Mumbai, Aug 29 (PTI) Defending the amendments to the Noise Pollution (Control and Regulation) Rules that ended up ridding the city of Mumbai of all notified silent zones, the Centre today told the Bombay High Court that its “initial intention was not to wipe away the silent zones”.Also Read - No Vaccination At Government Vaccine Centers in Mumbai Tomorrow, Announces BMC, Cites Vaccine Shortage

It said it had only intended to grant the state governments the exclusive power to impose such restrictions. Also Read - Maharashtra TET 2021 Registration Begins at mahatet.in, Check Registration Link and Other Important Details Here

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh denied the court’s charge that the amendment intended to “dilute,” or obliterate a previous Bombay High Court judgement that had held that noise pollution violated citizens’ Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Also Read - Maharashtra Lockdown Update: Nagpur Relaxes Covid Curbs, Shops Allowed to Open till 8pm on Weekdays | Check What's Allowed, What's Not

“The Union government does not oppose the Article 21 argument. It was not our initial intention to dilute the high court judgement but we might have ended up virtually doing so,” Singh said.

“Since, each state has its own criteria on declaring silent zones, we gave the power to impose restrictions to the state themselves,” he said.

Singh’s arguments came while a full bench of the high court, comprising justices A S Oka, Anoop V Mohta, and Riyaz Chagla were hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the above amendment that was notified by the Union on August 10.

The amendment was made primarily at the behest of the Maharashtra government that had written to the Union Environment Ministry in July seeking relaxation of the silent zone conditions.

The petitioners had alleged that the state’s move was apparently to “appease certain sections of the society in light of the Ganpati and Dahi Handi celebrations”.

The petitioners also argued that as per law, while the Centre did have the powers to amend the Noise Rules, the changes could be made only if they were in “public interest.” While Singh argued that the amendments were indeed in public interest, the full bench said that it was not satisfied with the Centre’s submissions.

“As per the amendment, no area unless specifically declared as a silent zone by the state government can be treated as a silent zone. So, as of today, areas within 100 meters of hospitals, schools, even this High Court are not silent zones. So, on what basis can you make the argument of public interest?” said Justice Oka.

The full bench said that in the next hearing, the Centre will “need to satisfy the court on whether the amendments were made in public interest, and whether they do or do not infringe upon Article 21.”

Meanwhile, a bench of Justices Oka and Chagla also accepted the Maharashtra government’s “unconditional apology,” over the allegations of bias that it had made against Justice Oka earlier last week.

The state had also sought at the time that all cases of noise pollution be transferred to another bench.

However, today, the state, through Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, submitted an affidavit stating that it was “withdrawing the allegations made against Justice Oka,” and that it was “tendering an unconditional apology to Justice Oka, to the Chief Justice of Bombay HC, and to the entire institution of the high court.”

“The affidavit does not disclose who gave the instruction to seek a transfer, we accept the apology. In normal course, this court would be justified in initiating contempt action against the officers of the state for denting the dignity of the institution. However, the dignity of this court rests on surer standards,” Justice Oka said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.