B.PAC under its B.SAFE initiative – The Billion Eyes Campaign, in association with Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) organised a panel discussion on the issue of Special Courts for women and children.
Out of the 93 Fast Track Courts set up in Karnataka in the year 2000, only 39 courts were functioning since 2012 till their closure on March 31st 2015. The Courts have been shut down because of lack of funding by the State Government.
In a gripping three hour discussion, industry and subject matter experts deliberated in great depth on the burning need to have a structural overhaul through legislation, laying down procedures and measures to make the system respond to the rapidly growing sexual assault cases against women and children in the country.
Justice M.N Venkatachaliah (Former Chief Justice of India) and Justice N Santhosh Hegde (Former Justice Supreme Court of India) released the CLPR Report on functioning of Special Fast Track Courts in Bengaluru for women and children.
Speaking during the release, Venkatachaliah said that the time has come to take a strong relook at the philosophy of the system that currently functions as adversarial, and slowly move toward inquisitorial proceedings where the Judge does not merely function as an umpire, but also as a conscious keeper to these proceedings.
He congratulated the CLPR team for bringing out a well-researched and extensive report on Fast Track Courts in Bangalore and in fact went ahead to say that the findings of the report should be made compulsory reading material for law schools.
With less than 110 cases being disposed out of 630 cases filed in the fast track courts, and with a paltry 6% conviction rate, a lot remains to be done to make the judicial system more inclusive. The issue of hostility of witnesses, quality of medical investigation, psycho-social factors and lack of training and sensitisation among the judicial fraternity, was addressed by multiple panel members.
In order to address the issue of hostility of witnesses, Justice Santosh Hegde suggested that statement of witnesses be taken before the jurisdictional magistrate. And if there is any derailment or retraction in the witness statement, it can be considered as perjury of law.
The way forward for Special courts
- Special legislation to establish sexual offences courts and set out their functions, procedures and special measures
- Critical need for training of judges, prosecutors, court registrars
- Support services for victims and victim/witness protection measures to enable them to testify in safety
- Periodic monitoring and evaluation of special sexual offences courts
Harish N Advocate, and Member, B.PAC said during the discussion, ‘Delay Derails Deterrence’’ He also emphasised on the following:
- The need for establishing special dedicated courts in a separate building to handle cases pertaining to sexual violence against women and children.
- Sensitisation of all stakeholders namely judges, prosecutors, doctors, media, police etc. in respect cases pertaining to women and children
- Police stations are under staffed, less-equipped, while policemen are over-stressed to provide adequate support to the prosecutors.
Better implementation of existing laws, use of more scientific methods of investigation and need for systematic research into dynamics fuelling crimes against women and children, and assessment and evaluation of capacity to address problems before formulation of policies were the other important themes that were discussed by the panels.
A key takeaway for all the attendees was that special courts need to be setup to not just implement a law, but also more importantly to meaningfully address the looming problem.
Jayna Kothari, Founder CLPR and Member, B.SAFE during the event said, “Special courts should be established through legislation since Fast Track Courts were set up on ad hoc basis and did not the purpose of speedy justice.”
The discussion saw participation from diverse walks of life including law students, forensic experts, advocates, child welfare activists represented by Enfold Inda(NGO), medical practioners, public prosecutors and retired police officer, Jija Hari Singh.
Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC) is a citizen’s group that aims to improve governance in Bangalore and enhance the quality of life of every citizen.
B.PAC is specifically targeting good governance practices, integrity and transparency in all arms of the government, improving the quality of infrastructure in the city, identifying and supporting strong candidates for public office at all levels of governance in Bangalore city and creating a safer city where the rule of law is ensured for all citizens of Bangalore.
Through its B.SAFE initiative for women and children, B.PAC is working in the areas of Safety in Public Spaces, Safety at the Work Place and Safety in Schools and Advocacy in Bangalore City. It strongly recommends the implementation of a zero- tolerance program using the tools of education, social sanction, public shaming, speedy police and judicial action and timely provision of safety related infrastructure equally. The program seeks to address several critical issues such as measures for prevention of violence, emergency response mechanism and understanding the judicial redressal system in case of an untoward incident.
Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) is an organisation which aims to maintain and promote public policy research, litigation and legal education. CLPR collaborates with organisations, institutions and programmes to promote legal research and cause related litigation.