The supreme sacrifice of India’s tormented daughter is going to ensure justice for Jharkhand’s daughters.
Justice M.Y. Eqbal, who was recently appointed as a Supreme Court judge, will on Saturday inaugurate the first fast-track court in Ranchi to exclusively hear grievances of rape survivors and deal with cases of crimes against women, including eve-teasing, abduction and domestic violence.
The prod for this altar of fairness on the civil court premises has come from none other than Jharkhand High Court Chief Justice Prakash Tatia in answer to the national question raised on women’s safety after the brutal gang rape in Delhi on December 16.
Justice Tatia said Jharkhand would be the first state after Delhi to start such a fast-track court. “A woman judge, thoroughly experienced in dealing with rape and atrocity cases, will preside over the court and we will try to appoint a lady public prosecutor to conduct proceedings,” he added.
A high court source said additional district judge Smita Sinha had been nominated as the presiding officer of the fast-track court.
She will record the statement of a victim in a closed room, while there will be provisions to examine witnesses and grill accused separately so that the victim does not feel traumatised or embarrassed during the proceedings.
This will also ensure that the victim gives the court an exact account of her ordeal without fear.
The chief justice further said that within a week’s time, similar fast-track courts would be constituted in six districts, where crime against women is on the rise. “Work has started and we are shifting records for formation of these special courts,” he said.
As many as 38,000 cases of violence against women are pending in various courts of Jharkhand. Of these, 7,000 are of rape alone and will be decided by the fast-track courts.
Once the fast-track court debuts in Ranchi, it will help solve more than 240 cases of rape and sexual assaults pending before the civil court. Once the court starts functioning, examination and cross-examination of witnesses will be done on a regular basis so that the trials end without delay.
Secretary of Ranchi district legal services authority Rashikesh Kumar confirmed Eqbal’s august presence at the court opening on Saturday. “He will arrive in the capital this (Friday) evening. Once the court is held, it will be of great help to victims of rape and sexual assault,” Kumar said.
Meanwhile, chief minister Arjun Munda has dedicated his website — aapkacm.com — to women for registering complaints. Victims can also call a toll free number — (0651)3059999 — and lodge their grievances.
Panchdev Singh, a criminal lawyer, said as far as handing cases of sexual crimes against women were concerned, the judicial fraternity in Jharkhand had always been proactive. “The judiciary is a key stakeholder in putting a check on crimes against women. The new court will send a strong message to the society and will be in favour of safety for women,” he added.
His colleague Arwind Kumar Lal, however, sounded sceptical.
“Fast-track courts deliver quick verdict, but the same may not be proper all the time because these courts are run by junior-level judicial officers. If you ask me, justice hurried is justice buried. I have seen many rape victims frequently change their statements under pressure. In a fast-track court, such possibility will be the highest. There should be special courts like the ones for CBI, family and consumer disputes, motor vehicles tribunal, et al, to deal with crime against women instead of a fast-track court,” he reasoned.
Will the fast-track court be able to stem crime against women?