How long will Centre callously ignore that UP which is among the largest States, has maximum population – more than 22 crore as CM Yogi Adityanath keeps pointing out every now and then, maximum districts – 75, maximum constituencies, maximum MPs – 80, maximum MLAs – 404, maximum PM including Narendra Modi, 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 which earlier was 160 and increased to 200 in high court, maximum vacancies of Judges – about 78 in high court, maximum poverty, maximum villages more than one lakh, maximum cities more than 700, maximum fake encounters killings, custody killings, maximum dowry cases, maximum bride burning cases, maximum cases of human rights violations, 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 is not prepared to create even a single bench for not just West UP but entire UP? How long will Centre ignore 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 yet has least benches?
Why West UP has an area of 98,933 square km which accounts for 33.61 percent of total area of UP and yet no bench but Lucknow in Central region has just 62,363 square km and yet it has a bench? Centre has all the power to create a high court bench in West UP without any recommendation from the state government as the former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee had rightly said way back in 2001 when he was asked about it. He had rightly said that, “The Centre without any recommendation from the State Chief Minister or Chief Justice of a State is fully empowered under our Constitution to set up a high court bench anywhere it wants at its own volition.” Why Centre ignores blithely what the Chairman of Supreme Court Bar Association Krishna Mani had said quite explicitly that, “Only by the creation of a bench of high court in West UP will the people be able to secure speedy and cheap justice at their doorsteps!”
Why is Centre still not creating a high court bench in West UP knowing fully well that it deserves a bench right since independence? How strange that not even the 230th Report of the Law Commission elicited any interest from our media which strongly advocated setting up of more High Court Benches and sharply castigated the prevailing “Uncle Judges Culture” and unsatisfactory performance of High Court in disposing of pending cases. Recently even Supreme Court had also lashed out on the prevailing “Uncle Judges Culture” in different High Courts. What I find even more paradoxical is that the maximum opposition for establishment of more Benches emanates mainly from those advocates practicing in High Court or those people residing in the place where the High Court is located. Very conveniently, they ignore the undisputed fact that it is the “poorest of the poor” and not the “richest of the rich” who will benefit the most if more Benches are created because they cannot afford heavy expenses incurred in travelling, lodging and many other related things and therefore emerge as the worst sufferers. This is exactly what not only the media but most of us tend to ignore.
What is the purpose of setting up Law Commission if their recommendations are not implemented? I only hope that wisdom prevails on our policy-makers and they decide at the earliest to create many more Benches of High Court as recommended recently by the Law Commission in its 230th report especially in big States like UP and Rajasthan which have only one Bench and Bihar which does not have even a single bench. The media must at least now step forward and represent the unheard voices of thousands of undertrial prisoners residing in remote areas who are the worst sufferers in the whole process and unstintedly support the people of West UP in their noble cause for setting up a bench of high court in West UP at the earliest !
That West UP does not have a Bench since 1947 till 2017 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 to press home the point that bench is a dire necessity here which cannot be ignored but again to no avail !
Why is it that when Dr Sampoornanand who was the UP CM way back in 1955 had strongly recommended creation of a high court bench in Meerut but Centre overruled him? Why Centre decided that only the people of Eastern UP were entitled to have all three – capital, high court as well as bench and West UP to have nothing? Why Centre did not create a bench even after many UP CM like Dr Sampoornanand, Banarsi Das, ND Tiwari, Rajnath Singh etc strongly recommended creation of a bench in West UP?
Why Centre decided that the people of West UP which included all those also who now comprise in Uttaranchal and who till 2000 formed part of UP had to travel about 1200-1500 km and even more all the way to seek justice to Allahabad to attend just a single hearing and waste many days in coming and going and wasting money on so many unnecessary inconveniences? Why Centre decided that even though many capitals like Bhopal which is capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Orissa, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala had neither high court nor bench as is the situation also in so many other states but in UP, a single bench was created in 1948 just about 150 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow which is capital of UP?
Why Centre feels that even though the high court and benches of 8 different states fall nearer to West UP and even Lahore high court in Pakistan is just 450 km away but people of West UP must travel all the way to Allahabad about 600-800 km away to attend just a single hearing and spend whole life in travelling and attending cases in Allahabad? Why Centre is firm that for 12 districts falling in Lucknow jurisdiction must have high court but for 26 districts of West UP, not a single bench of high court must exist? Why Centre decided that even though Justice Jaswant Singh Commission recommended creation of 3 high court benches for West UP, not a single bench be created? Why Centre decided to create benches at Aurangabad in Maharashtra as recommended by Justice Jaswant Commission but not for West UP? Why Centre decided to create benches at Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal but denied even a single bench to West UP?
Why former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee inspite of himself raising West UP high court bench issue in Parliament while in Opposition in 1986 failed to create a bench himself on becoming PM? Why when more than half of the pending cases of UP are from West UP has Centre decided not to create a single bench here? Why Centre decided to create 2 more benches for Karnataka alone at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts but refused even a single more bench not just for 26 districts but for all the 80 districts of UP knowing fully well that it is UP which tops the state list of pending cases with 15 lakh cases and Karnataka is way behind with just less than 2 lakh pending cases which is far less than even the pending cases of West UP alone? Why Centre till now has overlooked the 36 year old strike by lawyers of West UP every as also the 6 months old strike by lawyers of West UP due to which courts remained close as we saw in 2001?
Why Centre is still not waking up its eyes even after 80 days of strike by the lawyers of West UP? Why inspite of lawyers of West UP blocking trains, rail tracks, observing complete shut down is Centre adamant that it is perfectly in order that a single bench exist just 150-200 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow and nowhere else? Why so many Cabinet Ministers like Gen VK Singh, Rajnath Singh, Sanjeev Baliyan, Mahesh Sharma are vociferously advocating the creation of a bench in West UP but Centre is still not listening? Why lawyers of West UP were compelled to even go on strike for 2 days in a week – and and yet Centre remained muted?
Why Centre has implemented the recommendations of 230th report of Law Commission of creating more benches of high court only with respect to Karnataka by creating 2 more benches there and no other state? Is it because most of the time the law ministers were from Karnataka? Supreme Court must investigate that why 2 more high court benches were set up for Karnataka which has less than 2 lakh pending cases and not a single more for UP which has more than 10 lakh pending cases as this is a very serious issue which just cannot be brushed aside as it affects the life of not just 9 crore people of West UP but also of all such regions in India where there is no bench and people have to travel so far and mortgage their land, jewellery etc to just struggle to cope with the mounting expenses in travelling so far to Allahabad for every hearing and on many other expenses like hiring lawyer etc!
Why inspite of Ban Ki Moon who is the UN Secretary General and who ridiculed UP as the “crime and rape capital of India” has UP least benches in India? Why inspite of West UP being enmeshed in communal riots time and again as we saw either during Meerut riots, Agra riots, Saharanpur riots, Muzaffarnagar riots, etc there is no bench here? Why inspite of senior lawyers being murdered time and again in West UP and crime and riots sweeping all across West UP is Centre not setting up a bench?
Centre and State are just passing the buck of decision making on this sensitive issue on the other and both in principle agree that a bench must come up in West UP! Therefore, it is the Supreme Court which is the guardian of all which must step in now promptly! When Supreme Court can set up a “Social Justice Bench”, it must look into this also and promptly take the appropriate decision!
However, let me hasten to add here that things have changed in last 3 months after the newly elected government in UP led by Yogi Adityanath of BJP was sworn in. Now Centre cannot forward the excuse that State is ruled by another party which is not cooperating! Brijesh Pathak who is the Law Minister of UP very rightly said recently while in Meerut that, “We know that lawyers from Western UP have been suffering for many years and have been agitating for long. We are considering all options that are available. We assure you that we will resolve this issue very soon. The lawyers of Western UP will not have to suffer much longer. We will soon discuss the matter and I assure you that we will set up the high court bench soon.” Let us recall here that earlier former Union RPN Singh had also disclosed that Union Law Minister in UPA regime – Kapil Sibal wanted to create a bench in Meerut but State Government in UP led by the then UP CM Akhilesh Yadav did not agree to it!
Former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan had said that, “Only more courts can make justice delivery effective. If we have adequate courts, the system would function smoothly”. It needs no genius to conclude that UP being one of the biggest states in India with maximum population, maximum undertrials, maximum cases of rape, loot, riots and arson and maximum pending cases certainly needs more benches and not the least as we shamefully see right now. It’s an outright fraud perpetrated on people of UP and worst affected are the people of West UP.
It is time we realised that a nation where pending cases like Frankenstein’s monster are assuming more and more gigantic proportions with UP topping the notorious hit list will go to wolves if the festering problem of pending cases is not addressed at the earliest by promptly creating more benches in UP. It makes absolutely no sense to perpetuate the historical blunder of vesting UP with only one bench at Lucknow so close to Allahabad!
Prof NR Madhava Menon who is a founder director of the National Judicial Academy and a former member of the Law Commission of India very rightly said : “The litigant public now has a right to demand from the judiciary quicker delivery of justice, planned elimination of arrears and enhanced access to justice. The judiciary is indeed on trial on its commitment to timely justice. No more alibis would be acceptable to the public.” Also, the Centre should then waste no time in immediately setting up more benches all over India wherever required as recommended by the 230th report of Law Commission especially in big states like UP so that the poorest of the poor who are the worst affected can avail its benefit at the earliest. No government can afford to ignore the gargantuan problems faced by the people of West UP since independence in securing justice for themselves in a fair time which mostly often turns out to be an endless wait but which most unfortunately has been completely disregarded by all the successive governments since independence without any exception whatsoever which is most disgusting and frustrating to note !
The First Law Commission in its fourth report made in 1956 that is more than 50 years ago strongly recommended that more High Court Benches should not be created but the 18th Law Commission in its 230th report made in 2009 has strongly recommended creation of more High Court Benches all over India. Which report should the Government adhere – one made in 1956 or one made in 2009?
The 18th Law Commission in its 230th report had itself noted that, “In almost every High Court, there is huge pendency of cases and the present strength of the judges can hardly be said to be sufficient to cope with the alarming situation. The institution of cases is much more than the disposal and it adds to arrears of cases. The litigating citizens have a fundamental right of life i.e. a tension-free life through speedy justice-delivery system. Now it has become essential that the present strength of the judges should be increased manifold according to the pendency, present and probable. It is also necessary that the work of the High Courts is decentralized, that is, more Benches are established in all States. If there is manifold increase in the strength of the judges and the staff, all cannot be housed in one campus. Therefore, the establishment of new Benches is necessary. It is also in the interest of the litigants. The Benches should be so established that a litigant is not required to travel long. It is true that the new establishments will require money, but it is necessary as a development measure, particularly, when efforts are being made for all-round development of the country. Therefore, the money should not be a problem. We have to watch and protect the interest of the litigants. We must always keep in mind that the existence of judges and advocates is because of the litigants and they are there to serve their cause only. Sometimes, some advocates object to creation of new Benches and selection of new sites for construction of new buildings. But they raise objections in their personal, limited interest. Creation of new Benches is certainly beneficial for the litigants and the lawyers and a beginning has to be made somewhere. A speedy trial is not only required to give quick justice but it is also an integral part of the fundamental right of life, personal liberty, as envisaged in article 21 of the Constitution. Article 39A of the Constitution provides for equal justice and free legal aid. The said article obligates the State to promote justice on a basis of equal opportunity and, in particular, provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities!”
It is more than 8 years that the Law Commission made this historic recommendation yet only one State – Karnataka has gained from it and the bigger States like UP have not gained anything! This anomaly must be set right by creating more benches in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and other big states! It brooks no more delay now! I hope Centre will now act and accord due weightage to the landmark recommendations that were made by 230th report!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.