Opinion: Disband All Benches In India If No HC Bench For West UP
At the outset, it must be stated rather disconcertingly that it is India’s misfortune that UP which has the maximum population more than 22 crore as Yogi Adityanath who is UP CM keeps proudly declaring time and again, has maximum villages more than one lakh whereas in other states the number of villages don’t exceed 5000 or 6000 at the most, has maximum pending cases about 10 lakh cases as per official figures whereas other states like Karnataka which has 3 high court benches, Maharashtra which has 4 high court benches, Assam which has 4 high court benches, etc even though they have less than 1 lakh pending cases, UP has maximum districts 75 whereas other states have just about 25 or 30 on an average, UP has maximum MPs, maximum MLAs, maximum Mayors, maximum towns, maximum pending cases in lower courts more than 60,000 lakh pending cases whereas other states have comparatively much lesser figures, UP has given maximum PM to India including the incumbent Narendra Modi who is MP from Varanasi, maximum poverty, maximum crime, maximum riots, maximum killings, maximum rape, assault and other crimes against women, etc and is one of the biggest states of India yet has just one high court bench created way back in 1948 on July 1 at Lucknow which is just about 200 km away from Allahabad where the high court itself is located! Seventy years have lapsed but till now in April 2018 no bench has been created in any other part of UP even though the former UN Secretary General Ban ki moon had slammed UP as the “rape and crime capital of India”! All true Indians must hang their head in shame at this despicable act!
Lamentably, even small states like Sikkim, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, etc with just about 6 lakh population, 29 lakh , 36 lakh, 27 lakh have high courts but West UP with more than 9 crore population has not even a single bench of high court! Even Andaman and Nicobar islands with just 3 lakh population has bench but not West UP! West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases of total pending cases of UP which can be independently verified and which owes for maximum riots, killings, rapes, gang rapes etc still it has not a single bench! Most shocking!
What hurts me most to learn is that Justice Jaswant Singh Commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Jaswant Singh and appointed in late 1970s by former PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi had categorically recommended 3 high court benches for UP at Dehradun, Nainital and Agra but not one bench was created in any of these 3 places even though benches were created on its recommendations at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Madurai in Tamil Nadu! Why is UP especially West UP and the hilly areas of UP which now form part of Uttarakhand were not allotted high court benches even though the people of the hilly areas had to travel more than thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to get justice which compelled them to wage agitation for a separate state and in 2000 it was created as a separate state and now it has high court at Nainital! If Centre had created 2 benches at Dehradun and Nainital, Uttarakhand would never have separated from UP as the people would have been happy that they are getting justice at doorsteps!
Now coming to West UP which has more than 9 crore population which is more than the population of all states except Bihar and Maharashtra and UP of which it is itself a part and here too the area of West UP with 98,000 square kilometers is more than that of Bihar with 94,000 square kilometers still it has no high court bench! The people are compelled to travel more than 700 to 800 kilometers all the way to Allahabad as there is no high court bench in any of the 26 districts of West UP! In other words, the litigants of West UP have to travel whole night without reservation many times when they can’t get reservation to attend court hearings at Allahabad and bear all sorts of inconveniences in finding a suitable room to stay for few days!
If a high court bench was there in any of the 26 districts of West UP they would have been saved from all these inconveniences and their precious money would also have been saved from being wasted! Those lawyers of Allahabad who argue that now there is facility of plane when anyone can travel anywhere and reach in no time must understand that the majority of litigants are not so rich that they can spend so much of money in travelling only and then spend much more in hiring good lawyers etc! It is for their benefit that the lawyers of West UP are agitating for a high court bench in West UP!
What was the need for a high court bench in Lucknow which is so near to Allahabad? If Lucknow is capital then so is Bhopal which is capital of Madhya Pradesh, Bhubaneshwar which is capital of Odisha, Thiruvananthapuram which is capital of Kerala, Dehradun which is capital of Uttarakhand etc but all these places have neither high court nor bench! Lawyers of West UP have never objected to a bench in Lucknow but have only legitimately demanded that when a bench can exist so close to Allahabad then why can’t it exist so far away in any of the 26 districts of West UP?
This is the main reason why the lawyers of West UP have been regularly striking every Saturday since May 1981 and now May 2018 is approaching but strikes are still continuing, went on 6 months strike from July to December in 2001, went on strike for 3 to 4 months in 2014-15, on one month strike in 2010 apart from many other strikes in many other years! Now again on 28 April there will be a collective fast in Meerut demanding the creation of a high court bench here! Why when Dr Sampoornanand who was UP CM in 1955 had recommended a high court bench in Meerut but it was refused by Centre? Why many other UP CMs also recommended for the same including Mayawati who even recommended statehood for West UP but still not even a bench was approved?
Why in 2018 for UP the recommendation made by Law Commission of India in its 4th report in 1955 being adhered to which opposed that high courts should sit at benches in different parts of the states even though in other states like Karnataka 2 more benches were created at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts apart from the one already at Hubli and in Maharashtra also which already had benches at Nagpur, Aurangabad, Panaji and now at Kolhapur for just 6 districts but for 26 districts of West UP just no bench approved even though the Law Commission of India in its 230th report recommended creation of more high court benches but UP along with other big states like Rajasthan, Odisha and Bihar were left in the cold?
It is most shocking to learn that the high court and benches of 8 states in India are closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad. As for instance Delhi High Court is just 70 km from Meerut in West UP, Gwalior bench in MP is just about 368 km, Chandigarh high court is just 239 km, Shimla high court is just 336 km, Jaipur bench of Rajasthan high court is just 333 km, Nainital high court is just 249 km and worst of all even Lahore high court in Pakistan is just 500 km whereas Allahabad is about 705 km from Meerut even though the distance of other districts like Saharanpur to Allahabad is much more!
None other than former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself as Opposition leader way back on 21 July in 1986 had raised the demand for a high court bench in West UP along with MP Ashwani Kumar in Rajya Sabha! Legal giants like Ram Jethmalani, Soli J Sorabjee, Kapil Sibal etc have time and again reiterated the dire need for a bench in West UP! Soli J Sorabjee had clearly stated while he was Attorney General in 2001 that, “Centre can create a high court bench in West UP without any recommendation from the State Government or Chief Justice.” It was also pointed out that for 3 states – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir only Centre itself can give a bench of high court straightaway!
As per the Section 51 of the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, the Centre can create a high court bench in any of these 3 states mentioned above directly by bringing it up in Parliament. Centre does not need any recommendation from State Government or the Chief Justice as has been very wrongly propagated for many decades! What a national disgrace that these very 3 states – Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar keep on coming the national headlines for all the wrong reasons as crime incidents keep multiplying very rapidly! Bihar is famous as a lawless state yet Centre has not created even a single high court bench here ever since Ranchi bench separated after Jharkhand became a state in 2000 and it became a high court and same is the case with UP and Jammu and Kashmir!
None other than UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his deepest anger at the brutal gangrape and murder of a 8 year old girl in Kathua in Jammu just recently and hoped that the guilty would be punished swiftly! This is a major international embarrassment for India! Jammu and Kashmir keeps braving repeated terror attacks and crime is high yet Centre does not want to create a bench here anywhere other than at Jammu! Similarly Bihar is another lawless state where mass murders is a routine affair yet it has no bench!
Now coming to UP, it is the worst of all states! Even as I am writing this, news is pouring in that a 16 year old girl in Kanpur is burnt alive for just drawing water from hand pump because criminals know that UP is overburdened with so many pending cases and Centre is doing just nothing to address it so they can easily get away with impunity as it will take many decades for case to be decided even in lower courts! Most hurting!
As if this is not enough, an 18 year old girl is burnt alive in Unnao from where a BJP MLA which is in power in UP has been arrested on gang rape charges just recently whose father was instead arrested and beaten in police station where he later succumbed to his injuries! Rapes and gangrapes and burning of girls and women are becoming the norm in UP which is so shocking but still not one bench is being created any where in UP! Just recently even a blind girl was not spared in Ghaziabad and 10 days after her father died she was raped and landlord asked her to approach police but before that evict house!
The list of such hapless girls and women undergoing unending woes and interminable sufferings is endless yet we see Centre has not allowed a single bench not just in West UP but any where in any part of UP even though it has approved one more bench at Kolhapur in Maharashtra which already had 3 benches! None other than UP Chief Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale while condemning the law and order situation in UP where he says that law and order situation in the state has been destroyed while proudly hailing his home state Maharashtra where he says “law and order situation in Maharashtra is so good that women can go out alone anywhere without any fear even in night hours” yet see the unpalatable irony that Maharashtra now has 4 benches with one more being approved at Kolhapur for just 6 districts but UP has just one very near to Allahabad and not anywhere else like in Bundelkhand region in Jhansi or in Gorakhpur or in Meerut or in Agra or at any other place!
All said and done, Allahabad High Court is one of oldest High Courts in not just India but also in Asia which completed 150 years in 2016 and also one of the biggest yet we see that leave alone benches even the number of Judges strength has not been increased and even most of the sanctioned posts which is more than half keeps lying vacant! Even the lawyers of Calcutta high court have been on strike for more than 2 months as many Judges post are lying vacant and so were lawyers of Odisha high court for the same reason! Why are more Judges not being appointed in time?
Where is our nation heading if victims don’t get justice in time because of Judges not being appointed, benches not being created in big and lawless states like UP, Bihar and J&K even though Centre has full power to create any number of benches in these 3 states anytime when it wants? Lawlessness will obviously increase further with no fear among criminals of ever being brought to book! Which self-respecting Indian will feel happy to see all this?
Why is Centre now in power in all these 3 states doing nothing to address people’s especially women’s and most of all victim girls endless woes by at least setting up more high court benches so that they are not compelled to travel so far away and once again fall prey to some other criminal! People will ostensibly get angry and this is best reflected in BJP losing both in constituencies of UP CM Yogi Adityanath at Gorakhpur and UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya in Phulpur! Centre is solely responsible for it and still is doing absolutely nothing to address it by taking laudable steps like setting up more high court benches, appointing more Judges, appointing more court staff and spending more on improving the infrastructure of court which is abysmal because of very miserly amount being spent on it since 1947 till 2018!
On a concluding note, it has to be said with certitude that if a high court bench cannot be set up in West UP which is most lawless as we see till now and from where litigants are compelled to travel so far at Allahabad about 700 km away on an average then certainly it has to be said without hesitation that all the high court benches in India must be disbanded and what some Allahabad High Court lawyers keep demanding that, “One state, one high court” must be implemented uniformly in all states! Now it is for Centre to decide for itself the right course of action! It cannot continue any longer with this status quo policy which has already bleeded India since many decades!
This status quo policy of last 70 years followed till now for UP will destroy not just UP which is the heart of India but the whole of India as when heart fails the whole body goes for a toss! Will Centre question this also? It must see the clear writing on the wall!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.
Note- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.
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