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West UP Having Its Own Bench Of High Court Will Help Undertrials And Overall Criminal Justice System Will Stand To Gain

                                 It can only happen in a country like India that the state of Uttar Pradesh which has the maximum population among all states, maximum districts, maximum constituencies, maximum poverty, maximum crime, maximum pending cases among all states which is nearly half of the pending cases all over India and is also among the top few largest states area wise has least number of high court benches in entire nation ! In 2011 , the percentage of crime incidents in UP was 33.3 % of the country’s total which itself serves as the biggest proof of just how bad things are in UP . Inspite of all this, there is only just one bench of high court in UP and that too just about 150 km from Allahabad high court! This notwithstanding that it is West UP which accounts for more than half of the pending cases in UP and is considered the crime capital of UP! Lakhimpur Kheri in news for wrong reasons is also in West UP! But all this is conveniently ignored for political reasons!

                           Ever since 1955 when Dr Sampoorna Nand, the then Chief Minister of UP recommended that a bench of high court be established in West UP at Meerut, at least 14 Chief Ministers have time and again recommended in favour. But still it has not materialised. In 1986, the former Law Minister Hansraj Bhardwaj made a statement in Rajya Sabha in response to a question of the then leader of opposition Atal Bihari Vajpayee that, “The government in principle has agreed for establishment of high court bench in West UP and the question of situs of the bench was left to the Central government as Agra was not found to be a suitable place. But where majority of people expect the bench to be formed, it will be formed there”. Vajpayee had himself said that if his party came to power in Centre, it will take no time in creating a bench in West UP. It is the bounden duty of every government to provide speedy justice to litigants and how can this be possible without creating more benches in UP? Many former PMs like late Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and others have espoused the creation of a bench in West UP and even the present government has appreciated its necessity. But no one has ever cared to implement the tall promises made to the people of West UP by creating a high court bench here which they repeatedly promised only to forget later !

                                             Needless to say, the people here are particularly miffed over the fact that a high court bench has been created in Aurangabad based on recommendations of Jaswant Commission report but West UP has been unfairly denied the same despite Jaswant Commission very strongly recommending for the same. One of my best friend  and a senior colleague in Meerut Bar – Advocate Parvez Alam had informed me which even I was not aware that the demand for a high court bench in West UP is so old that it can enter in the Guiness Book of World Records! Both the Centre and the State throw the ball of decision making in each other’s court which is most frustrating to see and this has been going on since 1955 when for the first time a high court bench was recommended for West UP by the then Chief Minister Sampoorna Nand. This is exactly what my another best friend and a colleague in Meerut Bar – Amit Sharma along with Tarun Dhaka, the former General Secretary of Meerut Bar   pinpoints that it is petty politics that has prevented a high court bench from taking deep inroad in West UP and it is the undertrials who are suffering the most in the whole process!

                                     Can we ignore that in many cases pertaining to West UP, either the plaintiff or the defendant or even both in some cases have died but still their cases have not yet been decided? Is it not a mockery of justice? I will cite few cases to substantiate my valid point:-

(a) Second Appeal 1278/74 Smt Aziz Begum v. Union of India, pending since 1974.

(b) Second Appeal 2177/75 Harishankar Others v. Bheygilu, pending since 1975.

(c) Second Appeal 2320/76 Jaswant Singh v. Deep Chand, pending since 1976.

(d) Writ Number 316/74 Ganga Devi v. Ram Har Singh, pending since 1974.

(e) Writ Number 447/73 Jagnarayan v. DDC, pending since 1973.

                                                                      No one can refute what the former President of Meerut Bar and a very senior and eminent lawyer – MP Sharma revealed about the distance between various districts in West UP with Allahabad and how much distance will stand reduced if a high court bench is created in West UP which as illustrated in the Safarnama of Dainik Jagran newspaper dated December 31 , 2012 is as follows : –

District

Allahabad

Meerut

Saharanpur

752

132

Muzaffarnagar

660

57

Meerut

607

Bulandshahar

560

65

Aligarh

501

140

Mathura

537

200

Agra

462

231

Mainpuri

462

260

Etah

447

260

Badayun

516

236

Bareilly

516

215

Moradabad

610

124

Pilhibit

430

240

Bijnore

692

80

Rampur

592

157

Ghaziabad

630

50

Noida

650

70

Bahgpat

640

45

JP Nagar

620

105

Still should a high court bench not be created in West UP ? Under such circumstances how can cheap, affordable and speedy justice be delivered to the litigants of West UP? But our government is least concerned about all this which saddens me most .

                                     According to the eminent, senior criminal lawyer and former President of Meerut Bar and present member of Meerut Bar Council Anil Bakshi who in the same newspaper quoted above is quoted as saying that, “The distance from Meerut to Pakistan based Lahore high court is 500 km whereas from Meerut to Allahabad is 607 km. From Saharanpur to Allahabad is 752 km and from Saharanpur to Lahore high court is 380 km . Distance of Gautambuddhanagar and Ghaziabad to Delhi high court is just 25 – 30 km. Even if a bench is created in West UP then also Allahabad will be left with 50 districts because the number of districts in West UP are 26.”

                                  It was in 1955 that the then Chief Minister of UP – Sampoornanand had recommended creation of a high court bench of West UP in Meerut. Late former PM Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1977 elections had to face demand of bench from the people of West UP. In 1981 the UP State government had recommended to Centre for creation of a high court bench in West UP. In 1981 – 82, late former PM Rajiv Gandhi had assured the setting up of a high court bench in West UP to the lawyers of Meerut Bar Association when he arrived in Meerut. In September 1981, the Jaswant Singh Commission was constituted which recommended creation of a bench in West UP in its report submitted in April 1985 but Centre did not act even though it promptly acted on the other recommendation and created a high court bench in Aurangabad in Maharashtra as was recommended.

                                It was in 1981 that Central Action Committee was formed for pursuing the sacred goal of a high court bench for West UP. It was from May 1981 that the lawyers also decided to observe every Saturday as strike in support of a bench. In between 1981 and 2021 , the lawyers went on strike for several months together but Centre cared a damn!

                                 According to a statement by learned Andhra Pradesh High Court Judge Justice VV Rao in March 2010, “The Indian judiciary would take 320 years to clear the backlog of 31.28 million cases pending in various courts including High Courts in the country.” Any attempt to speed up the disbursal of justice could go a long way in addressing the problem and what better than the setting up of more High Court benches and to start with which state is better than UP which is one of the biggest state in India, has maximum pending cases among all the states accounting for nearly half of the total pending cases and here too it is West UP which accounts for most of the cases among the pending cases in UP! Setting up of more High Court benches will help the system to come out of its present inertia and address the endless woes of the poorest of the poor who suffer the most in the entire process of delivery of justice for no fault of theirs! Our government most unfortunately is just simply refusing to appreciate this basic fact!

                                  Shri KP Sharma, the eminent criminal lawyer from Meerut who first enlightened me on setting up of a high court bench in West UP expressed his deep anguish over the nonchalance and insensitive approach of both the State and Centre regarding this and not conceding to it inspite of acknowledging fully the dire necessity of the same in the interest of millions of people of West UP who are punished for being born here. He also very rightly lamented that, “What a pity that Lahore High Court in Pakistan is nearer to the people of West UP as compared to Allahabad High Court. The lawyers of West UP obviously don’t enjoy going on strike every Saturday since 1981 because ultimately it is our own livelihood which is most adversely affected which the world must understand and appreciate. This decision was taken unanimously by all lawyers of West UP as a “token protest” against the abject callousness and utter disregard for the genuine grievances of a common people who have to suffer the most especially those who are very poor and can’t afford to incur the huge expenses relating to travelling more than 600 or 700 km or even more, engaging a lawyer, staying in Allahabad etc. It is the illiterate people who are fooled the most in the whole process by cunning people of whom there is no dearth and government too is not doing any good by turning a blind eye to the endless woes suffered by the people of West UP since independence which is most disgusting to note. The condition of educated and financially well off is not much better either especially the middle class.” It is high time and now the government must take prompt action in creating a bench of high court for the millions of people residing in West UP!

                                      Can anyone deny that West UP gives maximum revenue and yet they are facing worst punishment of being denied even their basic right of getting speedy and affordable justice as promised in our Constitution? Can anyone deny that article 214 of our Constitution which the critics opposed to creation of more Benches of High Court keep citing repeatedly nowhere prohibits the creation of new Benches? If there should be no High Court Bench as some lawyers of Allahabad High Court very vociferously argue, then my simple question to them is that, “Why is there a Bench at Lucknow which is so near to Allahabad?” When a Bench can exist in Lucknow then why not in Meerut or Agra or any of 22 districts of West UP which are at a huge distance causing maximum inconveniences to the people here? Is it not a fact that initially High Court was based at Agra and later transferred to Allahabad ? Can we ignore even what the Supreme Court in Naseeruddin v. State Transport Appellate Tribunal reported in AIR 1976 SC 331, relevant portion of the para 68 of ruling, relating to para 14 of UP High Courts (Amalgamation) Order 1948 said that, “There is no permanent seat of High Court at Allahabad, the seats at Allahabad and at Lucknow may be changed in accordance with the provision of the order”? Should a common man of West UP be still deprived of his basic right of having a High Court Bench in West UP?

                              Can anyone deny that till 31 Dec, 2008, the number of pending cases were 14, 64, 932 and out of these, the cases of West UP alone are nearly 52 percent? Can anyone deny that 60% cases are from West UP and this is the main obvious reason why some lawyers of Allahabad are stringently opposing a Bench for West UP because ultimately their source of livelihood is adversely affected? I understand and appreciate it. But can we ignore that it is always the people’s interest which holds supreme as enshrined in our Constitution and not of the lawyers of any particular place? Never.

Can anyone deny that the members of the Bar of West Uttar Pradesh are basically fighting for the welfare and protection of poor litigants who have to travel a huge distance averaging 600 to 1000 km from their respective residence in West UP to Allahabad High Court? Can anyone deny that about 1 crore cases are pending in various courts of UP and account for nearly half of the entire cases pending in our country and here too West UP is at top with more than 50% cases? If the problem of huge pending cases in UP is addressed soon, the whole nation will benefit.

                                 Can anyone deny what Justice RV Raveendran, a former Judge of Supreme Court said recently that, “People trust more goons rather than judiciary because of delays and uncertainty in judgments of courts. The ratio of civil and criminal cases 58 years ago was 50 : 50 and now it is 20 : 80. The time is not far when in courts only criminal cases will be left?” Still should a High Court Bench not be established in West UP? Not only in West UP but also in all such places Benches must be established where the High Court is too far away as we see in West UP!

                               Can anyone deny that according to a report of National Police Commission, in criminal cases 60 percent accused are wrongly framed and for keeping them in jail, 43 percent of the total expenditure is incurred on them alone and here again those from West UP bear the maximum brunt because their relatives face lot of problems in travelling nearly thousand kilometers, arranging a lawyer, arranging bail, and many other unnecessary expenses which could have been saved if there was a Bench here? Can anyone deny that in West UP , crime is much more than in East UP?

                                Can anyone deny that East UP is endowed with not only High Court at Allahabad but even a sole Bench at Lucknow just 200 km away whereas West UP inspite of crime soaring higher and higher does not have even a single Bench and people of 26 districts are compelled to travel more than 700 km on an average? How can this be justified? Can anyone deny that UP being the biggest State in India has the least number of Benches in India? Should this disastrous anomaly not be immediately rectified by creating more Benches?

                                  Can anyone deny that both the State and Centre time and again keep reiterating their commitment for speedy, cheap and easy justice? Why do then they deny a Bench for West UP ? Can anyone deny that the law and order problem is further deteriorating from worse to worst and criminals are roaming fearlessly because they know that they will escape the dragnet of law for lifelong as the Allahabad High Court is the maximum overloaded with regard to pending cases all over our country? Can anyone deny that the root cause of increasing crime in West UP is lack of Bench because it takes a very long time in Allahabad High Court for the cases to be decided? Can anyone deny that smaller States like MP where crime rate and pending cases is much lesser than UP has two Benches of High Court whereas on the contrary UP has only one Bench?

                                Can anyone deny that the crime ratio and pending cases of East UP is much lesser than West UP but still East UP is equipped with not only High Court but even a sole Bench whereas West UP does not have even a single Bench? Shameful and disgraceful that for more than 65 years, no one is hearing the crying voices of crores of people just because their only crime is that they are born in West UP ? Can anyone deny that criminals in West UP are praying day and night that a Bench should never be formed and are using all their influence to undermine its creation because ultimately they themselves will be worst hit as the justice delivery mechanism will pace up very quickly to push them where they really deserve to be?

                                   Can anyone deny that whichever way one looks at it, the creation of a Bench in West UP will not only enormously benefit the more than 9 crore people residing in West UP but will also benefit thousands of undertrials of Eastern UP languishing in jail for years together especially the poorest of the poor? Can anyone deny that the lightening pace at which crime is burgeoning in West UP, it will soon attain the dubious distinction of being the worst crime infected region not just in India alone but in the entire world mainly because of delay in criminal cases due to lack of High Court Bench here? Still should no Bench be created here nor should West UP be attached to any other High Court closer than Allahabad?

                                    Why are always all the legitimate demands of West UP as in the case of setting up of a Bench here first appreciated by all major political parties only to be later thrown in the backyard? Why? Please tell me why? What is preventing or stopping the Government from giving the green signal for creation of one more Bench in UP which has the maximum pending cases in our country but the least number of Benches which they have acknowledged also time and again. Isn’t this a national shame? This sacred fight for Bench in West UP representing the aspirations of more than 9 crore people must be carried on until it reaches its logical conclusion. The Preamble of our Constitution opens with the words “We, the people” which itself underlines the supreme importance given to people by our Constitution. So, if the Constitution is violated at the very threshold by denying the above 9 crore people a Bench in West UP, then what remains? Therefore, while deciding about the Bench there is need to take holistic view of all the issues and keep in mind the fact that our Constitution aims at securing for all its citizens, among other things, social, economic and political justice and establishing a welfare state which again is possible only by creation of a Bench not only in West UP but other places also where there is dire need of the same as our 18th Law Commission in its 230th report very rightly recommended creation of more Benches.

                                 According to a statement by learned Andhra Pradesh High Court Judge Justice VV Rao in March 2010, “The Indian judiciary would take 320 years to clear the backlog of 31.28 million cases pending in various courts including High Courts in the country.” Any attempt to speed up the disbursal of justice could go a long way in addressing the problem and what better than the setting up of more High Court benches and to start with which state is better than UP which is one of the biggest state in India, has maximum pending cases among all the states accounting for nearly half of the total pending cases and here too it is West UP which accounts for most of the cases among the pending cases in UP! Setting up of more High Court benches will help the system to come out of its present inertia and address the endless woes of the poorest of the poor who suffer the most in the entire process of delivery of justice for no fault of theirs! Our government most unfortunately is just simply refusing to appreciate this basic fact!

Government is announcing high courts for small states like Manipur , Meghalaya and Tripura but no one is bothered about West UP having more than 8 crore population whih is more than all these small states and accounts for more than half of pending cases in UP which tops the state list ! Why ?

That West UP does not have a Bench since 1947 till 2021 is most disquieting ! It is a ghoulish mockery of Article 21 and Article 39 A which provides for equal justice and free legal aid and the 230th report of Law Commission which provides for setting up of more High Court benches ! Former Chairman of Supreme Court Bar Association Krishna Mani had very categorically stated that, “Only by the creation of a bench of high court in West UP will the people be able to secure justice”. Lawyers of West UP have on several occasions gone on strike for several months in support of a bench here but to no avail ! Not only this , they have been regularly going on strike since 1981 every Saturday to press home the point that bench is a dire necessity here which cannot be ignored but again to no avail !

                           Can anyone deny that it will amount to no exaggeration if I go to the extent of even predicting the collapse of our entire judicial and criminal justice system if more Benches are not created all over India especially in UP which has only one Bench inspite of being the most populated state which will have terrible consequences for our entire nation wherein there will be total anarchy and lawlessness all over as people will become completely fed up in quest of waiting for justice for which the Centre will be totally liable ? Can anyone deny what Justice Krishna Iyer said : “The way to eliminate this ghastly syndrome of judicial arrears is not more state force but making the system of justice, justices and justicing truly accessible to the have-nots by means of radical judicial reform that is decentralised and democratic. If this does not become possible, the suffering people may leave the courts and take to the streets.” Does this not perfectly apply to UP where more than 1 crore cases are pending that is nearly half the cases pending all over India and here also West UP alone accounts for more than 50% cases? Still should a Bench not be created in West UP? You tell me. Even in other big States like Rajasthan , Orissa and many others , more high court benches should be created so that the huge backlog of pending cases comes crumbling down and the entire criminal justice system stand to gain in the whole process and undertrials gain quicker access to justice .

Sanjeev Sirohi

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