(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)
During the anti-rape protests across India in December, two slogans stood out among all the placards and banners — “Hang the rapists” and “We want justice”.
It was a case that stirred national debate and forced the state government in New Delhi to set up five fast-track courts to try sexual offences against women.
It’s nothing new. The Indian government set up 1,734 fast-track courts in the country a decade ago. The purpose was to quickly clear pending cases. But some legal experts say that the courts are not always a good thing, and many of these courts disbanded after the government stopped funding them.
“Fast-track courts were set up in Rajasthan to try some rape cases, but were forced to shut down due to ‘high costs’,” Supreme Court lawyer Pinky Anand told Reuters in an email.
In 2006, a fast-track court in Alwar, Rajasthan convicted the son of a police officer less than a month after he raped a German scholar. (The prisoner escaped while on parole, and has been missing ever since).
Fast-tracking cases may not always be the best option anyway.
“One example of fast-track courts not delivering justice is the trials after the Gujarat carnage where several cases tried by fast-track courts resulted in acquittal,” women’s rights lawyer Flavia Agnes told Reuters via email.