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!
Was it Jawaharlal Nehru’s last death wish that not a single bench should be created anywhere in any hook and corner of UP except the one which he himself created at Lucknow in 1948? I have not heard of any such thing! If there was any such last wish of Jawaharlal Nehru then Centre must disclose it! It is most baffling as to why no government in Centre ever fulfils the legitimate and compelling need for a high court bench in West UP for the more than 9 crore people living here in 26 districts knowing fully well that even Justice Jaswant Singh Commission had recommended that a High Court Bench should be created in West UP?
Why even this BJP government led by PM Narendra Modi who now enjoys majority in both Houses of Parliament is not listening to even its own Union Ministers and MPs from West UP who repeatedly keep raising the demand for a high court bench in Parliament itself? Why is it ignored that even former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself raised the demand for a high court bench in West UP right inside Parliament while he was leader of Opposition? Why is it ignored that more than half of the pending cases are from West UP as was acknowledged by Justice Jaswant Singh Commission also still why not a single high court bench has been created here since last more than 72 years?
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 the 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 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! Let’s hope that the CJI designate – Sharad Arvind Bobde will act courageously on this score and do what none of his predecessors has ever dared to do and tended to play safe by always leaving the ball in Centre’s court which has done just nothing at all even though the incumbent Law Minister of India Ravi Shankar Prasad is from Bihar where there is not even a single bench even though we keep hearing so many incidents of crime from there and the PM Narendra Modi himself is from UP representing Varanasi still in his previous term he did just nothing on this score and now also has not shown any interest in it notwithstanding the irrefutable fact that the outgoing CJI Ranjan Gogoi had said that it was for the Centre to decide on it!
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!
But Centre still feels that not a single bench should be created either in West UP or in any other part of UP for undisclosed reasons! 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! UP needs more high court benches and not more temples which are there in abundance!