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Sign of BJP setback? Yogi 'fails' to ensure separate High Court bench for western UP

By Sanjeev Sirohi*

BJP appears on have made it clear that in its five year rule it is deadly opposed to the creation of a new High Court bench in western Uttar Pradesh. Today, the Allahabad High Court has just one bench -- in Lucknow, created by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on July 1, 1948. Incumbent CM Yogi Adityanath had thundered for a High Court Bench for Gorakhpur way back in 1999 while representing it as MP inside Parliament, but as CM he could not ensure High Court Bench even for Gorakhpur, leave alone West UP, or Bundelkhand, or any other needy region in UP.
He has been unable to have his way, as the Centre stands supreme on this and this is tilting the perception battle heavily against BJP. Earlier senior Union Cabinet leader Defence Minister Rajnath Singh used to openly say that if BJP wins in Centre and in UP, a High Court Bench in West UP will be created. But BJP reneged on its tall promise -- just like Atal Bihari Vajpayee demanded High Court Bench for West UP inside Parliament in 1986 but reneged when he came to power.
Meanwhile, Jayant Chaudhary, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader, announced recently that if his party came to power he would create three High Court Benches in UP – one in West UP, one in Bundelkhand and a third one at Ghazipur. This has started showing its impact on the ground. He knows: Lucknow is so close to Allahabad, where the High Court is located.
Former PM Indira Gandhi appointed a commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Jaswant Singh, who was also the former Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, to look into where all High Court Benches should be created. It recommended three High Court Benches for undivided UP – one at Agra and two circuit benches at Nainital and Dehradun.
Thereafter, the Centre created a High Court Bench at Aurangabad in Maharashtra which already had two High Court Benches at Nagpur and Panaji, and so also a at Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal! Meanwhile, the people of hilly areas had to travel all the way more than a thousand kilometres to Allahabad as all the districts were attached with Allahabad and not with Lucknow, which was still closer even though not so close.
Today, high courts and benches of eight states, and even Lahore High Court in Pakistan, are nearer to West UP as compared to Allahabad. The lawyers of West UP were compelled to go on strike for six months from July to December 2001 demanding the creation of a High Court bench in West UP, yet no was action taken. Similar strikes also took place in 2009 and 2010. In 2014-15 the lawyers of West UP went on strike for up to four months and even boycotted Lok Adalats and protested whole night outside the court but again the Centre just gave empty assurances but nothing materialized on ground. The saga of repeated strikes is continuing. Recently they were on strike for five days. Now they have even started striking on every Wednesday.
One wonders: Why is there a High Court  bench at Port Blair for just three lakh people, a High Court  for just six lakh people of Sikkim, for just few lakhs of people of people in Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura? Why is there a High Court  now for Uttarakhand since 2000 for just 88 lakh people, but not even a bench for more than nine crore people of West UP? Why such a raw treatment?
Karnataka has 3 High Court Benches, Maharashtra three, Assam four, and Madhya Pradesh two etc. even though they have less than one lakh pending cases. UP has maximum number of pending cases – more than 10 lakh -- of which West UP accounts for more than half of pending cases, 57%, as noted by Justice Jaswant Commission.
West UP has maximum number of fake encounter killings, custodial killings, dowry cases, maximum bride burning cases, human rights violations, robberies, dacoities, undertrials, and cases of loot. Not without reason, former UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon termed UP as “crime and rape capital” of India -- thanks only to West UP.
Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura, apart from Gorakhpur, are considered worthless by BJP’s central leadership for a High Court Bench in UP
The total area of West UP is 98,933 square km and accounts for 33.61 percent of total area of UP and has 26 districts, yet it has no bench, but Lucknow with just 62,363 square km and 12 districts has a bench. The Allahabad High Court is the biggest High Court in whole of Asia, as claimed by Yogi Adityanath, and also one of the oldest High Courts. But that is hardly a solace for the people of west UP.
The UPA government headed by former PM Manmohan Singh decided to create two more High Court Benches for Karnataka which already had a Bench at Hubli for just four and eight districts at Dharwad and Gulbarga respectively in 2008, first as Circuit Bench and then later in 2013 as full Bench as the Karnataka leaders who were very influential were Law Ministers and cared for Karnataka.
The lawyers of West UP headed by senior lawyers and Chairman and Secretary of Central Action Committee constituted for setting up a High Court Bench in 1981 repeatedly met the PM, UPA Chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi among others but nothing happened thereafter.
But why blame UPA alone? Even the incumbent PM Narendra Damodardas Modi has ensured that not a single High Court is approved anywhere, not just in West UP but in any nook and corner of UP, even though it is UP which primarily decides which party will rule in Delhi.
Ranjan Gogoi when CJI had appreciated the dire need of a High Court Bench in West UP when a woman lawyer KL Chitra raised the issue in her PIL, but Gogoi made it clear that it was for the Centre to take the final call on this. But the Centre led by Modi is very firm not to allow a bench other than the one that exists in Lucknow.
Clearly, Jayant Chaudhary has played a super master stroke by promising three High Court Benches for UP which has refreshed the lawyer community the most in UP. Indeed, even holy cities like Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura, apart from Gorakhpur in UP, are considered worthless by BJP’s central leadership for a High Court Bench in UP. This has exposed BJP in the eyes of the people.
---
*Advocate, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh

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