Pointing out that “deterrence pales into insignificance” due to delay in deciding sexual offence cases against women, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir on Monday asked chief justices of all high courts to “immediately” set up or earmark fast-track courts to deal exclusively with offences against women.
The CJI, while underlining that the “recent tragic incident involving the brutal gangrape and subsequent death” of a Delhi girl has left an indelible mark and shaken the conscience of the nation, asked the high courts to ensure that the cases relating to offences against women must be fast-tracked and taken up for hearing “on priority basis”, both at high court and district court levels.
In a letter written to chief justices, Justice Kabir said while the issue of fast-tracking of such cases was already in his agenda for the 2013 Chief Justices’ Conference slated for April this year, he was “giving vent” to his concern for the “helpless victims awaiting justice” by instantly writing to the chief justices.
“The spontaneous outburst of outrage and anger is a measure of how the incident has left an indelible mark and shaken the conscience of the nation. Rape is not only a physical barbarism, but afflicts the very soul of a victim.... I feel that steps should be taken immediately to set up fast-track courts to deal exclusively with cases of offences against women,” said the CJI.
Regretting that a large number of cases relating to offences against women were pending across different courts in the country while such cases continued their spurt, he said delay was one of the factors contributing to the rise in the number of such cases, in as much as, on account of such delay deterrence pales into insignificance. “Time has come for these cases to be dealt with expeditiously, lest we should fail in our endeavour to arrest the sharp increase of crimes of violence against women,” he said.
The CJI has urged the high court chief justices to identify the requirement of the number of such fast-track courts, number of judicial officers and other infrastructural necessities and then take up the issue “with promptitude” with the state and union territory governments concerned.
He said in the meantime, the chief justices should designate fast-track courts to be manned by existing judicial officers “so that they become functional without any delay”.
The letter referred to the case of Delhi where he