How long will Lawyers of West UP Keep Striking for much needed High Court Bench?

What did the lawyers of West UP did on February 15? The lawyers were on strike protesting the denial of a high court bench to West UP  even after more than five decades of agitation and awarding of a circuit bench to Kolhapur in Maharashtra instead of West UP even though Maharashtra already had 3 high court benches at Nagpur, Aurangabad and Panaji! This is most shocking and I am just aghast to learn of it!

                                                 What did the lawyers of West UP did on February 17? Again the lawyers were on strike. The senior lawyers and office bearers of 26 districts of West UP met in Meerut under the banner of Central Action Committee which was formed in May 1981 to chalk out strategy to accelerate their struggle for a high court bench in West UP. It was decided that on February 22, the lawyers of West UP would take out a bike rally in support of the demand for a high court bench in West UP! It was also decided that they would make toll plazas on national highways free on February 23.

                                          It was also decided that as earlier the lawyers of West UP would go on hunger strike turn after turn. It was also decided that they would meet Amit Shah who is BJP President and who had earlier supported the demand for a high court bench in West UP! It was also decided that the lawyers of West UP would meet UP CM Yogi Adityananth among others and demand high court bench at Meerut, Agra, Ghaziabad, Varanasi and Gorakhpur!   It was also decided that on February 26 they would address a Press Club gathering in New Delhi and make disclosures about their future plans to make sure that West UP gets a high court bench!

                                             It was also decided that they would make sure that all MPs attend the Press Club meet to reiterate the support for a high court bench and those MPs who don’t come would be opposed very strongly for not doing so! It was also decided that the lawyers of West UP would go on strike from February 19 to February 26 that is for more than a week demanding that a high court bench be soon set up in West UP! Last year also the lawyers of West UP had boycotted Kesarinath Tripathi who is the Governor of West Bengal and who had earlier way back in 1995-96 declared that a high court bench in West UP would be created only over his dead body! Not just this the lawyers of West UP were on strike for a week in mid October to protest his visit to Meerut and many lawyers including senior and eminent lawyers like Chaudhary Narendrapal Singh, OP Sharma, MP Sharma, Anil Jangala and Vinod Rana among others sustained serious injuries when police resorted to lathicharge when the lawyers were peacefully opposing his visit!

                                                Let me be direct in saying: West UP is notorious for riots breaking out at the drop of a hat like we saw during Kasganj riots, Muzaffarnagar riots, Meerut riots, Agra riots, Saharanpur riots, Bareilly riots etc still there is no high court bench here! The litigants are compelled to travel and so are the victims required to travel about 700 to 800 km whole night some times without reservation to Allahabad as there is no high court bench in West UP and have to face all sorts of inconveniences in doing so!  

                                       It is most distressing to learn that this NDA government in Centre led by PM Narendra Modi has decided to create one more high court bench in Kolhapur in Maharashtra to be a circuit bench which later is usually made permanent as we saw in Karnataka where 2 circuit benches were created for 4 and 8 districts at Dharwad and Gulbarga in Karnataka even though there was already a bench in Hubli! Similarly Maharashtra already had benches at Nagpur, Aurangabad and in Goa but for West UP with more than 9 crore population there is not even a single bench and for whole of UP there is just one bench just 150 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow leaving the rest of UP high and dry!

                            The population of Maharashtra at 11 crore is just half of UP at 22 crore still Maharashtra has now 4 benches and UP has just one bench at Lucknow! Maharashtra has less than 2 lakh pending cases and UP has more than 10 lakh pending cases still UP has just one bench and West IUP which accounts for more than half of the pending cases has no bench! Is this fair? BJP got so many seats from West UP in Lok Sabha elections and yet see what reward it has got? No bench till now!

                                           The Union Government has set aside Rs 3,320 crore for building 3143 court halls and 1682 residences for Judges but what about a high court bench in West UP? Why can’t a few crore rupees be spared for setting up a bench anywhere in West UP? Why even 1 district is not considered fit to be granted a bench in whole of West UP?

                                          Why only lip service of “speedy justice”, “justice to be made accessible to the poor” and “justice at doorsteps” if no step is taken to create a bench in West UP where incidents of crime are touching dizzying heights? Why Centre fails to appreciate that lawyers of West UP striking since such a long time for 36 long years every Saturday and regularly holding meetings after meetings to chalk out new strategy to push forward the surge of creating a bench can be resolved only by creating a bench here in any of the 26 districts wherever Centre wishes to do so? Is it such a big deal?

                                    Should it not be done immediately? It is the litigants who will stand to gain and here too it is the “poorest of poor” who will benefit most if a bench is created here and all strikes every Saturday and sometimes even on Wednesday and sometimes for 6 months in a row will become a matter of past! Does Centre not wishes this happens?

                                       Why a high court bench at Port Blair for just 3 lakh people, a high court for just 6 lakh people of Sikkim with about just 100 cases pending, for just few lakhs of people of people in Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura as also in many other smaller states? Why a high court now for Uttarakhand since 2000 for just 88 lakh people but not even a bench for more than 9 crore people of West UP? Why such a raw and third rated treatment for them?

                                             Recently, President, PM and Chief Justice of India among others wished the nation on “Constitution Day” and everyone reiterated the dire need to make justice accessible to poor people! But I fail to understand why since last 70 years a single bench has been denied to West UP thus compelling people to travel without any reason so far to Allahabad to get speedy justice? Shocking!

                        Just recently, a 100 year old woman was raped in Meerut and she died within no time! A young girl of 7 to 8 years was gang raped in Muzaffarnagar and then killed and this keeps happening every now and then but inspite of being so close to Delhi, it never attracts the kind of attention that Nirbhaya gang rape case attracted! In Hapur a young girl of about 8 years was similarly raped and people protested strongly because no one was arrested! No one is safe in West UP and criminals know that because of huge pending cases it will take decades before the case is finally decided and by the time they are decided they would die a natural death!

                                    Chief Justice of UP – Dilip Babasaheb who hails from Maharashtra rightly pointed out that in Maharashtra woman are so safe that they can go anywhere even in the night but in UP no one is safe even with their family and even on the national highways! Yet see the irony that Maharashtra has 3 high court benches and now one more has been approved at Kolhapur and UP only one as Justice Jaswant Commission report was implemented partially in Maharashtra to set up a bench at Aurangabad but not in Agra as recommended nor at Dehradun and Nainital as recommended and West UP where maximum crime incidents occur has none as both a single bench at Lucknow and high court at Allahabad are in Eastern UP!

                                    Criminals are ruling the roost here and Centre yet firmly reiterates that no bench for West UP! Who is gaining most by Centre’s inaction in setting up a bench here? Criminals and only criminals! Who is suffering most by this inaction? Girls, women and the common people who don’t have police protection with them unlike Ministers who  are fully guarded always!       

                                         Truth be told, the latest violence in Kasjang near to Aligarh and the killing of a person and the subsequent huge burning of buses, trucks, buildings etc and fight breaking out on streets clearly indicates that how things are deteriorating from worse to worst in West UP and  is the worst reminder that if most strong steps are not taken well in time, things will spiral completely out of control! In 2013 after the Muzaffarnagar riots in which again huge violence broke out and many were injured and killed and many displaced! Still we see no bench here!

                                    Ban ki Moon who was earlier UN Secretary General had slammed UP and not Karnataka or Maharashtra or Assam as “rape and crime capital of India” still we see that UP has just one high court bench and that too just 150 km away from Allahabad at Lucknow and these 3 states have 3 to 4 benches each! Why different parameters for different capital cities? Why no high court or bench for Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Dehradun, Thiruvananthapuram and others? Why have they been singled out?

                                  It is most disgraceful that more than half of pending cases are from West UP and still not a single bench of high court exists here. This despite the fact that Justice Jaswant Singh Commission had recommended 3 benches for West UP and hilly areas which now constitute a separate state named Uttarakhand but Centre for undisclosed reasons decided not to allow even a single bench anywhere in UP even though on its recommendations benches were created at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal! This is plain ridiculous!

                           It is so shocking that Jawaharlal Nehru had the guts to set up a single high court bench for UP so close to Allahabad at Lucknow way back on July 1, 1948 but 70 years down the lane, no PM has shown the guts to create even a single high court bench anywhere else in West UP or in Bundelkhand or in Gorakhpur from where present CM Yogi Adityanath himself hails and who has been getting elected as MP since 1998 and had even raised the demand for a high court bench there inside Parliament but now even after coming close to completing one year in office, it seems he has chosen to just forget everything! Satyapal Singh who is former Mumbai Police Commissioner and represents BJP as MP from Baghpat and recently was sworn in as Union Minister had demanded right inside Parliament the setting up of 5 high court benches for UP at Meerut, Agra, Gorakhpur, Jhansi and Varanasi but what a pity that Centre is not ready to set up even a single bench anywhere in UP even as PM Narendra Modi is all set to complete 4 years in power!

                               Woman are being murdered, raped and gangraped! The brutal murder of 2 sisters at Bulandshahr just recently indicates that how women are becoming the most soft target here! This has been happening time and again. West UP has become the epicenter of all crime, rape, dacoities, gangrapes, murders and still Centre is not prepared to set up even a single Bench of High Court for any of the 26 districts of West UP!

                                     Why high court and benches of 8 states and even Lahore high court in Pakistan is nearer to West UP as compared to Allahabad still no bench is being created here? Why West UP inspite of emerging as epicenter of murders, rapes, gangrapes and communal clashes still has no high court bench which only punishes victims especially woman who has been raped or gangraped to travel all the way about 700-800 km away to Allahabad to get delayed justice after few decades as Allahabad High Court is already overburdened with more than 10 lakh cases whereas no other state in India has more than 2 lakh pending cases and still some of them have 3 high court benches but UP has just one at Lucknow which is very close to Allahabad? How can all this be justified?

                                  Why no steps are being taken to create a bench here even though it has been promised by many governments in Centre and by many Union Ministers? What stops Centre? Why Centre is ignoring that Soli J Sorabjee who is former Attorney General of India and one of the most reputed lawyer of Supreme Court had himself said that, “A high court bench in West UP can be created by Centre without the recommendation of the Chief Justice or State Government in this behalf”.

                                                                               Why the population of West UP at more than 9 crore is more than all States except UP of which it is itself a part, Maharashtra and Bihar and here too the area of West UP at 98,000 square km is more than Bihar at 94,000 square km and still it has not been made a separate state? Why West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases of UP and still no attempt is being made to create it as a separate state or at least create a bench here? Why Karnataka with just 6 crore population which is 3 crore less than West UP has not just high court but 3 benches also but West UP with more than 9 crore population has not even a single bench leave alone a high court by making it a separate state?

                                          Why Karnataka has not more than 2 lakh pending cases and West UP has more than 5 lakh pending cases still West UP has not even a single bench compelling litigants from West UP to travel whole night more than 700 km away often without reservation all the way to Allahabad and suffer untold miseries and Karnataka has a high court and 3 benches at Hubli, Dharwad and Gulbarga? Why the 230th report of Law Commission was selectively implemented only in a peaceful state like Karnataka and not in a state like UP which former UN Secretary General Ban ki moon slammed as the “rape and crime capital of India” and which has maximum population more than Pakistan and many other countries, maximum MPs, maximum MLAs, maximum Mayors, maximum villages more than 1 lakh, maximum towns, maximum tehsils, maximum pending cases more than 10 lakh, maximum pending cases in lower courts, maximum Judges, maximum crime, maximum dowry deaths, maximum rapes, maximum gangrapes, maximum custodial deaths, maximum PM since independence including the incumbent PM Narendra Modi who represents Varanasi, maximum delay in deciding of cases and what not and yet still has least high court benches in India? Why is West UP being accorded such a shabby and third rated treatment that the high courts and benches of 8 states and above all even Lahore High Court in Pakistan is nearer to West UP than Allahabad still it has not even a single high court bench here?

                             The latest shocking Kasganj violence which witnessed naked dance of destruction, death, vandalism, loot and violence underscores the “complete jungleraj” prevailing in West UP yet no serious attempt is being made to create a high court bench here! Is  there any logic in it? Why when Centre can create one more bench for Maharashtra which already has 3 benches then why can’t it create one bench at least in West UP?

                                   Already the lawyers of West UP have been struggling since last more than 50 years for a bench and have gone on strike for 6 months also as in 2001, 3 to 4 months as in 2014-15 apart from every Saturday since May 1981! Centre must relent at least now and create a bench here as it has done in Maharashtra so that the litigants are not compelled to travel whole night about 700 km on an average many times without reservation also all the way to attend court hearings at Allahabad! No more excuses!

 

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Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate

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