MOOLA RAM Vs. REGIONAL TRANSPORT AUTHORITY BIKANER
HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN
REGIONAL TRANSPORT AUTHORITY BIKANER
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(1.) THIS is a petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution against an order of the Regional Transport Authority, Bikaner, allowing respondents Nos. 2 to 13 to ply an additional service between Bikaner and Salasar and re-fixing the time table without issuing any notice to the petitioner. The petition has been contested on behalf of respondents Nos. 2 to 13.
(2.) IN 1958 between Bikaner and Salasar there were three independent routes between Bikaner to Nokha (40 miles), Nokha to Sujangarh (75 miles) and Sujangarh to Salasar (18 miles ). The petitioner was an existing operator on Bikaner-Nokha route. IN 1958 a number of persons filed applications for grant of permits on Bikaner-Salasar route, overlapping the existing 3 routes. The operators of the existing routes filed objections. The Regional Transpose Authority granted 12 permits to the 12 contesting respondents. But in order that the interest of the existing operators on the Bikaner-Nokha, Nokha-Sujangarh and Sujangarh-Salasar routes may be safeguarded the following conditions were attached to these permits (annexure 4) : - 1. The maximum number of permits on the Bikaner-Salasar route was fixed at 12 and it was provided that there will be only 3 return services every day. 2. It was provided that the buses on the Bikaner-Salasar route shall stop only at Nokha, Jasrasar, Bidasar, Chhapar and Sujangarh.
The timings on which the buses on the Bikaner-Salasar route were to run was also fixed by the Regional Transport Authority at the time of granting these permits. On the application of the operators of the Bikaner-Salasar route the number of return services was increased by one after inviting objections from the existing operators on the overlapping route. The timings were also fixed after hearing these operators. 3. In 1965 the operators on the Bikaner-Salasar route applied for change in timings. Objections were invited by publishing their applications in the Gazette. These objections were considered by the Regional Transport Authority and a re-survey was ordered. No change in the timings was allowed (vide annexure 6 dated 25th May, 1966 ).
Before any re-survey had taken place these operators filed another application praying for an increase in the number of return services to five. This application was not published and the objections of the operators on the overlapping routes were not invited. Without affording any opportunity to these operators to make an objection the Regional Transport Authority granted the prayer on 26. 8. 66 by circulation. On 3. 9. 65 the operators of the Bikaner-Salasar route were in" formed by the order of the Regional Transport Authority. From 7. 9. 66 these operators started plying their buses in accordance with the new time-table which was given to them by the Regional Transport Authority. The petitioner then came to know of the order of the Regional Transport Authority and filed the present writ petition on 15. 9. 66. The writ petition was admitted on 19. 9. 66 and a stay order was issued restraining the operators of the Bikaner-Salasar route from plying the additional service between Bikaner and Salasar. This stay order was confirmed on 4. 1. 67 after hearing the parties.
The above facts are not disputed on behalf of the contesting respondents. It is urged on their behalf that the fixing of timings and fixing the number of services on a route are conditions of the permit and if they are varied to the disadvantage of another operator his remedy is by way of an appeal under sec. 64 (b) of the Motor Vehicles Act and as the petitioner had an alternative remedy the writ petition filed by him should be dismissed.
On behalf of the petitioner it was argued that the fixing of timings is not a condition of the permit. Reliance was placed on the following decisions: Anandram vs. Damodardas (1), Ninan vs. Secy. S. T. Authority (2), Karthikeyan vs. R. T. A. Trichur (3 ). On behalf of the contesting respondents on the other hand reliance was placed on the following decisions - P. Satyanarayana vs. State of A. P. (4) and N. J. Transport (Pr.) Ltd. vs. S. T. A. Authority (5) I have carefully considered the above decisions in the light of the arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the parties. I am respectfully in agreement with the view that the time-table is an important condition of a permit and where a timetable has been fixed by the Regional Transport Authority it amounts to attaching a condition to the permit under sec. 48 (3) (iv ).
Sub-sec. (3) of sec. 48 provides for the conditions, any one or more of which may be attached to a permit. The conditions which have a material bearing on the question before me are as under : (iii) that copies of the time-table of the service or of particular stage carriages approved by the Regional Transport Authority shall be exhibited on the vehicles and at specified stands and halts on the route or within the area; (iv) that the service shall be operated within such margins of deviation from the approved time-table as the Regional Transport Authority may from time to time specify: (xv) that the conditions of the permit shall not be departed from, save with the approval of the Regional Transport Authority; (xxxi) that the Regional Transport Authority may, after giving notice of not less than one month- (a) vary the conditions of the permit; (b) attach to the permit further conditions. Under Sec. 46 of the Motor Vehicles Act an applicant for a permit is required to state the maximum and the minimum number of duly services proposed to be provided and the time-table of these services. Normally after a permit is granted a time-table is fixed by the Regional Transport Authority. Where such a time-table is fixed and e permit-holder is not given the option of not running the service in accordance with the time-table then it amounts to this that the Regional Transport Authority requires him to run each one of the services mentioned in the time-table. In such a case minimum as well as the maximum number of services to be provided is the same. Further where the margin of deviation from the above time-table is not stated then it amounts to this that the Regional Transport Authority requires strict adherence to the time-table without any deviation. It is thus implicit in the fixing of a time-table by the Regional Transport Authority that a condition is attached to the permit that the service shall be operated strictly in accordance with the time-table.
If the operator does not adhere to the time-table he commits a breach of a condition of the permit and his permit is liable to be suspended or cancelled under sec. 60 of the Motor Vehicles Act. Any other view would enable the operators to disregard the time-table without attracting sec. 60 of the Motor Vehicles Act. There is no other Provision in the Act under which an operator disregarding a time-table fixed by the Regional Transport Authority can be penalised. In Rajasthan more passengers are carried by road transport than by Railways and there will be complete chaos if passenger buses are allowed to be run without fixing time-tables. On all metalled roads there are more operators than one plying services. Further there are generally long distance routes overlapping several short distance routes. The extent to which existing operators are affected by the grant of a new permit depends a great deal on the number of trips which the new operator is allowed to run and the timings fixed for them. Sec. 46 requires an applicant for a permit to state how many trips he wishes to make and the timings at which he wishes to run them. It is therefore imperative that the Regional Transport Authority should fix the number of trips as well as the time-table for every operator at the time of the grant of a permit to him. At any rate no passenger vehicle can be allowed to run on the route unless the timings are fixed. Apart from creating chaos the travelling public will be greatly inconvenienced if passenger buses are allowed to be run without fixing a time-table.
The view taken in the cases cited on behalf of the petitioner that under clauses (iii) and (iv) of sec. 84 (3) only the exhibition of and adherence to the approved time-table is made a condition and not the time-table itself is much too artificial in my opinion.
In Vedachalo Mudaliar vs. State of Madras (6) Subba Rao J. , as he then was, held that the Regional Transport Authority acts judicially when it varies the conditions of a permit by fixing new timings. It was observed that a mere change in the timings of one operator may affect his rights and the rights of other operators very appreciably and some times such changes may transform a flourishing permit-holder into a chronic debtor. An appeal was preferred against this decision to a Division Bench. The decision of the Division Bench is reported as Kali Mudaliar vs. Vedachala (7 ). The Division Bench left the decision of Subba Rao J. on the point now in issue before me in tact as appears from the following observation made in para 5 of the judgment : "in this view it does not become necessary to examine the correctness of the learned Judges conclusion on the other important question argued before him as to the nature of the order of the Regional Transport Authority in fixing or regulating the timings. "
I am in respectful agreement with the view taken by Subba Rao J. in the above case and hold that fixing of the time-table or varying it is a quasi judicial act, which can only be done after issuing notice to the operators who are affected by it.
On behalf of the petitioner it was also argued that when the number of services is to be increased by the Regional Transport Authority the procedure prescribed under sec. 57 of the Motor Vehicles Act is to be followed. This argument is based on the wordings of sec- 57 (8) which runs as follows : "an application to vary the conditions of any permit, other than a temporary permit, by the inclusion of a new route or routes or a new area or in the case of a stage carriage permit, by increasing the number of services above the specified maximum, or in the case of a contract carriage permit or a public carrier's permit, by increasing the number of vehicles covered by the permit, shall be treated as an application for the grant of a new permit: Provided that it shall not be necessary so to treat an application made by the holder of a stage carriage permit who provides the only service on any route or in any area to increase the frequency of the service so provided, without any increase in the number of vehicles. "
On behalf of the contesting respondents on the other hand it was contended that it is only when the Regional Transport Authority fixes the maximum number of services on a route that sec. 57 (8) will be attracted and as in the present case the maximum number of services was not fixed that sub-section is not applicable. As I have observed above where only the time-table is fixed by the Regional Transport Authority and no option is given to run fewer services as envisaged in the time-table it is implicit that the minimum as well as the maximum number of services permitted is the number of services provided under the time-table. If this number is to be increased sec. 57 (8) will be attracted and the procedure prescribed under sec. 57 has to be followed.
(3.) AS the time-table fixed by the Regional Transport Authority is a condition of the permit an order fixing a time-table or varying it can be appealed against under sec. 64 (b ). It was open to the petitioner to file an appeal against the order of the Regional Transport Authority giving additional timing to the operators of the Bikaner-Salasar route. But in the circumstances of the present case it would be very harsh on the petitioner to dismiss his writ petition on the ground that he had an alternative remedy. For he filed this writ petition when the appeal to the Transport Appellate Tribunal was not barred by limitation. Now such an appeal is barred by limitation. Further the order in question was passed in violation of the principles of natural justice and in violation of the procedure prescribed under sec. 57. In this connection I may refer to the decisions in Union of India vs. T. R. Varma (8) and A. V. Venkteswaran vs. R. S. Wadhwani (9 ).
I accordingly allow this writ petition and quash the order of the Regional Transport Authority granting an additional timing to the contesting respondents.
It will be open to the Regional Transport Authority to consider the application of the contesting respondents for grant of an additional timing after following the procedure prescribed under sec. 57 of the Motor Vehicles Act.
In the circumstances of the case, I leave the parties to bear their own costs of this writ petition. .
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