In a shocking development, the state government on Thursday alleged serious bias against Justice AS Oka, who heads the bench that has been hearing a batch of petitions seeking strict implementation of Noise Pollution Rules.
As reported earlier, a bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla had refused to accept the state government’s stand that currently there were no silence zones in the state in light of the new amendment to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000.
The court had said on Wednesday that the earlier judgment passed in August 2016 would continue to operate until the state government files an application for review of that judgment and the same is finally decided. Under this judgment, areas within 100 m of hospitals, educational institutions and courts were declared as silence zones.
As the matter was being heard on Wednesday, Advocate General AA Kumbhakoni said he would have difficulty appearing in the afternoon session as he is appearing in a full bench matter. Therefore, the matter was adjourned and kept at 11 am on Thursday. As the matter came up today, AG Kumbhakoni submitted on behalf of the state that an application has been filed before the Chief Justice on the instructions of Deputy Secretary, Home Department, seeking transfer of the case to another bench alleging that Justice Oka harboured “serious bias” against the state machinery in this matter.
The bench expressed its shock at the state government’s move, but refused to recuse and deferred the matter till after lunch, at 3 pm so that state’s application before the Chief Justice could be heard till then.
The said application was placed before the Chief Justice by the registrar and the same was allowed.
Thereafter, Justice Oka told all the advocates appearing in the matter that Chief Justice has transferred the matter and constituted another bench to hear it.
A bench of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice GS Kulkarni will now hear the matter.
Advocate Birendra Saraf, who is appearing for one of the petitioners in the case, Awaaz Foundation, strongly disapproved the move on state’s part. He told LiveLaw:“It is shocking that the Government comes down to this (referring to the transfer application), it is usually the desperate attempt of a litigant and the government cannot be expected to act in such a manner.”
Senior Advocate Anil Anturkar, who is also appearing for one of the petitioners, said this was a sign of the times to come. Another Senior Advocate appearing in the matter, SM Gorwadkar said this was a “mala fide, politically motivated move”.