The Centre for Law & Policy Research, Bangalore has recently released a Report titled “The Myth of Speedy and Substantive Justice: A Study of the Special Fast Track Courts for Sexual Assault and Child Sexual Abuse Cases in Karnataka”.The Report is based on a detailed analysis of all judgments of the 10 Special Fast Track Courts set up in 2013 only for trying cases of rape and sexual assault against women under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1861, and the Special Court constituted in 2012 for trying cases of child sexual abuse under the Protection of Child Sexual Offences Act, 2012 in the State of Karnataka.
The analysis of the judgments in this Report put forward several causes for concern with the functioning of these courts. The foremost concern is the abysmally low conviction rates, which is largely due to complainants and key witnesses turninghostile. Only 16.8 per cent of the 107 cases disposed of in the Special Fast Track Courts trying sexual assault cases on women and 7.2 per cent of the 51 cases disposed of in the Special Courtfor children ended in conviction. Secondly, the judgments reveal a tendency to rely on obsolete modes for considering medical evidence like the use of two-finger test and references to the prior sexual history of the victim, that have now been discarded as ‘irrelevant’ by the Supreme Court of India through its case law jurisprudence.Thirdly, as of December 31st 2014, the 10 Special Fast Track Courts have only disposed of 107 cases out of the total 623 cases registered with it since its establishment. However, the Special Court for crimes against children fared better in speedy disposal of its cases as it has disposed 51 out of the total 89 cases registered.
The Reportconcludes with certain recommendations designed to make these courts more effective. Some of the main recommendationsinclude the enactment of a special legislationto makethe establishment of such courts more permanent and todefine their functions and procedures clearly. Further, the Report recommends providing training for judicial officers, prosecutors and lawyers on dealing with cases of violence and sexual assault against women. A few other major recommendations include establishment of victim support services and witness protection measures along with periodic evaluation of the functioning of these courts.
The Report can be found here.