MUMBAI: Massive shortages of personnel in the police and forensic departments, public prosecutors and sessions court judges have been cited as a key cause for pendency of cases in courts.
“All sanctioned posts of scientific officers are vacant. It borders on the absurd that these positions cannot be filled,” added Mehta. Praja data shows that 50% cases sent to the forensic department were pending as of last year. High court lawyer Aditya Pratap added that on several occasions chargesheets are filed without forensic reports as the laboratories take several months to prepare them.
There appears to be a pressing need for overhaul of infrastructure. “Magistrates of lower courts are severely overburdened. Each magistrate hears offences recorded at three to four police stations and sometimes, there are 200 matters listed per day. There is a need to increase magistrate courts so as to have one magistrate per police station,” said Pratap. Experts suggested that lower and district level courts digitize themselves on priority. “The prime requirement is to enhance the number of courts and prosecutors. Secondly, a more liberal approach is required to bring a larger category of offences under the ambit of plea bargaining and summary trials through legislation,” said former IPS officer SPS Yadav.
Research by Praja showed delays in police investigation as well. Chargesheets were submitted in just 21% of serious offences by the police as of last year. RTI activist Arati Chauhan said that any holes left behind in the evidence by investigators would ultimately benefit the accused. The police department also had a 19% shortfall in manpower as of July 2021. “Every policeman who has completed seven years of service must be given the task of filing chargesheets to overcome the shortage of investigating officers,” said former DGP Praveen Dixit. With the increasing urban population of Mumbai, it is not just important to fill the remaining sanctioned posts, but also to revisit the number of sanctioned posts each year to cope with the increasing number of trials.
Police reforms in the form of implementation of a police complaints authority (PCA) is needed at the divisional level.
A PCA can receive complaints and has the power to conduct inquiries, hearings and give final orders in the form of recommendations to the state government regarding serious violation of the law or abuse of lawful authority by police authorities.