The Need for Special Attention :-
Last December, the Supreme Court greenlit the Centre’s proposal to set up 12 fast-track courts to adjudicate and speedily dispose of 1,581 cases against Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies.
About Special Courts :-
- Special courts, which have existed in the subordinate judiciary since before Independence & Supreme Court gave its judgement in a decision, titled “In Re: The Special Courts Bill, 1978 (Special Courts Case)” the court opined on the constitutionality of and the legislative competence with which Parliament could establish special courts
- Special courts are set up under a statute meant to address specific disputes falling within that statute within the given time.
- Over 25 special courts were set up between 1950 and 2015 through various Central and State legislations.
Inconsistent drafting :-
1.) The Special Courts case clearly uses the phrase “established under statute”, which, in most cases, should imply the creation or establishment of a new court. However all of statutes
- Two statutes use the term “establish”
- Four use “constitute”
- Two use “create”
- Eight use “designate”
- Two use “notify” & one uses “appoint”.
2.) 13 pieces of legislation state that the government “may” set up special courts, while 15 say the government “shall”.
3.) There seem to be more special courts under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 as compared to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 despite data showing the former having a tenth of the number of registered cases as the latter (2015).
For States and high courts, this leads to ambiguities in operation in setting up such courts like :-
- Do they require new buildings?
- Should more judicial officers be hired?
- If a judge is designated under a special statute, should those matters be added to or replace her roster?
- This also create confusion with respect to appointments, budgetary allocation, infrastructure, and listing practices.
There are over 2.8 crore cases in the subordinate judiciary, which is the most out of the three tiers of the judiciary — subordinate, high courts and the Supreme Court. Therefore, Parameters such as the frequency and number of effective hearings and calculating the number of pending cases need to be developed to study the workings of special courts. Without such inquiries, their number continues to grow.
Fighting Forest Fires :-
The recent wildfire tragedy in Theni in Tamil Nadu, in which 20 trekkers lost their lives, once again brings into focus forest fires in India.
How Information is shared ?
- Forest Survey of India (FSI) analyses the data by overlaying the digitised boundaries of forest areas to pinpoint the location to the exact forest compartment through the data provided by these satellites named MODIS & VIIRS.
- FSI relays news of the fire to the concerned State, so that the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in charge of the forest where the fire is raging is informed.
- Then The DFO decides whom to deploy. Usually, there is a master fire control room which is informed and which sends firefighters from local fire crew stations to fight the blaze.
Four Approaches to fight forest fires :-
- The first is what may be called technological, where helicopters or ground-based personnel spray fire retardant chemicals, or pump water to fight the blaze.
- The second is to contain the fire in compartments bordered by natural barriers such as streams, roads, ridges, and fire lines along hillsides or across plains.
- The third is to set a counter fire, so that when a fire is unapproachable for humans
- Fourth is to have enough people with leafy green boughs to beat the fire out. This is practised in combination with fire lines and counter fires
How to mitigate the damage done by forest fires ?
- Increase the number of firefighters as well as equip them properly with all necessary equipment’s
- Funds would be more than sufficient to cover the cost of a well-equipped and well-paid forest protection force
- Seasonal labour could be contracted during the fire season. With adequate training, they would serve to fill gaps along the line. Local villagers would be the best resource
- More Forest Department field staff could be hired to put out fires during the fire season and to patrol the forests during other times
Increasing the field staff of Forest Departments by discontinuing the claimed ‘forest plantations’ would help control forest fires, which in turn would help rejuvenation of fire-stressed forest ecosystems. This would help indigenous forests grow back. Giving access to the public to reserve forests in their present state would have a salutary effect on the quality of life of our citizenry and the quality of field researchers available within the country.