HC CJ transfers noise pollution cases after govt alleges bias

PTI
Thursday, 24 August 2017

"The Hon'ble judge hearing the matter presently made a remark to the effect that there is hardly any compliance with the earlier orders. This and several other aspects in general demonstrate that the Hon'ble judge is somehow harbouring a serious bias against the state machinery in this matter," the government alleged in its application.

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur on Thursday transferred all matters pertaining to noise pollution rules to another bench after the Maharashtra government alleged one of the judges hearing the issue was "biased" against the state administration.

The government today filed an application before the Chief Justice seeking that the petitions pertaining to noise pollution rules be transferred to another bench.

"The Hon'ble judge hearing the matter presently made a remark to the effect that there is hardly any compliance with the earlier orders. This and several other aspects in general demonstrate that the Hon'ble judge is somehow harbouring a serious bias against the state machinery in this matter," the government alleged in its application.

Earlier in the day, when Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbakoni informed a division bench of Justices A S Oka and Riyaz Chagla about the application, it expressed shock and said it does not intend to recuse itself from hearing the matter.

"We are really shocked with the contents of the application. There is specific allegation against me that I am biased against the state government. But we won't get provoked by such allegations," Justice Oka asserted.

"I will not recuse myself from hearing the petitions just because the government is levelling allegations against me," he said.

The bench then directed the government to approach the Chief Justice and obtain an order on its application immediately.

"We will post these petitions this afternoon as the petitioners have sought interim relief by way of stay on the amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules," the court said.

In the afternoon session when the matter was called out, Justice Oka said, "All the matters have been transferred. We were told by the judicial registrar that the Chief Justice has passed the transfer order even before our order refusing to recuse from the matter (was issued)."

The petitions would now be placed before a division bench of Justices Anoop Mohta and G S Kulkarni.

The government had earlier this week informed the HC that pursuant to an amendment to the Noise Pollution Rules on August 10 this year, no silence zones exist in the state as on date.

The government will now carry out a fresh exercise to identify areas which will be declared as silence zones, it had said.

As per the amendment, any area/zone will have to be declared or notified by the state government as a silence zone.

Kumbakoni had earlier told the court that by virtue of this amendment, an order passed by the High Court in August 2016 declaring any area not less than 100 meters of hospitals, educational institutions and courts as silence zones cannot be operated.

The bench had yesterday refused to accept the government's contention and said until the state files an application seeking review of the 2016 order, the directions passed therein will continue to operate.

"We had yesterday voiced our prima facie opinion to the state government and today the government has acted like an ordinary litigant and levelled allegations against me," Justice Oka said today.

The court noted that the government has failed to realise and understand the consequences of its decision to file such an application.

The bench has been hearing a bunch of petitions seeking strict implementation of the Noise Pollution Rules. 

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