The recent report by Praja highlights what has been suspected all along that crimes against women & children are treated casually.. This is what explains the fact that more than 90% cases are pending trials in courts.
Hence conviction is less than 40 % .The reasons can be many. One major reason is shortage of manpower or rather human power. The highest shortage is in forensic laboratories where its 40%, followed by public prosecutors where its 28% shortage , .Next is the police where shortage of personnel is 18% & in sessions courts, the shortage is 14% .Even the Supreme Court & High Courts have vacancies & it takes years to fill up the vacancies. Obviously, all this affects deliverance of justice .And when at the grassroot level, there are vacancies women & children continue to suffer as their lives are marred by violence.
The number of vacancies in Supreme Court is four & at the various High Courts, the vacancies are 404.This is 37% vacancy in High Courts out of a total of 1079 sanctioned posts of judges for High Courts. Some courts are have as high as 50% vacancy while others are working with two thirds capacity only.
Even in cases that needed to be tried under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences ( POCSO) Act ,just about half of the cases have been tried in special courts as mandated under the POCSO act. And only 44 out of a total 220 cases tried under POCSO reached the stage of judgement in 2019. In, 2020 , because of COVID, the situation has definitely worsened. All this will add to a huge backlog of cases in the future.
As per the National Judicial Data Grid ,the backlog of cases is a whooping 37.7 million ! This works out to 3.7 million cases pending for 10 years, Out of these 3.7 million cases, 2.8 million cases before the district courts & 0.92 million cases before the High Courts have remained pending. And that’s not all. Nearly, 6,60,000 cases have remained pending for more than two decades & another, 1,31,000 have remained unresolved for more than 30 years. All this adds to a huge economic cost. Moreover, delay in justice is as good as denial of justice.
How can the pendency of cases be brought down ? Obviously by decisions of the courts .And that can happen only when the courts function with full capacity. That means all vacancies need to be filled up. And this should mean to include vacancies at the levels of judiciary, at the level of police , at the level of public prosecutors and also at the level of forensic laboratories. It's the entire gamut of the judicial system that needs to be covered.
One way is to allow the courts & other judicial & quasi judicial authorities to work in shifts. In Maharashtra, the lower courts will be working in two shifts .And this, is indeed the urgent need of the day. In fact, not just the lower courts, even the High Courts & Supreme Court need to work in shifts to clear the huge backlog of cases. If this happens, the backlog will end soon & then all courts can resume single shift working.
Another step that needs to be taken is to fill up all the vacancies that exist across all the courts, from the lowest till the highest levels. This will distribute the huge number of cases amongst all the judges & help in decision making by the judges.
A suggestion is to temporarily increase the number of lower courts by appointing willing law graduates as judges .Such temporary judges will be paid only salary .They will be ineligible for other benefits .And as soon as the backlog of cases end, these temporary judges will be retired without any benefits. Of course, the most suitable of them can be absorbed into the judicial services after the requisite examinations & interviews & other relevant criteria. And mostly these temporary judges can be from women candidates. Even the courts which have to try POCSO cases can be headed majorly by women. Because women have a better understanding of children & their trauma. The temporary judges can try a majority of the cases dealing with women & children as women are better equipped to deal with such cases.
Similarly, other temporary posts can be created across the entire gamut of the criminal justice system whereby police personnel; the public prosecutors, the forensic team, can be majorly women. And these temporary posts can be ended once the pendency of cases gets back to manageable proportions. Here also, the most suitable ones can be absorbed into the permanent services through examinations, interviews & other relevant criteria. The Constitution of India allows reservation in favour of women & hence these judiciary, police , public prosecution & forensic science jobs in favour of women are as per the Fundamental Right under Article 15 ( 3 ).
And as women get employed , the GDP of our country will rise by 27 % .Hence, employing women as judges, police personnel, public prosecutors & forensic scientists will be a WIN WIN situation for all !!! It will make the society safer for women & children as crimes are dealt with promptly & justice is delivered. Economy will improve & the backlog of cases will reduce.
And this is in accordance with India’s position on the international stage. India is signatory to the International Covenant on Civil & Political rights as also Convention for Elimination of Discrimination against Women .
And this pandemic has given us a chance to implement the aforesaid ideas , which can only lead us ahead in the direction of a better tomorrow !