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Centre 'discriminating' UP, is refusing more high court benches. Will CJI-designate act?

By Sanjeev Sirohi*
If more high court benches are created all over India, as was very recommended by the 230th report of the Law Commission of India, it will produce luminaries like the Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate Sharad Arvind Bobde. It was the Nagpur High Court Bench which nurtured and groomed him as lawyer.
Bobde gave up his roaring practice to accept “judgeship”, and the rest is history. Would it have been possible if Nagpur had no high court bench? Without leaving his home and migrating anywhere else like in Mumbai, where the High Court is located, or at Aurangabad, where High Court Bench is also located, he could give his best and create a niche by becoming CJI designate, thus bringing glory not only to himself but also to Nagpur, where he practiced in high court bench for more than 22 years.
It is Maharashtra’s fortune that the Bombay High Court, which earlier had three high court benches at Nagpur, Kolhapur and Panaji, was accorded one more bench by the Centre in Kolhapur for just six districts in 2018. But it is India’s biggest misfortune that Uttar Pradesh (UP) has least -- which is incomprehensible.
Why no high court bench was created in UP even after the recommendations of Justice Jaswant Singh Commission, which was appointed by the then Indira Gandhi government in late 1970s? Justice Jaswant Singh recommended three high court benches for UP but not one was created, even though on its recommendations benches of high court were created at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.
Uttar Pradesh is the biggest state amongst all the states in India with maximum population at more than 22 crore, which is more than even that of Pakistan. Here, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi keep bragging at public rallies time and again about India's development. It has maximum MPs in Lok Sabha (80), maximum MPs in Rajya Sabha (31), maximum MLAs in Vidhan Sabha (404), maximum MLAs in Vidhan Parishad (100).
It has maximum judges at lower courts at more than 5,000, maximum judges in High Courts at 160, but also maximum pending cases in lower courts at more than 50 lakh, maximum pending cases in the High Court at more than 10 lakh, maximum members in UP Bar Council, which is more than one lakh, the highest not just in India but in the whole world, as is pointed out in the website of the UP Bar Council.
The state has, in fact, maximum elected representatives at all levels, including villages, like sarpanches, maximum villages, which are again more than one lakh, maximum tehsils, maximum mayors, maximum districts (75) -- and also maximum poverty.
Yet it has just one high court bench, that too just about 200 km away from Allahabad, at Lucknow. Jawaharlal Nehru created it on July 1, 1948, 72 years ago. Ironically, while a high court was set up in Uttarakhand in 2000 for 13 districts, whose people earlier had to travel far away for more than 50 years after independence, none exists for West UP, which has 26 districts, and is notorious for lawlessness.
Who can deny that the Bar Council of UP has maximum members in the whole world, yet its former chairperson Darvesh Yadav just within three days of being elected was brutally murdered right inside court premises by pumping three bullets on her?
Justice Bobde
Who can deny that even Supreme Court lawyers are not safe in West UP, and this stands vindicated by the recent brutal murder of lady advocate Kuljeet Kaur in Noida in West UP right inside her house? Who can deny that many senior lawyers in the past also have been brutally murdered, not just in West UP, but in other parts also, as we saw in Basti?
Recently we saw a senior lawyer in Meerut Mukesh Sharma being brutally murdered just adjacent to his house while he had gone for walk. Another advocate Zahid was murdered in Baghpat. In Muzaffarnagar still another advocate Ameer Saifi was murdered. For how long will West UP's legitimate claim for a high court bench be consistently ignored?
UP must have maximum benches in India, and not minimum, as most unfortunately we have been seeing for the last 72 years
UP must have maximum benches in India, and not minimum, as most unfortunately we have been seeing for the last 72 years. The Centre's adamant approach to not create any bench anywhere else in UP other than Lucknow is responsible for the demand being raised for separate state, as we see in Bundelkhand, West UP, Poorvanchal and other parts.
The Centre can create two more benches for a peaceful state like Karnataka with just 6 crore people, at Dharwad and Gulbarga, for just four and eight districts, respectively, even though it had a bench already at Hubli. But for more than 9 crore people of West UP it is not ready to create even a single bench. Incidentally, Karnataka has just about 1 lakh pending cases, as against UP, which has more than 10 lakh pending cases, half of them from West UP!
The same is true of Assam and Maharashtra, which have 4 benches each, even though their pending cases stand nowhere compared to UP, whom Ban Ki Moon, former UN Secretary General, slammed as "rape and crime capital of India". West UP has more cases, more than both the states put together!
Is this is what Article 14, which talks about right to equality, stands for? Is the Centre not making an open mockery of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution? Are the people of West UP not entitled to get “speedy justice”, “justice at doorsteps” and “cheap justice” just like the people of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam etc.?
Why is it that the high court and benches of 8 states are closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad? Why even the Lahore High Court in Pakistan is closer to West UP as compared to the Allahabad High Court?
Former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee said in 2001, while he was Attorney Geal, “The Centre is fully empowered to create a bench in any of the districts in West UP without any recommendation from the Chief Justice or anyone else in this regard.” Former Supreme Court Bar Association chairman Krishnamani also said, “Only by the creation of a high court bench in West UP will the people living here get real justice.”
CJI Ranjan Gogoi, while disposing of a petition on this filed by a lady advocate KL Chitra last year, also appreciated the dire need for a bench in West UP, but added, it is for the Centre to decide on it. One hopes that the new CJI would seriously look into it.
He must act as the Centre has failed to act in the last more than 72 years, especially in case of UP and Bihar, which in spite of being lawless states have just one bench and no bench respectively!
One hopes he will act on this score and do what none of his predecessors has dared but tended to play safe by leaving the ball in the Centre’s court, which has done just nothing at all, even though the incumbent Law Minister of India, Ravi Shankar Prasad, is from Bihar and the Prime Minister represents Varanasi in UP.
---
*Advocate, Meerut, UP

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