To begin with, I still can’t believe my eyes but I have to now believe after seeing it again and again in The Times Of India newspaper New Delhi/Meerut edition dated June 16, 2017 on page 5 in last column by Kabir Agarwal with the heading “HC bench in West UP soon: Law Minister”. The relentless struggle by the lawyers of West UP since last more than six decades when my father was a small baby demanding a high court bench here is finally beginning to show signs of turning into reality. To say the least, there can be no more happy news for the lawyers and the more than 9 crore people who reside here.
It is very clearly written in this newspaper that, “Western Uttar Pradesh will soon have a high court bench. We will discuss the details soon and inform you,” said Brijesh Pathak, law minister of Uttar Pradesh, here . On a visit to the city, Pathak made this remark while discussing problems faced by lawyers at the Circuit House. In the past too, various governments have made such promises but none has fulfilled it. People still have to travel hundreds of kilometers from various parts of Western UP to Allahabad for hearing of their cases.
It is also clearly mentioned in this newspaper 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,” said Pathak.
The demand for a high court bench in Western UP dates back to 1955, when the then Chief Minister Babu Sampurnanand had recommended a bench be set up in the region, preferably in Meerut. In 1985, the Jaswant Singh Commission had recommended setting up of a high court bench in Western UP but the central government failed to act upon it.
“This assurance has been given many times. Even BJP President Amit Shah had voiced the same view but nothing happened. We will continue agitating,” said a lawyer. Misbauddin Siddiqui, President of the Meerut District Bar Association said, “The problem is that the Allahabad High Court has the highest number of pending cases. The pressure is huge. Allahabad is very far from Western UP. It is around 800 km from Saharanpur. Eight other high courts are closer to Western UP, and interestingly Lahore High Court in Pakistan is closer than Allahabad High Court. The cost of travelling to Allahabad, and then staying there is huge for poor people. That is why we have been demanding a high court bench. Successive governments have denied us this. Now, we are hopeful as there is the same party in both the Centre and state and the law minister has given us an assurance.”
None other than Rajnath Singh too had recently assured the lawyers of Meerut that very soon you will hear the happy news regarding the creation of a high court bench in West UP! Certainly Amit Shah who is the BJP President, Rajnath Singh who is the Union Home Minister and most recently Brijesh Pathak who is the Law Minister of UP who have all assured the creation of a high court bench in West UP soon are not talking just in air! They are very responsible people occupying the top posts in the ruling party BJP which is in power both in UP and in the Centre!
When a high court bench can be set up for Andaman and Nicobar Islands at Port Blair for just 3 lakh people residing there then why not for more than 9 crore people residing in 26 districts in West UP? What an unbeatable irony that Allahabad High Court tops with maximum pending cases at 10 lakh and still it has least high court benches – only one at Lucknow for just 12 districts but none for West UP which accounts for more than 57% of pending cases as was testified by Justice Jaswant Singh Commission way back in 1980s! No other High Court in India has 10 lakh or 9 lakh or 8 lakh or 7 lakh or 6 lakh or 5 lakh or 4 lakh or even 3 lakh cases or even 2 lakh cases pending and still some of them have got 3 high court benches like Karnataka, Maharashtra and others but UP has just one bench only at Lucknow which is just 150-200 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow! Why this step-motherly treatment for UP and West UP in particular?
How long will the more than 9 crore people of West UP be made to travel more than 700 km on an average to travel all the way to Allahabad as there is no high court bench in West UP? How long will Centre keep coughing out innumerable excuses for not creating a bench here? How long will Centre keep treating more than 9 crore people of West UP as third rated citizens who must be made to travel all the way to Allahabad just to attend a court hearing as there is no high court bench in West UP?
How long will Centre ignore that the newly appointed Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhonsle rightly lashed out at the law and order situation in UP and said that in Maharashtra women or girl venture out in night anywhere yet never such incidents of gang rape occur and yet Maharashtra has 3 benches and UP only one and West UP none?
How long will Centre ignore that Rajnath Singh who is Union Home Minister while addressing public gathering in Patiyali constituency of Kasarganj district is on record stating in February 2017 that UP reported 7,673 riots, 4660 murder, 4096 robberies and 260 dacoities in just one year and has pledged on numerous occasions his unstinted support for a high court bench in West UP but even after his BJP led government is nearing 3 years in power yet it has failed to create even a single more bench of high court not just in West UP but anywhere in UP?
How long will Centre ignore that it has completed 3 years in power and now its government is in power in UP also which makes it further easier to create more benches here? How long will Centre ignore that Dr Satyapal Singh Malik who is also a ruling BJP MP had raised the bench issue in Parliament last year and demanded creation of 5 more benches but till now not even a single bench created here? How long will Centre ignore that another Central minister and BJP MP Sanjeev Baliyan had raised the hope that a bench would be created in West UP before 2016 ends by reassuring the people but even now as 2017 has half ended we see no process in place for creating more benches in West UP or at any other place in whole of UP?
How long will Centre ignore the latest recommendations of the 230th Law Commission report which strongly recommended creation of more high court benches and castigated the “Uncle Judges” culture prevalent in various high courts due to lack of more benches? How long will Centre ignore that none other than Sol J Sorabjee as Attorney General had strongly said way back in 2001 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”? How long will Centre ignore what BN Krishnamani who is the former Supreme Court Bar Association Chairman had said 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”?
How long will Centre ignore that the lawyers of West UP have been demanding a high court bench since independence but Centre decided to create a high court bench in Lucknow way back in 1948 and even after 70 years is not ready to create even a single bench in West UP? How long will Centre ignore that lawyers of West UP keep going on strike demanding bench for 3 months at a row as they did in 2014-15 and even for 6 months at a row as they did in 2001? How long will centre ignore that lawyers of West UP keep boycotting work every since 1981 demanding high court bench and apart from this keep boycotting work even on Wednesdays many times apart from other days which is decided by Central Action Committee constituted way back in 1981 to pursue the people’s struggle for a bench in West UP as it is the common man who faces the most inconvenience due to West UP not having a bench here since 1947?
How long will Centre ignore that even former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself raised the demand for setting up a high court bench in Parliament 30 years ago in 1986? How long will Centre ignore that former Union Cabinet Minister RPN Singh has himself disclosed that the former Law Minister Kapil Sibal wanted to set up a high court bench for West UP at Meerut but UP CM Akhilesh Yadav did not agree to it? How long will Centre ignore that Dr Sampoornanand had himself recommended the creation of a high court bench for West UP at Meerut but Nehurji didn’t agree as the Law Commission in its 4th report had opposed the setting up of more benches but what about denying bench to West UP even after the recommendations of 230th report of Law Commission made in 2009 which recommended creation of more benches? How long will Centre ignore that only Karnataka has 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 Karntaka 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? How long will Centre ignore that former UP CM Mayawati had even recommended in 1995 a separate statehood to be given to West UP to be named Harit Pradesh yet not even a bench is being created here after more than 22 years of this recommendation?
How long will Centre ignore that it is a matter of great shame that Allahabad High Court which last year on had completed its 150th year of establishment has the least benches in India – only one at Lucknow and that too just about 150-200 km away from Allahabad and that Allahabad High Court is the biggest court in whole of Asia and also the oldest court? How long will Centre ignore that if a high court bench is created in West UP it is the “poorest of poor” who will benefit most as they will be saved from the unnecessary trouble of travelling so far and spending so much extra money, time etc to just attend one hearing alone?
We are all seeing how Saharanpur is burning after violent clashes erupted between Dalits and Thakurs that left many dead and many injured! We all saw how BSP leader Munawwar Hasan Rana and his 6 family members were brutally killed in Muzaffarnagar just recently! We all know how Meerut and Agra top in the number of incidents of communal clashes and how everyday the local newspapers is flooded with cases of murders, rapes and other heinous crimes! The situation in communally sensitive districts like Aligarh and Kanpur in West UP among others is no better! Still no bench here!
This West UP with 26 districts has an area of 98,000 square km which is more than the area of many other states and has a population of more than 9 crore which is more than any other state except Maharashtra and Bihar. Here too areawise West UP is bigger than Bihar which has an area of 94,000 square km. Yet no bench!
It is most hurting to read that dacoits are fearlessly killing innocent people on highway as happened most recently on and then in front of their men had the guts to gang rape the 4 women accompanying them just a kilometer away from the Yamuna Expressway in Greater Noida and when one man resisted he was shot in the chest from point blank range who died and others were thrashed badly! Even after so many weeks police has no clue as to who were involved! This shows the complete lawlessness in West UP! This clearly demonstrates that women are not safe even when accompanied with their entire family! Such incidents keep happening on a regular basis in West UP especially! 2 minor girls were gangraped recently in Moradabad!
Criminals fully know that West UP has no high court bench and Allahabad High Court tops in the number of pending cases about 10 lakh pending cases and it would take ages before the cases are finally decided as they keep on lingering interminably and by the time they are decided they would die a natural death and victims would suffer endlessly travelling again and again 800-900 km away from West UP to Allahabad as West UP with 26 districts have no high court bench! This must change now if the fear of law is to be ingrained permanently in the minds of such criminals! But how can this be changed? By creating promptly a high court bench here as the Law Minister of UP has promised recently!
Why not a single bench of high court was created in West UP even though Justice Jaswant Singh Commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Jaswant Singh and appointed by former PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi very strongly recommended 3 benches for West UP and hilly areas adjoining it which now form a separate state – Uttarakhand at Agra, Nainital and Dehradun even though on its recommendations a high court bench was set up at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal? I hope that at least now UP CM Yogi Adityanath and PM Narendra Modi will both work in tandem to ensure that a high court bench is created in West UP at the earliest! Brijesh Pathak who is UP Law Minister seems determined to create a high court bench in West UP and Ravi Shankar Prasad who is Union Law Minister had in his earlier stint had already recommended the creation of a high court bench in West UP! So now with the queering of pitch one fervently hopes that very soon a high court bench in West UP will be created here without any more delay!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.