Lawyers Of West UP Go On Strike On November 25, 2019

                                         It was decided unanimously by all the lawyers of 22 districts of West UP to go on strike on November 25, 2019 and observe it as “protest day”. The lawyers of West UP are not happy with the statement of Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad about the creation of a high court bench in West UP which he gave. He in principle agreed with the logic behind the demand for a high court bench in West UP but added a rider that first the state government should recommend and then Centre should accept it and also a Full Court of Allahabad High Court must give a consent for the creation of a bench of high court in West UP! He said that without following this procedure a high court bench cannot be created.

Many senior lawyers of West UP especially in Meerut pooh-pooh the specious argument of Union Law Minister and contend that what he is saying is nothing but nonsense! They vouch that it is only Parliament that is fully empowered to create a high court bench not just in West UP but in any part of UP, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir as has been provided in the State Reorganisation Amalgamation Act, 1954 and there is no need for recommendation by the state government or high court for it! They even ask that whom is he trying to fool?

In addition, the lawyers of West UP also declared that they stand fully behind UP Bar Council Chairman Hari Shankar Singh who had openly batted for the dire need for a high court bench in West UP! The lawyers also resolved that they would not allow any person to enter any of the court premises in any of the 22 districts of West UP who misbehaves with Hari Shankar Singh in any manner! It may be recalled that the office bearers of High Court Bar of Allahabad had opposed Hari Shankar Singh for this very reason but now he receives overwhelming, unstinted and unequivocal support from all the lawyers of all the 22 districts of Western UP who will meet shortly in Bulandshahr on November 30 to formulate their future course of action on pursuing the struggle for the creation of a high court bench in West UP!

It will take some time for me to come to terms with what I have read in various newspapers including Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran among others dated 17/11/2019 wherein none other than the UP Bar Council Chairman and senior advocate Harishankar Singh who has an impeccable track record has openly not just espoused the creation of a high court bench in West UP at any cost but has also simultaneously warned that if Centre and UP state government do not pay attention to it there will be a very big movement! Why is Centre and UP state government dead determined that as Jawaharlal Nehru had created a high court bench in Lucknow which is just about 200 km away from Allahabad where High Court itself is located on July 1, 1948 and not at any other place and all Prime Ministers following him from Lal Bahadur Shastri to Narendra Modi himself has never broken this even though Justice Jaswant Singh Commission  which was appointed by Centre itself by the then late Mrs Indira Gandhi government in late 1970s headed by former Supreme Court Judge – Justice Jaswant Singh which recommended 3 high court benches for UP but not one was created even though on its recommendations benches of high court were created at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal? This is most shocking! Why a raw deal was accorded to the more than 9 crore people of West UP living here by not creating even a single bench here and ensuring that both high court and a single bench were only in Eastern UP and that too very close to each other leaving the rest of UP especially regions like West UP, Bundelkhand, Poorvanchal etc high and dry?

It must be mentioned here that UP Bar Council Chairman Harishankar Singh while mentioning about one state and one high court concept disclosed that in Lucknow there is a separate high court bench and there are many states where there are 2 to 3 high court benches. In fact, Assam and Maharashtra have 4 benches! He said that UP is the oldest state and according to its area and population the demand for a high court bench is legitimate which will be fulfilled at all cost! He also disclosed that while he was Vice Chairman in 2008 then also he had prominently raised the demand for a high court bench in West UP! He called upon advocates of West UP to give a memorandum for high court bench which has been given umpteen number of times in the past also but he assured that at any cost he would make the lawyers of West UP meet PM Narendra Modi who represents Varanasi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath! He also pulled back no punches to directly say upfront that if PM Modi and CM Yogi don’t give them time to meet him regarding creation of a bench in West UP then he would change the very history and geography of Varanasi. He also minced no words to make it absolutely clear that he represents more than 3 and a half lakh advocates of UP and he would not be afraid to go even to jail or face judicial contempt. He asserted that he earlier also supported the sacred cause of a high court bench in West UP and in future also shall continue doing so relentlessly! It takes great guts and great determination to do what he is doing so openly!

Come to think of it, it is a matter of greatest national shame and most shocking that Uttar Pradesh which is biggest state amongst all the states in India with maximum population at more than 23 crore as UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi keep proudly bragging about at public rallies time and again which is more than even that of Pakistan and many other countries and there are only 3 countries including China, India, USA which have more population than UP, maximum MPs in Lok Sabha at 80, maximum MPs in Rajya Sabha at 31, maximum MLAs in Vidhan Sabha at 404, maximum MLAs in Vidhan Parishad at 100, maximum Judges at lower courts at more than 5000, maximum Judges in High Courts at 160, maximum pending cases in lower courts at more than 50 lakhs, maximum pending cases in high court at more than 10 lakh, maximum members in UP Bar Council which is more than one lakh which is the highest not just in India but in  the whole world as is pointed out in the website of UP Bar Council itself, maximum elected representatives at all levels including villages like Sarpanch, maximum villages which is again more than one lakh, maximum tehsils, maximum Mayors, maximum constituencies at 80, maximum districts at 75, maximum poverty and what not yet has least high court benches in India – only one and that too just about 200 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow! What a shame that Jawaharlal Nehru had the great guts to create a high court bench in Lucknow on July 1, 1948, 72 years ago which is just 200 km away from Allahabad where main high court is located but no PM had the guts to create a high court bench thousands of kilometers away at any of the 13 districts in hilly areas which now constitute a separate state called Uttarakhand and the people then numbering 88 lakh living there had to travel so far for more than 50 years after independence which led to resentment and agitation of a separate state and now it has a high court nor at any other district in UP especially West UP which has 26 districts and is notorious for lawlessness!

Why is it that UP has just one bench and here too West UP which owes for more than half of pending cases has none? Why a single bench only for UP at Lucknow which is so close to Allahabad just about 200 km away and not anywhere else as in West UP where people have to travel about 700-800 km on an average all the way to Allahabad as there is no bench here? Why a bench for Lucknow since July 1, 1948 for just about 8 districts but no bench for West UP even in 2019 for 26 districts for more than 9 crore people living here which constitutes for nearly half of the population of UP? Can this be justified on any ground and under any circumstances? Certainly not!

Who can deny that Allahabad High Court is the biggest high court not just in India but in whole of Asia yet has just one bench which is so close at Lucknow and is also one of the oldest high court which completed its 150 year of creation in 2016? Who can deny that Bar Council of UP has maximum members in whole world yet its former Chairperson Darvesh Yadav just within three days of being elected is brutally murdered right inside court premises in Agra in West UP by pumping three bullets on her? Who can deny that even Supreme Court lawyers are not safe in West UP and this stands vindicated by the recent brutal murder of lady advocate Kuljeet Kaur in Noida in West UP right inside her house? Who can deny that many senior lawyers in the past also have been brutally murdered not just  in West UP but in other parts also as we saw in Basti? Just recently we saw a senior and eminent lawyer in Meerut named Mukesh Sharma being brutally murdered just adjacent to his house while he had gone for walk and similarly in other districts of West UP we saw lawyers being murdered! Another advocate Zahid was murdered in Baghpat! In Muzaffarnagar still another advocate Ameer Saifi was murdered! For how long will West UP’s legitimate claim for a high court bench be consistently ignored?

Needless to say, UP must have maximum benches in India and not minimum as most unfortunately we have been seeing since last 72 years! Centre’s adamant approach to not create any bench anywhere else in UP other than Lucknow is responsible for demand being raised for separate state as we see in Bundelkhand, West UP, Poorvanchal and other parts also! Centre can shamelessly create 2 more benches for a peaceful state like Karnataka at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts even though it had a bench already at Hubli also for just 6 crore people living there but for more than 9 crore people of West UP it is not ready to create even a single bench! Karnataka has just about 1 lakh pending cases still it has 3 benches but for UP which has more than 10 lakh pending cases and West UP alone which has more than 5 lakh pending cases it has none! Same is true for Assam and Maharashtra which have 4 benches even though their pending cases stand nowhere when compared to UP whom Ban ki moon who is former UN Secretary General had slammed as “rape and crime capital of India” and even West UP alone has more cases which is more than both the states put together!

Bluntly put: Is this is what Article 14 which talks about right to equality stands for? Is Centre not making an open mockery of Article 14 of Indian Constitution? Are the people of West UP not entitled to get “speedy justice”, “justice at doorsteps” and “cheap justice” just like the people of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam etc? Why is it that the high court and benches of 8 states are closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad? Why even Lahore High Court in Pakistan is closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad High Court? Still should a high court bench not be created here?

Needless to say, Centre must clarify its stand and not maintain a conspicuous and deafening silence on it! Former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee had clearly said in 2001 while he was Attorney General that, “Centre is fully empowered to create a bench in any of the districts in West UP without any recommendation from the Chief Justice or anyone else in this regard.” Former Supreme Court Bar Association Chairman  Krishnamani had also said that, “Only by the creation of a high court bench in West UP will the people living here get real justice.”CJI Ranjan Gogoi while disposing of a petition on this filed by a lady advocate KL Chitra last year had appreciated the dire need for a bench in West UP but also had said that it is for Centre to decide on it!

One hopes fervently that the new CJI would seriously look into it! He himself being a product of a high court bench at Nagpur should certainly go into it deep and set up benches not just in West UP but also in other needy places in different states as was rightly recommended by 230th report of Law Commission of India also so that more talent comes to the horizon and we see that the “poorest of poor” people get “justice at doorsteps” and they are not compelled to travel a long way to get justice as it is they who have to spend more and suffer innumerable hassles! He must act as Centre has failed to act in last more than 72 years especially in case of UP and Bihar which inspite of being lawless states have just one bench and no bench respectively!

It is most shocking that peaceful states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Madhya Pradesh among others have more high court benches but the most lawless states have either just one or no bench at all! This must be set right at the earliest!

What a pity that the lawyers of West UP have been on strikes for even 6 months continuously, for 3 to 4 months continuously and every Saturday since May 1981 till November 2019 and many senior lawyers have even faced serious injuries also while protesting for a bench in last more than 50 years but Centre still has just shown no interest to address it just like the previous governments in Centre and Nehru’s legacy is continuing uninterrupted on this score! Should we be proud of this? Not just this, many UP CM have recommended for a bench in West UP with Mayawati even recommending West UP to be created as a separate state in 1995 but not even a bench or even circuit bench created till now which means that the more than 9 crore people are worse than the 3 lakh people of Andaman and Nicobar islands which has a bench at Port Blair!

What an irony that Centre still feels that not a single bench should be created either in West UP or in any other part of UP even though many Union Cabinet Ministers keep raising the demand for a bench! Can on earth there be anything more shameful than this? In just about two to three weeks in October, more than 3 to 4 lawyers have been murdered in different parts of West UP but still litigants are compelled to travel so far away to Allahabad which is about 700 to 800 km away as Centre is just not ready to create a bench in West UP or even in any other part of UP! This is atrocious! UP needs more high court benches which will be a boon for all people of all religions!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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