The Bombay Bar Association Monday passed a resolution “condemning the action of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur” for withdrawing a bunch of noise pollution matters from a bench headed by Justice A S Oka and assigning it to another bench. The move, made after allegations by the government of the judge harbouring “serious bias” against the state machinery, was reversed on Monday. Last Thursday, the government had filed an application seeking transfer of all noise pollution matters from a bench headed by Justice Oka. The judge had expressed “prima facie” opinion against the state’s view on doing away with silence zones.
Monday’s resolution states that the Bar Association “strongly condemns and deprecates the action of the Chief Justice in withdrawing a part heard matter from a Judge of this Court on the reckless, baseless and unwanted allegation of bias against the Judge concerned.” The Chief Justice had referred two of the matters related to noise pollution to a three-judge bench headed by Justice Oka and comprising Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice Riyaz Chagla. The Association said that this too was not warranted, and has “urged the honourable Chief Justice to refer them to the division bench of Justice Oka,” states the resolution.
Several lawyers had also recently questioned the speedy manner in which the noise pollution matters were transferred by the Chief Justice based on the government’s allegations.
Chief Justice Manjula Chellur took over the Bombay High Court a year ago after serving as the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court. In March, she had faced criticism when she questioned the dress code of journalists while hearing a matter relating to doctors’ strike. The Bombay Bar Association, meanwhile, has also “strongly condemned the conduct of the Advocate General in making the application for recusal of the bench headed by Justice Oka.” The resolution states that such an application was made on totally untenable and unwarranted grounds and attempted to interfere with the administration of justice and attacked the independence of judiciary.
The managing committee of the Advocates Association of Western India (AAWI) had also held a meeting on Saturday. “In the instant case, the litigant being the state government, it should have shown restraint and should not have stooped to alleged bias against a Judge like Justice A S Oka who has been above board and has dedicated himself to the cause of justice for many years,” the secretary of AAWI Viresh Purwant had said.
This is one of the rare instances where lawyer associations have come out in support of a Judge while deprecating the state government’s stand of alleging bias against the Judge.