Jaipur: Taking cognizance of the brutal assault and gangrape of a 23-year-old girl in the national capital, the Delhi High Court approved the setting up of five fast track courts for rape cases. However, Rajasthan, that had set a precedent in dealing with such cases at its fast-track courts, has now discontinued the practice allegedly because of high costs.
It was in Jodhpur in 2005 that a fast-track court convicted the rapist of a German tourist in just two weeks. A year later, a fast track court in Alwar sentenced the accused to seven years for the rape of German research student. However, six years hence, the fast-track courts have been converted to regular courts.
According to lawyer Ajay Jain, the costs of maintaining the courts are high. "The central government has stopped providing the budgets for the fast track courts now. It was a plan of the Law Ministry to bring down the backlog of cases. The fast track courts should be continued and the Centre should not shirk its responsibility of facilitating early disposal of such cases," he said.
The two cases that were disposed off in record time involved foreign nationals, but for Indians, it's a different story. The 1992 gangrape of Anganwadi worker Bhanwari Devi has yet to come up before the High Court and in the infamous JC Bose Hostel rape case, the conviction took place just weeks ago, after a yawning gap of 15 years.
Civil rights activist Kavita Shrivastava says that there are fast-track cases that have taken over 15 years to conclude. "Because when a person is facing a trial in a fast track court, they don't lose their right of appealing against every order of the High Court and the Supreme Court and these are ways and means of delaying trial," she says.
Legal experts are now questioning the existence of fast track courts only at the trial stage. They say that they need to be set up at the High and Apex court levels too. Justice VS Dave, Retired HC Judge and member of SC empowered panel, Jaipur, says, "The fast track court has to be at the appellate stage as well then at the Supreme Court stage also. If a case is decided here today... it takes five years at the High Court and seven years at the Supreme Court. Why?"
At the root of the problem lies the piling backlog of cases against a glaringly short-staffed judiciary in trial as well as High Courts. For cases of sexual assault, special dedicated courts working within deadlines are the need of the hour.