15 months on, human rights courts still not functional

At a time when the state government has announced 88 permanent fast-track courts, human rights courts set up in 19 districts in September 2011 are still non-functional. Significantly, West Bengal is the first state in the country where the human rights courts were set up a year ago.

According to sources in the state Law Department, no case has been referred to the human rights courts and the district administration. Even though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in all her public meetings boasts that her's is the only state government which has taken the effort to set up 19 special courts to protect the rights of the people, the state law department is yet to draft the methodology for the functioning of the special courts in Bengal.

A senior law department official said, "We have started the process of setting up the human rights courts. But we do not have adequate judges who will try the cases of human rights violation. Moreover, there is little awareness in the district administration about the human rights violation cases. The idea behind setting up of the human rights court was to segregate the cases of human rights from other cases and give them priority for a speedy trial. However, we are yet to appoint judges who will hear the cases of the rights violation."

Meanwhile, the law department is also in a dilemma about the methodology and the legal system for trying the rights violation cases. "We are following Section 30 of West Bengal Human Rights Commission Act that has a provision for setting up human rights courts. But in the section, it is not clearly explained which cases will be treated as rights violation and what would be the punishment. Moreover, it is also not clear that the sections of the IPC or the CrPC would be followed in the human rights courts. We are working on these issues," added the official.

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