For rape victims in India, the fight for justice continues to be a long one. Yesterday, the Union Law Minister, Ashwani Kumar, told the Rajya Sabha, that over 24,000 cases related to rape and sexual harassment are pending in the Supreme Court and various High Courts of the country, with Uttar Pradesh leading the tally with 8,215.
The Centre has requested the chief justices of the 21 High Courts to set up Fast Track Courts for speedy trial of pending rape cases in district and subordinate courts with a high pendency.
The government has also requested them to monitor the progress of the cases to ensure timely disposal, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said in a written reply.
According to the Law Ministry statement, out of a total of 24,127 cases, 335 are pending in the apex court as on 28 February. If one were to look at this number in simple terms, it appears to be very small in a country with a population of one billion and above. But one needs to also look at the fact that in India large number of rape cases often tend to go unreported. The fact that 24,000 and more case are pending in the top courts of the country shows that victims often have to wait for years before they can get justice.
A long trial doesn't help the victims, who often face social stigma and at times rejection from their families in their fight against their attackers.
Amongst the High Courts, 8,215 cases are pending in the Allahabad High Court as on 30 September, 2012. 3,758 cases are pending in Madhya Pradesh High Court, 2,717 in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, 1,533 in Chhattisgarh, 1,080 in Orissa, 1,164 in Rajasthan, 1,009 in the Bombay High Court and 924 in the Delhi High Court.
The Jharkhand High Court has 822 cases related to rape and sexual harassment pending, while Patna High Court has 797 cases before it. Kerala HC has 420 cases, Andhra Pradesh HC 269, Karnataka HC 243 cases, Gujarat HC 230 cases, Madras HC 179 cases, Himachal Pradesh HC 177, Gauhati 174, Jammu and Kashmir 28, Calcutta 27, Uttarakhand 26. The Sikkim HC has no such case pending before it.
In reply to a separate question, the Law Minister said the creation of fast track courts (FTCs) was supported by the 11th Finance Commission as a one-time measure to reduce pendency of cases in sessions courts.
These were later continued by the Centre for another five years till March, 2010. It was extended for another year so that there could be a smooth transition. But there has been no central funding beyond 31 March, 2011, though there is no bar on state governments to continue funding such courts. A total of 1192 FTCs were reported functional as on 31 March, 2011.
But clearly as the number of pending cases reveals, while more fast track courts are the need of the hour, perhaps the High Courts and the Supreme Court also need to be dispensing these cases faster.
In a related development, the Centre has decided to provide funds on a matching basis from the 13th Finance Commission award for salaries of the 10 percent additional positions of judges being created in subordinate judiciary, till 2015.
The state governments and Chief Justices of the respective High Courts have been informed that they may utilise the fresh posts of judges to create Fast Track Courts also.
With inputs from PTI