It has to be said right at the outset that it is most disgusting, disheartening and deplorable that West UP which deserved statehood right since 1947 has not even a single bench of a high court since last more than 70 years! What bigger proof is needed than this to highlight that West UP has always received a step motherly treatment from Centre for reasons known best to it? West UP’s population at 9 crore is more than all states except Bihar, Maharashtra and UP of which it too is a part and accounts for nearly half of the population of UP!
Here too West UP has area of 98,933 square km which is more than even Bihar with 94,000 square km! Still it has not even bench leave alone high court! On what ground can this be ever justified?
It is on record that Sampoornanand had recommended a high court bench to be created for West UP at Meerut way back in 1955 after more than 100 elected representatives met him and apprised him of the same but the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru turned down the legitimate demand even though he had allowed a bench to be created at Lucknow in 1948 on July 1 more than 70 years ago! This despite the glaring fact that Allahabad is just about 200 km away from Lucknow! Still why Lucknow with just 12 districts and area of 62,000 square km was given preference over West UP?
Needless to say, at that point of time even Uttarakhand formed part of UP and together with West UP accounted for 40 districts still why not a single bench was created? Why the people especially litigants of hilly areas now forming a separate state called Uttarakhand along with West UP were compelled to travel thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to get justice? Why did Jawaharlal Nehru not accede to the commendable recommendation by the then UP CM Sampoornanand to create a high court bench in Meerut in 1955 which would have considerably reduced the distance as compared to Allahabad not just from 26 districts of West UP but also from the hilly areas district numbering 13 which now form part of Uttarakhand but which till 2000 formed part of UP and had to travel so far all the way to Allahabad?
What is even more reprehensible is that when Centre led by the then PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi herself appointed Justice Jaswant Singh Commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Jaswant Singh in late 1970s to look into where all high court benches are needed had explicitly recommended that UP must have 3 more benches at Agra, Dehradun and Nainital apart from the one at Lucknow but not even one bench was created by Centre which is totally incomprehensible even though Centre took no time in creating a high court bench for Maharashtra at Aurangabad which already had bench at Nagpur and Panaji, for Tamil Nadu at Madurai and for West Bengal in Jalpaiguri which already had a bench at Port Blair for just 3 lakh people of Andaman and Nicobar islands! It was so baffling to see that Centre could not come up with any cogent and convincing argument to justify denying even a single bench to UP!
It is not hidden from anyone that UP has maximum pending cases in the country both in the high court at more than 10 lakh whereas other big states have just about 1 lakh and some have just few thousands and some like Sikkim have just 100 still have high court and same is the case also in the lower courts with more than 60 lakh pending cases which is highest in India yet has just one bench only! Not just this, UP is among the largest states, is the most populated state with more than 19 lakh population as per the 2011 census, maximum MPs in Lok Sabha at 80, maximum MPs in Rajya Sabha at 31, maximum MLAs in Vidhan Sabha at 404 and in Vidhan Parishad at 104, maximum PM including the present PM Narendra Modi who represents Varanasi, maximum villages more than one lakh whereas no other state has more than 5000 villages, maximum districts at 75, maximum Judges in high court at 160, maximum Judges in lower courts at nearly 2500, maximum poverty, maximum cases of dacoity, robbery, riots, murders etc and here too West UP owes for more than half of them and still it has neither high court nor bench!
It is not hidden from anyone that Allahabad high court is the oldest high court in India along with Calcutta and Madras High Court which completed its 150 years in 2016 and is also among the biggest in Asia yet has just one bench at Lucknow which is so close to Allahabad! This is what is most condemnable! If Lucknow is capital then so are Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha, Bhopal which is capital of Madhya Pradesh, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala and Dehradun which is capital of Uttarakhand but they have neither high court nor bench then why Lucknow was accorded VVIP treatment at the cost of West UP? Why Centre did not take into account that the high court and benches of 8 states including Delhi, Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh high court, Jaipur bench of Rajasthan high court among others and above all even Lahore high court in Pakistan are nearer to West UP as compared to Allahabad?
Why West UP with more than 26 districts and more than 9 crore population are punished since independence to travel all the way to Allahabad in which a whole night is spent and many times without reservation also since 1947 till 2018 to attend court hearings? Why 2 benches were approved straightaway for Dharwad and Gulbarga by Centre for just 4 and 8 districts in Karnataka in 2008 which already had bench at Hubli even though Karnataka has just less than 2 lakh pending cases whereas UP has more than 10 lakh pending cases and West UP alone has more than 5 lakh pending cases which is more than whole of Karnataka put together and populationwise also Karnataka has just 6 crore population and West UP has 9 crore population still it has not even a bench? Why Centre didn’t approve former UP CM Mayawati’s laudable recommendation to create West UP as a separate state in 1995 when she was CM?
Why Centre approved statehood for just 88 lakh people of Uttarakhand with 13 districts in 2000 but not even a bench for more than 9 crore population and 26 districts of West UP leave alone statehood as recommended by former UP CM Mayawati? Why even after so many UP CM like ND Tiwari, Rajnath Singh among others recommended a high court bench for West UP was it not accepted by Centre? Why Centre has repeatedly succumbed to those opposing a bench in West UP?
With what face Centre approves one more bench for Maharashtra in 2018 which already had 3 benches at Kolhapur for just 6 districts but stubbornly refuses even a single bench for West UP for 26 districts even though Justice Jaswant Commission had recommended 3 benches for UP? With what face Centre repeatedly assures lawyers of West UP to end their 6 month strike as was done in 2001, 3 to 4 month strike as was done in 2014-15 and one to 2 month strike as normally happens year after year since last many decades apart from the strike of Saturday continuously from May 1981 till August 2018 as also many times on Wednesdays and now also from 6th to 8th August the lawyers of West UP of more than 20 districts will be on strike and this can intensify further if Centre fails to address this vexed issue once and for all yet takes no action in this regard? With what face can Centre cite the lameless excuse of not getting recommendation from the State Chief Minister or State Chief Justice for creating a bench which is just not required as per Section 51 of the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 which postulates that Centre can create a high court bench for UP, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir by directly bringing it up in Parliament? None other than former Attorney General while he was in office as Attorney General in 2001 had categorically said that, “Centre is empowered to create a high court bench anywhere in UP without any recommendation from the Chief Justice or Chief Minister or anyone else in this regard”!
With what face can Centre ignore what its own top leader and former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself demanded – the creation of a bench in West UP and that too right inside Parliament in 1986? With what face can Centre ignore what Satyapal Singh who is Union Minister and BJP MP from Baghpat had demanded in Parliament a long time back that UP need 5 benches at Meerut, Agra, Jhansi, Gorakhpur and Varanasi? With what face can Centre not listen even to its own other senior Union Cabinet Ministers like Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Dr Mahesh Sharma, Gen VK Singh among others who have all demanded bench in West UP at some point of time or the other?
With what face can Centre not listen event o its own former Union Ministers like Sanjeev Baliyan who just recently forcefully raised the demand for a bench in West UP on several grounds and rightly asserted that for just 10,000 lawyers of Allahabad, the neck of more than 8 crore people of West UP cannot be strangulated? With what face can Centre not listen to so many of its other BJP MPs like Rajinder Agarwal from Meerut, BJP MP Vijaypal Singh Tomar who too recently raised it in Parliament among others and not relent even though its own national BJP President Amit Shah too had assured the lawyers that a high court bench would be created here as the demand is totally justified?
Why Centre even disregarded what former Chairman of Supreme Court Bar Association BN Krishnamani said so eloquently that, “Only by the creation of a high court bench in any of the districts in West UP will the people living there get real justice”? If UP can’t be given more benches and West UP can’t have even one bench which actually deserves statehood in the real sense then all benches in India must be disbanded right now because it is the people of West UP who are suffering the most because of no bench here and have to travel the most!
What a pity that Assam with just about 2 crore population had 7 high court benches before Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura were given high court itself for just 27, 29 and 36 lakh population, Sikkim with just 6 lakh population and less than 100 pending cases has high court and above all even Port Blair with just 3 lakh population has bench but West UP with more than 9 crore population and more than half of the total pending cases of UP has not even a single bench of high court! Why Centre is clinging with the recommendation made by the Law Commission in 1956 in its fourth report that more benches should not be created while not caring for the 230th report of Law Commission made in 2009 which recommended creation of more benches and here too why just UP is being singled out?Why can’t one bench at least be approved straightaway for West UP at any of the 26 districts?
Why should the more than 9 crore people of West UP be denied “speedy Justice”, “justice at doorsteps” and “affordable cheap justice”? Why should the people be made to travel so far even after more than 70 years of independence? It is a national tragedy that West UP which deserves statehood since independence has not even a bench more than 70 years later in 2018! No PM till date has dared to show the political will to address it till now even though there have been repeated agitations, repeated strikes, repeated shutdown of West UP many times and what not over it! Why the constitutional right of more than 9 crore people of West UP of having access to “speedy and cheap justice” is being denied even after more than 70 years of independence? Can Centre answer?
Rajendra Singh Jani, Advocate,
President, Meerut Bar Association,
Chairman of Central Action Committee for Establishment of High Court Bench in West UP,
Chamber No. 7,
Civil Court, Near Western Kutchery Gate,
Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.