Centre can't set up fast-track courts: Official

Amid vociferous demands for speedy justice in cases of rape, the Centre has clarified that it does not have powers to set up fast-track courts, saying that only chief justices of the high courts and the respective state governments could take such initiatives.

“The power to designate a court as fast track court lies with the chief justices of the High Courts. States can provide resources for the function of such courts. The Central government cannot set up fast track courts on its own,” official sources in the government said here on Monday.

The Home Ministry has convened a meeting of chief secretaries of states on January 4 to chalk out a strategy for addressing crime against women.

“The purpose of the meeting is to administratively work out these things (setting up of fast track courts and other measures) with the states,” sources added.

Sources also indicated that the government was mulling over a proposal to bring a provision of capital punishment to the convicts of rape in the “rarest of rare cases”.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde recently said in a statement that the government will take immediate steps for the amendment of the Criminal Law for enhanced and more effective punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this to ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature.

“This means capital punishment but we cannot say it because this has go through various process. This needs adequate consultation with all the stakeholders including state governments before it is brought to Parliament for its approval. States are major stakeholders on the issue of law and order because Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure is administered by them,” sources said.

When asked for his comment on the issue, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari also said that government was aware of the need that “severer and stricter punishment” should visit crimes which are “depraved” in nature and “shock the collective conscience of society “.

The home minister has said that government will set up a Commission of Inquiry to review responses to the “shocking crime” and to suggest measures to improve the safety and security of women in the capital.

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