As stated in our earlier story, the matter of silence zones has already been transferred to a separate bench, constituted by the Chief Justice, of Justice Anoop Mohta and Justice GS Kulkarni.
But before the order for transfer was passed, Justice AS Oka passed a detailed order recording all the facts that have been placed before the court until then before adjourning the matter till 3 pm for further hearing.
The order stated that the 2016 judgment declaring any area falling within 100 m of an educational institution, hospital, religious places and courts as a silence zone was challenged by the state government in the Supreme Court. The same SLP was dismissed on February 17, 2017.
The order went on to record the chronology of events that transpired thereafter, including the prima facie view taken by the bench that the state government’s stand was unacceptable as the earlier judgment was still operative.
The order also referred to the Advocate General’s submission that in the city of Mumbai, areas that had been declared as silence zones by the Municipal Corporation will be taken up as guidelines when the state government declares new silence zones.
Thereafter, the order stated: Today, when the matters were called out, the learned Advocate General has placed on record a letter dated 24 August 2017 signed by Shri Manish M. Pabale, AGP addressed to the Hon'ble the Chief Justice. The letter records that it was drafted on the instructions of Shri Vijay Patil, Deputy Secretary of the Home Department, Mantralaya. In the said letter, it is stated that one of the two Judges of this Bench (AS Oka J) is harbouring a serious bias in the subject matter against the State Machinery.
We are shocked to record all this. As stated earlier, we followed the tradition of expressing prima facie view to the learned counsels representing the parties only with a view to get proper assistance from them. After the matters were adjourned yesterday with a view to accommodate the learned Advocate General, the State has filed the letter dated 24th August 2017 making serious allegations of bias against one of us (AS Oka J). We are not saying this to blame the learned Advocate General. But we are saying this for a different reason. The State should have respect for the highest Office of the learned Advocate General who is the constitutional functionary. Suffice it to say that by this conduct on the part of the State Government, they have made the position of the learned Advocate General most awkward. The Advocate General is the leader of the Bar who is the Officer of the Court first. We are sorry to record that the State Government has not bothered to even consider the effect of such a prayer made today when the matters were adjourned yesterday to accommodate the learned Advocate General.”
Further, the order recorded the submissions made by the advocates appearing for the petitioners.
One of the advocates, Birendra Saraf, also submitted that this was meant to ensure that there are no noise restrictions during the Ganpati Festival that has already begun in the city.
Ironically, the final part of the order has directions to the Registrar (Judicial-I) “to ensure that when the said application/praecipe is placed before the Hon'ble the Chief Justice, a copy of this order is produced before the Hon'ble Chief Justice”.
However, after this order was recorded, Justice Oka himself informed the advocates appearing in the matter about the Chief Justice’s order clubbing and transferring these petitions to another bench.