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Why Maharashtra Has Maximum Benches And UP Has Minimum Benches?

It is most baffling 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 but on the contrary UP which has maximum pending cases in India among all the states which is more than 10 states put together 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 a national disgrace 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 4 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, 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 entire UP?

It is a national disgrace that UP sends maximum MPs to Lok Sabha – 80, maximum MPs to Rajya Sabha – 30, maximum MLAs to State Assembly – 404 MLAs and maximum members to State Legislative Council – 100 MLAs and what not yet has least benches just one? It is a national disgrace that inspite of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee having vociferously raised the demand for a high court bench in West UP in 1986 right inside Parliament by thundering with all his might still 34 years later not a single bench created not just in West UP but in any hook and corner of UP except Lucknow created by Nehru in 1948!

How long will Centre ignore that only Karnataka and Maharashtra have gained from the recommendations of 230th Law Commission recommendations when 2 more benches were created at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts even though the pending cases of Karnataka are just less than 2 lakh and that of UP are more than 10 lakhs and that of West UP alone are more than 5 lakhs still West UP has no bench and UP has just one bench? How long will Centre ignore that Karnataka has just 6 crore population and still it has high court at Bangalore and 3 high court benches at Hubli, Dharwad and Gulbarga but West UP has population of more than 9 crores still it has not even a single bench leave alone having high court? How long will Centre ignore that the High Courts and Benches of 8 states are nearer to West UP as compared to Allahabad High Court and even Lahore High Court in Pakistan is nearer to West UP than Allahabad? How long will Centre ignore that Allahabad High Court is the biggest court in whole of Asia with  maximum Judges at 160 and also among the oldest courts which completed its 150 years on March 17, 2016 yet has just one bench only?

It is most shameful and most disgraceful that Allahabad High Court has the dubious distinction of accounting for 14,207, or 98% of a total of 14,484 appeals that are pending adjudication for more than 30 years as was noted by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justices LN Rao and S Ravindra Bhat and yet no Prime Minister starting from Jawaharlal Nehru to present Narendra Modi has ever dared to create one more Bench apart from the one at Lucknow created in 1948 which is so close to Allahabad! What a pity that an anguished Supreme Court said that, “These facts pose a challenge to the judicial system, inasmuch as the right to speedy trial would also include the right to speedy disposal of appeals of those convicted. If such appeals are not taken up for hearing within a reasonable time, the right of appeal itself would be illusory, inasmuch as incarcerated convicts (who are denied bail) would have undergone a major part, if not whole of the period, of their sentences!”

It is most shameful and most disgraceful that Allahabad High Court has the dubious distinction of accounting for 14,207, or 98% of a total of 14,484 appeals that are pending adjudication for more than 30 years as was noted by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justices LN Rao and S Ravindra Bhat and yet no Prime Minister starting from Jawaharlal Nehru to present Narendra Modi has ever dared to create one more Bench apart from the one at Lucknow created in 1948 which is so close to Allahabad! What a pity that an anguished Supreme Court said that, “These facts pose a challenge to the judicial system, inasmuch as the right to speedy trial would also include the right to speedy disposal of appeals of those convicted. If such appeals are not taken up for hearing within a reasonable time, the right of appeal itself would be illusory, inasmuch as incarcerated convicts (who are denied bail) would have undergone a major part, if not whole of the period, of their sentences!”

To be sure, Justices Rao and Bhat also noted that over 33,000 appeals were pending in these 10 High Courts for a period between 20 to 30 years, and again Allahabad High Court had the lion’s share accounting for nearly 20,000 of them. The appeals waiting their turn to be heard for the last 10 to 20 years numbered at 2,35,914 of which 88,732 were in Allahabad High Court! These are all facts and not concocted stories!

Why then should all such steps not be taken to put our judicial system back on rails and not allow it to be in ventilator as most unfortunately we have allowed in last 74 years and this holds true most for UP and here too West UP which accounts for more than half of pending cases? Why can’t more high court benches be created in UP so that cases are expedited in different benches as was recommended by the 230th report of Law Commission of India as UP has maximum pending cases in India but which till now has been implemented only in peaceful states like Karnataka and Maharashtra which is most shocking? Population of Karnataka is just 6 crore and that of West UP is 9 crore still Karnataka has high court at Bangalore and three Benches at Hubli, Dharwad and Gulbarga but West UP has not even a single Bench and UP has just one! Pathetic! How can Centre take such ridiculous decisions? Why even Supreme Court has never intervened on this?

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?

As if this was not enough, why is it that one more bench was created for Maharashtra at Kolhapur for just 6 districts in 2018 due to which lawyers of West UP even went on token strike but for 26 districts of West UP not even a single bench approved till now with population of more than 9 crore which is 3 crore more than Karnataka with 6 crore which has high court and 3 benches? Why is UP sidelined repeatedly? What sort of equality is this? Is this not the worst violation of right to equality? Centre must answer!

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!

It is a national disgrace that UP sends maximum MPs to Lok Sabha – 80, maximum MPs to Rajya Sabha – 30, maximum MLAs to State Assembly – 404 MLAs and maximum members to State Legislative Council – 100 MLAs and what not yet has least benches just one? It is a national disgrace that inspite of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee having vociferously raised the demand for a high court bench in West UP in 1986 right inside Parliament still 34 years later not a single bench created not just in West UP but in any hook and corner of UP except Lucknow created by Nehru in 1948!

It is no ordinary matter that the lawyers of West UP have been on strike uninterruptedly every Saturday since May 1981  till now which means for nearly 40 years against denying West UP even a single bench of high court! It is no ordinary matter that Justice Jaswant Singh Commission had disclosed that 57% of pending cases are from West UP and still it has not even a single bench of high court! It is no ordinary matter that the more than 9 crore people of West UP have to perforce travel more than 700 km on an average all the way to Allahabad to get justice as the elected representatives have only made tall promises but never cared to implement it!

Needless to say, it is high time that Centre addresses this key issue of creating more high court benches in UP as even former Union Cabinet Minister Satyapal Singh and BJP MP from Baghpat had courageously and confidently demanded creation of 5 high court benches at Meerut, Agra, Jhansi, Gorakhpur and Varanasi instead of concentrating only on creating film city like Mumbai in UP which does not benefit the common man all across the state and this is exactly what he seems to be ignoring for reasons that I just cannot second guess! Law and order should be the first priority of the CM and I must say that the incumbent CM Yogi Adityanath has done many things on this score for which I commend him but on creating more high court benches as recommended by Justice Jaswant Singh Commission who recommended 3 high court benches for undivided UP in mid seventies, he too even after more than 3 years in office has only served to disappoint those who want more benches for UP as not a single bench has been created till now after even more than 40 years of the landmark  recommendations of Justice Jaswant Singh  Commission! This is the real tragedy!

But Yogi Adityanath is just the CM of UP and it is Centre who calls the shot in creation of benches as former CJI Ranjan Gogoi had pointed out but Centre most mysteriously, most shamelessly, most senselessly, most stupidly and most brazenly has ensured till now that not a single bench is created in the whole of UP anywhere except the one at Lucknow which is so close to Allahabad hardly two or three hour journey between the two cities!

It is not a joke that UP Bar Council is the biggest in the world with more than 4 lakh members but still UP has just one Bench and Maharashtra has 4 benches and so also Assam has 4 benches and Karnataka has 3 benches! UP Bar Council has called for a token strike on 26 December 2020 in protest against repeated killings and attacks on lawyers in UP and such strikes have been called umpteen number of times in the past also yet Centre still most intriguingly feels that UP must have minimum benches in India and peaceful states like Maharashtra and Assam must have 4 benches! This is what I find most ridiculous, reprehensible and rattling!

Needless to say, if far away places from Allahabad like West UP, Jhansi, Gorakhpur from where UP CM Yogi himself hails and he too demanded bench for it in Parliament in 1998-99 in his capacity as MP from Gorakhpur and other needy places can’t be given benches then Centre must disband all the benches in India! Why can’t people of Lucknow not travel just 2 to 3 hours to Allahabad to attend court hearings in high court? Why when there is no high court bench or high court in some capitals like Bhopal which is capital of Madhya Pradesh, Dispur which is capital of Assam, Raipur which is capital of Chhattisgarh, Dehradun which is capital of Uttarakhand, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala etc then why the hell was a high court bench created so near to Allahabad at Lucknow? Why no bench created anywhere else even after nearly 75 years in UP even though benches were created for much smaller states elsewhere?

Truth be told, it is UP which should have maximum high court benches and not Maharashtra or Assam which now has 4 but earlier had 7 benches prior to Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura being granted separate high courts! My appeal to Centre: Stop perpetuating inequality of the worst kind just because Supreme Court is saying nothing for it and has left the ball of decision making at your court! Stop dishing out hundred excuses for not creating high court benches in UP!

As per Section 51 of the States Re-Organisation Act of 1956, the Centre can create a high court bench on its own in any of these 3 states – UP, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir by bringing it up in Parliament for which it does not need any recommendation from State Government or the Chief Justice of UP as has been most wrongly propagated and this was clarified even by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi while in office as CJI and hearing a petition on it by KL Chitra pertaining to creation of a bench in West UP when he agreed with the dire need for a bench but put the onus of decision making on Centre! But Centre shamelessly has done nothing on this front! It is UP which has given India maximum PM, MP, MLAs and what not yet most disgracefully has least benches in India!

Shame on our lawmakers! Shame on their apathy towards women who are most unsafe in UP especially in West UP and inspite of hearing repeated incidents of rape, gangrape as we heard in Hathras, Hapur, Bulandshahr and many other cities of West UP in particular and UP in general still no benches are being created here! It is really most atrocious!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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