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Rush for fast-track courts

Calcutta, Nov. 8: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government is in a hurry to set up 60 fast-track courts in less than two months to meet the Supreme Court’s December 31 deadline.

After being pulled up by the court for being lethargic, the government has asked district administrations to provide infrastructure for the task. The first such court in the state was set up at Alipore court.

The Centre had announced a project two years ago to establish 1,734 fast-track courts all over the country to speed up cases involving sessions trials as undertrials in criminal cases often languish in jail without a hearing.

“We have asked district magistrates to do the job and told them that even rented rooms would be accepted for setting up fast-track courts,” state judicial secretary P.K. Deb said today.

“Now the government has to work at lightning speed, but we have to set up as many courts as possible,” said a senior official at Writers’ Buildings.

District magistrates have been asked to submit reports on the progress of the work within a week.

The Centre has said there must be at least one fast-track court in every district and each court is to dispose of 18 sessions cases per month. The central government has already provided funds for the purpose to the states and asked them to identify places for setting up the courts.

The Supreme Court has ruled that all states should strictly follow the December 31 deadline, failing which they might have to return the funds.

Bengal has so far set up 54 fast-track courts against a target of 152. “It has been a problem for the government mostly due to non-availability of infrastructural facilities,” said the official at Writers’ Buildings.

The fast-track courts operating at present include one at the Sealdah court. There are also three fast-track courts at Bichar Bhavan adjacent to Bankshall Court.

Out of Bengal’s target, 13 were identified by the high court in the first phase and 46 in the second phase.

In the third phase, the high court has identified 60 places in September and the government is trying to arrange for rooms to set up the courts.

The government will also have to appoint staff for these courts, while the high court will provide judges from among the civil judges (senior division) by promoting them on an ad-hoc basis to the higher judicial service.

While Rajasthan and Maharashtra were appreciated for implementing the scheme in an “excellent” manner, the apex court has expressed concern about Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab and Bengal.

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