How can this happen? But it has happened in the past also and is happening time and again in the 26 districts of West UP. Now again on 23 February 2018 the lawyers of 26 districts of West UP are on toll plazas to make them toll free.
Once again the lawyers of West UP have intensified their agitation for setting up a high court bench in West UP. The demand for a high court bench in West UP is not new. It was way back in 1955 that Dr Sampoornanand had for the first time very strongly recommended for the creation of a high court bench in Meerut.
This landmark recommendation by Dr Sampoornanand was not however entertained by Jawaharlal Nehru who very strongly believed that in the whole of UP there should be just one bench just about 200 to 250 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow which he created way back on July 1, 1948 and not anywhere else. All Prime Ministers afterwards right from Lal Bahadur Shastri were unanimous in feeling that UP should not have any bench anywhere else other than the one that Nehru approved in 1948. The incumbent PM Narendra Modi too feels the same way which alone explains that why inspite of his completing nearly 4 years in office, he too has ensured that a high court bench is not set up anywhere else!
This is nothing! The real record was broken by former PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi. It was Indira who decided to appoint the Justice Jaswant Singh Commission in late 1970s to look into the places where high court benches should be set up.
Justice Jaswant Singh Commission recommended that a high court bench be set up at Aurangabad in Maharashtra which was promptly accepted, Madurai in Tamil Nadu which was again accepted and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal which was again accepted. So far so good. But what came as a bolt from the blue was Centre’s most shocking decision to not implement what Justice Jaswant Commission recommended regarding Uttar Pradesh.
Justice Jaswant Singh Commission recommended that 3 high court benches should be created for UP at Agra, Dehradun and Nainital. But it was most perplexing to note that Indira Gandhi did not allow even a single bench of high court to be created anywhere in whole of UP! Not a single Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi too could ever dare to summon the requisite courage to implement what Justice Jaswant Singh Commission recommended to create 3 benches in UP. Not just this, not even a single bench was allowed to come up in any hook and corner of UP.
To protest this worst kind of injustice, the lawyers of all the districts of West UP set up a Central Action Committee to pursue the agitation for a separate bench for a high court in West UP. It was decided to go on strike every to protest this worst kind of discrimination meted out to more than 9 crore people of West UP by denying them even a single high court bench. Since May 1981 to February 2018 strike has been continuing relentlessly!
Not just this, the lawyers of West UP even went on strike for 6 months from July to December 2001 demanding the creation of a high court bench in West UP! Apart from this, there was strike for many weeks in 2009, then again in 2010 there was one month strike, then again in 2011-12 the strike ranged for several weeks and then in 2014-15 the strike ranged from 3 to 4 months and ended only after Arun Jaitley assured to look into it! In 2017 also the strike continued for a week in October when lawyers protested against the visit of Kesarinath Tripathi to Meerut as he had earlier opposed the creation of a demand for high court bench in West UP when he was Speaker of UP State Assembly in 1995-96.
The lawyers of West UP time and again march to toll plazas to set them free. This is done so that the Centre is finally constrained to set up a high court bench in West UP. The lawyers very strongly believe and rightly so that the people of more than 26 districts of West UP are compelled to unnecessarily travel to Allahabad to attend court hearings which is about 700-800 km away. The people many times are compelled to travel without reservation whole night to Allahabad to attend court hearings!
Why can’t a high court bench be set up in West UP for 26 districts for more than 9 crore people living here? Why did Atal Bihari Vajpayee demand the creation of a high court bench in West UP right inside Parliament way back in 1986? Why Satyapal Singh who is former Mumbai Police Commissioner and is now MP from Baghpat and Union Minister had earlier demanded the creation of 5 high court benches at Meerut, Agra, Varanasi, Jhansi and Gorakhpur?
Why is it ignored that the population of West UP is more than any other state except Maharashtra and Bihar and here too the area of West UP with 98,000 square km is more than that of Bihar with 94,000 square km? Why is it ignored that West UP accounts for more than half of the pending cases of UP that is more than five lakh cases and UP has 10 lakh cases which implies that no state in India other than UP of which it is a part has more pending cases than West UP still it has not even a single bench of high court? Why is it ignored that Karnataka has just about 6 crore population and about less than 2 lakh cases pending cases still it has not just a high court but also 3 high court benches at Hubli, Dharwad and Gulbarga. The benches at Dharwad and Gulbarga were created for just 4 and 8 districts in 2012. But West UP with more than 9 crore population, 26 districts and more than five lakh cases pending has not even a single bench of high court!
Time and again, the lawyers of West UP go on strike demanding the creation of a high court bench in West UP but Centre never listens! Time and again, the lawyers set toll plaza free as they are doing now on February 23 still Centre does not listen. Time and again, they even go on strike as they did on February 15 and then on February 17 and then from !
Not just this they even hold relay strikes as they have been doing since last few days, also take out bike rallies demanding bench and even hold Press Club conference as they will be doing on to make the media aware of the dire need of setting up a high court bench in West UP! The lawyers of West UP time and again plead that the high court and benches of 8 states and above all even Lahore High Court is nearer to West UP as compared to Allahabad still it has no bench! Valid point!
It is most hurting to see that the lawyers of 26 districts of West UP instead of being in courts and fighting legal cases for their clients are on streets to ensure that toll plazas are set free! But who is responsible for it? Centre which can create a circuit bench for 6 districts of Kolhapur in Maharashtra which already has 3 benches of high court at Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji but not a single bench for West UP! Most hurting!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.