(1.) BOTH these writ applications have been filed by the General Manager, Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, Jaipur (hereinafter to be referred for the sake of brevity as the "corporation") against the resolution of the Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur, renewing the permits of Mithalal in writ application No. 509 of 1967 and of Hanuman Prasad in writ application No. 1850 of 1966. Since both these matters arise out of similar circumstances and the questions of law involved are common to both, therfore, I propose to dispose them of by one judgment.
(2.) IN order to understand the scope of controversy between the parties, it will be relevant to state certain facts relating to writ application No. 509 of 1967 which are not in dispute. The State Transport Undertaking, namely, the Rajasthan State Roadways published in the Rajasthan Gazette Extraordinary dated 23rd September, 1960, a scheme to nationalise the Jaipur-Bharatpur route. After undergoing the formalities under sec. 68 of the Motor Vehicles Act (hereinafter to be referred as the Act), the scheme was finalised and the said route of Jaipur Bharatpur (hereinafter to be referred as the notified route) was consequently nationalised and the final scheme was published in the Extraordinary Gazette on 14th November, 1960. There was a route known as Bharatpur Bhusawar route which was 33 miles in length and the major portion of that route overlapped the notified route of Jaipur-Bharatpur for a distance of about 29 miles upto Chokerwara. While framing the scheme the Rajasthan State Roadways provided in para 7 (g) of that scheme that on the basis of the permits held by four persons, including Babu Lal Gupta holding permit of No. P. St. P. 878, the existing operators shall be allowed to ply their buses on that route till the validity of those permits subject to the condition that the permits shall be made ineffective on the portion of the notified route between Bharatpur and Chokarwara which means that the permit holders were entitled to ply their buses between Bharatpur and Bhusawar but they could not pick up passengers form Bharatpur to Chokarwara and vice versa and also from places in between these two points in either direction. Babu Lal Gupta after sometime transferred his permit No. P. st P. 878 with the permission of the Regional Transport Authority Jaipur to respondent No. 2 Mithalal and thereafter Mithalal plied his vehicle on the Bharatpur Bhusawar route including the ineffective portion of the notified route, subject of course to the condition imposed by clause 7 (g) of the approved scheme.
The permit of Babulal Gupta at the time when the scheme was finalised was valid upto January 11, 1961, but before the buses of the Rajasthan State Roadways actually came on the notified route, Babulal Gupta applied to the Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur for the renewal of that permit. The Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur, refused to renew the permit on the ground that under cl. 7 (g) of the scheme Gupta could ply his vehicle only upto the existing term of that permit which expired on 11th January, 61 and therefore, the Regional Trans-port Authority was not competent to renew the permit on the portion of the notified route. The permit was however, renewed on the remaining portion of the route i. e. from Chokarwara to Bhusawar. An appeal was preferred against the said resolution of the Regional Transport Authority to the Transport Appellate Tribunal. The Tribunal while accepting the appeal observed that by making the permit ineffective on the portion of the notified route the framers of the scheme never intended to prohibit the operator to run his vehicle on the portion of the notified route, but the only restriction that was put by the scheme on such permits was that the operators would not provide on this portion of the notified route any road transport as they were restrained to pick up passengers between Bharatpur and Chokarwara. Taking this view of the scheme the Transport Appellate Tribunal directed that the nationalisation of the Jaipur Bharatpur route did not in any manner, create an impediment in the way of the Regional Transport Authority to renew the permit because in the opinion of the Transport Appellate Tribunal if such permits are not renewed the position will become worse for the passengers for Bhusawar as no body can economically run a bus on a four mile long small route between Chokarwara and Bhusawar. After this decision of the Transport Appellate Tribunal, the permit of Babulal Gupta was renewed by the Regional Transport Authority upto 11th January, 1964, and the Rajasthan State Roadways did not think it advisable to challenge the correctness of the Tribunal's decision. Babulal Gupta again applied for the renewal of his permit on Bharatpur-Bhusawar route in the year 1963. That application of Babulal Gupta was duly published in the Rajasthan Gazette and no objection to that renewal was preferred before the Regional Transport Authority by the Rajasthan State Roadways with a result that his permit was again renewed for a further period of three years, that is, upto 11th January, 1967 vide the resolution of the Regional Transport Authority dated l/2nd April, 1964. The vehicle covered by permit No. P. St. P. 878 was plied on the Bhusawar-Bharatpur route by Babulal Gupta under the renewed permits but after the permit was transferred to Mithalal respondent No. 2 he started plying the bus on the strength of the same renewed permit. When the third renewal of the said permit fell due, the respondent No. 2 submitted an application to the Regional Transport Authority for its renewal and it was duly published in the Rajasthan Gazette of 26th January, 1967. Thereafter the Regional Transport Authority by its resolution No. 231, dated 15th June, 1967 extended the life of the permit for further three years.
It may be mentioned that the Corporation did not file any objection before the Regional Transport Authority against the renewal of the said permit and for the third time and the permit was allowed to be renewed uncontested in favour of respondent No 2. It so appears that the Corporation thereafter got out of its slumber and preferred an appeal against the resolution of the Regional Transport Authority renewing the permit of respondent No, 2. In that appeal a plea was taken by the Corporation that objections were actually filed by it under sec. 57 of the Act within time but the corporation could not substantiate this plea and later on when the petitioner found itself in an uncomfortable position it preferred to file a petition U/s 226 of the Constitution in this Court and after filing the present petition on 1 4th September, 1967 it withdrew its appeal from the Appellate Tribunal but it was done after obtaining the stay order from this Court on 15th September 1967.
The Corporation in this petition has challenged the validity of the resolution of the Regional Transport Authority granting the renewal in favour of respondent No. 2, inter alia, on the grounds that the Regional Transport Authority had no jurisdiction to renew the permit of the respondent No. 2 as it violated the express provisions of the approved scheme of Jaipur Bharatpur route. According to the petitioner, the approved scheme had permitted Babulal Gupta to ply his vehicle under permit No. P. St. P. 878 on Bharatpur Bhusawar route till the validity of that permit which meant only that he could ply his vehicle under that permit upto the unexpired term of the permit, and under clause 7 (g) of the scheme neither Babulal Gupta nor his assignees were entitled to seek the renewal of the said permit after the expiry of the present term of the permit as it stood at the time when the scheme was approved by the Government. It was also alleged that even if Babulal Gupta had obtained the renewals of his permit on previous occasions the same being illegal and without jurisdiction did not confer any right on respondent No. 2 and did not preclude the petitioner to challenge the renewal which has been obtained by respondent No. 2 from the Regional Transport Authority for the third time. The petitioner has, therefore, prayed that by issuing a writ of certiorari or any other appropriate writ, order or direction, the resolution of the Regional Transport Authority granting the renewal of the permit to respondent No. 2 for plying his vehicle on the portion of the notified route between Bharatpur and Chokarwara be quashed and the respondent No. 2 be permanently restrained from plying his vehicle between Bharatpur and Chokarwara.
This writ petition was vehemently opposed by respondent No. 2. Apart from denying the allegations of the petitioner about the jurisdiction of the Regional Transport Authority to grant the renewal of the permits, the respondent No. 2 raised various other objections and the important two objections, which were pressed by learned counsel for respondent No. 2 at the time of arguments are (1) that the petition should be dismissed as the petitioner has not come to this Court with clean hands and is guilty of suppressing important facts of the two previous renewals as well as making false averment before this Court that the appeal which was pending at the time of the filing of the present petition before the Transport Appellate Tribunal had been withdrawn by the petitioner whereas it was actually withdrawn by it a day after the present petition was filed and the stay order was obtained from this Court; and (2) that the petitioner is not entitled to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution as the petitioner did not file any objection before the Regional Transport Authority within a period of thirty days from the date of the publication for renewal in the Official Gazette and as such the petitioner by virtue of the pronouncement of this Court in Sharma Roadways vs. Sohanlal Soni (1), was not entitled either to file any appeal or a writ application in respect of the same.
Mr. Gupta appearing on behalf of respondent No. 2 in writ petition No. 509 of 1967 laid considerable stress on the aforesaid two objections by way of preliminary objections. I think, these petitions could be disposed of by deciding these preliminary objections raised by Mr. Gupta but as considerably long arguments were addressed at the Bar on the merits of the petitions, it will be proper to dispose of the petitions by deciding the real issue that has been raised by the petitioner in these applications and therefore, I will deal with the merits of the case.
Mr. Agrawal has strenuously urged that after a route has been nationalised under Chapter-IV A of the Act, the Regional Transport Authority by virtue of the provisions of Cl. (a) of Sub-sec. (2) of sec. 68-F of the Act loses his jurisdiction to entertain an application for the renewal of the existing permit on the portion of the notified route. In this connection, reliance has been placed by him on a Supreme Court authority in Nilkanth Prasad vs. the State of Bihar (2 ). It was also argued that the framers of the Scheme had permitted Babulal Gupta to ply his vehicle on Bharatpur Bhusawar route till the validity of the permit held by him at the time when the scheme was finalised by the Government. According to Mr. Agrawal, the words "till the validity of the permit" can be interpreted only to mean that Babu Lal Gupta shall not ply his vehicle on the portion of the notified route after term of the permit had expired, and thereafter the Regional Transport Authority was left with no jurisdiction to allow Babulal Gupta to continue the plying of his bus on the portion of the notified route by extending the life of the permit by renewing it. In this connection, Mr. Agrawal also relied on clauses 2 and 4 of the scheme which, according to him, carry a prohibition for every body else except the State Transport Undertaking to ply the buses on the notified route. He therefore urged that it is in the background of these provisions of the scheme, which, according to him make this scheme of total exclusion, that the words "till the validity of the permit" should be interpreted by this court. In support of his argument he referred a decision of this Court in Rukmani Devi vs. The Transport Appellate Tribunal, Rajasthan, Jaipur (S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 336 of 1966 decided on 31st January, 1967,
Mr. Gupta appearing on behalf of the respondent No. 2 vehemently opposed Mr. Agrawal's arguments and submitted that the expression "till the validity of the permit" as used in clause 7 (g) of the scheme does not embody either expressly or impliedly any prohibition to debar the Regional Transport Authority to renew any permits which under the law can be renewed by the Regional Transport Authority. It was also urged that the provisions of sec. 68 F (2) of the Act can be used by the Regional Transport Authority only once when the scheme is put in action and the prohibition contained in cl. 9 (a) of sec. 68-F (2) of the Act does not come in the way of the Regional Transport Authority to renew the permit after the scheme had come into force as such a renewal does not violate the provisions of the scheme if an application for renewal is made under Chapter IV of the Act. In support of his arguments Mr Gupta relied on the Bench decision of this Court in Automobile Transport Rajasthan Private Ltd. Ajmer vs. State of Rajasthan (D. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 454 of 1961 decided on 30th October, 1961 ).
During the course of arguments, Mr. Agrawal conceded that if the renewal of a permit is not prohibited by the scheme then such a permit can be renewed by the Regional Transport Authority by virtue of the provisions of S. 58 of the Act and the permit after the renewal has been ordered shall be considered to be a valid permit till the term of the renewed permit is expired. But his contention is that clause 7 (g) of the scheme clearly prohibits the renewal of the permit of Babu Lal Gupta after the term of the permit expired on 11th January, 1961, and therefore the Regional Transport Authority had no jurisdiction to entertain the application for the renewal of the said permit According to Mr. Agrawal, the expression "till the validity of the permit" as used in clause 7 (g) means till the validity of the permits as they stood at the time when the scheme was framed and finalised by the Government were valid. The life of the permit, according to Mr. Agrawal, could not be extended by the Regional Transport Authority by renewing the permit till eternity as the process of renewal in his opinion would violate the spirit of the scheme which is a scheme for total exclusion which means that none but the State Transport Undertaking could ply their buses on the notified route.
This very scheme of Bharatpur-Jaipur route when it was framed was challenged before this Court and the appeal against the order of the High Court was taken to the Supreme Court. In that appeal an argument was raised on behalf of those permit holders whose permits were made ineffective on the overlapping portion of the notified route that the framers of the scheme could not have made the permits ineffective under the provisions the Act and even if it was permissible under the law then it is hit by Art. 14 of the Constitution as it debars such permit holders from getting compensation under sec. 68-G and thus it create discrimination between the existing operators. While dealing with this objection this question also cropped up for the consideration of their lordships of the Supreme Court whether this scheme was of total exclusion or it was a scheme of partial exclusion only In that connection it was observed by the learned judges: "under sec. 68-C, it is open to frame a scheme in which there is a partial. . . . . . exclusion of private operators. Making the permits ineffective for the over lapping part only amounts to partial exclusion of the private operators from that route. In the circumstances an order making the permit ineffective for the over-lapping part would be justified under sec. 68c. "
From these observations it is clear that the Supreme Court declared this scheme inspite of its clauses 2 and 4 as a scheme of partial exclusion only and not of total exclusion because it did allow certain permit holders to ply their buses on the certain portions of the notified route subject to the condition that their permits were made ineffective on the overlapping portions thereof. In view of these observations of the Supreme Court, it is difficult for me to accept the argument of Mr. Agrawal that the scheme being of total exclusion it can not permit any other vehicle except that of the State Transport Undertaking to ply on the notified route and hence the expression "till the validity of the permit" cannot be interpreted to mean that the holders of such permit which have been made ineffective on the overlapping portion of the notified route shall run their buses on that portion of the route only for the duration of the current term of such permits. Since the scheme, in view of the Supreme Court observation cannot be taken to be a scheme of total exclusion it is difficult for me to accept the interpretation of the expression "till the validity of the permit" as canvassed by Mr. Agrawal as the entire argument of the learned counsel is based on the assumption that the scheme being of total exclusion cannot permit any private operator to ply his vehicle after the term of the existing permits is expired.
A bare perusal of the scheme makes it abundantly clear that the existing permits on the the notified route were classified by the authors of the scheme in three categories. The first category was of those permits which covered the entire length of the notified route and they were proposed to be cancelled by the scheme. The second category covered those permits which overlapped the notified route only for a short distance and the remaining portion thereof which did not fall on the notified route was considered by the framers of the scheme to constitute a viable route and those permits were proposed to be curtailed to the extent they overlapped the notified route and the holders of those permits were allowed to ply their buses on the remaining portion of their route which did not touch the nationalised route. The third category was of such permits which overlapped the notified route for a considerable distance and the portion left out was not considered by the framers of the scheme a route which could provide sufficient business to run a bus economically on a short distance. Such permits were made ineffective on the overlapping portions of the notified route. The case of the respondent No 2 falls in this category. The Bharatpur-Bhusawar route is a 33 mile long route which covered 29 miles of the notified route between Bharatpur and Chokarwara. From Chokarwara Bhusawar is hardly 4 miles. In order to provide transport facilities to the passengers booked to and from Bhusawar it was probably found necessary that vehicles must ply on this small portion of that route and in order to make it an economic proposition the authors of the scheme permitted in the scheme the existing operators holding permits on Bharatpur-Bhusawar route to ply their buses on condition that their permits were rendered ineffective between Bharatpur and Chokarwara and vice versa with a result that they were prohibited to pick up passengers from Bharatpur upto Chokarwara or any place in between these two places in either direction. By making this provision the framers of the scheme provided a transport facility to the direct passengers booked from Bharatpur to Bhusawar and vice versa or to the travelling public between Chokarwara and Bhusawar and it is in this back ground that the existing permit holders were allowed to ply their buses on Bhusawar-Bharatpur route till the validity of their permits. It is in the light of these circumstances that I shall have to interpret the expression "till the validity of their permits" as used in clause 7 (g) of this scheme.
(3.) SEC. 58 of the Motor Vehicles Act provides that a stage carriage permit other than a temporary permit issued under sec. 62 shall be effective without renewal for such period which shall not be less than three years and not more than five years, as the Regional Transport Authority may specify in the permit. Sub-sec. (2) of this section further provides that a permit may be renewed on an application made and disposed of as if it were an application for a permit. These provisions of the law clearly indicate that a permit shall be effective only for the period that has been specified in that permit between the limits prescribed in sec. 58 of the Act. By enacting sub-sec. (2) of sec. 58 of the Motor Vehicles Act, the Legislature introduced a provision under which the initial period of the effectiveness of a permit could be extended by the Regional Transport Authority and the permit when renewed shall remain valid till the period for which it was so renewed is expired.
The Supreme Court in V. C. K. Bus Service Ltd. vs. The Regional Transport Authority, Coimbatore (3) has held that the life of a renewed permit is one and continuous one and such a renewed permit is a continuation of the original permit. In view of this authority and the provision of sec. 58 of the Act no doubt is left in my mind that the framers of the scheme when they used the expression "till the validity of the permit" in cl. 7 (g) of the scheme they meant that the existing permit holders on Bharatpur-Bhusawar route shall run their buses on it including the overlapping portion of the notified route for which those permits were made ineffective till they were valid including the period extended by renewals of those permits. The Supreme Court authority in Nilkanth Prasad vs. State of Bihar (2) relied upon by Mr. Agarwal is of little help to him because in that case I find that the expression used by the framers of the scheme for permitting the existing permit holders to ply their vehicles on the portion of the notified route on the strength of their existing permits was different from the expression used in the present case. That case came in appeal before the Supreme Court from the judgment of the Patna High Court in Deep Narain Pandey vs. State of Bihar (4 ). From the perusal of the scheme as is given in the judgment of the Patna High Court, I find that in that case the existing permit holders were allowed to run their vehicles on the notified portion of the route till the expiration of the existing permits. In my opinion, the expression "till the expiration of the existing permits" is entirely different from the expression till the validity of the permits " In the first expression, there is an implied prohibition that after the permits were expired the existing operators shall cease to ply their buses on the notified route thereafter but such a prohibition cannot be read in the expression "till the validity of the permits. " Because of this difference in the expressions used in the two schemes, the observations of the Supreme Court in Nilkanth Prasad vs. State of Bihar (2) that the Regional Transport Authority was not competent to grant a renewal cannot be of any avail to the petitioner in the present case. In my opinion, the expression "till the validity of the permits", does embody in it a permission to extend the validity of the permit by granting renewals to the permit holders.
In the present case, the permit of Babulal Gupta was to expire on 11th January, 1961. The scheme of Bharatpur-Jaipur route was finalised in the month of December, 1960, and it was published in the Official Gazette on 14-12-1960. The Rajasthan Roadways (the then State Transport Undertaking) under the said scheme were to bring their vehicles on the notified route from 26-1-1961. Babulal Gupta applied for the renewal of his existing permit within time but the Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur by its resolution dated 26/27 December, 1961 rejected the application for renewal on the ground that after the coming into force of the scheme it had no jurisdiction to grant such a renewal. On appeal, the Transport Appellate Tribunal took a different view and held that the nationalisation of Jaipur-Bharatpur route does not come in the way of the Regional Transport Authority to renew the permit of the appellant (i. e. Mr. Gupta) as the scheme itself permitted to ply the vehicles of the appellant under the said permit over the overlapping portion of the notified route, of course with a condition that the permit shall remain ineffective on that portion of the notified route which overlaps the route Bharatpur to Bhusawar. In the opinion of the Transport Appellate Tribunal this condition implied that the appellant had a right to ply over such ineffective section of the notified route even after the existing term of the permit if renewed as he was not providing any passenger road transport services on that portion of that notified route. It is worthy of note that the State Transport Undertaking did not challenge the said order of the Transport Appellate Tribunal in any Court. Not only that the State Transport Undertaking allowed Mr. Gupta to get the second renewal from the Regional Transport Authority for another period of three years which extended the life of his permit upto 11th January, 1967. It may also be observed that the Corporation did not object before the Regional Transport Authority the grant of the third renewal when the application of respondent No. 2 came for consideration before the said authority. This conduct of the State Transport Undertaking which was the author of the scheme also shows that it also interpreted the expression "till the validity of the permits" to mean that the existing permit holders on the Bharatpur-Bhusawar route shall not be precluded in future to get the renewal of their permits under the provision of the M. V. Act inspite of the nationalisation of the Bharatpur-Jaipur route.
It is a matter of common knowledge that in Rajasthan the State Transport Undertaking has nationalised only those routes which are "a" class routes and which generally connect the places of importance in the State. The Corporation does not at present serve those routes which are categorised as 'b' or 'c' Class routes which connect places of less importance. If the renewal of permits on Bharatpur-Bhusawar route was refused by the Regional Transport Authority on the overlapping portion of the notified route of the Bharatpur-Jaipur then it would mean that the four operators who were then holding permits for Bharatpur-Bhusawar route could ply their buses only on an uneconomic portion of that route between Chokarwara to Bhusawar. As observed above, no operator could carry on the business of providing road transport services economically on such a small route unless the place is of such an importance that it could perennially provide passengers for the buses to run on such a small portion; and therefore the renewal of their existing permits on this small portion of the route would become meaningless. It was perhaps with a view to provide facilities for the direct passengers from Bharatpur to Bhusawar that the framers of the scheme made the provisions of clause 7 (g) and if that provision is construed in the manner in which Mr. Agra-wal wants this Court to interpret this clause then it would be denying the facility to the direct passengers booked for Bhusawar from Bharatpur and vice versa which the authors of the scheme wanted to provide. It may be observed here that out of the four existing operators, who were allowed to ply their buses by virtue of clause 7 (g) of the scheme, three have already dropped from this field probably this proposition of picking direct passengers only did not provide sufficient business for four operators.
Respondent No. 2 is the last operator who is still in the field, and providing transport facility to the passengers to and from Bhusawar and if this service is also stopped then this would mean that the passengers who are bound for Bhusawar will be totally denied any transport facility because no body would like to run his bus on a small portion of four miles between Chokarwada and Bhusawar which according to Mr. Gupta is a most uneconomical proposition.
Mr. Agrawal in support of his contention also relied on the decision in Rukmani Devi vs. Transport Appellate Tribunal but in my opinion it does not support Mr. Agrawal because in that case this Court held that no new permit could be granted in the vacancy created by the dropping of the existing permit holders mentioned in para 7 (g) of the scheme. That judgment is perfectly in consonance with the provisions of para 7 (g) of the scheme, because the scheme specifically mentioned that only the existing permit holders the numbers whereof are given in para 7 (g) shall run their buses on the Bharatpur-Bhusawar route till the validity of their permits. This shows that the framers of the scheme allowed this facility of running their buses on the overlapping portion of the notified route while going from Bharatpur to Bhusawar or vice versa only to those permit holders who held the permits at the time when the scheme was framed. The contents of para 7 (g) clearly contain a prohibition for the grant of new permit or permits on the Bharatpur-Bhusawar route and therefore the judgment of this Court in Rukmani Devi's case can be read to mean only this much that new permits cannot come on the route but it does not in any way mention that the old permits shall also not be renewed if such a renewal is permissible under clause 7 (g) of the scheme.