The setting up up of two special courts to hear cases involving atrocities against women at Pune District Court has clearly failed to to cut pendency of such cases. Information furnished by the district court administration shows that there are as many as 1,216 cases involving crimes against women which are pending before various judges — including the two special courts.
After the Delhi gangrape incident, the Bombay High Court has issued an order in February, 2013 directing the district courts administration in the state to expedite the trials in all cases related to offences against women. As per the directives, an additional sessions judge (ASJ) Sadhana Shinde was appointed as the first special judge. Four months later, ASJ Prachi P Kulkarni was appointed as second special judge to deal with the cases.
Data obtained under RTI Act shows that although the rate of disposal has gone up since the appointments of the two special judges, merely two such courts are not enough to bring down the pendency.
Data furnished by the Registrar of Pune District and Sessions Court, shows that in 2013, a total of 85 cases relating to crimes against women were disposed off at various courts. In 2014, the number went up with 200 cases being disposed off by the end of November. However, still 1,216 cases remain pending.
Balasaheb Khopade, who retired as an Additional Public Prosecutor last year and has represented the government at one of the two special courts in Pune, said several such courts need to be established to bring down the pendency and two dedicated judges are far from enough.
“When the two special courts were set up to deal with cases of atrocities against women, cases from all the sessions courts in the districts were directed to them and they became over-burdened as over 650-700 cases were suddenly pending before them. Also, after some time the courts were given additional work as they have to hear cases pertaining to civil matters, MCOCA cases. After realising this, the court administration has also diverted some cases to other sessions judges, but the pendency won’t go down unless more special full-time judges are appointed. Ideally if you want these courts to work properly, there should be not more than 75-80 cases before each court. If this can be done, then only will they be able to dispose off a case within 1-1.5 years. Otherwise, the cases will go on for years and the victim and their families will have to wait for justice,” said Khopade.
The demand to set up more fast-track courts to deal with the cases of crimes against women is not new. City-based activist Vihar Durve has been demanding setting up of fast-track courts in the state following a case of gangrape in Hinjewadi in 2010. Durve also filed a Public Interest Litigation with Bombay High Court demanding compliance of Supreme Court directives of setting of 10 per cent additional courts as fast-track courts to deal with crimes against women.
According to Durve, acting on the directives passed by the Chief Justice of BHC, the Maharashtra state Cabinet passed a proposal to create 179 new fast-track courts and fill up 851 court staffers for these courts by allotting Rs 89 crore.
“Although this decision was taken by the cabinet in October, no official GR has been issued by the state government. For want of this GR, the implementation of the directives is pending. Once, these courts are set up, the pendency across the state in crimes against women is bound to go down,” said Durve.