Supreme Court orders fast tracking of criminal cases

Supreme Court orders fast tracking of criminal cases n what could be termed as a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court ordered fast tracking of criminal cases while ruling in the Bhim Singh versus Union of India case. The court also directed release of under trial prisoners who had completed at least half their maximum prison term pursuant toSection 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Interestingly, the court’s decision coincides with the Narendra Modi government’s mandate to release under trails and decongest prisons. Although the apex court’s measures are laudable, but releasing under trials is not a permanent solution. In a country like India, the move does not necessarily address the underlying causes for the high proportion of under trails in India. Pre-trail detention is one of the major issues and 66 per cent of India’s prisoners are under trails. This number is over twice the global average of 32 percent. Out of the total of 2, 54,857 under trails, more than 2,000 have been in prison for more than five years. As per theNational Crime Bureau Records, over 75 lakh were arrested in the year 2012. As a result prisons all over the country are experiencing an increase in the number of under trials along with overcrowding. Unfortunately, the various reforms introduced so far have only favored quick fixes, without failing to understand the reason behind high incidence of pre trail detention. First and foremost, the reason behind this can be attributed to overworked, under stuffed and underpaid criminal justice functionaries. Secondly, the economic profile of the under trials affect their inability to post bail. And, last but not the least is a legal aid system that has failed to serve its purpose. It is worth mentioning that despite the Supreme Court’s order to appoint 50 judges per million people, India has only 15 judges to address the needs of a million.


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