Maharashtra accuses Bombay HC judge of being biased, Chief Justice transfers case
Chief Justice of Bombay High Court withdrew a matter from a senior judge after the Maharashtra government alleged bias. The state accused Justice Abhay Oka of the High Court's division bench of "harbouring serious bias" against it in matters relating to noise pollution and silent zones.
On Thursday, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted an application for transfer made on instructions of, Deputy Secretary of Home Department Vijay Patil. The submission accused one of the judges of being biased. The Bench reacted sharply to the allegation. "We are really shocked with the contents of the application. There is a specific allegation against me that I am biased against the state government. But we won't get provoked by such allegations," Justice Oka said. "I will not recuse myself from hearing the petitions just because the government is levelling allegations against me," he added.
The hearing was posted to the afternoon session since the state government's petition seeking transfer of case was to come before the Chief Justice. Chief Justice Manjula Chellur then transferred the cases to another bench.
The State approached the Chief Justice Manjula Chellur after Justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla refused to recuse themselves despite the state filing an affidavit on Thursday that one of the two judges was harbouring a bias against the state machinery. The bench has been hearing petitions over noise pollution and silent zones in the state.
The bench on Wednesday had rejected the state government's claim that there were no notified silence zones. The state referred to an August 10, 2017 amendment by the Union government to the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules which states that no zone can be declared a silence zone unless notified by the state government.
The division bench of the Bombay High Court refused to accept the argument and had stated that its order of August 2016 declaring 100 meters around hospitals, educational institutions, courts and religious places as silence zone will be in force until challenged. With the transfer, Ganpati festival will see no silence zones in Maharashtra at least until the next date of hearing.