Law

Maharashtra Government Apologises to Justice Oka Over Claims of Bias in Noise Pollution Case

Senior members of the bar and lawyers’ associations had slammed the government’s allegations and claimed that the move was to ensure that no systems of accountability were in place ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi.

The state government said that its intention has been “misunderstood and misinterpreted to project that the state is against the judiciary.” Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Days after accusing Justice A.S. Oka – who is heading a Bombay high court bench that was cracking down on Maharashtra for its noise pollution norms – of harbouring a “serious bias” against it, the state government on Monday (August 28) withdrew its claims and apologised to the judge. According to ANI, the state government said that its intention has been “misunderstood and misinterpreted to project that the state is against the judiciary”.

Following the allegations levied against Justice Oka, Bombay high court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur had, upon the government’s request, withdrawn the case from him and transferred it to another bench, Scroll.in reported.

However, after the Advocates’ Association of Western India (AAWI) and senior members of the bar came forward in protest of the government’s allegations and claimed that the move was to ensure that no systems of accountability were in place ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi, Justice Chellur formed a larger bench headed by Oka and Justices Anoop V. Mohta and Riyaz Chagla to hear all petitions pertaining to noise pollution rules.

After holding an emergency meeting on August 26 against the government’s action, the AAWI passed a resolution. “In the instant case, the litigant being the state government should have shown restraint and should not have stooped to allege bias against a judge like Justice A S Oka who has been above board and has dedicated himself to the cause of justice for many years,” Indian Express quoted AAWI secretary Viresh Purwant as saying.

The Bombay Bar Association has also called for a general meeting today to pass an appropriate resolution.

According to PTI, the state government had been at loggerheads with the bench headed by Justice Oka on whether an order passed by the high court last year would continue despite an August 10 amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules which state that any area or zone would have to be declared as a silence zone by the government.

The order had said that areas not less than 100 meters from hospitals, educational institutions and courts constitute as silence zones and hence, no specific declaration to that effect was necessary.

The government had last week informed the court that pursuant to the amendment, no silence zones exist in the state as of date. The government would now carry out a fresh exercise to identify areas which would be declared as silence zones, it had said.

The state’s advocate general Ashutosh Kumbakoni had said by virtue of this amendment, the August 2016 order of the high court could not be operated.

The bench headed by Justice Oka, however, had expressed its prima facie opinion that its order would continue to operate until the state government filed an application seeking to review the 2016 order and the application was heard and decided.

The three-judge special bench, which was scheduled to hear a batch of petitions today, adjourned the hearing to Tuesday, August 29.

(With agency inputs)