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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 July 2006, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
India to set up fast track courts
An overcrowded jail in Bihar
Indian prisons are overcrowded (Pic: Prashant Ravi]
India is to set up fast track courts to reduce a backlog of millions of cases, the country's chief justice has said.

Justice YK Sabharwal said the federal government would spend $32m in setting up such courts all over the country.

A total of 18 million cases are pending in India's courts, of which 16 million cases are criminal ones, he said.

India's judicial system is notoriously slow and the fast track courts will take up cases which have been pending for three years or more.

"I have no doubt that this investment by the government will go a long way in the dispensation of real social, economic and political justice to the common man," Justice Sabharwal said.

The chief justice said he proposed to introduce double shifts in Indian courts for speedy disposal of cases.

He said the proposal had failed to take off due to the opposition from the lawyers and appealed to them for support.

Recent steps

India has taken some measures recently to speed up justice and ease the overcrowding in its prisons.

The country's penal code has been amended to provide that inmates must be released if they have served time on remand equal to half the maximum prison tariff for the offence they are to be tried for.

The measure does not apply to those charged with offences for which the death sentence is a possible punishment.

Earlier this month, the government introduced the concept of plea bargaining.

Under the move an accused in a criminal case will be able to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.

The move has been welcomed by the country's legal community who say it will go a long way in reducing pressure on the courts.

However, the move will only be applied to crimes which attract a maximum sentence of seven years and does not cover more serious felonies such as murder or crimes against women and children.

At the moment, India has 10 judges for every million people, and cases can go on for years, decades in the worst cases.

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