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Govt to the rescue: Fast-track courts get a new lease of life
September, 03rd 2011

The Tamil Nadu government has infused a fresh lease of life into the 49 fast-track courts, for which the central funds were stopped in March 2011. All these courts have now been converted into regular courts.

"By issuing an order dated August 27, Tamil Nadu has become the first state in the country to prevent abolition of fast-track courts and instead convert them into regular courts," Tamil Nadu Judicial Officers' Association president and principal district judge of Salem S Baskaran told The Times of India.

Though many states have allowed fast-track courts to simply lapse after the Centre withheld funds in March 2011, the Tamil Nadu government had assumed the financial burden of the 49 courts, responding to requests from Chief Justice M Y Eqbal. The chief justice had also asked for conversion of these courts into regular courts. In order to speed up disposal of mounting criminal cases in the country, the Centre constituted 1,562 fast-track courts in February 2001. Ad hoc judges were appointed to these forums, which were to be in existence for five years.

Impressed by their performance and the quick disposal of pending criminal cases, the Centre gave one more extension to these courts. In a controversial decision in March this year, the Centre announced that it intended to stop central funding to these courts.

In the last 10 years, fast-track courts have disposed of 60 lakh cases. Tamil Nadu tops the list of disposals in the country. "Fast-track courts played a major role in wiping out arrears in sessions cases," said Baskaran.

In Tamil Nadu, during the period, most of the ad hoc judges appointed to fast-track courts had retired and they were replaced by regular subordinate judges. As on date only three out of the 49 fast-track court judges are ad hoc judges. If the courts are abolished, the presiding officers would have faced the ignominy of being reverted as sub-judges. It would have had a cascading effect on the entire subordinate judiciary, clogging all career advancement avenues and demoralizing the cadre.

With the regularization of these courts, the cadre strength of district judges in the state has gone up from 110 to 159. The government has also regularized the services of 346 staff members attached to the fast-track courts. They include 49 each translators, stenographers, assistants and typists, besides 90 office assistants and three drivers. Uttar Pradesh had set up 206 fast-track courts, followed by Bihar 183, Maharashtra 104, Madhya Pradesh 64, Tamil Nadu 49 and Andhra Pradesh 46.

The Centre had allocated Rs 285 crore for fast-track courts for the period 2006-2011. Though the 13th finance commission had set apart Rs 5,000 crore for the judiciary, no specific allocation was made to extend the term of fast-track courts.

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