At the very outset, let me begin by first and foremost pointing out that it is strictly ensured in all the 26 districts of West UP every that no lawyer does any work in protest against Centre not setting up even a single bench of high court in any of the 26 districts of 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 had recommended the setting up of 3 benches at Dehradun, Nainital and Agra. More intriguingly, on its recommendations benches were set up at Aurangabad on its recommendations as also at Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu! To protest this third rated treatment meted out to West UP, it was decided to observe strike every henceforth!
Needless to say, this has been happening regularly since May 1981. It has been more than 36 years and even now it is very strictly ensured by the office bearers of every Bar in West UP that no lawyer undertakes any work on this day! Interestingly enough, most of the lawyers themselves voluntarily join the protest strikes and keep shouting slogans demanding high court bench in West UP! It is most shocking that West UP with more than 9 crore population and so many districts numbering about 26 have not been considered fit enough to be given a bench and even Justice Jaswant Commission recommendations on it have been disregarded.
Let me hasten to add here that the lawyers of West UP are fully determined that this shall continue uninterrupted till a high court bench is set up in West UP! Not just this, many times in last few years it has been noticed that lawyers even announce strike even though it is not as strictly as the one and it happens on few occasions when it is decided by the Central Action Committee constituted to pursue the sacred demand for setting up a high court bench in West UP!
To put things in perspective, it was way back in 2001 that the lawyers of West UP went on strike demanding high court bench not for one month or for two months or for three months or for four months or for five months or for six months but for more than six months and finally broke the strike after getting assurances from Centre of looking seriously into it. Yet nothing happened. Only the striking lawyers of West UP know for themselves that how they stayed hungry with no work agitating wholeheartedly for a high court bench yet got nothing! Former UP CM Dr Sampoornanand had recommended a high court bench at Meerut in 1955 but Centre refused! Another former UP CM Mayawati had even recommended West UP to be created as a separate state to be named ‘Harit Pradesh’ but again nothing happened! Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself raised the demand of setting up a high court bench in West UP right inside Parliament way back in 1986 but as PM could not do much because he was not in full majority!
But what about the present PM Narendra Modi? He currently enjoys majority in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. BJP President Amit Shah had himself assured lawyers of West UP more than a year back that a high court bench would be soon set up in West UP. Even Rajnath Singh who is Union home Minister had given similar categorical assurances but to no avail! Just recently Dr Satyapal Singh who has been made Union Minister too vocally said recently that high court benches must be set up at Meerut, Agra and Gorakhpur. Apart from him there are many other Union Ministers who have all time and again raised their voice in support of the age old demand for a high court bench in West UP!
Let me be direct in asking: Why Allahabad High Court which last year completed 150 years of existence and which is Asia’s biggest court has just one high court bench and that too just 150-200 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow created way back in 1948 and why even as 2018 is about to start do we have no bench either in West UP or in Bundelkhand or at Gorakhpur from where UP CM Yogi Adityanath hails and who himself demanded a bench as MP way back in 1998? Why many other capitals like Bhopal which is capital of MP, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala, Dehradun which is capital of Odisha and many others have neither high court nor bench but Lucknow was chosen for bench and the deserving areas like the hilly areas which now for Uttarakhand and from where people had to travel more than 1000 km had no bench and same is the case with 26 districts of West UP as also with Bundelkhand and Gorakhpur? Why states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam etc which stand nowhere in terms of number of pending cases and crime as compared to UP and West UP have 3 high court benches apart from high court itself?
Simply put, it is West UP where maximum riots, maximum killings, maximum crime take place yet it has no bench as both high court at Allahabad and a single bench at Lucknow created way back in 1948 are both in Eastern UP and that too just about 150-200 km away from each other! Misbauddin Siddiqui who is the President of the Meerut District Bar Association lamented, “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.”
Briefly stated, in 2014-15 the lawyers of West UP went on strike for 3-4 months demanding high court bench in West UP and even boycotted Lok Adalats and demonstrated outside courts throughout the night! For how long? Why can’t a high court bench be set up in West UP? Why this raw discrimination? Why people of West UP are compelled to travel so far about 700-800 km away all the way to Allahabad to attend court hearings and waste so much of time and money for no valid reason! It is to protest this that lawyers of West UP keep holding meetings, demonstrations, protests, padyatras but still Centre is not budging!
Can anyone tell me: Why for just 4 and 8 districts of Karnataka at Dharwad and Gulbarga 2 more high court benches were straightaway approved in 2012 with one being already at Hubli but for West UP for 26 districts which is more than double the number for which 2 more benches were approved in Karnataka not even a single bench was approved even though the senior lawyers of West UP were repeatedly assured by all PM ranging from late Mrs Indira Gandhi, late Rajiv Gandhi among others? Karnataka has not more than 2 lakh pending cases and has just about more than 1 lakh pending cases yet 3 high court benches but for UP which has not 1 lakh or 2 lakh or 3 lakh or 4 lakh or 5 lakh or 6 lakh or 7 lakh or 8 lakh or 9 lakh or 10 lakh but more than 10 lakh cases pending and here too more than half the cases are from West UP still no high court bench! Why?
As if this is not enough, even former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon had slammed UP as “rape and crime capital of India” still why UP has least high court benches and West UP has none? Why Allahabad High Court is oldest high court in whole of Asia completing 150 years last year and also the biggest court yet it has just one high court bench very near to Allahabad in Lucknow? Why when a high court bench could be set up so near to Allahabad in Lucknow way back in 1948 can no high court bench be set up in West UP for more than 9 crore people staying here 70 years later in 2018?
Truth be told, the population of West UP is more than all States except UP itself of which it is a part, Maharashtra and Bihar and here too areawise West UP with 98,000 square km is more than Bihar’s 94,000 square km! Still why it has no bench leave alone making it a separate state and giving it a high court itself as happened with Uttaranchal which at time of creation had just 88 lakh population and about 12 to 13 districts? Why our policymakers, PM and others in Centre are maintaining a deafening silence on it? They must come clear on it and spell out their stand! Deafening silence will just not do! No way!
Let me also be direct in asking: How long will lawyers of West UP keep striking every ? How long will lawyers of West UP keep holding meetings, calling for West UP Bandh, holding protests on national highways, blocking rail route, roads etc just to highlight their age old demand of setting up a high court bench in West UP? How long will it take for the Law Minister of UP Brijesh Pathak to fulfil his 3 month old assurance to lawyers in Meerut that a high court bench in West UP will be created soon?
Let me bring out here that I have been keenly noticing that the lawyers of West UP time and again, month after month, year after year keep holding meetings under the banner of Central Action Committee formed to pursue the legitimate struggle for creating a high court bench in West UP and vowing to take extreme steps like going on strike for months as they did for six months in 2001, for many weeks as they did in 2009-10, for 3-4 months in 2014-15 and ended only after getting firm assurances but ultimately only got nothing. They keep meeting CM, PM and others but all this till now has led to nowhere! They have even resorted to blocking national highways, stopping trains but again no result!
How long will woman keep getting gangraped as happened just recently in Muzaffarnagar in West UP and keep going so far to Allahabad to get justice as there is no bench of high court in West UP which is a much bigger punishment for them? Just for how long? Why can’t our Prime Minister be more sensitive? Bench can do for West UP what even bullet train cannot do and at a very less cost still why no initiative is being taken in this regard?
How long will women be subjected to rape, gangrape, face acid throwing incidents etc yet travel so far to Allahabad to get justice which is a double punishment for them? West UP and in fact whole of UP needs more high court benches and not more temples or anti-Romeo squads or anything else in which UP CM Yogi Adityanath seems more interested! He himself as MP had vociferously demanded a high court bench for Gorakhpur in 1998 raising it inside Parliament but now he has power and Centre too belongs to his own party BJP thus removing all glitches then still why no action since last more than 6 months?
In hindsight, people of all religions are united in West UP in demanding a high court bench here and unitedly they agitate which is an eye-opener for our leaders who always keep raking irrelevant issues which makes no difference to people’s lives and it makes me most happy to see the unity cutting across religious lines or community lines or gender lines or any other lines! But what comes as a biggest dampener is no action by Centre who earlier had vouched that if its party came to power in UP and Centre both then a high court bench will definitely be created in West UP! Nothing on earth can be more shocking!
Truly speaking, even eminent jurist Soli J Sorabjee had said that Centre can create a high court bench on its own in West UP without any recommendation either from the Chief Justice or State Government in this behalf still we see that Centre is taking no action! BN Krishnamani who was an eminent former Supreme Court Bar Association Chairman too had said that, “Only by the creation of a high court bench in West UP will the people get speedy and effective justice”. Whom is Centre trying to appease? Is it not emulating the previous governments? It is high time and it must now fulfil its responsibility and also its age old promises to the people of West UP that a high court bench in West UP would be created soon!
Last but not the least: Why eminent criminal lawyer, former President of Meerut Bar and present member of Bar Council of UP – Anil Kumar Bakshi proudly points out that he is among the few lawyers who have been to jail because of his active participation in the holy struggle for creating a high court bench in West UP? Why Justice BP Singh (retd) of Allahabad High Court too feels strongly that a high court bench must be set up in West UP? Why many senior and eminent lawyers of Allahabad High Court itself too feel that a high court bench must be set up in West UP? This is only because it is certainly one of the most holy struggle and this alone explains that why lawyers here are ready to go to any extent to ensure that a high court bench is created here and have braved police sticks and all barriers with the greatest of courage! Going on strike for months and months is easier said than done and only lawyers of West UP best understand that how much hardship they have faced to ensure that the sacred agitation for a high court bench in West UP continue uninterrupted! But the billion dollar question that arises here is: For how long will Centre continue ignoring the clear writing on the wall? Even Kapil Sibal as Union Law Minister had wanted a high court bench for West UP to be set up at Meerut as was disclosed by none other than another former Union Minister RPN Singh but former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav he alleged put a cropper in this and therefore nothing materialized! But now there are no excuses as it is BJP and BJP alone which is in power both in UP and Centre! Now only action is needed by setting up a high court bench here! BJP must act now!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.