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Why A High Court Bench In Lucknow But Not In West UP?

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

–        Albert Einstein

 

It is most troubling to note that a high court bench had been created by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru way back in 1948 at Lucknow which is so close to Allahabad just about 200 km away which can be reached in just 2 hours by road but no bench was created any where else in West UP due to which people have to travel whole night and half day all the way to Allahabad or even in hilly areas of the now separate state called Uttarakhand and the people there had to travel thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to get justice as Centre wanted both high court and bench to be only in Eastern UP! Disgraceful! Why no one bothered ever to think about the sorry plight of the litigants of West UP and hilly areas now formed into Uttarakhand who had to travel so far just because there was no bench anywhere in all these places? Can this worst discrimination on earth be ever justified by anyone? Why judiciary also never intervened on this?

Bluntly put: Why Nehru had the guts to create a bench in Lucknow in 1948 but no PM after him had the guts, gall and gumption to set up even a bench anywhere in West UP from 1947 to 2021? Why for just 12 districts of Lucknow a high court bench was approved in 1948 but for 26 districts no bench approved in last 73 years even in 2021? Why is it ignored that just because Lucknow is the capital does not mean that it becomes automatically entitled to a high court or a bench because there are so many capitals which have neither High Court nor Bench like Bhopal of Madhya Pradesh but High Court is at Jabalpur and 2 High Court Benches at Gwalior and Indore, Bhubaneshwar of Odisha but High Court is at Cuttack, Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala but High Court is at Ernakulam and Dehradun of Uttarakhand but High Court is in Nainital, Dispur of Assam but High Court is at Gauhati?

It also must be asked: Why is it conveniently ignored that the area of Lucknow and adjoining districts is just about 62,000 kilometers but of West UP is about 98,000 kilometers which is more than even Bihar which has 94,000 square kilometers? Why the people of Lucknow can’t travel to Allahabad which is so near just two hours journey but the people of West UP and Uttarakhand were expected to travel thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to attend court hearings? Why was it not appreciated that it was stupidity of the highest order to not listen to the laudable recommendation of the then UP CM Sampoornanand who way back in 1955 had very rightly recommended the creation of a high court bench in Meerut but to listen to a stupid adviser who advised the creation of just a single high court bench so close to Allahabad at Lucknow and that too not in 2021 but way back 73 years ago in 1948 in Lucknow?

Why even the landmark recommendations of the Justice Jaswant Singh Commission appointed by Centre itself way back in late 1970s which recommended the creation of 3 high court benches at Agra, Nainital and Dehradun in UP were not accepted even though its recommendations to create a bench at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu were promptly accepted? Why was it overlooked that UP which has maximum population more than 23 crore which is more than the population of many countries including Pakistan and among all states in India, has maximum crime rate, has maximum pending cases and here too West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases about 57% as acknowledged even by Justice Jaswant Commission, sends maximum MPs to Parliament, maximum MLAs to State Assembly, maximum PM and what not deserved highest benches and not the minimum? Why no PM till date has ever dared to correct this historical blunder?

Why even Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself demanded the creation of a high court bench in West UP as recommended by Justice Jaswant Commission while he was Leader of Opposition but still his legitimate demand was rejected outright? Why lawyers of West UP even started going on strike for several months as they did in 2001 when they went on strike not for one month or two months or three months but for full six months, for three months as they did in 2014-15, for one month as they did in 2010 and for several weeks as they did in 2009 and similarly many times earlier also and later also as they were on strike just recently in October but still no action is being taken to create a bench here? Why lawyers of West UP even started going on strike every Saturday also since May 1981 till now even as 2017 is about to end that is more than 36 years and still no serious effort is still being made to resolve the huge deadlock due to which litigants have to bear the maximum inconveniences?

It is most shocking to see that a peaceful, one of the most developed and most prosperous state like Maharashtra has 4 high court benches at Panaji, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Kolhapur apart from High Court at Mumbai and similarly Assam also has 4 high court benches, Karnataka has 3 and Madhya Pradesh has two but on the contrary UP which has maximum pending cases in India among all the states which is more than the cases of 10 states put together and still has just one high court bench and that too just 200 km away from Allahabad where high court itself is located at Lucknow and nowhere else! It is most shocking that UP which is among the largest States, has maximum population – more than 23 crore, maximum districts – 75, maximum constituencies – 80,  maximum MPs – 80, maximum MLAs – 404, maximum PM including Narendra Modi who represents Varanasi as an MP, maximum pending cases – more than 10 lakh and here too West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases as noted by Justice Jaswant Commission about 57%, maximum Judges both in High Court – 160 and also in lower courts, maximum vacancies of Judges about 60, maximum members in UP Bar Council more than 1 lakh and which is also the largest Bar Council in the world yet the former Chairman of UP Bar Council – Darvesh Yadav who was the first woman to get appointed to this post was murdered cold blooded right in court premises in Agra which is again in West UP on June 12, 2019 by pumping bullets on her head and stomach, maximum poverty, maximum villages more than one lakh the exact number being 107040, maximum gram panchayats at 74626, maximum fake encounters killings, maximum custody killings, maximum dowry cases, maximum bride burning cases, maximum cases of human rights violations, maximum robberies, maximum dacoities, maximum undertrials, maximum cases of crime, loot, arson and riots and here too West UP tops with Saharanpur riots, Meerut riots, Muzaffarnagar riots tarnishing our international reputation to the extent that former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon termed UP as “crime and rape capital” of India and what not yet Centre till now end of 2020 from 1948 when a bench was created in Lucknow which is so close to Allahabad is not prepared to create even a single bench for not just West UP but for the entire UP? Area of West UP is 98,933 square km and accounts for 33.61 percent of total area of UP and has 26 districts yet no bench but Lucknow with just 62,363 square km and 8 districts has a bench!

Why when the 230th report of Law Commission recommended the creation of more high court benches was it implemented only in Karnataka which already had a bench in Hubli and which did not need more benches as it is a relatively peaceful state as compared to lawless states like UP and Bihar? Why UP has just one high court bench at Lucknow only so near to Allahabad and not at any other place and why Bihar notorious for its lawlessness has no bench? Why maximum cases of rapes as happened with a 100 year old lady in Meerut who died later, gang rapes, communal riots, murders and all forms of crimes takes place in maximum number in West UP yet no high court bench is being created here?

It must be asked: What was the need for a high court bench in Lucknow? Why even then West UP was not attached with Lucknow and most stupidly attached with Allahabad and same was the case with hilly areas which now form a separate state named Uttarakhand since 2000? Why even Justice Jaswant Singh Commission’s recommendations for 3 benches for undivided UP was stupidly, shamelessly and senselessly rejected by Centre while promptly implementing the recommendations to create benches in other state like West Bengal at Jalpaiguri, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Aurangabad in Maharashtra? Why even the incumbent government in Centre allowed one more high court bench in Maharashtra at Kolhapur for just 6 districts which already had 3 benches at Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji?

Why Karnataka whose population is just about 6 crore which is less than even West UP which has more than 9 crore population was given two more benches for just 4 and 8 districts at Dharwad and Gulbarga but not a single bench for not just West UP but whole of UP? Why Karnataka has less than 2 lakh pending cases yet 2 more high court benches created which already had a bench in Hubli but for UP which has about 10 lakh pending cases has just one high court bench and that too so near to Allahabad at Lucknow? Why former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon slammed UP as the “crime and rape capital of India” yet Centre approved no more benches for it?

Yogi Adityanath very sincerely demanded for a high court bench for Gorakhpur in 1998 right inside Parliament but even now as he is about to  completes four years as CM of UP, he is unable to create even a single bench even in Gorakhpur leave alone West UP which one can easily comprehend is due to lack of approval from Centre which is most disgusting! For just 3 lakh population of Andaman and Nicobar islands a high court bench was 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 was approved but no action for West UP! Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura had population of less than 30 lakh yet high court created more than 8 years back but not a single bench is being approved for more than 9 crore people living in West UP!

Of course, the population of West UP is more than all the states except Maharashtra, Bihar and UP of which it itself forms a part and here too areawise West UP with an area of 98,933 square km is bigger than Bihar with an area of 94,000 square km area yet has no bench leave alone high court! Why inspite of “bandh call” given by lawyers and traders all over West UP time and again due to which heavy loss is incurred running into crores and crores of rupees but still Centre miserably failed to take any action in addressing this humongous problem once and for all by creating a single bench anywhere where it wants? Why Satyapal Singh who is BJP MP from Baghpat and former Mumbai Police Commissioner who was recently made Union Minister very strongly demanded right inside Parliament the creation of 5 high court benches at Meerut, Agra, Gorakhpur, Jhansi and Varanasi but Centre led by PM Narendra Modi is not prepared to set up even a single bench in any part of UP even as it completed 5 years earlier and now again about to complete 2 years in office?

Why Allahabad High Court is biggest court not just in India but in whole of Asia and is also the oldest court completing 150 years in 2016 yet it has least benches only one and peaceful states like Assam, Karnataka and Maharashtra have 4, 3 and 4 benches each? Why no party is allowing even a single bench more anywhere in UP inspite of UP especially witnessing maximum crime incidents? Why the high court and benches of 8 states and above all even Lahore high court in Pakistan is closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad still no bench is being created here?

Why is it being ignored that high court itself of UP was established initially in Agra in West UP in 1866 but three years later shifted to Allahabad then why can’t it be shifted back if Centre is not ready to create a bench here as it can be shifted whenever the need is felt? But why shift high court and shifting high court is not an easy task? Why can’t simply one high court bench more be created in West UP? Is it such a big deal?

Why the relentless agitation by lawyers of West UP of more than 26 districts who have formed Central Action Committee also since 1981 is being overlooked by Centre who are fighting people’s fight who are compelled to travel foolishly whole night many times without reservation about 800 km all the way to Allahabad as there is no high court bench in West UP? Why President Ram Nath Kovind keeps harping on speedy justice, justice at doorsteps and cheap justice but people in his own state and his own native district – Kanpur are compelled to travel all the way to Allahabad and suffer endlessly as there is no high court bench anywhere in West UP or even anywhere else? Can Centre answer?

Why inspite of repeated assurances from Rajnath Singh who is Union Home Minister and many other Union Ministers like Gen VK Singh among others inspite of repeated assurances of creating a high court bench in West UP as soon as they come to power both in Centre and UP have chosen to very conveniently forget the same? Why all elected representatives from West UP demand bench right inside Parliament no matter from which party they belong still why no bench is being created here till date? Why a high court bench was created at Lucknow in 1948 but not in West UP till 2021?

Why such a raw and third rated step motherly treatment for the more than 9 crore people living here in West UP? Why have they been compelled to bear all sorts of inconveniences just like the 88 lakh people of hilly areas of UP who now form a separate state Uttarakhand and who now have their own high court? If they had been given bench earlier they would never have agitated for a separate state but Centre most shockingly didn’t want a bench to be given to them inspite of Justice Jaswant Commission’s recommendations but finally had to settle with a high court for them!

Does Centre wants West UP to go the Uttarakhand way? Does Centre not know that the population of West UP is more than 9 crore and of Uttarakhand was just 88 lakh when it was formed? Why a bench for Lucknow since 1948 but no bench for West UP even seventy years later in 2018? Can Centre give one logical argument for this?

It is most shocking to see that just recently on 31 December 2020, a two Judge Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court comprising of Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey in Abdul Qayoom Chalkoo v. Union Territory of JK & Ors in [LPA No. 123/2020 CM No. 4168/2020] while underlining the difficulties faced by the litigants of the Kashmir region in pursuing their cases before the Central Administrative Tribunal, Jammu Bench hoped that difficulties in the process of establishment of the Bench of the CAT at Srinagar are removed “as expeditiously as possible”. What is the distance between Jammu and Srinagar? It is just 266 km by road and 151 km by flight!

Just imagine this that the people of 26 districts of West UP have to travel more than 700 km on an average all the way to Allahabad to attend hearings at high Court as there is no High Court Bench in any of the 26 districts of West UP but still no one feels sorry for them just like we saw in the above case! Why no Judges of Allahabad High Court have ever similarly as we see above in case of Jammu and Kashmir ever ordered the creation of benches in West UP? Why even Supreme Court Judges said nothing on it?

Why when former CJI Ranjan Gogoi while deciding on a PIL brought by a woman lawyer KL Chitra for a high court bench in West UP in 2018 fully appreciated the reasons for setting up a high court bench in West UP but added that it is for Centre to take a decision and yet even after 74 years of independence if Centre fails to act not just for West UP but for whole of UP should Supreme Court not take suo motu action and order for more benches not just in West UP but also in other different parts like Jhansi in Bundelkhand, Gorakhpur in Purvanchal and other needy places? Why Supreme Court never acts on this? It must act now most decisively as this serious issue directly concerns the judiciary! No more dilly-dallying now! Ideally Centre itself must act as was held by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi but Centre is in just no mood to do anything on this score at all!

Why is it that the landmark recommendations of Justice Jaswant Singh Commission which was headed by former Supreme Court Judge to create more benches were implemented in few states and only UP was left out to suffer endlessly in the cold in the mid seventies? Why is it that when Justice Jaswant Singh Commission recommended 3 high court benches for UP at Agra, Nainital and Dehradun did Centre ensure that not even a single high court bench was approved for UP and for other states single bench were approved promptly like for Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Aurangabad in Maharashtra?

No wonder that Maharashtra tops in the latest justice index ranking among States and UP figures at bottom! It is this step-motherly treatment accorded by Centre to UP which is most hurting and is biggest violation of Article 14 which talks about right to equality. As if this was not enough, Centre ensured that only Eastern UP had high court at Allahabad and a single bench approved in 1948 only for Lucknow which is just about 200 km away from Allahabad and nowhere else! It is because of this stupidity that the people of 26 districts of West UP are compelled to travel more than 700 km all the way to Allahabad to get justice and attend court hearings many times without reservation whole night to reach Allahabad which is even far away from Lucknow which is still just about 500 km away from West UP!

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  BN 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!

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 hails 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 molested and gang-raped 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!

No doubt, the clogged arteries of our legal system can only be declogged by creating more high court benches in big states as recommended by 230th report of Law Commission of India! It may well be argued that it is well nigh impossible to implement “justice at doorsteps” and “speedy justice” and “justice for all” as enshrined in various Articles in our Constitution without creating more high court benches in big states like UP! Centre must pay heed to what Dr BR Ambedkar had said that, “However good a Constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a Constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good.”

“Let justice be done though heaven falls” goes a well known adage and it deserves to be implemented in UP by creating more benches so that the more than 9 crore people of West UP are not compelled to travel all the way to Allahabad to get justice! Centre must honestly introspect and ask itself: Why a state like UP which tops the state list of maximum pending cases has just one bench and that too so near to Allahabad and nowhere else due to which people of West UP of 26 districts are compelled to travel whole night time and again to attend court hearings and same holds true for other far away places like Bundelkhand and Purvanchal? Why another lawless state like Bihar has not even a single high court bench? This alone explains why even filmmakers crack mocking songs like “Mein Aayi hun UP, Bihar lootene” and never hear anyone saying that, “Mein Aayi hun Maharashtra, Karnataka or Assam lootene”! High time that Centre acts decisively in this regard instead of passing the buck to the Chief Minister or Chief Justice or Full Bench of Allahabad High Court as we have seen in past because it is the litigants of more than 26 districts of West UP who will benefit and so will the people of other far away places of UP and Bihar! This utter neglect of West UP in particular and UP in general and so also Bihar must be given a full stop now!

All PM from Nehru to Modi have cared a damn for West UP till now and this alone explains why it has no bench even though it witnesses maximum crime incidents and victims are compelled to travel for case hearings so far all the way to Allahabad just because there is no high court bench here! No PM till date has ever shown the guts to set right this worst crime happening under their nose with their own tacit permission for reasons known best to it! Nothing on earth can be more shocking! It is very often said that Rajiv Gandhi wanted a high court bench to be created for West UP but senior and powerful leaders persuaded him not to do so! Most tragic!  Needless to say, this alone explains why Nani Palkivala one of the most brilliant jurist this earth has produced once famously said that, “While it is true that justice should be blind, in our country it is also lame. It barely manages to hobble along. The law may or may not be an ass but in India, it is a snail; it moves at a pace which would be regarded as unduly slow in a community of snails.” Centre must act now as early as possible! No denying it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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