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All PMs since Nehru, including Modi, set aside plea for High Court bench in west UP

By Sanjeev Sirohi*

Amidst frantic preparations for the bhumi poojan of Shri Ram temple in Ayodhya, the lawyers of 26 districts of West UP once again went strike on August 4, 2020 in protest against the gruesome murder of a fellow lawyer, Dharmendra Chaudhary, from Bulandshahr. Chaudhary was missing for 8 days. His decomposed body was recovered from a marble godown in Khurja area on night of July 31, 2020.
In the last few years West UP in particular, along with UP, have witnessed many murders of lawyers, and this explains why even UP Bar Council too had earlier called for boycott of work. West UP accounts for more than 57% of the total pending cases of UP and still both the Allahabad High Court and its single bench, just 200 km away at Lucknow, are both in Eastern UP. West UP along with Purvanchal and Bundelkhand, have been left high and dry!
The lawyers of West UP have been demanding a high court bench since Independence, but after India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru appeared not too keen to allow more than one bench in any part of UP except at Lucknow, which he created on July 1, 1948, we see no PM has ever dared insist on having more benches. When the chief minister of UP in 1955 recommended a high court bench in Meerut, Nehru expressed his reservations.
This became a major reason why the people of hilly areas started agitating vigorously for a separate state and ultimately achieved it after lot of violent protests and demonstrations.
When Indira Gandhi got the recommendation from Justice Jaswant Singh Commission for creating a high court bench in Aurangabad in Maharashtra, which already had 2 benches, at Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, which already had a bench at Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar, and for Madurai in Tamil Nadu, she gave the approvals.
But regarding the recommendation given to create three high court benches at Agra, Nainital and Dehradun, she decided that not have them. Rajiv Gandhi too continued this tradition even though he is said to be in favour of a bench in West UP.  Many UP Congress CMs, including ND Tiwari, recommended a high court bench for West UP, but it was never accepted.
As Opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee vociferously demanded for the creation of a high court bench in West UP in 1986, but when he became PM in 1999 till 2004, he too decided to retract. Dr Manmohan Singh decided to create two more benches for just four and eight districts of Karnataka at Dharwad and Gulbarga respectively at a time when the state had a bench at Hubli, where pending cases are just about 1 lakh.
However, he also didn’t allow another bench UP where pending cases are more than 10 lakh, with West UP alone having more than 5 lakh pending cases. West UP’s population is 9 crore as against Karnataka’s 6 crore. UP’s population is more than 23 crore. Interestingly, Dr Singh had earlier assured a delegation of lawyers from West UP that he would allow a bench to be created. 
Things have not changed under Modi. He decided to create a bench at Kolhapur, taking the tally of benches in Maharashtra to 4. But as for West UP, he is silent
Things have not changed even under Narendra Modi either. He decided to create one more bench of high court at Kolhapur for just six districts, taking the tally of benches in Maharashtra to 4. But as for West UP, he has remained silent. No wonder, Maharashtra tops in the state index list for speedy justice and UP figures in the bottom.
Today, criminals are ruling the roost in UP and are making headlines. The kidnapping-cum-murder of a 28-year-old technician Sanjeet Yadav has already caused universal outrage. Criminals even took Rs 30 lakh from the deceased Sanjeet Yadav’s family, still they murdered him.
Prior to this we saw how a journalist Vikram Joshi was brutally killed right in front of his two daughters in Ghaziabad’s Vijay Nagar again in West UP. In Meerut, also in West UP, a mother and a daughter were brutally killed! The list of such criminal acts is endless. There is no fear of law in West UP among criminals.
The lawyers of West UP have been on strike uninterruptedly every Saturday since May 1981 till now, which means for more than 39 years, against denying West UP even a bench of high court. More than 9 crore people of West UP have to perforce travel more than 700 km on an average all the way to Allahabad to get justice, as the elected representatives have only made tall promises.
UP, the most populated state of India, has the highest number of districts of districts, 75; highest number of Lok Sabha constituencies, 80; maximum number of MLAs 404; maximum number of Prime Ministers, including Narendra Modi, who represents Varanasi; maximum pending cases (more than 10 lakh with West UP accounting for more than half of pending cases -- Justice Jaswant Commission noted these were about 57%); maximum number of judges in the high court, 160; and maximum number of vacancies of judges, including in the lower courts.
The state has the largest Bar Council in the world. Its former chairman Darvesh Yadav, the first woman to get appointed to this post, was murdered in the court premises in Agra, again in West UP. Having maximum poverty, maximum villages with more than one lakh population, the state has also witnessed maximum fake encounters killings, maximum custody killings, maximum dowry cases, maximum bride burning cases, maximum cases of human rights violations, maximum robberies, maximum dacoities, maximum undertrials, maximum cases of crime, loot, arson and riots.
Here too West UP tops with Saharanpur riots, Meerut riots, Muzaffarnagar riots tarnishing India’s international reputation to the extent that former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon termed UP as “crime and rape capital” of India.
How long will the Centre ignore that the Allahabad High Court is the biggest court in the whole of Asia with maximum judges, and also among the oldest courts which completed its 150 years on March 17, 2016 yet has just one bench only?
As chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi while deciding on a PIL brought by a woman lawyer, KL Chitra, for a high court bench in West UP fully appreciated the reasons for setting up a high court bench in West UP, but added that it is for the Centre to take a decision. Yet, the Centre has failed to act.
Why shouldn’t Supreme Court take suo motu action and order for more benches not just in West UP but also in different parts like Jhansi in Bundelkhand, Gorakhpur in Purvanchal and other needy places? Why Supreme Court never acts on this? Why Bar Council of India never speaks a word on this?
---
*Advocate, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh

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