The Bombay High Court on Monday took to task the Maharashtra government for the manner it was withdrawing its charges of bias against Judge AS Oka in the noise pollution matter, saying it should “show remorse” through an affidavit.
The direction was given after the Maharashtra government said it was “withdrawing unconditionally” the charges made against Justice Oka, with the court terming the state’s move as “frivolous”. Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted a two-page communication in the HC, saying the state’s allegations that Justice Oka harboured a serious bias against the state machinery in the noise pollution matter “was not raised as an allegation against the judge personally, but was limited only to the subject matter involved.”
“The state only requested the Chief Justice (of Bombay HC) to consolidate all noise pollution matters, and to place them before a bench of which Justice Oka is not a member,” Kumbhakoni said. A bench of Justices Oka and Riyaz Chagla accepted Kumbhakoni’s explanation, saying it wanted to “uphold the dignity of the AG’s office,” but added if the state wished to apologise, it would have to do so through an affidavit. “A mere statement by the AG doesn’t translate into the state’s apology,” the bench said.
“It must submit an affidavit explaining its application before the Chief Justice. The state should show remorse. Also, such an affidavit must be signed by a senior state official, and it must identify the person who gave the AG’s office the direction to seek the transfer,” the bench said. Kumbhakoni said the state will file an affidavit to the effect tomorrow. The court also said it was not bothered by the fact that allegations had been made against a particular judge.
“We are not touchy about the allegations against a particular judge. Our anxiety is about the consequences of the state’s frivolous action. The state’s action affects the dignity of the judiciary, and of the 155-year old institution of this High Court,” the bench said. “Your allegations mean that the Maharashtra government doesn’t want the high court to exist. It means that the state does not trust the high court and it says so in as many words,” it said.
The bench also said the state, in getting the noise pollution cases transferred to another bench, had “misled” the Chief Justice.
“The AG sought that this bench recuse itself from the hearing. However, when we passed an order refusing to do so, you failed to inform the Chief Justice of our order. As a result, the CJ was forced to pass the transfer order, and then later, she was compelled to withdraw it,” the bench said. “The consequence of the state’s action is now irreparable. It has damaged the judiciary reputation,” Justice Oka said. “The state must get a clear signal hereafter that in future it can’t play with the institution. The state must understand the consequences of its frivolous actions,” the bench said.