Let me start by wishing my countrymen the very best wishes on this day that is 26th November on which day our Constitution was prepared after years of relentless toil. This alone explains why 26th November is celebrated as “Law Day” and “Constitution Day”. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra among others have very rightly expressed their best wishes on this auspicious day!
It was rightly reiterated that the best tribute to our Constitution and its makers is to make justice more accessible to the poor. How better can it be done by setting up more high court benches especially in big states like UP, Rajasthan, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar among other states ? This has been reiterated even by 230th report of Law Commission which recommended the setting up of more high court benches in states.
But what an unbeatable irony that only one state that is Karnataka has stood to gain by it because after this report was submitted in 2009, it is only in Karnataka that two more high court benches were set up for just 4 and 8 districts at Dharwad and Gulbarga respectively in 2012 even though the number of pending cases in high court is less than 2 lakh in whole of Karnataka whereas in UP which tops the states list among pending cases has more than 10 lakh pending cases and the cases from West UP alone are more than half of the total pending cases that is 5 lakh still we see that there is just one high court bench in Lucknow which is just about 200 km away from Allahabad created way back in 1948 on and after that not a single bench was created in any part of the state!
What is even worse is that Justice Jaswant Singh Commission headed by Justice Jaswant Singh who is a former Judge of the Supreme Court was appointed by Central Government of former PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi to recommend at which all places high court benches were needed most. It recommended 3 high court benches for UP at Agra which is in West UP, Nainital and Dehradun which are now both in Uttarakhand but then were in UP but not a single high court bench was allowed to be created in UP and the people of Uttarakhand were compelled to travel thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to get justice for which they had to bear unbearable expenses and waste many days travelling all the way to Allahabad. The net result was they became very agitated in demanding a separate state for themselves and we saw how Centre which refused to set up even a single high court bench there was compelled to set up a high court in Nainital!
Let me be direct in asking: Why when on the recommendations of Justice Jaswant Singh Commission a high court bench was created in Auranagabad in Maharashtra, Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu then why not a single bench for UP even though 3 benches were recommended for it? Why Centre allowed the people of Uttarakhand to become agitated by not setting up a single high court bench there? Why Centre cared the least also for West UP which alone accounts for more than 57% pending cases as was acknowledged by Justice Jaswant Commission itself due to which it recommended creation of high court bench here?
Let me also be direct in asking: Why inspite of lawyers of West UP striking work every Saturday since May 1981 till now that is more than 36 years to protest West UP not being given a single high court bench here even though Justice Jaswant Singh Commission had recommended creation of 3 benches has Centre failed to create even a single more high court bench here? Why lawyers of West UP went on strike not for one month or two months but for more than 6 months in 2001 and for 3 months in 2014-15 and for one month in 2010 and many times strike even on Wednesdays yet Centre just kept assuring the lawyers of West UP that a high court bench would be set up soon was no bench created here?
Bluntly put: Why Andaman and Nicobar islands with just about 3 lakh population has high court bench at Port Blair but West UP with more than 9 crore population which is more than any other state except Bihar, Maharashtra and UP of which it is itself a part has not even a single high court bench? Why many other small states like Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura having population of just 14 lakh, 18 lakh and 24 lakh has high court since last few years and bench since many decades but West UP with more than 9 crore population has not even a single high court bench? Why for just 88 lakh people of Uttarakhand was a high court itself approved in 2000 when it was given statehood but for more than 9 crore people of West UP not a single high court bench approved even in 2018?
Why the more than 9 crore people of West UP have been compelled to travel all the way to Allahabad about 700-800 km away to attend court hearings as no high court bench has been created here in any of the 26 districts of West UP who are all unitedly demanding the creation of a high court bench and lawyers of all these districts have even created Central Action Committee to pursue the legitimate demand for a high court bench here since 1981? Why Sampoornanand as CM had recommended a high court bench in Meerut way back in 1955 but even in 2018 no bench has been created here? Why Mayawati as UP CM had recommended the creation of a West UP as a separate state to be named Harit Pradesh way back in 1995 but still not a bench created here?
Is this not a violation of Article 14 of Constitution which talks about equality? Why talk about just West UP alone? Even in Bundelkhand, Western part of Odisha and many other parts in different states we see that people have to suffer all types of inconveniences because their region has no high court bench! Why the 230th report of Law Commission was not implemented in all these needy places?
It is futile to talk about speedy justice as long as more than 9 crore people of West UP are made to travel more than 800-900 km away all the way to Allahabad to get justice! This alone explains why former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Leader of Oppositon had himself demanded the creation of a high court bench in West UP in 1986! One can understand that Vajpayee as PM could not create bench here because he didn’t had majority but what about Narendra Modi who enjoys brute majority not just in Centre but also in UP for which US President Donald Trump had even congratulated him especially? Yogi Adityanath as MP had raised demand for a bench for Gorakhpur which is his constituency in 1998 but as UP CM he will celebrate 1 year of his completion in office but he is unable to create a sngle bench there leave alone West UP!
We see that maximum crime, maximum riots, maximum killings all take place in West UP still there is not even a single high court bench here! When a high court bench can be created in Lucknow in 1948 then why not a single bench in West UP 70 years later in 2018? Is this fair justice? Is this equality that both high court and a single bench are in Eastern UP at Allahabad and Lucknow so close to each other? If Lucknow is capital then so are Bhopal, Dehradun, Bhubaneshwar, Thiruvananthapuram not capitals? Then why no high court or bench in these places?
I fully appreciate the Lok Adalats and other steps like video conferencing to reduce the pending cases but they alone are simply not enough! Government has just no other option but to set up more high court benches in all those places where needed. Former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon had himself castigated the law and order situation in UP and slammed it as “rape and crime capital” of India yet Centre is not ready to set up more high court benches here!
Maximum MPs, maximum MLAs and maximum elected representatives are all from UP still it has just 1 high court bench whereas states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Assam have 3 high court benches or more even though the law and order situation there is much better than in UP! Is this equality? Why UP which has more than 22 crore population which is more than the population of many small countries put together as UP CM Yogi Adityananth keeps proudly proclaiming every now and then has just one high court bench and that too so close to Allahabad? Why not a single high court bench for another lawless state like Bihar? Why only few states are accorded 2 or 3 or 4 high court benches and not others?
Are we doing justice with our Constitution by acting in such a partisan manner? Why people of West UP are compelled to travel whole night to Allahabad many times without reservation as it is difficult to get it done in a short time notice? Why can’t the more than 26 districts of west UP have its own high court bench so that people don’t have to waste so much of time travelling all the way to Allahabad? Why such a third rated treatment for West UP since last more than 70 years of independence? Why is it ignored that initially from 1866 to 1869 the high court itself was in West UP at Agra before being transferred to Allahabad? Still why can’t a bench be created in any of the 26 districts of West UP?
I unequivocally hail PM Modi’s many initiatives like awarding the district where the number of pending cases are reduced maximum in a given year but they in itself are just not sufficient to address the burgeoning Frankenstein monster of pending cases unless more high court benches are created in big states like UP especially in West UP! Just recently a 100 year old woman was raped in West UP in Meerut and what is worse is that to seek justice she too has no option but to travel all the way about more than 700 km away to Allahabad as there is not even a single bench of high court here! What sort of justice system is this? Bench so close at Lucknow but no bench in West UP or in Bundelkhand like in Jhansi nor in far off places like Gorakhpur which CM Yogi represents since many decades!
A serious disease like cancer cannot be treated by just a band aid or strepsil. All other steps to address the huge pending cases are bound to fall flat unless and until more high court benches are created in big states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan among others! But nothing just nothing is being done on this score and only one state that is Karnataka has stood to gain from the recommendations of 230th report of Law Commission which till 2012 had just one bench at Hubli! Why is Centre not taking any steps in this regard? Why more than 9 crore people of West UP are being rashly denied “cheap and speedy justice” since 1947 till 2017? Why if Supreme Court in near future direct Centre to create more benches will it have the temerity to term it as “judicial activism”? With what face? Why can’t it take emergency steps well in time?
Eminent senior lawyer and revered jurist Harish Salve very rightly points out that if Centre does its job properly then judiciary will never step in! It is inaction on the part of the Centre that compels Supreme Court to step in for which it is then wrongly accused of “judicial activism” as a junior minister in Law in Centre dared to indulge in! Why Nehru can dare to create a bench in Lucknow in 1948 but no PM till now can dare to create even a single bench anywhere else even though Justice Jaswant Commission recommended 3 more benches?
Why inspite of Allahabad High Court completing more than 150 years and being the biggest court not just in India but in whole of Asia has least high court benches only one just nearby at Lucknow and not at any other place like Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Meerut or Agra or any other place? Why no step is being taken to correct this historic blunder? Why a firm determination to carry on with what Nehru did way back in 1947-48? Have things not changed since then? There are many more such compelling soul searching questions which demands answers but no one is ready to ever address them! Just ritually organizing “Law Day” or “Constitution day” will serve just no real purpose unless serious steps are taken like setting up more high court benches as recommended very rightly by 230th report of Law Commission! Hope good sense will prevail!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.