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SC upholds decision to disband 1,734 fast track courts
April, 20th 2012

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a policy decision of the Union and state governments to discontinue 1,734 fast track courts (FTCs), but nullified its impact on right to speedy justice of undertrial prisoners and citizens by ordering creation of 1,800 fresh posts of Judges in lower judiciary.

A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar did a constitutional balancing act by ruling that the judiciary would be shy of interfering in government's policy decision to discontinue FTCs. However, it resorted to the apex court's power to do "complete justice" under Article 142 of the Constitution by ordering creation of additional post of Judges to blunt the impact of sudden discontinuance of FTCs that were operating for more than a decade.

Writing the judgement for the bench, Justice Kumar said: "Keeping in view the need of the hour and the Constitutional mandate to provide fair and expeditious trial to all litigants and the citizens of the country, we direct respective States and the Central Government to create 10% of the total regular cadre of the State as additional posts within three months from today and take up the process for filling such additional vacancies as per the Higher Judicial Service and Judicial Services Rules of that State, immediately thereafter."

At present, the regular cadre strength of judicial officers in lower judiciary is a little over 18,000. Hence, states and the Centre would have to create additional 1,800 posts of judicial officers in the sub-ordinate judiciary. And, it would create more than the number of posts of Judges that would extinguish with discontinuance of the FTCs.

The court rejected the governments' resource constraint argument and said: "The State cannot be permitted to deny the constitutional right to speedy trial to the accused on the ground that it does not have adequate financial resources to incur the necessary expenditure needed, for improving the administrative and judicial apparatus to ensure speedy trial."

It said the FTCs would come to an end on the different dates stipulated by the states. The last of the FTCs would cease functioning in Haryana from March, 2016. But, it told the states not to take ad-hoc decision relating to FTCs in future. Instead, it asked the Centre and states to re-allocate and utilize the funds apportioned by the 13th Finance Commission to regularize the FTC Judges.

"All the persons who have been appointed by way of direct recruitment from the Bar as Judges to preside over the FTCs under the FTC Scheme shall be entitled to be appointed to the regular cadre of the Higher Judicial Services of the respective State," the court said and provided a procedure for it.

In another important direction, the apex court asked the decisions and recommendations made at the Chief Justices and Chief Ministers' Conference in 2009 be placed within three months before the Cabinet of the Centre and the state governments and said they alone and not bureaucrats would have a final say on the fate of these findings at the conference.

"No decision, recommendation or proposal made by the Chief Justices and Chief Ministers Conference shall be rejected or declined or varied at any bureaucratic level, in the hierarchy of the governments, whether in the State or the Centre," it said.

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