August 27, 2017 4:29:09 am
Even as the state government levelled allegations against Justice A S Oka of harbouring “serious bias” against the state machinery during a hearing relating to noise pollution matters, lawyers’ associations and many senior counsels have come out in his support and expressed confidence in his judicial integrity. “He is one of the finest judges who is known for his capacity and devotion for work and his legal acumen. He does not shy away from passing courageous orders. He is not affected by the identity of the litigant or the lawyer. These allegations are completely baseless. I don’t think the state realises the ramifications of making such allegations and I hope that better sense prevails and they withdraw their application,” said senior counsel Darius Khambata.
Having been a Judge in the Bombay High Court for 14 years now, Justice Oka has passed judgments and orders in several important matters like the beef ban where a bench headed by him allowed consumption of imported beef while continuing the ban on slaughtering of cows in Maharashtra. In another matter, he had directed party leaders from BJP and MNS and party workers of BJP to pay Rs 3.6 lakh for putting up illegal hoardings despite contempt notices issued by court. “He is a very upright judge and fiercely independent. His integrity is unquestionable and he is known for his quality work,” said senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas. A resident of Thane, he comes from a family of lawyers. He enrolled as an advocate in 1983 and started practicing in the Thane District Court in the Chamber of his father Shreeniwas W Oka. He was eventually elevated as additional Judge of the Bombay High Court on August 29, 2003.
Giving on example of why Justice Oka is known to be a honest Judge, state lawyer and counsel for CBI Hiten Venegaonkar said, “When he was practicing as a lawyer he had gone back to the then Chief Justice B P Singh and apologised for citing an overruled Supreme Court judgment due to which the petition in which he had appeared had succeeded. But owing to his honesty, the same petition was later dismissed. The CJ had applauded his conduct and had taken judicial note about the same.” Senior Advocate Milind Sathe, who is also the president of the Bombay Bar Association, said Justice Oka is not known to dodge matters owing to its content, volume or substance. “He is known for his very methodical way of working,” he added.
The Managing Committee of Advocates Association of Western India, meanwhile, passed a resolution Saturday condemning the “tactics” of the state government seeking transfer of a part heard matter before Justice A S Oka to another Bench. “The Managing Committee deprecates the growing unethical tendency among litigants to allege bias against a Judge or Judges in an ongoing litigation knowing well that the matter is going against them,” said Viresh Purwant, secretary of the association. The Bombay Bar Association has also called for an extraordinary general meeting next Monday to discuss and pass an appropriate resolution.
The government had filed an application on Thursday where it had sought transfer of all noise pollution matter from a bench headed by Justice Oka after he had expressed “prima facie” opinion against the state’s view on silence zones. The Centre had amended the Noise Pollution Rules 2000 earlier this month under which the state was supposed to declare silence zones. Advocate General A Kumbhakoni had informed the court that, therefore, no silence zones existed in the state as of now. Justice Oka disagreed with this stand stating the government would first have to seek modification of the court’s 2016 orders relating to silence zones. The matters were eventually transferred to another bench by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur.
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