Justice Oka accepts govt.’s unconditional apology

Justice Abhay Oka.  

Justice Abhay Oka on Tuesday accepted the unconditional apology tendered by the State government through Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni. The State government on Monday had withdrawn its contention that Justice Oka was ‘harbouring a serious bias’ while hearing cases pertaining to noise pollution.

‘Statement misunderstood’

In an application tendered on behalf of Mr. Kumbhakoni, the government had said, “The contention of bias by Justice Oka was not raised as an allegation against the Judge personally but was limited specifically and limited only as a ‘subject matter’ pertaining to noise pollution. However, unfortunately it appears that the said intention of the State government has been widely misunderstood and misinterpreted and has been projected as if the State government is against the judiciary in general and the Hon’ble Judge in particular, which the State government never intended nor intends.”

On August 24, the State government had filed an application before Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, seeking transfer of all petitions pertaining to implementation of the Noise Pollution Rules to a Bench of which Justice Oka was not a member. Chief Justice Chellur passed an administrative order the same day allowing the plea and placed the matters before another Bench.

The government’s application drew strong criticism from lawyers and former Advocate Generals. Following this, Chief Justice Chellur transferred the case back to the Bench comprising Justices Oka and Riyaz Chagla, and added another judge to it. The full Bench comprising Justices Oka, Chagla and Anoop Mohta said on Monday that it would hear two petitions challenging the August 2017 amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules on Tuesday.

Justice Oka had told the government that it could not accept Mumbai having no silence zones. This was after the government informed the Bench that there were no ‘silence zones’ across the State. It also meant that Mumbai stood to lose 1,537 silence zones and there would be no silence zones near schools, colleges, hospitals, courts and religious shrines. On Tuesday, the Bench said it would have initiated contempt proceedings had it been any other litigant. The Bench while accepting the apology of the State noted that ‘dignity of this august institution is based on more surer foundation.’

Separate affidavit filed

It also noted that the State government had filed a separate affidavit that tendered an unconditional apology to the institution. It also took note of a senior advocate who was appearing on behalf of the petitioners to put an end to the episode. The Bench said “a loud and clear message had been sent that interference with judiciary will not be tolerated.” It said, “We are showing magnanimity by closing the matter.”

‘Notify silence zones’

Meanwhile, the Central government through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh supported the State government’s stand that the amendment to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000, on August 10 had wiped out silence zones in Maharashtra, and the State had to specifically notify silence zones.

This saw the petitioners urge the full bench of the Bombay High Court of Justice Oka, Justice Mohta and Justice Chagla to reinstate the proposition that ‘noise free life was integral part of right to life as enshrined in Article 21’.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 4:40:08 PM |

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