GOVERNMENT TO SET UP 1,023 FAST TRACK COURTS

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The law ministry has said that 24 states and Union territories have joined a scheme to set up a total of 1,023 fast-track special courts (FTSCs), as a part of National Mission for Safety of Women (NMSW), to dispose of over 1.60 lakh cases of rape of children and women pending in various courts across the country.

Each of these special courts is expected to settle 165 such cases per year, according to a ministry document put in the public domain.

The states / UTs that have joined the scheme are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Delhi, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Mizoram, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and Puducherry are yet to join the scheme.

The justice department had proposed to set up 1,023 fast-track courts at a total budget of Rs 767.25 crore. The central support of Rs 474 crore for one year will be used from the Nirbhaya Fund.

The fund was announced by the Centre in 2013 after December 16, 2012, gangrape and murder of a student in Delhi, to support the initiatives of governments and NGOs working towards the safety of women.

 

COURTS FOR POCSO CASES

A total of 1,023 FTSCs will be set up, out of which 389 of such courts will exclusively handle the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act cases as per the directions of the Supreme Court.

The remaining 634 FTSCs will deal with either rape cases or both rape and the POCSO Act cases depending upon the pendency and requirement, the document said.

“Each FTSC is expected to dispose of 41-42 cases in each quarter and at least 165 cases in a year,” according to the document.

As per the document, a total of 1,66,882 cases of rape and the POCSO Act are pending trial in various courts across the country.

There are 389 districts where the number of pending cases under the POCSO Act exceeds 100. Therefore, as per the directives of the apex court, in each of these districts one exclusive POCSO court will be set up which will try no other cases, the document said.

 

WOMEN'S SAFETY DIVISION

The home ministry had set up a Women Safety Division on May 28, 2018, to strengthen measures for the safety of women and instil a greater sense of security in them through speedy and effective administration of justice in a holistic manner and by providing a safer environment for women.

The new division is responsible for policy formulation, planning, coordinating, formulating and implementing projects/schemes to assist states / UTs to achieve this objective, as also prison reforms, anti-human trafficking and related subjects.

The National Mission for Safety of Women was created with the participation of stakeholder ministries/departments, which would undertake specified actions in a time-bound manner.

These include setting up of fast-track special courts, strengthening of forensic set-up and building up of National Registry of Sexual Offenders, appointing additional public prosecutors, and providing appropriate medical and rehabilitation facilities to victims. Issues like sensitisation of children through appropriate changes in the school curriculum, a media campaign for raising awareness, checking the proliferation of pornography materials and online content will also be addressed.

 

POCSO ACT

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, was enacted to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children.

The Act defines a child as any person below 18 years of age and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as a matter of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child. The act is gender-neutral.

In July 2019, the government amended the Act to make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children, including the death penalty.