Lawyers may be wanting High Court Bench in Western U. P. for their convenience. Has it ever been thought from the side of litigants? I had once an opportunity to go to Allahabad High Court in connection with a writ petition which is located 400 kilometres from my hometown. Distance is enough for incurring exorbitant expenditure with the stay in Allahabad as one is bound to stay at such a long distance. It was the month of May of scorching hot weather. In the morning, I reached High Court as per instruction of my counsel as I was asked first to get my photo scanned for affidavit. I was waiting for clerk of my counsel and at the same time I saw that a few other were talking on mobile and kept telling about the identification of mark where they stood and waiting for their lawyers. The frustration and embarrassment on their face could have easily been observed. Meanwhile, clerk of my lawyer reached and accompanied me to get photo scanned. It is really a place of unbearable crowd. I found a long queue there. I had to stand in queue for hours. I was feeling thirsty while standing in the queue but water was not available and I was afraid of losing my number if I broke the line, obviously I was to drink water after finishing the job. Thereafter, I moved to High Court building with the clerk to meet my lawyer. I was astonished to see unbearably crowded corridors of High Court. They were just appearing like share markets. Shoulders of people were touching to each other. Unfortunately, I missed clerk and as a result I was not able to find out my counsel for hours, moreover, mobile network was not properly working in the High Court complex. I was constantly thinking that it would have been better if I had not come to High Court for seeking relief on violation of my fundamental right. I should have borne with the violation of right and it would have comparatively been better than such a painful mental and physical agony. I have been repeatedly visiting High Court for the last six years facing the same troubles and trauma and do not know how long the process will go on. Common men, especially those who are poor can’t afford to incur the huge expenses relating to travelling for engaging a lawyer and staying in Allahabad. There are a few trains from western U.P. to Allahabad. In winters, the trains are usually late which ensures that a litigants ends up wasting an entire week in the whole process of reaching Allahabad, finding a lawyer, settling the draft, filing of draft and coming back to town from Allahabad. This causes immense inconvenience in each aspect. Besides travel and lodging, the advocates of the High Court charge clients from West U.P. exorbitantly.
Pendency in the courts is a big crisis and, of course, major concern of responsible authorities. On an occasion, Chief Justice of India became emotional and literally cried. However concrete steps are not taken to address this issue. Creation of a Bench in western U. P. will of course minimise the crisis to a great extent. There may be other reasons for pendency but the main reason is that Allahabad High Court being the biggest High Courts in India is overburdened. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous State of India having 75 districts. The challenges faced by a state of such a huge population and area are unimaginable. For the citizens of Western U.P, a trip to Allahabad would entail travel of anywhere between 450 to 850 Km. It is enough to justify the demand of High Court Bench in Western U.P. for the sake of citizens not the lawyers. A separate Bench for Western U.P. has been a long standing grievance of the advocates of Western U.P. Since May 1981, every Saturday, the advocates of all 26 districts of Western U.P. refrain from doing work as a mark of protest against the inaction of the Central Government. This way, the court runs 5 days a week resulting in slow speed of judgments of lower courts. Besides the regular Saturday, lawyers of district courts keep to go on strike time and again in favour of this demand. This demand has been made strongly and consistently for the past 62 years ever old to any other demand in India and has been older than the demand of Uttrkahand, Jharkand and Chhatisgarh as separate States but to no avail. In 1981, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi constituted a three member Commission under the chairmanship of Justice Jaswant Singh to determine the modalities, desirability and feasibility of constituting High Courts or benches of High Courts at Agra in U.P. and Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Though the second recommendation was acted upon immediately, the bench in Western U.P. is yet to be created.
It is one of the oldest demand ever since 1955. In September 2001, Agra lawyers waved black flags during a public meeting of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then U.P Chief Minister Rajnath Singh. Refusing to be cowed down, the lawyers intensified their agitation, prompting a large number of policemen to enter civil court premises on September 26, 2001 and resort to lathicharge in which 250 lawyers were injured. The agitation was revived in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Road blockades and Agra bandh were organised. The lawyers entered the Taj Mahal premises on December 5, 2012 and again reached the gates of the monument of love on September 26, 2013 to press for the High Court bench in Agra. Such agitations have become order of the day in other districts of western U.P. particularly in Meerut. But the central government has turned a deaf ear to the demand.
The people of Western U.P. have great hope from the present ruling party. A Bench in Western U.P. was one of the poll promises of the ruling party BJP. But this promise is also going to meet same fate as many other promises. The present Chief Minister of U.P., had as an M.P. introduced a Private Members Bill in Parliament in 2015 seeking the establishment of a bench of the High Court at Gorakhpur. Now, being himself Chief Minister of the State, he must be cognizant about the long pending demand. In July 2015, the Union Minister Sadanand Gowda assured that the centre wanted a High Court Bench in Western U.P. adding that the Allahabad Bar Association is opposed to the formation of a new High Court bench in Western U.P. However, the Allahabad Bar Association President could not provide a justifiable reasons for their opposition to the new Bench. Should a sensitive government submit before vested interest and not concede reasonable and justified demand of its citizens?
It is profoundly needed administratively but unachievable politically. Appeasement politics of political parties is not only confined to religious or caste communities but sometime it is regional also. BJP is not untouched with this. There is clear divide between Eastern and Western U.P. and no political party wants to irritate eastern U.P. on this issue. Politics overshadows the administrative need. Let it be required administratively, though a very old and genuine demand but Political parties do not pay heed as one region is not comfortable with this. Is the only solution to this problem to divide the State as proposed by Mayawati? Demand of Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh and Bundelkhand as separate states is already in vogue and ahead of Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, the demand for separate Purvanchal State has become a burning issue among the smaller political parties.
- Dr Ishrat Husain
- Associate Professor
- National Law University