How Maharashtra Govt Tried to Influence Bombay High Court on Noise Pollution- Part1
The Bombay High Court (HC) has witnessed dramatic developments in the ongoing case relating to ‘noise’. The case is once again being heard by a Division Bench headed by Justice Abhay S Oka with Justice Riyaz Chagla after the fracas on 24 August 2017 when Chief Justice (CJ) Manjula Chellur first moved the noise related cases from this Division Bench and then restored it. For those who have not followed this development, the case was transferred to another bench, after the Maharashtra government, through State Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni asked Justice Oka’s Bench to recuse itself from hearing the case because the Bench had made up its mind on the issue.
 
 Justice Oka’s Bench passed an order, refusing to recuse itself, but this fact was not conveyed by the State to the Chief Justice, while placing an application for transfer of the case. The CJ later revoked the decision to transfer the case, but by then there was a public outcry and strong condemnation by the Bar Association as well. 
 
All this came about because the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) amended the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rule 2000 (Noise Rule 2000) on 10 August 2017 removing the specified criteria defining Silence Zone, permitting State Governments to notify areas of Silence Zones as it deemed fit. This meant that until the State Government notified this, technically there was no Silence Zone in any state including Maharashtra.
 
Thane-based Dr Mahesh Bedekar (represented by Adv SM Gorewadkar), supported by Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation from Mumbai (Adv Birendra Saraf) and Ajay Marathe from Navi Mumbai (Adv Anil Anturkar) filed a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the Constitutional Validity of the Amendment. The Bombay HC set up a Division Bench headed by Justice Mohta to hear this PIL. This Bench gave a date much after the current festive season while denying a stay on enforcement of newly amended Noise Rule 2000. 
 
The Bench of Justice Oka and Justice Chagla was hearing the cases of non-compliance of the Order of his Bench given in August 2016. During the hearing on 23 August 2017, when the question arose about the Silence Zone per amended Noise Rule 2000, Justice Oka mentioned that the Order of August 2016, issued by his Bench will continue to be fully in force and the criteria that defined Silence Zones shall continue to hold good until the PIL challenging the Constitutional Validity of the Amendment is heard and disposed. Fearing that the Bench of Justice Oka and Justice Chagla will disallow use of loudspeakers in Silence Zone during the 10-day Ganapati festival beginning 25 August 2017 and then three weeks later the during Navaratri festivals, the AG made an application to the Chief Justice Chellur to withdraw Noise related cases from the Bench of Justice Oka and Justice Chagla.
 
There has been considerable hue and cry by citizens on social media for the ex-parte action of the Chief Justice and on 26 August 2017, members of the Bombay Bar Association (BBA) met and issued their protest while the citizens’ dissatisfaction continued to gather strength. Perhaps the weight or guilt of having done post haste an unjust act may have been rather heavy on the Chief Justice that, on 27 August 2017 itself she rescinded the Order of Transfer and returned the noise related matter to the same Division Bench headed by Justice Oka. Chief Justice Chellur from Bombay HC also constituted a Full Bench headed by Justice Oka and comprising Justice Mohta and Justice Chagla to hear the petition and a PIL challenging the Constitutional Validity of 10 August 2017 amendments made to the Noise Rule 2000.
 
The State has been under constant requests over the years from some parties or groups of parties who constantly violate the Noise Rules 2000 in their ‘socio-cultural’ activities or events, to dilute the rules. The Government is aware that the enactment of Environment Protection Act 1986 (EPA-1986) and Noise Rule framed in 1989 subsequently diluted to incorporate Indian socio-cultural practices, resulting in coming into existence of the Noise Rule 2000. Some small odd ambiguities have been addressed in subsequent amendments consequent to hearings of PILs in High Courts and the Supreme Court, giving us a robust Noise Rule 2000. 
 
While making these small odd amendments, it is worth noting that, the amendment made to the Noise Rule 2000 per 9 March 2009. It was so compromising that when it was pointed out to the Secretary MoEF on 28 December 2009 , the Ministry looked at this and corrected the error by a notification on 11 January 2010. For more than seven and a half years, it stood test of time even as there were parties making efforts to bring about a compromised Noise Rule 2000. All of a sudden, the Noise Rule 2000 was again amended by the Central Government to accommodate Maharashtra’s request on behalf of parties seeking dilution. 
 
Fundamentally, Noise pollution infringes article 21 Right to Life of our Constitution and needs to be dealt with it as such. Over the years petitions heard under several PILs in various High Courts in the country and Supreme Court have held that much thought has been given in framing the Noise Rules 2000 and suitable amendments made to eliminate ambiguities when found and dilute the Rules reasonably. All have held that further dilution and violation of Noise Rule 2000 cannot be tolerated. 
 
It is not that Bombay HC had been giving orders based only in accordance with the letter of the Noise Rule 2000. The HC has given directions to party seeking to use loudspeakers and instruments on whose use loud noise emanate, how to go about it in order to be within the decibel limits specified in the Noise Rule 2000. For example, the case of Shiv Sena holding its annual Vijaya Dashami ‘social cum cultural’event at Shivaji Park, a declared silence zone. Shiv Sena approached the Court in order to obtain permission, which was denied by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) on the grounds of Shivaji Park being a Silence Zone. Both, the application for permission and denial of permission would be timed close to the event, and hence the High Court would grant permission provided, essentially, the Party uses low powered distributed loudspeaker system (concerning Noise). Shiv Sena would agree to do so but in reality it would only reduce number of loudspeaker units and never had provided distributed speakers at low power. Strict adherence to the HC directive was neither desired by the Shiv Sena nor insisted upon by enforcing authority and as expected, the unacceptably high noise levels diminished very marginally. This happened even as late as last year’s Vijaya Dashami (of 2016). It is an enforcement issue that can be easily handled if government was keen to do so. The Order of August 2016 demands compliance.
 
On 5 November 2012, the then Chief Justice Mohit Shah of the Bombay HC had organised a collective hearing of all Noise related petitions so that, as he put it at the outset of the collective hearing, the cultural activities did not get restricted due to provisions in the Noise Rule 2000. There is a 26 page write-up “Notes on Noise For Hearing on 11 Dec 2012” prepared by the author of this piece . The fact is that there is no restriction on holding cultural events so long as it is held in enclosed premises, well insulated from sound perspective. It is clear that on grounds open to air or even in enclosed premises with open doors and windows, whatever restrictions have been spelt out in the Noise Rules 2000, these must be adhered to.
 
(This is first part of a two part series)
 
(Sudhir Badami is a civil engineer and transportation analyst. He is on Government of Maharashtra’s Steering Committee on BRTS for Mumbai and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee on BRTS for Mumbai. He is also member of Research & MIS Committee of Unified Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority. He was member of Bombay High Court appointed erstwhile Road Monitoring Committee (2006-07). While he has been an active campaigner against Noise for more than a decade, he is a strong believer in functioning democracy. He can be contacted on email at [email protected]. Twitter @sudhirbadami https://sites.google.com/site/sudhirbadami/
 
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    Mumbai Floods: Bombay HC asks BMC, Maharashtra govt to file responses on two separate PILs
    Expressing anguish over the death of renowned gastroenterologist Dr Deepak Amrapurkar in the Mumbai deluge, the Bombay High Court has asked Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) or BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC) and other respondents to file replies on open manholes in the city. In another case, the Bench has asked BMC, the state government and Maharashtra State Pollution Board to file their reply on the issue of discharge of untreated sewage water into Mithi River. 
     
    The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) through advocates Sujay Kantawala and Ashish Mehta. It was taken up for urgent hearing before a division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice NM Jamdar.
     
    "We are very much pained that such an eminent doctor had to meet such a tragic and painful death. But there's a limit for PILs. You can become emotional, I cannot," said Chief Justice Chellur.
     
    The PIL sought a first information report (FIR) to be lodged against BMC officials and a compensation of Rs50 lakh to be paid by the BMC to any charitable institution or non-governmental organisation (NGO). However, the Court asked FRTWA to file private complaint at an appropriate forum in both matters. 
     
    The Court, however, agreed to examine other issues of public interest in the petition, including setting up an advisory committee of former bureaucrats and technocrats to make a detailed survey of all manholes and suggest ways and means to streamline their working.
     
    The FRTWA has also demanded that the BMC declare its policy on the working and operations of manholes so that people can understand whether it is sufficiently effective to deal with fatal accidents.
     
    FRTWA Counsel Kantawala also wanted that until the pendency of the case, the BMC should fit iron grills on a war footing on all the manholes and the drainage system of Mumbai, so that even if they were open or unattended, they can prevent a fall into the open drainage leading to death.
     
    The HC directed the BMC, the Maharashtra government and the Urban Development Department and other respondents to file their affidavits and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
     
    Rescuers located the body of 58-year-old Dr Amrapurkar, a senior gastroenterologist with Bombay Hospital, who went missing from Tuesday evening after falling into an open manhole on Senapati Bapat Marg, a kilometre away from his Prabhadevi residence.
     
    After the floodwaters receded, his body was found two days later from the rocky beach at Worli seashore and identified by his Rado watch.
     
    Just before he fell, he had called his wife, Anjali Amrapurkar, a pathologist, saying he would reach home in five to 10 minutes.
     
    On Tuesday, Mumbai notched over 330mm rainfall -- the highest since the great Mumbai floods of July 2005. Dr Amrapurkar was among the at least 10 casualties of the deluge.
     
    Separately, hearing other PIL, the HC had asked government to file their affidavits in reply to the contentions of petitioner, Citizen Circle for Social Welfare and Education, an NGO. Advocate Shehzad Naqvi, counsel for the NGO, informed the Court about how sewage water is discharged from the vicinity of the slums and industrial units situated near the Mithi River. He also showed photos of the same to the Bench.
     
    Responding to this, the Counsel for BMC informed the Court that the Supreme Court has dealt with the issue of cleaning of the Mithi River. However, Chief Justice Chellur remarked that this PIL deals with a much broader issue, which is discharge of untreated sewage into the Mithi River and in the Arabian Sea.
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    Cobrapost unearths a thriving commission racket in 20 top hospitals
    Cobrapost  has unearthed a thriving racket in 20 major private hospitals where it found that handsome commissions, ranging between 10% to 30%, are being given to doctors and smaller hospitals for referring a patient.
     
    According to Cobrapost, hospitals involved in this racket are from Fortis Hospital (with a branch each in Mumbai and Bangalore), JP Hospital and Metro Hospital in Noida; Yashoda Hospital and Columbia Asia Hospital (with a branch in Bangalore)  in Ghaziabad; MAX Hospitals (in Saket and Patparganj), Apollo Hospital  (with a branch in Bangalore), BLK Super Speciality Hospital, all in Delhi; Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, Hiranandani Hospital, Asian Heart Institute, Seven Hills Hospital and Jaslok Hospital, all in Mumbai; and Narayana Hrudayalaya College of Nursing and Mallya Hospital both in Bangalore.
     
    Here is what Cobrapost says...
     
    In the course of this undercover investigation, Cobrapost Special Correspondent interviewed marketing officials, not less than the rank of assistant managers, of these hospitals who without exception candidly admitted on camera to offering handsome rewards to doctors, and smaller hospitals, who send their patients to these super-specialty hospitals for serious ailments. These confessions can be summed as follows:
     
    • To make more business out of patients’ miseries, all these hospitals offer handsome commissions to individual doctors, nursing homes and smaller hospitals, which cannot handle serious ailments, on all referrals.
    • Each hospital has an elaborate process for such referrals and pay-offs thereof.
    • Commissions to individual doctors are paid out to them as consultation fee.
    • In addition to regular cuts, some of these hospitals give such doctors expensive gifts.
    • All these hospitals have a well-oiled network of doctors and small nursing homes and hospitals, to help them generate a steady business out of patients’ needs for specialized treatment.
    • Well, they also know that this is a malpractice under the MCI guidelines, yet they do not blink an eye while indulging in it.
     
    The guidelines issued by Medical Council of India (MCI) prohibit such commissions by hospitals for referring patients. 
     
    The MCI Code of Ethics Regulations, 2002 Chapter 6 Unethical Acts states:
     
    6.4 Rebates and Commission
    6.4.1 A physician shall not give, solicit, or receive nor shall he offer to give solicit or receive, any gift, gratuity, commission or bonus in consideration of or return for the referring, recommending or procuring of any patient for medical, surgical or other treatment. A physician shall not directly or indirectly, participate in or be a party to act of division, transference, assignment, subordination, rebating, splitting or refunding of any fee for medical, surgical or other treatment.
     
    Cobrapost first called on JP Hospital, spread across 25 acres in Noida’s Sector 128. Assuming an alias supposedly working for small-town hospital in Meerut offering referral services to big hospitals, Cobrapost reporter first met Deputy Manager (Sales and Marketing) Amit Kumar Bandopadhyay and after him Senior Manager DK Bhardwaj. Both told Cobrapost that their hospital gives a 10% cut on patient referrals and has provisions for it. Says Amit Kumar: “Radiotherapy mein dus per cent de rahe hain … even aapka kya bolte hain chemotherapy and surgical oncology ka koi case aata hai to uss par bhi 10 per cent de rahe hain drugs and disposals hata ke (We give 10% [cut] for radiotherapy … even in cases if chemotherapy and surgical oncology we give 10 % excluding the bill on drugs and disposals).”
     
    Watch Video
     
     
     
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    COMMENTS

    sundararaman gopalakrishnan

    2 years ago

    Medical practice is BIG BUSINESS..that is the reason parents are willing to pay Ra 1 crore+ for a medical seat.The doctor recovers it from the patients in this way..
    Sorry state of affairs

    Mahesh S Bhatt

    2 years ago

    Medicine & Education is Political business Mahesh Bhatt

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    2 years ago

    This is just the tip of the ice berg. Rooted in the incompetence of "Reservations" and the the extortion of "Donations". India's Hospitals are a killing field. This is why the BJP's first act on coming to power was to turn the Khangress-UPA bill into law so that Neta-Babus can go abroad with family and friends for medical treatment leaving the rest of us to die in penury

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    2 years ago

    This is just the tip of the ice berg. Rooted in the incompetence of "Reservations" and the the extortion of "Donations". India's Hospitals are a killing field. This why the Bjp's first act on coming to power was to turn the Khangress-UPA bill into law so that Neta-Babus can go abroad with family and friends for medical treatment.

    A BANERJEE

    2 years ago

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. This practice has been in existence for decades, and almost in all private hospitals, though it became almost universal and more "menacing" with the entry in the healthcare industry of the "corporate hospitals". All this is known to the investigators in the income tax department and also to the top echelons in the govt, with whose patronage and complicity only this practice has become widespread.

    PRAKASH D N

    2 years ago

    When the State becomes a spectator in medical education and allows colleges to charge nearly 50 lakhs for just the MBBS course, how can you expect the student who has invested half crore to recover his investment. MCI is headed by a person who is under cloud. You cannot expect anything in this situation. Unfortunately there is no thinking to invest in public health on the part of central or Govts.

    REPLY

    Karthikeyan Viswanathan

    In Reply to PRAKASH D N 2 years ago

    You nailed it sir. In fact donations, fee etc for pursuing PG in medical field is all the more expensive and it is naive to expect a doctor who has spent so much to acquire degrees & diplomas to lookup to the profession with service moto.

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