T.Ramaprasada Rao, J. -
(1.) THIS writ petition can be disposed of on a very short ground. The petitioner is an existing rice mill owner called Ramasekar Rice Mill at Pillathurai village, Musiritaluk, Tiruchy District. This Revenue village is included in Thathaiyankarpet Panchayat area. According to him there are three rice mills having a total hulling capacity of 1137,500 bags of paddy per year. The case of the petitioner is that he has invested more than Rs. 50,000 over the construction of his mill and in view of the fact that there are 7 rice mills in the vicinity, the paddy available to his own mill for hulling purposes is highly insufficient. While this is the state of affairs, it is stated, that the 3rd respondent applied to the first respondent through the 2nd respondent for the grant of a permit to establish a new rice mill at Arachi village which is, it is stated, within one mile from the existing mill of the petitioner. The petitioner objected to the grant. He also brought to the notice of the authorities that the available paddy is insufficient and the grant instead of benefiting anyone would cause prejudice both commercially and otherwise to the existing rice mill owners. It transpires, however, that the first respondent granted the permit to the 3rd respondent and it is stated that while the grant was made the first respondent took into consideration the Panchayat area as the locality as according to the first respondent each and every Panchayat is a locality within the meaning of Section 5(4) of the Rice Milling Industries (Regulations) Act, 1958. It is categorically conceded that at the time when the proposals were submitted to the first respondent and equally at the time when the grant was made, the Panchayat as a locality was only taken into consideration for the purpose of considering the merits or demerits of the grant in question. It was also found that taking into consideration the Panchayat area as the locality, the third respondent was given the permit. The learned Counsel for the petitioner invited my attention to a decision of a Division Bench of this Court to which the learned Chief Justice was a party in W.A. Nos. 443 of 1968 and 196, 307, 309 and 387 of 1969. On a reading of the judgment of the division bench, it appears to me to be clear that their lordships were of the view that the Panchayat area as such cannot be treated as a locality within the meaning of Section 5(4) of the Act, as the Act itself has avoided defining the word locality. In my view, such a definition was avoided because to iron jacket the word by statutory definition would make it impossible sometimes to propagate the objects of the legislation. For instance, if it becomes necessary that the paddy which might come into the Panchayat area has to be taken into consideration for purposes of the grant of a permit to erect a rice mill and if locality has to be interpreted as a Panchayat area, then notwithstanding the fact that public interest requires erection of a mill and the need of the locality could be met only by the grant, it cannot be made by the authorities for the simple reason that the yardstick for the grant is a Panchayat area. Even so "the rule of 3 miles." The Board of Revenue once thought that an area of three miles from the spot where the mill is proposed to be located as the crow might be taken into consideration as an equation for locality within the meaning of the Act. Yet again this will lead to unnecessary conscription of the area of operation when the Legislature never meant that such is its intendment when they used the word locality in the context of Section 5(4) of the Act. As a matter of fact, the learned Judges while disposing of the writ appeal rightly observed that the import of paddy from the neighbouring villages or localities can also be taken into consideration at a time when they are posed with the problem of a grant of a permit in a particular locality. This is obviously to further the objects of the Act. If the three mile rule or the Panchayat area were to be the yardstick or bed rock for the purpose of appreciating the merits for the grant of a permit, then it would be reading between the lines of Section 5(4) and in my view would be not to further the objects for which the very legislation was introduced. I am unable to agree with Alagiriswami, J., when he expressed the view in W.P. No. 633 of 1969, that the Court in appeal in the above case held that a Panchayat area cannot be taken as the basis for granting permits for establishment of new rice mills but only an area within three miles radius. With great respect to the learned Judge, this does not appear to be the ratio of the division bench. The learned Government Pleader as well as the learned Counsel for the petitioner took me through various passages which I shall presently refer to confirm my view. In an elaborate judgment, the learned Chief Justice speaking for the Bench while upholding the validity of the Act observed as follows:
The investigation to be made will have a two -fold purpose (1) to ascertain particulars which show that grant of permit is necessary to ensure adequate supply of rice; and (2) to gather facts relating to the consideration to which regard must be had under Section 3(4) and Rule 3(2).
Rice supply may be adequate in a locality which may be hand -pound entirely. No permit for a new rice mill can in that case normally be granted. Even so, if necessity to ensure adequate supply of rice elsewhere is found and there is enough paddy available in the locality to go round for a new or an additional rice mill there, a permit therefore may well be granted. If, on the other hand, although such necessity exists there is no paddy available in X locality, for which a permit is applied for, but available from a neighbouring locality Y from which it could conveniently for purposes of milling, be transported to X locality which has power for running a rice mill unlike at Y there is nothing in Section 5 or the rules which forbids grant of permit for establishment of a rice mill at X. But we do not think that this simply means that if the paddy available in the locality is just sufficient, or insufficient to keep going the existing rice mills in the locality, that by itself must be decisive against grant of further permits. The number of rice mills and the availability of paddy in a locality have a bearing on productive capacity in the context of necessity for ensuring adequate supply of rice not necessarily in such locality. If therefore after giving due regard to the fact that paddy available in a locality is just sufficient to go round the existing mills, a permit is granted on the view that it is necessary to do so in order to secure adequate supply of rice, we do not think that such a grant is liable to be quashed.... Just as availability as we said is not the same as sufficiency of paddy, availability is not necessarily related to paddy produced in the locality.
(2.) THE two -fold object of the Act is to encourage hand -pounding industry and provide employment for rural population and at the same time to see that requisite facilities for conversion of paddy into rice are not curtailed. Their lordships went on to agree with Sadasivam, J., in writ petition No. 4464 of 1968 that the Panchayat area by itself cannot be adopted as the locality for purposes of considering the adequacy or availability of paddy. In the course of their judgment, the learned Judges would say that the expenditure incurred by an applicant by itself will not be a relevant ground to the grant of a permit. Thus, the view of the learned Judges in the above writ appeal is clear and clinching that the yardstick of locality cannot be judged by the measure of a Panchayat or a three mile radius, from the point at which the mill is to be installed. The considered view appears to be that if there is a possibility of securing paddy either by import of the same from the neighbourhood or from the possible or anticipated production of the same in the vicinity, then such facilities now available or fairly to be computed ought also to be taken into consideration by the authorities while considering the application for a grant. In the instant case, it is admitted that the licensing authority took into consideration only the Panchayat area for the purpose of granting the permit in favour of the 3rd respondent. This is against the ratio of the above decision of the division bench.
(3.) ON an overall consideration of the ratio of the Full Bench, it appears to me that it is for the licensing authority as a quasi -judicial body to take into consideration such material which ought to reasonably enter into the computation and ultimately after assessing the adequacy of paddy in the area and the availability of the same in the neighbourhood grant the same to a deserting person after giving a fair opportunity to all persons concerned and by rendering a fair and impartial judgment. This, the learned Chief Justice would state in the following terms:
Weighing the circumstances is an appellate function, and what the Court under Article 226 is concerned with, is not to approach the matter as an appellate Court, but to scrutinise to see whether relevant circumstances have been ignored or irrelevant matters have influenced the grant, or refusal of the licence and whether the power has been exercised in a given case arbitrarily or mala fide.;