Question : FTSCs and Gram Nyayalayas

(a) whether the pendency of cases in various Courts across India have increased post lockdown from 25 March 2020;
(b) if so, the action taken thereon to reduce pendency;
(c) the number of Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) set up in Odisha to expedite resolution of rape cases;
(d) whether the FTSCs have recorded high pendency;
(e) if so, the action taken thereon;
(f) the number of Gram Nyayalayas established and currently functional at panchayat level in Odisha;
(g) whether there have been any factors hindering the efficient functioning of the Gram Nyayalayas; and
(h) if so, the details thereof and the action taken thereon?

Answer given by the minister


(a) & (b): After announcement of nation-wide lockdown from 25th March, 2020, directions have been issued from time to time by the respective High Courts to the Subordinate Courts under their administrative jurisdiction for hearing of urgent civil and criminal matters in virtual or physical mode depending on local conditions. Most High Courts have further advised district and subordinate courts that they may, as far as possible, resume normal functioning by virtual/physical mode. Wherever physical hearing has been permitted in district and subordinate courts, they have been advised to strictly adhere to Covid protocols and social distancing norms. A new Software Patch and Court User Manual has been recently developed for COVID- 19 Management. This tool has been developed to help in smart scheduling all cases to effectively manage overcrowding in courts.

Video conferencing emerged as the mainstay of the Courts during the Covid lockdown period as physical hearings and normal court proceedings in the congregational mode were not possible. Since Covid lockdown started, the District courts heard 45,73,159 cases while the High Court heard 20,60,318 cases (totalling to 66.33 lakh) till 31.12.2020 using video conferencing only. The Supreme Court had nearly 32,000 hearings during the lockdown period.

National Mission for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms was set up in August, 2011 with the twin objectives of increasing access by reducing delays and arrears in the system and enhancing accountability through structural changes and by setting performance standards and capacities. The Mission has been pursuing a co-ordinated approach for phased liquidation of arrears and pendency in judicial administration, which, inter-alia, involves better infrastructure for courts including computerization, increase in strength of subordinate judiciary, policy and legislative measures in the areas prone to excessive litigation, re-engineering of court procedure for quick disposal of cases and emphasis on human resource development. The major steps taken during the last five years under various initiatives are as follows:
(i) Improving infrastructure for Judicial Officers of District and Subordinate Courts: As on date, Rs. 8,288.30 crores have been released since the inception of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Judiciary in 1993-94. The number of court halls has increased from 15,818 as on 30.06.2014 to 20,062 as on 28.01.2021 and number of residential units has increased from 10,211 as on 30.06.2014 to 17,736 as on 28.01.2021 under this scheme. In addition, 2,808 court halls and 1,843 residential units are under construction.
(ii) Leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for improved justice delivery: Government has been implementing the e-Courts Mission Mode Project throughout the country for Information and Communication Technology enablement of district and subordinate courts. Number of computerized District & Subordinate courts has increased from 13,672 (in 2014) to 18,735 as on 28.01.2021, registering an increase of 5,063. New and user-friendly version of Case Information Software has been developed and deployed at all the computerized District and Subordinate Courts. All stakeholders including Judicial Officers can access information relating to judicial proceedings/decisions of computerized District & Subordinate Courts and High Courts on the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). As on 01.01.2021, litigants can access case status of over 17.90 crore cases and 13.36 crore order/judgements pertaining to these courts. eCourts services such as details of case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders & final judgments are available to litigants and advocates through eCourts web portal, Judicial Service Centres (JSC) in all computerized courts, eCourts Mobile App, email service, SMS push & pull services. Video Conferencing facility has been enabled between 3240 court complexes and 1272 corresponding jails. With a view to handle the COVID- 19 challenges better and to make the transition to virtual hearings smoother, funds have been provided for setting up 235 e-SewaKendras at court complexes to facilitate lawyers and litigants needing assistance ranging from case status, getting judgements/orders, court/case related information and efiling facilities. Rs. 5.01 crores has been allocated for providing equipment in Video Conferencing cabins in various court complexes to facilitate virtual hearings. Rs. 12.12 crores has been allocated for 1732 Help desk counters for efiling in various court complexes.

Nine Virtual Courts have been set up at Delhi (2 courts), Faridabad (Haryana), Pune & Nagpur (Maharashtra) Kochi (Kerala), Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Guwahati (Assam) and Bengaluru (Karnataka) to try traffic offences. As on 20.01.2021, these courts have handled 41,98,095 cases and realised Rs.139.25cr in fines.

(iii) Filling up of vacant positions in Supreme Court, High Courts and District and Subordinate Courts: From 01.05.2014 to 25.01.2021, 35 Judges were appointed in Supreme Court. 570 new Judges were appointed and 520 Additional Judges were made permanent in the High Courts. Sanctioned strength of Judges of High Courts has been increased from 906 in May, 2014 to 1080 currently. Sanctioned and working strength of Judicial Officers in District and Subordinate Courts has increased as follows:

As on Sanctioned Strength Working Strength
31.12.2013 19,518 15,115
28.01.2021 24,247 19,318

Filling up of vacancies in Subordinate judiciary falls within the domain of the State Governments and High Courts concerned.

(iv) Reduction in Pendency through / follow up by Arrears Committees: In pursuance of resolution passed in Chief Justices’ Conference held in April, 2015, Arrears Committees have been set up in High Courts to clear cases pending for more than five years. Arrears Committees have been set up under District Judges too. Arrears Committee has been constituted in the Supreme Court to formulate steps to reduce pendency of cases in High Courts and District Courts.
(v) Emphasis on Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR): Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (as amended on 20th August, 2018) stipulates mandatory pre-institution mediation and settlement of commercial disputes. Amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 has been made by the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act 2015 for expediting the speedy resolution of disputes by prescribing timelines.
(vi) Initiatives to Fast Track Special Type of Cases: The Fourteenth Finance Commission endorsed the proposal of the Government to strengthen the judicial system in States which included, inter-alia, establishing Fast Track Courts for cases of heinous crimes; cases involving senior citizens, women, children etc., and urged the State Governments to use the additional fiscal space provided in the form of enhanced tax devolution form 32% to 42% to meet such requirements. As on 18.01.2021, Fast Track Courts are functional for heinous crimes, crimes against women and children, family and metrimonial disputes, etc. To fast track criminal cases involving elected MPs / MLAs, ten (10) Special Courts are functional in nine (9) States/UTs (1 each in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and 2 in NCT of Delhi) and proportionate funds have been released to these States by the Government. Further, Government has approved a scheme for setting up 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) across the country for expeditious disposal of pending cases of Rape under IPC and crimes under POCSO Act. As on date, 28 States/UTs have joined the scheme for setting up of 823 FTSCs including ‘exclusive POCSO Courts’. Rs.140 crore was released in the financial year 2019-20 and Rs. 89.89 crore has been released during the financial year 2020-21 for the scheme. Presently 609 FTSCs are functional including 331 exclusive POCSO Courts.
(vii) In addition, to reduce pendency and unclogging of the courts the Government has recently amended various laws like the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Commercial Courts (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Specific Relief (Amendment) Act, 2018, the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2018.

(c) to (e): Currently, 15 FTSCs are operational in Odisha, which are exclusive POCSO Courts for expeditious resolution of cases related to POCSO Act. These FTSCs have disposed of 240 POCSO cases and 6119 cases are pending as on 31.12.2020. An online monitoring framework has been devised for regular monitoring of case disposal statistics.

(f) to (h): As per the information made available by the High Court/State Government 22 Gram Nyayalayas have been notified by the State of Odisha out of which 16 Gram Nyayalayas are operational.

Some of the challenges related to the efficient functioning of the Gram Nyayalayas are overlapping jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas with regular courts, shortage of First Class Magistrates to man the Gram Nyayalayas, need for creation of a cadre of Gram Nyayadhikaries and their training, need to widen the jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas, creating awareness amongst stakeholders and also setting up mobile courts.

The issues affecting operationalization of the Gram Nyayalayas were discussed in the Conference of Chief Justices of High Courts and Chief Ministers of the States on 7th April, 2013. It was decided in the Conference that the State Governments and High Courts should decide the question of setting up of Gram Nyayalayas wherever feasible, taking into account their local problems. The Department of Justice is continuously monitoring and evaluating the issues relating to the establishment and functioning of the Gram Nyayalayas. Periodic meetings via Video Conferencing is done with the State functionaries and Registrar Generals of the High Courts for redressal of various issues.

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