Maharashtra govt says sorry for accusing HC judge of ‘bias’
The Maharashtra government had made the allegations in a bunch of petitions relating to noise pollution that were being heard by a division bench headed by Justice Oka.
Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Updated: August 29, 2017 3:37 am
<img class="size-full wp-image-4818326" src="http://images.indianexpress.com/2017/08/justice-as-oka.jpg" alt="justice oka, maharashtra govt, bombay hc, hc judge, mumbai high court, bombay judge biasness case, maharashtra news, indian express" /> Justice A S Oka
The Maharashtra government Monday apologised and withdrew the allegations it earlier made against Justice A S Oka of the Bombay High Court that the judge harbours a “serious bias” against the state machinery. The government had made the allegations in a bunch of petitions relating to noise pollution that were being heard by a division bench headed by Justice Oka.
The bench has now asked the state government to file an affidavit tendering an unconditional apology while expressing remorse for its conduct. “The damage is irreparable as far as the institution is concerned,” said Justice Oka, adding that the Advocate General should make the state government aware of the “consequences” of its action. Justice Oka further said the “state did not trust the High Court and that is the difficulty”.
“You have taken this 155-year-old institution for a ride. First, go and apologise to the Chief Justice whom you misled by not showing our order. Your apology is not bonafide,” said the court.
In a fresh communication by deputy secretary Vijay Patil submitted before the court on Monday, he pointed out that the contention of bias was “not raised as an allegation against the Honourable Judge personally but was limited specifically and limited only to the ‘subject matter’ involved in the group of matters”. It further stated that the state held the Judge individually with pride and in the highest esteem and has the highest regard and respect for him “which is demonstrated by the state in various matters” decided by him where it is a contesting party,” the communication stated. The request for transferring the cases to another bench has also been withdrawn.
The government had filed an application last Thursday, where it had sought transfer of all noise pollution matters being heard by a bench headed by Justice Oka after he had expressed “prima facie” opinion against the state’s view doing away with silence zones.
The Centre had amended the Noise Pollution Rules 2000 on August 10, under which the state was supposed to declare silence zones. Advocate General A Kumbhakoni had informed the court that no silence zones existed in the state as of now and a fresh exercise would have to be undertaken by the state government to identify silence zones.
A division bench of Justice Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla, however, expressed their view and disagreed with this stand of the government stating that the government would first have to seek modification of the court’s 2016 order declaring an area of not less than 100 metres around hospitals, educational institutions and courts constitutes a silence zone.
READ | Justice Oka row leaves Fadnavis red-faced
On Thursday, Chief Justice Manjula Chellur had transferred the matters to a special bench of Justice Anoop V Mohta and Justice G S Kulkarni. But apparently the state government did not inform the Chief Justice of an order passed by Justice Oka while hearing the matter earlier in the day leading her to pass such an order of transfer of cases. Later, the order of transfer of matters before a bench which did not include Justice Oka was withdrawn by the Chief Justice.
“The AG sought that this bench recuse itself from the hearing. However, when we passed an order refusing to do so, you failed to inform the Chief Justice of our order. As a result, the CJ was forced to pass the transfer order, and then later, she was compelled to withdraw it,” the bench said.
Awaaz Foundation's anti- noise pollution campaign has been covered extensively in the Press and media since 2003.