MUMBAI: Three days after the noise pollution case was withdrawn from senior Bombay high court judge Justice Abhay Oka after the state government alleged he was “harbouring serious bias” against it, he will now head a full bench constituted to hear it.
A setback for the state government, which had accused the senior judge of being biased and wanted a different bench to hear noise pollution cases

Manjula Chellur, the chief justice of the Bom bay High Court, on Sun day reconstituted a bench headed by Justice AS Oka to examine issues related to the implementation of the Noise Pollution Rules, 2000.The move came a day after two of the country’s oldest Bar Associations backed Justice Oka in a row with the state government, which has accused him of harbouring a bias against it. At the state’s request, Chief justice Chellur had on August 24 transferred all the petitions pertaining to noise pollution norms that Justice Oka and Jutice Riaz Chagla were hearing to another bench.

On Sunday, the previous bench was reconstituted. Justice AV Mohta is now also a part of it. The three-judge bench will begin hearing the petitions today. The Registrar General of the Bombay High Court confirmed the formation of the bench to Mirror.

The development, for now, marks the end of a row that created an uproar in the legal fraternity. It was for the first time that the state government sought transfer of cases after alleging that a senior high court judge was biased. The government made the claim after the bench headed by Justice Oka expressed a view that the state’s stand on silence zones could not override an order passed by that bench last year.

The bench had last year ruled that there was no specific need for declaration of a silence zone. The state has been arguing that those rules have now been amended and a silence zone can’t be regarded as one unless the government issues a notification to that effect.

Justice Oka expressed shock over the bias claim and refused to recuse himself from the case. But the chief justice passed an administrative order transferring all the petitions to a special bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice GS Kulkarni. On Saturday, the Advocates Association of Western India and the Bombay Bar Association defended Justice Oka. The two organisations, which are more than 150 years old, welcomed the chief justice’s new order on Sunday.

AAWI is one of the two bar associations in the high court that had called for extraordinary general body meetings on Monday. Chavan also said CJ Manjula Chellur is in Delhi to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the new Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

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. On August 24 the state government accused him of “harbouring serious bias” and moved the CJ seeking transfer the noise pollution matter and all connected cases another bench. CJ Chellur promptly withdrew the case from him and passed an administrative order to place it before a bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice Girish Kulkarni. However this unprecedented incident lead to severe condemnation from citizens and advocates who rallied to express their support for Justice Oka.

AAWI’s honorary secretary Viresh Purwant on Sunday sent a notice to all its members informing them about the constitution of the full bench and that the matter will be listed on Monday. “We are happy that we stood united to protect the independence of the judiciary,” said the notice. On Saturday the managing committee of AAWI at an emergency meeting passed a resolution condemning the government. It “urged the chief justice to take appropriate action leading to defibrillate the honour of Justice A S Oka.

“We are happy that we stood united to protect the independence of the judiciary,“ said Viresh Purwant, secretary of Advocates Association of Western India.

The association’s managing committee had passed a resolution on Saturday condemning the state’s attempt to discredit Justice Oka.