The government has written to Chief Justices of High Courts and Chief Ministers to set up fast track courts to try heinous offences against women and children, said Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Indian Lawyers Congress here on Sunday, Mr. Kumar said most of the Chief Justices and Chief Ministers had agreed to the proposal.

On the demand for awarding death penalty for rape, the Minister said that there were arguments in favour of and against the proposal. The existing laws prescribed life imprisonment for rape and capital punishment in rarest of rare cases in killing after rape.

However, it is up to the judiciary to decide on the rarest of rare cases. The challenge before law enforcers, courts and law makers is how to implement the laws more effectively, he said. The government was waiting for the recommendations of the J.S. Verma Commission, which was looking into the amendments of laws for providing speedy justice in sexual assault cases. The report of the commission will be placed for detailed deliberations. The government will take a decision after consultation, he said.

The Centre has initiated steps for improving the strength of the lower judiciary and 1,800 posts have been sanctioned. Currently, there are 18,000 judges in the subordinate judiciary. The increase in the number of judges will help in the early dispensation of justice and clearing of backlog.

It has been proposed to start 5,000 Grama Nyayalayas at block level in the country for delivery of justice at the doorstep of the common man. Some States have already initiated the process.

Accountability Bill

Earlier, speaking at the public function, Mr. Kumar said the government was trying to evolve a consensus on the amended Judicial Accountability Bill and National Judicial Appointment Commission. The United Progressive Alliance was for bringing in accountability in the functioning of the judiciary and a process for the selection of judges to higher judiciary in place of the existing collegiums.

Supporting the initiatives of the Oommen Chandy government, Mr. Kumar said the State government was taking some bold decisions for securing the future of the State so that funds were available with it for various social welfare schemes.

Congress leaders including P.C. Chacko and M.I. Shanavas, MPs, were among those who attended.

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