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"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."

It certainly deserves mentioning at the very outset that these most matchless and most invaluable words were penned by none other than one of the eminent legal luminary, legal jurist and legal wizard and so also the most legendary and most distinguished former Bombay High Court Chief Justice late Hon’ble Mr MC Chagla in his most popular and world renowned autobiography titled "Roses In December" who refused to shift to Supreme Court as Judge and still earns the most stupendous and phenomenal distinction of donning the most prestigious post of the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court for 11 years from 1947 to 1958.

The billion dollar question is: When will Centre bring the curtains down on the most pressing issue of setting up a High Court Bench in West UP which has been hanging fire for a mind boggling time of more than 77 years? When will Centre go full throttle in ensuring that the creation of a High Court Bench in West UP is done now without any more dilly-dallying on one pretext or the other? On a broader plane, what must weigh maximum in Centre’s scheme of things is its commitment to ensure that the litigants of West UP gets justice at doorsteps which is possible only by the creation of a High Court Bench in any of the district of West UP at the earliest!

The moot question that keeps niggling my mind most of the time is: Why can’t Centre be more flexible in dealing with the Bench issue in West UP? Why has Centre made it a prestige issue? I will certainly place a large measure of the blame on Centre because it is the Centre which has to take the final call on this as was clearly specified by former CJI Mr Ranjan Gogoi who as CJI in November 2018 while listening to a PIL filed by women lawyer KM Chitra on the pressing need for a High Court Bench in West UP and had acknowledged the compelling need for the same! The PIL was dismissed as Mr Gogoi placed the onus of decision making on Centre which Centre must gracefully acknowledge instead of blaming the CM of UP or Governor of UP or Chief Justice of UP which are nothing but most flimsy and false excuses!

Against this backdrop, it is totally incomprehensible as to why Centre is not doing anything on it? What I find even far most atrocious is that even now Centre most shockingly is not ready to open its eyes to see the ground reality! How long will Centre continue to pretend that there is just nothing wrong in depriving West UP with more than 10 crores population from having even a single High Court Bench while most deplorably, despicably and dastardly having just no qualms in approving a High Court itself for just 3 crore people of Telangana and that too 10 years ago in 2014 by PM Mr Narendra Damodardas Modi?

How different is BJP from Congress on this? You tell me! I am definitely at a complete loss to comprehend that what is stopping Centre from creating more High Court Benches in big states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan which have only one and so also lawless Bihar which has none which leaves me scratching my head in utter shock! What is even more confounding to note and rattles me most is to see that Centre takes just no time to create multiple High Court Benches at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts only in 2008 for peaceful States like Karnataka which has a population of just 6 crores which means four crores less than West UP at 10 crores! Still most horrendously we see that Centre has most mercilessly deprived West UP from having even a single High Court Bench leave alone having High Court as we see in Karnataka! This is the real rub!

Why we notice a deafening silence on the long pending legitimate and most compelling demand for a High Court Bench in West UP which was most strongly recommended even by Justice Jaswant Singh Commission appointed by Centre itself who recommended maximum 3 High Court Benches for undivided UP with Main High Court Bench in Agra in West UP yet not one created and States like Maharashtra which already had multiple High Court Benches at Nagpur and Panaji was given one more at Aurangabad yet Apex Court in last so many decades has done just nothing on this most brazen, brutal, blind and baseless discrimination perpetrated by Centre and we see no such anger on this which affects the more than 10 crore people of West UP! Why?

Nothing on earth can be more unfortunate than this irrefutable fact that even as India has gone way ahead of celebrating its 75th "National Republic Day" yet we see lamentably that the State of Uttar Pradesh which has maximum population more than 25 crores and so also has maximum MPs both in Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha and so also has maximum MLAs among all the States and so also has maximum villages more than one lakh and so also has maximum number of pending cases in High Court more than 10 lakh cases and here too more than half of the pending cases are from West UP and so also has maximum pending cases in lower courts about to touch nearly one crore and so also has maximum number of Judges in all courts both in lower and in High Courts and has maximum members in State Bar Council that is the maximum in the world and still has just one High Court Bench and that too so close to Allahabad at Lucknow established in 1948 more than 76 years ago where it was just not needed at all as it is so close to Allahabad in Eastern UP and nowhere else! Worst of all, the litigants of West UP were not attached with even Lucknow which falls 230 km earlier but right uptill Allahabad to seek justice which in itself is the biggest injustice as whole night and half day is wasted on just travelling alone! Former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee had clearly said in 2001 while he was Attorney General that, "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."

Not just this, we must note that even former Chairman of Supreme Court Bar Association Krishna Mani had very categorically stated that, "Only by the creation of a bench of HC in West UP will the people be able to secure justice." That West UP inspite of having more than 10 crore population has not even a single High Court Bench and States like Telangana was awarded Statehood in 2014 despite having just 3 crores population is what is most disturbing to note! That West UP does not have a Bench since 1947 till 2024 is most disquieting to note. It is a ghoulish mockery of Article 21 and Article 39A which provides for equal justice and free legal aid and the 230th Report of the Law Commission of India which more than 14 years ago strongly recommended creation of more High Court Benches yet lies unimplemented!

Many term Allahabad High Court as the biggest High Court in the world still why it has just one Bench only and why so many smaller States like Karnataka whose population is about 4 crore less than West UP at 6 crore whereas West UP alone has 10 crores population yet we see two High Court Bench created in one go by Centre in 2008 at Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts only but not a single for 30 districts of West UP with population of more than 10 crores for which even Justice Jaswant Singh Commission in mid 1980s recommended a permanent Main High Court Bench at Agra as West UP owes for more than half of the total pending cases of UP as conceded also by Commission but yet not created and Maharashtra which already had multiple High Court Benches was given one more as recommended at Aurangabad but for undivided UP for which maximum 3 Benches were recommended not even a single Bench was most mercilessly allowed to come up in any part of UP! These bone chilling facts just cannot be swept inside the carpet and reflects the raw, rotten and ruthless discrimination perpetrated on North States like UP, Bihar and Rajasthan!

Bluntly put: Is this is what Article 14 which talks about right to equality stands for? Is Centre not making an open mockery of Article 14 of 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 Lahore High Court in Pakistan is closer to West UP as compared to Allahabad High Court? Still should a high court bench not be created here?

It must also be asked: Why has Bench remained elusive for West UP for such a long time? Why is Centre demonstrating so much of obduracy in addressing it? Why West UP which owes for more than half of the total pending cases of UP has no High Court Bench? What is the point in denying West UP even a single Bench when it owes for more than half of the total pending cases of UP and High Court at Allahabad is so far about 700 km on average for which Justice Jaswant Singh Commission also recommended strongly a Bench? What keeps on running in my mind most of the time is: Why is Centre so hell bent in denying West UP even a single Bench due to which the lawyers of West UP had gone on "total strike" on January 18, 2024? For 6 months in 2001 and in 2014 the lawyers of West UP had gone on 6 months strike for Bench and for two to three months also many times and one month hunger strike in 1976 and strike from May 1981 to April 2024 every Saturday to register strongest protest and many times even on Wednesday which was later discontinued so that litigants don’t suffer hugely!

It is definitely most deeply disappointing to see that even after more than 77 years of independence we still see that no party ruling in Centre has ever cared for the endless woes of the litigants of West UP which they have been facing by being made to travel whole night and half day all the way to Allahabad averaging 700 to 800 km due to the most despicable, dastardly and derisive stand of Centre to not allow even a single High Court Bench in whole of West UP or even in whole of UP even though former Mumbai Commissioner of Police and former Union Cabinet Minister in PM Narendra Modi’s regime Dr Satyapal Singh very strongly pitched his voice right inside Parliament a few years back in support of two High Court Benches for West UP at Meerut and Agra and in addition also demanded High Court Bench in Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Jhansi! As if this was not enough, late Mr AB Vajpayee demanded High Court Bench for West UP at Meerut in 1986 as Opposition Leader in Parliament and so also many UP CM in past having recommended Bench with Sampoornand having recommended it in 1955 and with Mayawati recommending creation of West UP as a separate State in 1995 and still till now in April 2024, we see no High Court Bench set up anywhere not just in West UP but in whole of UP except the one at Lucknow where it was just not needed at all created way back in 1948 so near to Allahabad where High Court is located!

The incumbent CM of UP Yogi Adityanath thundered for a High Court Bench in Gorakhpur in 1998 and in 2015 even presented a Private Member Bill in Parliament not for joking! Centre’s firm determination to help the "poorest of the poor" litigants can come to fruition only by the creation of more High Court Bench in needy regions like West UP, Purvanchal and Bundelkhand! Centre must act most promptly and if Centre fails then Apex Court must take suo motu cognizance!

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