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New Delhi: Over 2.26 lakh cases related to crimes against children were pending in January end in Fast Track Special Courts, including special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences courts that were set up to quickly dispose of such matters.
In reply to a question in Lok Sabha by Rajasthan Loktantrik Party MP from Rajasthan, Hanuman Beniwal, the minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju stated that the Union government had started scheme to set up 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts, including 389 exclusive POCSO (ePOCSO) Courts in 31 states and Union Territories. This was done so that trial and disposal of cases related to rape and under the POCSO Act could be fast.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development had in 2019 announced that the government would set up these fast-track courts using the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’. It had also noted that 18 states were agreeable to the idea of setting up such courts to deal exclusively with cases under POCSO.
At that time, legal and child rights experts had cautioned that merely setting up fast-track courts would not help unless more judges were appointed or public prosecutors trained and sensitised to deal with such cases.
The minister’s reply revealed that the states with the highest pendency of cases were Uttar Pradesh (60729 cases), Maharashtra 30,677, West Bengal 19,649, Bihar 14,089, Odisha 12,332 and Madhya Pradesh 10,409.
While in all, there were 226,728 cases pending, in seven states – Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Assam – the pendency of cases ranged between 5,000 and 10,000 cases.
In his reply, Rijiju also stated that while the Fast Track Special Courts scheme was initially devised for a year, it was later extended till March 31, 2023. He said an expenditure of Rs 1572.86 crore would be incurred on the scheme, of which the Union government’s share is Rs.971.70 crore. This too would be met from the Nirbhaya Fund.
Till now, 28 States and UTs have joined the scheme and only West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Island remain out of it.
The minister, in his reply said, according to information from high courts, as of February 2022, a total of 712 Fast Track Special Courts, including 399 e-POCSO courts, had been operationalised. They have disposed of over 81,400 cases.
Rijiju said nodal officers have been appointed by the high courts and a dedicated dashboard has been created for the states and Union Territories to upload their data on a monthly basis.
The minister’s response said while regular review meetings were held with officials of states, UTs and high court functionaries for robust implementation of the scheme, the issue of starting the remaining Fast Track Special Courts had also been raised in Inter State Zonal Council meetings.