What are special courts in India? What are its categories? What is the importance of such courts? What are the challenges related to them? Read further to know more.
Special Courts in India are judicial bodies set up to expedite the legal process for specific types of cases, often involving complex or high-profile issues.
These courts are established under various laws and statutes, and they operate alongside the regular judicial system. Their primary objective is to ensure swift justice and to handle cases that require specialized knowledge or handling due to their nature.
Between 1950 and 2015, more than 25 special courts were established thanks to various Central and State laws.
Special Courts were designed to swiftly resolve matters that had been open for a while. The State governments have the same authority to name qualified judicial personnel to such Courts, in cooperation with High Courts, much like statutes that require such courts to hear specific offenses.
In addition, the Constitution’s Article 142 allows the Supreme Court to order the creation of such a judiciary system.
- In its order dated November 1, 2017, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Union Government to develop a plan for the establishment of courts that would be solely responsible for handling criminal cases involving political figures, similar to the Fast Track Courts (FTCs) that the Central Government established for a five-year initial term and later extended.
- These courts are such courts that, despite being “Judicial” institutions, aren’t part of the hierarchy of the nation’s normal judicial courts.
- They are founded independently by separate statutes and differ from conventional courts in that they only deal with the one area of law for which they were intended, as opposed to several areas within a small geographic jurisdiction.
They were established by a specific statute to address issues about only the legal disciplines covered by that statute.
- The CBI Court is one such judiciary system that has gained attention since June 2022. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act of 1946 established the CBI courts, which are dedicated to handling matters brought before them by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
- The Family Courts, which were established by Section 3 of the Family Courts Act, 1984, are another example of such in India. These courts deal specifically with issues related to marriage, divorce, conjugal rights, maintenance, and the determination of someone’s validity, among other things.
Importance of Special Courts in India
- Lawmakers with clean backgrounds are better able to enact effective legislation and give better government than those with murky pasts.
- The criminalization of politics, which is one of the largest threats to democracy and law and order, can be ended by a swift trial of accused politicians.
- Conviction of legislators might boost public confidence in the judiciary system, which is frequently viewed as being helpless in the face of powerful people who win elections despite being accused of horrific crimes.
- As more lawmakers are elected who can effectively represent public interests and work on development, public confidence in democracy will rise.
- The Prevention of Corruption Act accuses a large number of parliamentarians, and their conviction can deter corruption.
- Makes elections fair and free while reducing the criminalization of politics and corrupt politicians’ use of force and money.
- Rule of law will increase as more legislators with clean records become legislation makers.
- To keep their attacker at a distance, victims of domestic abuse can ask the family court for protection orders.
- To ensure a swift trial, the POCSO Act of 2012 calls for the creation of Special Courts.
Fast Track Courts
Most recently, in 2019, the government approved a plan to establish 1,023 fast-track special courts (FTSCs) around the nation for the quick resolution of pending rape cases under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and offences under the POCSO Act.
- In order to handle just these matters, the SC further ordered in July 2019 that a centrally funded court be established in each district where more than 100 FIRs have been registered under the POCSO Act.
- FTSCs are intended to ensure the prompt delivery of justice.
- They hold trials quickly and have a higher clearing rate than conventional courts.
- Also, it improves the system for deterring sexual offenders.
The 11th Finance Commission’s proposals led to the creation of fast-track courts. To clear the backlog of cases, the 11th FC recommended the establishment of 1,734 such courts. In the instance of these courts, they were implemented by an executive plan as opposed to a legislative enactment. Also, these are intended to be established by the State governments after consulting with the relevant high courts.
Various special courts in India
Nowadays, the nation has more than 25 Special Courts that were established by various statutes. Below, a handful of them is discussed along with their effects:
Courts for the 2013 Company Act
- These judiciary systems, which were established under Section 435 of the act, have the authority to try every offence listed there.
- The High Court in question may hear appeals from this court.
- It is made up of a single Judge who is selected by the Central Government with the approval of the Chief Justice of the HC, whose district the proposed judge will be serving.
- Since the outset, business conflicts have been a major issue, and the creation of these Courts has proven to be a turning point for the judiciary by greatly relieving the heavy caseload associated with them.
Courts for MPs and MLA
- To expedite the lengthy pending trials of legislators, the SC ordered that special courts be established across the nation in 2017.
- Following this, 12 specialized judiciary systems were established across 11 States with the exclusive purpose of trying current MPs and MLAs.
- If these Extraordinary judiciary systems deprive the accused of their right to an appeal rung, the Supreme Court will look into it. Some of these cases can be tried by magistrates, according to the argument.
- In the normal course of events, an accused person who was unsuccessful before the Magistrate could appeal the ruling to the Sessions Court.
- In such circumstances, the Sessions Court serves as the first appellate court, the High Court as the second, and the Magistrate serves as the trial judge.
- If an MLA or MP’s case that can be heard by a magistrate is brought straight before a special court, the accused loses both the right to present their case in front of a magistrate and the right to file their first appeal with a Sessions Court.
Courts for POCSO
- The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which is tasked with overseeing the application of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, has been deemed by the Supreme Court to be lacking in information regarding POCSO cases across the nation.
- The Supreme Court has ordered the Center to establish specialized courts to handle matters involving POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses).
- In each district across the nation where there were more than 100 instances of child abuse and sexual assault for trial under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, special courts will be established as part of a central system (totally funded by the Center).
- To handle POCSO cases, the Center would need to designate qualified, sensitive prosecutors and support staff (deals with crime against minors).
- States are also required by the Supreme Court to make sure that the Forensic Sciences Laboratories (FSL) release test results in POCSO cases without delay.
- An exclusive court called a family court hears cases involving family connections and the law. The family court combines several other types of courts that deal with particular family issues, such as children’s courts and orphans’ courts.
- Compared to civil or criminal courts, family court has less stringent procedures. Intake procedures in the family court look at potential cases and weed out those that don’t need judicial attention.
- Special statutes governing guardianship, child neglect, juvenile delinquency, paternity, support, and family offences define the types of cases that family courts can handle.
- A special procedure for family law disputes was included in the Code of Civil Procedure in a 1976 revision.
- The new law’s objectives were not met, nonetheless, as many courts handled family law issues similar to other civil proceedings.
- Several NGOs, women’s groups, and private citizens urged the government to set up special tribunals to hasten the settlement of family-related disputes. As a result, the Family Courts Act was adopted in 1984.
- These courts handle cases investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), particularly those involving corruption, economic offenses, and other high-profile cases.
- Legal Basis: CBI Courts are established under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT)
- NCLT adjudicates issues related to Indian companies, including insolvency and bankruptcy cases. NCLAT hears appeals against the decisions of NCLT.
- Legal Basis: These tribunals were established under the Companies Act, 2013.
Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) and Appellate Tribunals (DRATs)
- DRTs focus on cases involving the recovery of debts owed to banks and financial institutions. DRATs hear appeals against the orders of DRTs.
- Legal Basis: Established under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993.
Special Courts for Terrorist and Disruptive Activities
- These courts specifically handle cases involving terrorist activities and acts disrupting the sovereignty and integrity of India.
- Legal Basis: Established under laws like the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
- NGT specializes in cases involving environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources. It provides a speedy disposal of environmental cases.
- Legal Basis: Formed under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
Special Courts for Money Laundering Cases
- These courts deal with cases involving money laundering and other financial crimes.
- Legal Basis: Established under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Special Courts for Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
- To expedite cases related to atrocities against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Legal Basis: These courts are established under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Major Challenges for Special Courts in India
Special courts are an important tool for dealing with the particularities of some statutes and the backlog of judicial cases.
- A gap exists in the study and analysis of such courts, and there is little to no evaluation of how this system functions.
- As a result, there are no discrepancies in the operation and legislation, which are more obvious in the Parliament.
- Ambiguities – The phrase “formed under the statute,” which refers to the creation of a new court, is used in the Special Courts case without any ambiguity.
- Yet, statutes’ use of words like “constitute,” “produce,” “designate,” “notify,” and “appoint” among others confuses their status.
- The oddity is that these phrases haven’t been defined or given any context about the procedure.
- Moreover, some laws indicate the government “may” create special courts, while others say the government “must” do so.
- According to the definition, the question of whether a law calls for a special court or not should only have a yes or no response.
Leaving out possibilities like “may” increases ambiguity.
- This causes uncertainty in the administration and establishment of such courts for States and high courts.
- Moreover, appointments, financial allocation, infrastructure, and listing practices are all made unclear as a result of this.
- The SC should discuss the constitutional situation and examine any pertinent policy issues regarding its necessity and effectiveness of.
- A critical analysis of their operations is necessary.
- It is necessary to define parameters for the frequency and quantity of effective hearings as well as for determining the number of pending cases.
- They are crucial in preventing the establishment of an increasing number of such courts with vague goals.
- All things considered, it’s critical to assess whether or not such a court system is effective at clearing the backlog in cases.
Even though Special Courts may appear to be a one-size-fits-all answer to the current issues with the Indian judiciary, they still lack an evaluation of how this system functions and need further reassessment to get to the root of its working efficacy to be more viable and practical in its operation. Even while it is urgent given the backlog of cases in our system, it is crucial to keep an eye on the public funds used for the construction and operation of special courts.
Article Written By: Atheena Fathima Riyas