14

  1.  

Telangana

36

10

25

4

  1.  

Tripura

3

1

3

1

  1.  

Uttar Pradesh

218

74

218

74

  1.  

Uttarakhand

4

4

4

0

  1.  

WB

123

20

0

0

 

TOTAL

1023

389

700

383

Third Party Evaluation of the Scheme was conducted by National Productivity Council (NPC) during the third quarter of 2020.Evaluation of the conviction rates of the FTSCs vis-a-vis the Regular Courts was one of the terms of reference of the Study. As per the findings, it was observed that conviction to disposal rate for Regular Court Cases, FTSC Cases and e-POCSO Court Cases are 5.54%, 7.21% and 17.64% respectively.

The issue of setting up of FTSCs and their early operationalization has been taken up with concerned States/UTs at various level from time to time. Minister of Law & Justice has addressed letters to Chief Ministers of States and Chief Justices of High Courts in this regard. In addition, regular review meetings with officials of the States/UTs and High Court functionaries are being held from time to time for operationalization of remaining FTSCs so as to further reduce the burden on judiciary.


Sample Notification

%d bloggers like this: