Published on: 30 December 2022 at 22:19 IST
“I often hear the remark that it is useless to try to do anything because the government is all-powerful. But in holding this opinion one also denies the very basis of democracy. If one is a democrat,”.
“One has to believe that however powerful the government may be, public opinion can ultimately assert itself and compel the Government to submit to that opinion. It is only this faith which can make the working of democratic institutions possible, and as I said in this, lawyers can play a big part.”
These most pragmatic, powerful and pertinent statements were made by none other than the most legendary former Bombay High Court Chief Justice late Mr MC Chagla who had the unique distinction of manning the most prestigious post of the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court for 11 years from 1947 to 1958 and who famously penned these sagacious words in his autobiography titled “Roses In December”.
If in world anywhere the lawyers have practically dared to differ with the government at Centre and speak out most vocally in favour of the more than 75 years old legitimate demand for setting up a High Court Bench, it is none other than the lawyers of West UP who have been unrelenting, undeterred and uncompromising in its sacred struggle for setting up a High Court Bench in West UP! So it cannot be ever disputed that the lawyers of West UP have been unanimous in not compromising on anything less than the setting up of a High Court Bench in West UP!
It must be mentioned here that the lawyers of West UP have always put their best foot forward in arguing strictly on the ground of merit and pure merit alone for setting up a High Court Bench in West UP which is the crying need of the hour also right since independence.
None other than the Union Law Minister of State SP Baghel has himself conceded that the litigants of West UP have to travel more than 800 km on an average all the way to not just Lucknow which is 200 km earlier but right uptill Allahabad to secure justice! But much to my dismay and to the dismay of the lawyers of West UP, Centre has just rode roughshod over our robust, remarkable, rational and reasonable arguments in support of the legitimate demand for a High Court Bench in West UP.
What I find totally inexplicable is that why inspite of UP having maximum pending cases among all the States in India and here too it is West UP which alone owes for more than half of the total pending cases still why West UP has been deprived of even a Single High Court Bench?
What is equally inexplicable is that why when Justice Jaswant Singh Commission which was constituted with a former Supreme Court Judge– Justice Jaswant Singh as its head when former PM late Mrs Indira Gandhi was PM and who had very strongly recommended three High Court Benches for undivided UP at Agra, Dehradun and Nainital yet not even a single High Court Bench was created which is most confounding! Why Centre took no time in creating High Court Bench for other States like Maharashtra at Aurangabad which already had High Court Bench at Nagpur and Panaji?
Same is the case with West Bengal which already had a Bench at Port Blair and yet one more was approved for it at Jalpaiguri and one High Court was approved for Tamil Nadu at Madurai? It is for Centre to come clean on this!
It would certainly not tantamount to an exaggeration from any angle if I say with a sense of responsibility that Centre most preposterously deciding in not ever implementing the Justice Jaswant Singh Commission’s historic recommendations to create 3 High Court Benches in undivided UP is a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions.
It must be said that Uttarakhand would definitely not have ever come into existence if Centre had been honest enough to actually ensure that the landmark recommendations were unbiasedly implemented in undivided UP where all it was recommended at Agra, Dehradun and Nainital. Centre not conceding to even a Single High Court Bench since 1948 when the first PM Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru approved a Bench at Lucknow just 200 km away from Allahabad where High Court itself is located is nothing but stupidity of the highest order due to which the people of Uttarakhand had to travel more than a thousand kilometers all the way not just till Lucknow which is 200 km before but right till Allahabad itself to get justice! When people furiously agitated for separate State itself as they became convinced that Centre will never allow a High Court Bench to them in undivided UP then Centre most smilingly dished out High Court itself at Nainital to those same hilly areas who till November 2000 when they formed part of UP were denied even a single High Court Bench!
Why is it that the former Union Minister in PM Narendra Modi’s Cabinet named Satyapal Singh who is also former Mumbai Police Commissioner and who had very strongly recommended 5 High Court Benches at Meerut, Agra, Varanasi, Jhansi and Gorakhpur yet not a single created till now?
Why BJP under leadership of PM Narendra Modi has behaved like a copycat of late former PM Jawaharlal Nehru by not approving a single High Court Bench in any nook and corner of UP in his 8 and a half year rule?
Why PM Modi took no time in approving Telangana as a separate State on 2 June 2014 whose population is just about 3 crore but for ten crore people of West UP, Centre is not ready to approve even a single High Court Bench nor for any other needy region of UP like Bundelkhand or Purvanchal?
Why none other than former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself took the lead in raising forcefully the legitimate demand for a High Court Bench in West UP in Parliament in 1986 most vociferously but still Centre did nothing?
Why none other than BJP own MPs like Rajender Aggarwal from Meerut, Sanjeev Baliyan, Gen VK Singh and many other MPs and MLAs from West UP have time and again raised the demand for a High Court Bench yet we see nothing happening on ground which is most dejecting?
Rajender Aggarwal who represents BJP as MP in Parliament was in fact honoured in Meerut Bar for forcefully raising the demand of a High Court Bench in Parliament but what has it yielded on ground? Just nothing!
Why is it that the lawyers of West UP are now compelled and left with no option but to declare November 30, 2022 as a “No Work Day” and will all assemble at Meerut as decided by the Central Action Committee formed to fight the cause for High Court Bench in West UP many decades back to discuss, deliberate and debate threadbare on future strategies to accelerate most rapidly the sacred agitation of setting up a High Court Bench in West UP?
I have seen for myself how lawyers of West UP have gone on strike for 6 months as in 2001 with full gusto, one month as in 2010, two months as in 2009 and four to five months as in 2014-15 and many times every Wednesday apart from every Saturday since May 1981 till November 2022 and one month hunger strike in 1976 and some times for weeks together and what not including taking out padyatras, sleeping whole night outside court premises while boycotting Lok Adalat yet Centre remains totally unmoved which is really most shocking to see!
Not just this, why many times so many senior lawyers themselves apart from the young lawyers have most willingly braved police lathis, got injured in hands, legs, face, head and what not and some have even attempted to self-immolate on this most emotive issue of setting up of a High Court Bench in West UP yet it has had most shockingly just no effect on Centre?
How long will Centre take to decide ultimately on setting up a High Court Bench in West UP? For how many years did Jawaharlal Nehru deliberated to create a High Court Bench in Eastern UP where already there was a High Court at Allahabad? Not even one year! Just in few months he had the guts, gall and gumption to create a High Court Bench in “Nawab City” which is termed as Lucknow way back on July 1 in 1948! This is called “strong political will”! He certainly had taken wrong decisions but he had the unflinching faith in himself but all the PM after him till now never had that type of faith to create even a single High Court Bench in even the hilly areas that were more than thousands of kilometers away from Allahabad!
What also merits noticing is that in its “hearts of heart”, Centre from 1947 till November 2022 feels most elated to have honoured Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s wish of undivided UP having just one High Court Bench at Lucknow better known as “Nawab City” so that the people there and adjoining regions don’t even have to travel till Allahabad which is just about 200 km away to attend court hearings and seek justice and most comfortably, coolly and calmly travel in their own “Nawab City” named Lucknow! It is very difficult at least for me to get my mind besotted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who is not just India’s first PM but also a Barrister trained in UK who propounded that no place except Lucknow and Lucknow alone which is more renownedly known as “Nawab City” alone fits the bill deserving to be given a High Court Bench and all PM till incumbent PM Narendra Modi have continued to play out senselessly this duplicitous charade that Lucknow alone deserves a High Court Bench and no other place in whole of UP!
Most disgusting and this tantamount to nothing but making a worst mockery of Article 14 of the Constitution and trampling it under its feet without being held accountable by any court in India!
It is indisputable that criteria for creation of High Court Bench has to be evolved based on reason, fair play and non arbitrariness. In such case, the public interest has to be the prime guiding consideration and so also distance from the High Court so that litigants are not compelled to travel whole night and half day as we see in case of litigants from West UP! What I find totally inexplicable is that why inspite of West UP accounting for more than half of total pending cases of UP and the districts of this region are at an average of about 700 km all the way to Allahabad still no Bench has been created here.
It must definitely be asked: Why the 230th report of Law Commission of India has not been implemented in UP and Bihar where it was needed most as it is UP which tops the State list of having maximum pending cases of more than 10 lakhs in High Court and nearly in crore in lower courts and so also in other needy states like Rajasthan and Odisha?
Why Karnataka whose population at 6 crore is far less than that of population of West UP whose population is 10 crore and still it has High Court and in 2013 Benches were created for just 4 and 8 districts of Karnataka at Dharwad and Gulbarga respectively? Why Centre is ready to give anything to UP except High Court Bench?
Let me be very candid in conceding that, “All this only serves to makes me hang my head in shame as even Supreme Court has never risen to the occasion by speaking most vociferously for the people of West UP and Bihar who have suffered endlessly and are still suffering due to no decision being taken by Centre on this count! Maharashtra tops in justice index ranking among all States still has 4 High Court Benches and UP for whom former UP Chief Justice DB Bhosale who himself hailed from Maharashtra said that in UP, women and children are not safe with their men even on national highways while referring to rape and loot of women and children in a national highway at Bulandshahr in West UP but in Maharashtra women and girls are safe even in nights and that too all alone still Maharashtra has High Court Benches at Aurangabad, Nagpur, Panaji and Kolhapur but UP has just one at Lucknow! Most shocking indeed!
Parvez Alam, Advocate
Views are Personal