B.PAC organised release of CLPR report on the functioning of Special Fast Track Courts in Bengaluru with respect to sexual abuse of Women & Children
Followed by a panel discussion on issues and recommendation for effective functioning of these special courts
B.PAC under its B.SAFE initiative –The Billion Eyes Campaign in association with Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) organized a panel discussion on the issue of Special Courts for Women and Children on Saturday, June 13th 2015.
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 31st March 2015. The Courts have been shut down because of lack of funding by the State Government.
In a gripping 3 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, Mr Venkatachaliah said that the time has come to take a strong re look 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 filled in the fast track courts and with a paltry 6% conviction rate a lot remains to be done to make the judicial system to more inclusive. The issue of Hostility of witnesses, quality of medical investigation, psycho social factors and lack of training and sensitization 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:
1. Special legislation to establish sexual offences courts and set out their functions, procedures and special measures.
2. Critical need for training of judges, prosecutors, court registrars.
3. Support services for victims and victim/witness protection measures to enable them to testify in safety.
4. Periodic monitoring and evaluation of special sexual offences courts.
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. Assessment and evaluation of capacity to address problems before formulation of policies were the other important themes that were discussed by the panels.
The discussion saw participation from diverse walks of life including law students, forensic experts, advocates, child welfare activists represented by Enfold India(NGO), medical practitioners, public prosecutor & Retd Police officer Ms. Jija Hari Singh.
“How we deal with these cases hold a mirror to our soul and tell us who we really are as a society”‘