Aug 28 2017 : The Times of India (Mumbai)
`Govt's plea could have set precedent of forum shopping'
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
Loud Criticism Of State Spurs CJ To Set Up Full Bench
Three days after Justice Abhay Oka was withdrawn from hearing a noise pollution case following the state government's allegation that he was “harbouring serious bias“ against it, the senior Bombay high court judge has been brought back to hear the key matter. Chief Justice Manjula Chellur has set up a full bench to be headed by Justice Oka.
“I spoke to the CJ who said alarger bench of Justices Oka, A V Mohta and Riyaz Chagla has been constituted to hear all the noise pollution matters,“ senior advocate Rajiv Chavan, president of Advocates Association of Western India (AAWI), told TOI. HC registrar-general Pushpa Ganediwala confirmed the move.
It is clear the U-turn was a result of the collective uproar by lawyers and citizens who also took to social media to condemn the state government's “unprecedented“ action.
Activist-advocate Raju Moray , who had represented one of the first noise pollution cases, said, “A full bench is usually constituted when there is a divergence in the views of two coordinate benches. The state did not move an application for referring to a larger bench but it moved for transfer of the cases from Justice Oka. The full bench appears to be an afterthought as a result of the outrage on social media and perhaps given that the bar associations were also going to meet.“ A larger bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka has been set up (by the Bombay HC chief justice) probably on being satisfied that a larger question of law is involved in the challenge to the Centre's recent amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules, former Bombay HC Justice B H Marlapalle said.
“Am happy at the solidarity shown by the bar and bench with Justice Oka and against the unfounded allegations which could have set a precedent for browbeating the court and for forum shopping,“ he added.
Rajiv Patil, senior advocate and former chief of the Advocates Association of Western India (AAWI), said, “The constitution of a three-judge bench now doesn't take away the serious allegations of bias made by the state against a judge for a transfer to another bench. Unless withdrawn, it will still be a cause for concern as it could open floodgates of private litigants making similar pleas because the state, which is meant to protect the interest of the entire society while respecting the judiciary , did it.“
In a notice sent to its members, the AAWI has claimed credit for the CJ setting up a full bench. AAWI is one of the two bar associations in the HC that had called for extraordinary general body meetings on Monday . Sources told TOI there was lobbying to ensure that no adverse resolutions are passed by these associations over last week's incident.
On August 24, the state accused Justice Oka of “serious bias“ and moved the CJ seeking transfer of the noise pollution matter and all connected cases to another bench. Then, Justice Oka was heading the division bench, with Justice Riyaz Chagla, that was cracking down on the state for trying to dilute noise pollution norms.Chief Justice Chellur promptly withdrew the case from him and passed an administrative order to place it before a bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and Girish Kulkarni.
AAWI's managing committee on Saturday passed a resolution condemning the government and urging the CJ to take “action leading to defibrillate the honour of Justice Oka“. On Sunday , it sent out a notice to its members say that pursuant to AAWI's stand, the CJ has constituted a larger bench.
Awaaz Foundation's anti- noise pollution campaign has been covered extensively in the Press and media since 2003.