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UP Needs More High Court Benches 

 

            It cannot be disputed by anyone that if more high court benches are created all over India as was very rightly recommended by the 230th report of Law Commission of India in 2009, it will certainly produce more diamonds like the Chief Justice of India designate Sharad Arvind Bobde who is most invaluable and even Kohinoor diamond stands just nowhere near him! It was Nagpur High Court Bench which was witness to the nurturing, grooming and shining of this “greatest of great” lawyer who gave up his roaring practice to accept “Judgeship” and the rest is history! Would it have been possible if Nagpur had no high court bench? Without leaving his home and migrating anywhere else like in Bombay where High Court is located or at Aurangabad where High Court Bench is also located, he could give his best and create a niche in golden letters by becoming CJI designate thus bringing glory and fame not only to himself but also to Nagpur where he practiced in high court bench for more than 22 years!

It is heartening to note and it is Maharashtra’s great fortune that Bombay High Court which earlier had three high court benches at Nagpur, Kolhapur and Panaji was accorded one more bench by Centre in Kolhapur for just 6 districts in 2018 but it is India’s biggest misfortune that UP has least which is incomprehensible and the 4th report of Law Commission of India on not creating more high court benches to sit at different places in a State way back in 1956 is still being implemented in 2020-21! Why this raw discrimination? Why no high court bench was created in UP even after the landmark recommendations of 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 UP’s bad fortune and is most shocking!

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 at 22 crore and many other countries, 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 more than thousand kilometers away all the way to Allahabad for more than 50 years after independence which led to resentment and agitation of a separate state and now it has a high court at Nainital when it was created as a separate state nor at any other district in UP especially West UP which has 26 districts and is notorious for lawlessness!

What does Centre want that the more than 9 crore people of West UP should also start an agitation for a separate state? Why is not ready to concede it a bench as was even recommended by Justice Jaswant Singh Commission? 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? Why the people of Lucknow and adjoining region not travel just about 200 km till Allahabad? Can this be justified on any ground and under any circumstances? Certainly not! Why West UP not even attached with Lucknow which is closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad?

If Lucknow is capital then so is Bhopal which is capital of Madhya Pradesh but which has neither high court nor bench which are at Indore and Gwalior and same is true for Dispur which is capital of Assam, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha, Dehradun which is capital of Uttarakhand, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala, Raipur which is capital of Chhattisgarh, etc! Allahabad High Court must get its due share as it has maximum pending cases, maximum Judges and what not yet has just one bench since 1947 till 2021 which is most shameful and most disgraceful! Allahabad High Court needs special care and not special neglect as most unfortunately we have been seeing till now!

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 more than 4 lakh 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 at her face and stomach? 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 and most recently Fateh Mohammad Khan in Greater Noida and that too in broad daylight at 10 am when he was on way to meet a client at Dadri Tehsil?

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! In Bijnore a senior advocate who is also a councillor was most recently fired upon and he sustained bullet injuries and is currently undergoing treatment at Meerut! Even a 100 year old woman is not safe and was raped and murdered in Meerut! For how long will all this be ignored?  For how long will West UP’s legitimate claim for a high court bench be consistently ignored?

Who can forget that at a time when the whole nation was rejoicing over the “bhumi poojan” of “Shri Ram temple” in Ayodhya, the lawyers of 26 districts of West UP once again were on strike on August 4, 2020 in protest against the gruesome, dastardly and ghastly murder of a senior lawyer named Dharmendra Chaudhary from Bulandshahr in West UP recently! He was missing for the past 8 days and ultimately his decomposed body was recovered from a marble godown in Khurja area on night of July 31, 2020! In last few years West UP in particular along with UP have witnessed many murder of lawyers and this explains why even UP Bar Council has on umpteen number of times called for a strike against the growing lawlessness and killing of lawyers in UP and the most recent one was on December 26, 2020!

It cannot be denied that Yogi Adityanath had vociferously raised the demand for a high court bench for Gorakhpur in 1998 right inside Parliament but even now as he completes more than three years as CM of UP, he is unable to create even a single bench even in Gorakhpur leave alone West UP! For just 3 lakh population of Andaman and Nicobar islands a high court bench is approved at Port Blair and similarly for small states like Sikkim with just 6 lakh population and less than 100 cases pending, high court itself is approved but no action for West UP! Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura had population of less than 30 lakh yet high court created but not a single bench is being approved for more than 9 crore people living in West UP!

Needless to say, UP must have maximum benches in India and not minimum as most unfortunately we have been seeing since last 74 years! Centre’s most adamant approach to not create any bench anywhere else in UP other than Lucknow since 1947 till 2021 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 entitling them to high court and 3 benches but for more than 9 crore people of West UP it is not ready to create even a single bench nor anywhere else in UP!  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? What sort of equality is this? Is Centre not making an open mockery of Article 14 of Indian Constitution? Why is it going unnoticed since such a long time? Why even Supreme Court has never intervened on it? Why Supreme Court feels that the people of West UP, Bundelkhand and other needy areas should only hope that Centre does something which is just not ready to budge! Most despicable!

It must also be asked: 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 in 2018 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 CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde will do something concrete on it before retiring in April 2021! He himself being a “bright gem” of a high court bench 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 from the biggest populated state of India 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 like UP have either just one or no bench at all as we see in Bihar! This what I find most disturbing and also most atrocious! This must be set right at the earliest!

Let’s hope fervently that  CJI  Sharad Arvind Bobde before retiring 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 in turn has done just nothing at all even though the incumbent Law Minister of India Ravi Shankar Prasad is from Bihar and the PM Narendra Modi himself is from UP representing Varanasi! They have only chosen to ensure that one more bench was created at Kolhapur in Maharashtra for just 6 districts which already had 3 benches at Panaji, Nagpur and Aurangabad! The former Chief Justice of UP – Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale who hailed from Maharashtra while in office had lambasted that women in Maharashtra are safe even at night and can go anywhere alone and this even I had seen myself while doing LLB from Symbiosis Law College in Pune but in UP he said that women are not safe even with their family and that too in broad daylight on national highway while hearing a case on woman being beaten and what not in Bulandshahr which is again in West UP! Still Centre is not ready to create a bench!

As if this is not enough, the lawyers of West UP have been on strike for nearly 40 years every Saturday from May 1981 till now! Not just this, the lawyers of West UP have even gone on 6 months strike as we saw in 2001 and 3 to 4 months strike as happened in 2014-15 and many times on Wednesday and Saturday and many times for weeks! Why Centre is so adamant? Even Kapil Sibal as Union Law Minister had recommended High Court Bench at Meerut as was disclosed by former UPA Union Minister RPN Singh just like Sampoornanand who was the then UP CM had recommended in 1955 in Meerut and former PM late Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Opposition leader had raised it in Parliament in 1986 still we see no bench anywhere not just in Meerut or in West UP or in Bundelkhand but in any hook and corner of UP except the one at Lucknow created in 1948!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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