Centre Must Address High Court Bench Issue In West UP

Allahabad High Court

At the crucial meeting of the Central Action Committee. of more than 20 districts of Bar Association of West UP held at Aligarh on February 14, 2015 it was decided unanimously to go on strike from now onwards for 2 days in a week – Wednesday and Saturday! It was also decided that lawyers would personally meet PM Narendra Modi and apprise him of the dire need of the same! It was also decided that keeping in mind the assurances given by late Arun Jaitley about setting up a bench once Delhi elections are over, they would wait for some more time but agitation would continue uninterrupted even though the continuous strike of 80 days since November was ended after Jaitley had a word with senior lawyers of West UP! But even after 6 years we still see just no action on the ground!
For the uninitiated,       the Central Action Committee was constituted by the lawyers of West UP way back in 1981 when Centre in a most despicable act of double standards decided to partially implement the Justice Jaswant Singh Commission report which it had itself constituted to look into where all benches are needed! It clearly recommended 3 high court benches for West UP but Centre ignored it and not a single High Court Bench was approved for UP! However it approved the recommendation to set up a high court bench at Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Benches were also approved at Japlaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu!
As a protest against this worst form of discrimination when inspite of recommendations for 3 benches not a single bench was created, the lawyers of West UP started going on strike every Saturday! 40 years have lapsed but Centre is yet to take any action! Lawyers of West UP have even gone on strike for 6 months at a row as they did in 2001 but Centre did just nothing! Then lawyers also went on strike for 3 to 4 months in 2014-15 yet we saw nothing happening!
It was 60 years ago in 1955 that the then UP CM Dr Sampoornanand had recommended the creation of a high court bench at Meerut but Centre refused! Many other CM like Banarsi Das, ND Tiwari, Rajnath Singh who is now home minister also recommended creation of a bench but Centre refused!  Azam Khan and Rajinder Chaudhary who are senior Cabinet ministers in UP are on record saying that they are ready to give land for bench, money etc if Centre approves the same but Centre is not prepared till now!
Why is it that Patna high court has not a single bench? Don’t we know that how crime and mafia raj prevails in Bihar? Yet we see how peaceful states have three or more benches but Bihar has none! Why this step-motherly treatment? Under no circumstances can this gross injustice be ever justified!
Why Western UP has no bench of high court? Why can’t Modi create a bench here? When maximum cases of rape, loot, arson, murder, riots etc are all from Western UP then why can’t a single bench be created for 26 districts with a population of more than 9 crore? Our learned President Pranab Mukherjee very rightly points out that, “Justice must be accessible, affordable and quick for people. Justice meted out with delay is injustice. Though the Indian judiciary has many strengths, it is yet to fully meet the aspirations of our people for speedy and affordable justice which shows in the pendency of the cases in the country.” By the same token, I would like to point out here that why is it that the people of West UP compelled to travel so far to Allahabad which is more than 750 km from most of the districts and spend so much of time, money etc just to attend a single hearing again and again?
We all know it very well that UP holds the dubious distinction of topping the states list of pending cases and in fact the pending cases of more than 10 states put together is less than that of UP. Still why is it that UP has least benches in India and states with much lesser pending cases like Karnataka have 3 benches? Our learned former President late Pranab Mukherjee also rightly pointed out that, “Our courts are today overburdened on account of number of cases pending before them. There are over three crore cases pending in various courts throughout the country. Out of these, about 38.5 lakh cases are pending in 24 High Courts. The pendency of cases in the High Courts has slightly declined from 41.5 lakh in 2014 to 38.5 lakh in 2015, but still have a long way to go.” Who will benefit if more benches are created in big states like UP which has only one bench and Bihar which has none? The palpable answer is undertrials who keep languishing in jail for many years and the backlog of pending cases will come down significantly! It is most hurting to see that many Judges seats always keep lying vacant in Allahabad High Court and no serious step is being taken to create more High Court Benches here!

Dr Satyapal Singh who is the former Mumbai Police Commissioner and presently represents Baghpat constituency raised most forcefully the pressing issue of setting up of a high court bench issue in Lok Sabha on March 9, 2016. He pointed out how despite UP having more than 22 crore population and 75 districts has least benches and West UP has none! Should we proud of this? He rightly said that, “I had raised the issue of the HC bench in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. This is not only a need for lawyers but also the need of the common people as well. There should be a bench in Meerut, Agra, Gorakhpur, Varanasi and Jhansi. If the Lucknow bench of HC can be created for 12 districts, why can’t we have 4-5 separate benches for all the 75 districts in the state? The first war of independence began from Meerut and the movement to provide affordable justice to people should also start from Meerut. I have already written a letter to PM Modi and I will write to him again. We don’t need the consent of either the state government or the CJ of the Allahabad HC”.
But Centre is following what the previous governments in Centre have followed – No bench not just in West UP but in any hook and corner of UP except at Lucknow which is so near to Allahabad! Centre wastes no time to set up 2 more benches for Karnataka at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts in 2012 but refuses to set up even a single bench for 26 districts in West UP! Dr Satyapal pointed out how despite West UP having a population of more than 9 crore has not even a single bench and the people are compelled to travel so far away to Allahabad to get justice. Why people of West UP have been treated like third rated citizens?
Why when UP has maximum pending cases about 15 lakh pending cases and here too West UP accounts for more than half of the pending cases, why can’t a high court bench be set up in West UP? Why when two more high court benches can be created at Gulbarga and Dharwad for just 4 and 8 districts then why can’t a single bench be created for 26 districts of West UP? When Karnataka with just over 1 lakh pending cases can have three high court benches, why can’t UP with over 15 lakh pending cases not have 3 or more benches? Also, Karnataka has just 50 high court Judges but Allahabad has 200! Centre forgets that the 230th report of Law Commission which recommends creation of more benches was for all  states and not just for Karnataka alone!

Why Centre feels there is nothing wrong in having a single bench of such a big state like UP which is among the largest states with maximum population, maximum Judges now 200 and earlier was 160, maximum pending cases, maximum undertrials, maximum districts, maximum MPs and MLAs, maximum PM including Narendra Modi, maximum poverty, maximum villages, maximum vacancy in Judges, maximum crime rate and here too West UP tops the list and still a single bench has been created just 250 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow? Why when for 12 districts of Lucknow a high court bench can be created then for 26 districts of West UP a single bench cannot be created? Also when a bench can exist just 200 km away from Allahabad then why can’t a bench exist 700-750 km away in West UP?
Why Centre does not realize that it is “poorest of poor” residing in remote areas who suffer the most and who have to mortgage their land, sell women’s jewellery and ornaments etc to sustain the huge expenses incurred in hiring lawyers, travelling expenses, staying expenses etc? Why Centre overlooks that more than 9 crore people of West UP are made to travel 700 km on an average which is more than the distance of even Lahore high court in Pakistan which is just 450 km away from West UP all the way to Allahabad to get justice which normally does not come in a lifetime? Why Centre fails to appreciate that inspite of Meerut riots, Saharanpur riots, Moradabad riots, etc all in West UP both high court and a single bench being in  Eastern UP and nowhere else makes no sense except to deprive the people of West UP and of other regions of the fundamental right to get speedy justice? Why Centre fails to see that dacoity, murders, rape, riots, arson and violence has become order of the day in West UP due to which a bench is urgently needed here?
Local Hindi newspapers are full of news of how dacoits loot, criminals commit cri with impunity and we saw recently on Block Pramukh election also how violence breaks out at the drop of a hat! If bench is created here, justice will be delivered on time and victims will not have to rush so far as Allahabad which is approximately 750 km and this will instill the much needed confidence among people and fear among criminals of the long arms of  law catching up with them! Even court premises are not safe here. We saw few years back how a young man dressed as a lawyer entered court premises and even as hearing was going on in a case, he fired 12 bullets at Vicky Tyagi who was in court to attend a case and who died instantly. The Additional Sessions Judge – Mayank Chauhan who was hearing the case too scrambled for his own personal safety! In the past also time and again, criminals come, open fire with full boldness and kill whomever they want to! Still, Centre feels bench is not needed here and it is needed only at Lucknow which is so near to Allahabad! This is just not done! Most disgusting! Centre is justifying the monumental blunders done by Jawaharlal Nehru who was our first PM and is still sticking and clinging to it just like a drunkard clings himself to a lamppost not to light himself on the way but to hide his own darkness from the rest of the world!

Authored by : Sanjeev Sirohi

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