The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Go-slow Bengal gets fast track rap

New Delhi, Nov. 3: The Supreme Court today pulled up Bengal and 11 other states for their “lethargy” in setting up fast-track courts.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice V.. Khare and Justices S.B. Sinha and A. Lakshmanan warned the defaulting states and ordered them to set up the courts by December 31, the deadline the apex court has set for their establishment across the country.

The Union government had, a couple of years ago, announced with much fanfare its decision to set up fast-track courts to speed up the trial of crores of cases, including those involving petty crimes. The courts will have jurisdiction over all sessions cases involving crimes such as rape, dacoity, thefts and other petty offences.

The announcement followed reports by various government agencies, including the law commission, that undertrials involved in petty criminal cases languish in jails without even a hearing. The aim is to reduce the burden on the already overburdened sessions and additional district judges’ courts in the country.

The Supreme Court said the December 31 deadline should be strictly adhered to by all the states in establishing fast-track courts and at least one such court should be set up in every district.

The apex court said it would “consider” ordering the states to refund to the Centre the money provided to set up the courts if the deadline is not met.

As many as 1,734 fast-track courts are slated to be set up throughout the country and the Union government has decided to provide 100 per cent grant for the expenses. The state governments have only to earmark the land for the purpose.

The judges commended Rajasthan and Maharashtra for implementing the scheme in an “excellent” manner but expressed concern about Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Punjab.

The judges also asked solicitor-general Kirit Raval to reply, after ascertaining from the Centre, whether the money given for establishment of fast-track courts was a one-time grant or whether the grants would be continued for the functioning of the courts.

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