(1.)THESE are three writ petitions under Art. 226 of the Constitution which can conveniently be dealt with together. The subject-matter of writ petition No 657 of 1967 Shivcharanlal vs. Regional Transport Authority Jaipur and writ petition No. 709/67 Daulatram vs. Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur is an order of the Regional Transport Authority Jaipur, dated 16-10-67 in pursuance of circulation note No. 498/67 of even date granting permits on Alwar Pahadi via Nagar, Sikri Gopalgarh route one each to respondents Dharamchand Kapoorchand Jain and Ved Prakash respectively. The subject-matter of writ petition No. 739 of 1967 Sumat Prasad Jain vs. Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur is an order of the Regional Transport Authority fixing certain timings for the running of the buses of these respondents. I may narrate the facts with reference to Shivcharanlal's writ petition here. I
(2.)THE route in question is Alwar to Pahadi via Gopalgarh, Sikri and Nagar. It is 57 miles in length and is an A-Class route. THE petitioner applied for grant of a non-temporary stage carriage permit over this route on 9th December, 1966. THE substance of his application was published in the Rajasthan Rajpatra dated 9-3-1967, in accordance with the provisions of sec. 57 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 hereinafter referred to as the Act for inviting objections within 30 days from the date of the publication of the notification in the Gazette. According to the petitioner, no objections were preferred against his application within the prescribed time. His grievance is that although his application had become ripe for consideration at the hands of the Regional Transport Authority, the latter did not consider it along with the applications of the respondents Nos. 2 and 3 and leaving out his application, the Regional Transport Authority decided to grant one permit to each of these respondents. This is in a nut-shell the case set up by the present petitioner.
The case, however has a short history, Prior to the impugned order of the Regional Transport Authority, the Regional Transport Authority had given a permit in November, 1966, to respondent No. 2 Dharam Chand Kapoorchand Jain by a circulation note. That order was challenged by a writ petition by respondent Ved Prakash. The Writ petition of Ved Prakash was S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 90 of 1967. That writ petition was disposed of by a judgment of this Court dated J8th September, 1967 by accepting the writ petition. The resolution of the Regional Transport Authority was set aside and a direction was issued to the Regional Transport Authority in the following terms: "the result is that I allow this writ petition and quash the order of the Regional Transport Authority dated 16th November, 1966, granting permit to respondent No 2. In consequence, the permit issued to respondent No. 2 shall stand cancelled. Since 1 am told that there is no other vehicle plying on this route, and in view of the fact that the disposal of the applications filed by the petitioner and respondent No. 2 respectively has been much delayed I direct the Regional Transport Authority to decide these applications according to law within a period of four weeks from today. " On 3rd October, 1967, the Regional Transport Authority had published a notification in the gazette fixing 6th, 7th and 8th November, 1967, for consideration of several applications for grant of permits on this route. According to that notification, the applications had been published on various dates such as 7-4-66, 18-8-66, 1-12-66, 29-9-66,17-11-66, 5-1-67,6-3-67, 23-2-67 and 15-12-66 The petitioner contends that in spite of the notification having been issued on 3rd October, 1967, and which was published in the Gazette dated 5-10-67 setting down all the applications for consideration in November, 1967, the Regional Transport Authority had taken up the applications of respondents Nos. 2 and 3 only on 16-10-67 and according to the petitioner it had wrongly granted the permits to these respondents, and had acted in violation of the several pronouncements of this Court to which reference will be invited in the course of the discussion. Thus in short, the case of the petitioner Shivcharalal is that the order of the Regional Transport Authority dated 16-10-67 stands vitiated.
The facts in Daulatram's case are parallel with this difference that. Daulat Ram filed the application for grant of permit some time before 6-9-66 and that application was published under cover of notification No. 6352 dated 6th September 1966, and the notification appeared in the Rajpatra dated 1-12-66. According to Daulatram, no objections had been received against his application too, and the same became ripe for hearing on the expiry of the period for the filing of the objections.
The writ petitions have been opposed on behalf respondents Nos. 2 and 3. According to these respondents, the impugned order of the Regional Transport Authority granting them permits was not invalidated on any of the grounds urged by the petitioners. It is, inter alia, urged by them that the Regional Transport Authority disposed of the respondents' application in pursuance of the mandate issued by this Court on 18-9-67, and, therefore, the action of the Regional Transport Authority cannot be characterised as one in contravention of the law. It is submitted that the Regional Transport Authority was duty-bound to carry out the mandate issued by this Court and it could have disobeyed it only at the risk of committing contempt of this Court. In the second place, it is urged that the applications of respondents Nos. 2 and 3 being of dates prior to those by which the writ-petitioners applied for grant of permits, the respondents' application could legitimately have been taken up for consideration and disposed of before the applications of the writ-petitioners. On this grounds it is contended by them that the several decision? of this Court to which reference will be made hereinafter were distinguishable. The respondents also took the stand that the case was dealt with by the Regional Transport Authority in pursuance of the remand order of this Court, and, therefore, the Regional Transport Authority had to deal with the case in the light of the situation as it existed at the time it passed its earlier order in November 1966. According to the respondents, the events that might have happened after the earlier order of the Regional Transport Authority could not be germane to the consideration of the application of respondent Ved Prakash. It was further urged that the contesting respondents had a fundamental right to carry on the business in transport and the restrictions, if any, imposed by the Act cannot be so interpreted as to erode the fundamental rights of these respondents. For this, it is argued that sec. 57 or for that matter any other section in the Act does not lay down that the Regional Transport Authority has to dispose of all the pending applications for a route together at one hearing. It is stated in this behalf that according to the scheme of sec. 57 of the Act, an application for grant of a permit has normally to be disposed of within a period of six weeks from the making of such application and even according to the dicta in several cases of this Court, the applications have to be disposed of as and when they are filed.
As already observed, it is said about the earlier cases of this Court that they deal with different situations. Some cases deal with the question about publication of applications received later and about failure on the part of the Regional Transport Authority to publish the applications made earlier. Other cases according to the respondents deal with cases where applications made earlier had not been disposed of but the later applications came to be disposed of. The present case, according to the respondents, is that as they had made their applications earlier to those made by the writ petitioners, the Regional Transport Authority was not unjustified in taking up and disposing of the earlier applications of the respondents.
In the first place, I may refer to the relevant provisions of the Act. Sec. 46 of the Act lay down as to how an application for a permit in respect of a service of stage carriages will be made. It is laid down therein that the application shall contain certain particulars mentioned in the section. Besides this, the application has to contain the particulars as prescribed by the Rules. Sec. 47 lays down as to what shall be the principles guiding the Regional Transport Authority in considering applications made before it. The Regional Transport Authority has in this regard to bear in mind, inter alia, the interests of the public generally, the advantages to the public of the service to be provided, the adequacy of other passenger transport services operating or likely to operate in the near future in the area and certain other allied matters which need not be referred. Sec. 57 lays down the procedure in applying for and in granting of permits. Sub-sec. (2) enacts that an application for a stage carriage permit shall be made not less than six weeks before the date on which it is desired that the permit shall take effect, or, if the Regional Transport Authority appoints dates for the receipt of such applications, on such dates. Sub-sec. (3) of this section enjoins that the Regional Transport Authority shall make the applications available for inspection at the office of the Authority and it shall publish the application or the substance thereof together with a notice of the date before which representations in connection with such applications can be filed and it shall also give notice of a date on which and the time and place at which the applications and any representations received shall be considered. The date of hearing according to the tenor of sub-sec. (3) has to be not less than 30 days from the publication of the application.
It is true that these sections do not lay down in any specific terms that if there are more than one application then they are all required to be dealt with together at one hearing. It has, however, been settled by a series of decisions of this Court ending with Bhonrilal vs. Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur (1) that it is the plain duty of the Regional Transport Authority to publish all applications that are pending at the time it orders the publication of arty application and it is for it to consider them together so that their just and proper disposal would be ensured. The earlier decisions of this Court which were noticed in Bhonrilal's case (supra) were M/s. Taxi Motor Association, Kankroli vs. R. T. A. , Udaipur (D. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 85/1958, decided on 11-9-1958), Shyam Singh vs. Regional Transport Authority, Udaipur (2) and Brothers Transport Service, Nathdwara vs. Regional Transport Authority, Udaipur (D. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 199 of 1956 decided on 12th August, 1957 ). Shyam Singh's case is a reported case (ILR, X Raj. 1669) whereas the other two cases were unreported cases.
In Shyamsingh's case, the following passage from Brothers Transport Service, Nathdwara had been quoted with approval. That passage runs as under - "learned counsel for the applicants urged that it is the duty of the Regional Transport Authority under s. 57, sub-s. (3) of the Act to publish all applications and it cannot withhold certain applications and publish only some out of all applications before it. As we read s. 57, it no doubt contemplates that applications for stage carriage permits will be published as and when they are received by the Regional Transport Authority. Subs. (2) of s. 57 makes it clear that anybody can make an application for a stage carriage permit at any time provided it is not less than six weeks before the date from which it is desired that the permit should take effect. Therefore, there would be no legal bar to the Regional Transport Authority publishing only one application for permit under s. 5', sub-s. (3 ). At the same time, it is equally obvious that if there are a large number of applications for permits on a particular day before the Regional Transport Authority, it is its duty to publish all those applications together so that all of them may be considered at one sitting. The reason for publishing all applications together is that the number of vehicles permitted on a particular route is always limited. Generally speaking, there are many more applications than the number of vehicles permitted on a route and the Regional Transport Authority has to choose between a large number of applications and give the permits to the best out of them. The procedure provided under s. 57, requires, however, that the Regional Transport Authority should publish an application for permit and invite objections of those concerned before deciding whether a permit should be granted or not. Now, if the Regional Transport Authority has, for example, twenty applications for permits at a particular moment and publishes only one, and the number of permits to be granted is one, it may happen that it may grant a permit to the one person, whose application has been published on the ground that there is no other application before it and refuse to consider his case in comparison with the cases of nineteen others whose applications were pending at the same time before the Regional Transport Authority, but were not published by it. Thus, by withholding pubhcation of other applications pending before it, the Regional Transport Authority can show favouritism to one person as against the others. In Shyam Singh's case it was pointed out that the salutary object of the laws and the Rules and the necessity of strictly conforming to them cannot be over-emphasized and it was because of carelessness in following the rules properly that complications arise and delays are caused in the disposal of applications for grant of permits.
Mr. Gupta has strenuously urged that these cases were distinguishable. According to him, there is no legal right in a later applicant for grant of permit to have his application considered and disposed of along with earlier applications though consideration of all the applications may be desirable but it may not invalidate the decision of the Regional Transport Authority. Shri Gupta emphasizes the fact that sec. 57 prescribes period of six weeks which is the normal period for disposal of applications for permits, and, therefore, according to him, if an earlier application is taken up and decided without consideration of the later application, that will not introduce any illegality in the disposal of any earlier application. Shri Gupta had attempted to re-inforce his submission by contending that the respondents had a fundamental right to carry on the transport business, and, therefore, they could get a permit on the basis of an earlier application.
It is true the right to carry on a business is a fundamental right under Art. 19 of the Constitution, but that right is undoubtedly subject to certain reasonable restrictions. This is, however, a right available to all the citizens of the country, and it is precisely for the exercise of this right by the various citizens that power has been given to the State to regulate the exercise of this right by law. Sec. 47 to which I have already invited attention, postulates that public interest is the dominant consideration in the disposal of applications for grant of permits. The question is whether public interest will be served by disposing of just a few applications leaving out others for the sole reason that some applications were made earlier to others.
In my view, more the number of applications, the wider is the field of choice for the Regional Transport Authority to select the best from the contending many so that the public may be provided with the services of not only the best person in the field but from one having the best vehicle. Apart from this, all citizens have equality before the law and it is just and proper that they all get proper opportunity of advancing their claims for grant of permits in competition with all the rival applicants. If all the applications that are ripe for hearing at the time the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority is proposed to be convened are considered together, then everyone is likely to have a fair deal. The transport authorities are quasi-judicial bodies. The term quasi means "as if". In other words, these bodies have in certain respects to project an image like the duly constituted courts in the country that they are acting impartially and everyone who comes to their door receives a fair deal, Just as for the courts for which it is said that it is not only that they do justice but justice should appear to be done, it is equally necessary for the transport authorities dealing with matters before them quasi-judicially that they appear to the public that they are doing justice. This outlook which always be projected on the public mind demands that all the pending applications which are ripe for hearing are dealt with together so that the chances of making accusations of favouritism and partiality against such bodies may be reduced to the minimum.
I have considered the submission of Shri Gupta that the earlier cases deal with the question of publication of some later applications leaving out earlier applications and deciding applications made later before the applications made earlier were dealt with. But that, in my view, was not the essence of the matter. The essence of the matter was that all the pending applications which are ripe should have a fair deal and that could be ensured only when they are dealt with at one hearing when the rival applicants are face to face and each one of them not only advances his own case for grant of permit but tries to demolish the rival claim of another. This can be brought about only when all these applications are heard together at one sitting.
(3.)IT is sufficient to quote the relevant observations from Bhonrilal's case (supra) to make this point: ". . . . . . . IT was the plain duty of the Regional Transport Authority to publish all the applications that were pending at the time it ordered the publication of respondents' applications and then to consider them together so that their just and proper disposal would be ensured. " What is to be remarked in the above passage is that these applications are to be considered together so that their just and proper disposal should be ensured.
Therefore, in my view nothing turns on the question whether in the earlier cases particular applications which were filed later were published first leaving out the earlier applications or that the previous applications were not decided and the later applications were decided. The rationable of this case, in my view, is that there should be just disposal of all such applications and that could be brought about only when they are dealt with together.
I am not oblivious to the fact that at times certain crafty persons may like to abuse this provision. It is conceivable that just when certain pending applications are going to be taken up by the Regional Transport Authority a couple of days before it, some body may file a fresh application and that may become a pending application. , If this process continues, then as pointed out by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Purshottam Bhai Punambhai Patel vs. The State Transport Appellate Authority, Madhya Pradesh (D. B. Civil Appeal No. 762/1963, decided on 14-4-64) the work may be hampered. The relevant passage is like this. "lastly, there is one other matter which relates to the significance of the consideration recited in s. 47 (1) (c) in the schedule of the provisions of the Act. If the learned judges interpreted the Act to mean that at each and every stage the adequacy of passenger transport services likely to operate in the near future in the sense of the pendency of diverse applications seeking permits for routes over-lapping those for which permits are sought by applications which are under immediate consideration, we must express our dissent. Such construction of sec. 47 (1) c) would render the propositions of the Act relating to the consideration of applications for permit wholly unworkable because applications may be made by operators at any time provided the time limits of s. 57 (2) of the Act are satisfied. That provision runs - "sec. 57 (2) - An application for a stage carriage permit or a public carrier's permit shall be made not less than six weeks before the date on which it is desired that the permit shall take effect, or if the Regional Transport Authority appoints dates for the receipt of such applications, on such dates. " If it were held that immediately an application is made for a permit on a route which is the same as that for which applications are being considered by the Transport Authority under sec. 57 (3) or which might have a material bearing on the grant of permits on that route, the Transport Authority would have to hold its hand and wait till all the applications could be considered together, then it would be apparent that if there are successive applications at intervals for these permits, the stage might never be reached when the applications could be considered and a permit granted. Once it is recognised that the grant of permits to transport operators to ply their carriages on specified routes is primarily for the benefit of the travelling public, it would be seen that such a result would mean that the public would be deprived of a transport service for appreciable length of time and this could not have been contemplated by the Act. " The Regional Transport Authority may be faced with road blocks in situations so created and will not be able to move at all in the matter of granting permits over a route. In my view, this difficulty cannot arise if it is insisted that the Regional Transport Authority should dispose of all such pending applications as actually become ripe for hearing by the time it decides to convene a meeting for the consideration of such applications.
In the present case, I am not called upon to deal with the point as to under what circumstances an application can be said to become ripe for hearing because there is no dispute that the applications made by the writ petitioners were undoubtedly ripe for hearing when the Regional Transport Authority decided to consider the other applications. I may also point put that there may be cases where an application could normally be ripe but on account of certain inaction or error on the part of the transport authority, such application is not allowed to become ripe while other applications of the same date or later dates are allowed to become ripe. This may happen when an earlier application is left out altogether for publication or it is published later and a subsequent application is published earlier. In some cases, it may happen that the period for filing objections has expired before the date is fixed for hearing and in the other case period for filing objections may not expire and the application may not yet become ripe. I am not at the moment dealing with cases of such deliberate omissions or errors on the part of the transport authorities, as this is not shown in the present case. In the present case, the pending applications had already been published and by the notification dated 3-10-1967, they were set down for hearing by the R. T. A. in November, 1967. In between, two of the applications of respondents Nos. 2 and 3 were taken up for consideration by a circulation note and permits were ordered to be issued on 16th October, 1967. Under the circumstances, the only question is whether this was legal in the light of the several pronouncements of this Court including the decision of this Court in Bhonrilal's case (supra ).
I may here consider the justification that is offered by the respondents for deciding the applications of these two respondents alone. It is urged that by its order dated 18th September, 1967, this Court directed the Regional Transport Authority to dispose of the respondents' application within four weeks. If the matter were to stand at that, perhaps there would have been some justification for the argument. It was to be noted that in the judgment itself, reference was made to Bhonrilal's case decided on 17-1-67 and it was mentioned that there was no doubt that the Regional Transport Authority was in error in granting a permit to the respondent without deciding the application of the petitioner in that case. In other words, the essence of the matter was that the pending applications that were ripe had to be heard and disposed of together. It is true that four weeks' period was fixed for the disposal of these two applications and if the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority were to be held in November, 1967, as notified by it on 3rd October, 1967, then undoubtedly the Regional Transport Authority would not be able to decide these applications within a period of four weeks. However, the rationale of the judgment could not be lost sight of, and it was as already noted that when more than one application were ripe for disposal, only a few could not be taken up for consideration and decision. It is also true that the Regional Transport Authority was required to carry out the mandate of this Court to decide the matter within four weeks but it has to be noticed that at that time it was not brought to the notice of the court that other applications were also pending. The Regional Transport Authority was also party to the previous case though it was not represented at the time of hearing. In any case, when the matter reached the Regional Transport Authority for compliance of this Court's order, the Regional Transport Authority was well aware that certain other applications were also pending. It was faced with a position either to act in accordance with the letter of the mandate of this Court by deciding those applications within four weeks or to violate the spirit of its judgment that is its rationale by omitting to decide all pending applications along with these two applications. In that situation either it should have fixed a date of hearing within four weeks for the disposal of all the pending applications as well or if it were not possible, then to have sought clarification from this Court about the period of four weeks so that the same could have been extended. In this way, the Regional Transport Authority could have obeyed the law as well as the mandate of this Court.
Learned counsel for the respondents submitted that the impugned resolution of the Regional Transport Authority was not bad as the applications were disposed of in compliance with the mandate of this Court and when anything is done in pursuance of a mandate of this Court, that order cannot be quashed. He has placed reliance on a passage occurring at page 73 of Halsbury's Laws of England Third Edition, Volume 11. It is like this: "no action or proceeding may be commenced or prosecuted against any person in respect of anything done in obedience to an order of mandamus. Disobedience to an order of mandamus is contempt of court, and is punishable by attachment. " The above passage cannot reasonably be construed to mean that the Regional Transport Authority was relieved of its duty to dispose of the other pending applications if there were any along with the applications of the respondents which were directed to be disposed of by this Court. It was made clear in the judgment of the court itself that the applications were to be disposed of according to law, and Bhonrilal's case was quoted in the body of the judgment itself and the trend of the discussion in the judgment based on that case is that pending applications have to be disposed of together. What is contemplated in the passage is that no action or proceeding is to be taken against a person if he has done anything in pursuance of an order of the court. By that is contemplated in my view proceedings for punishment or any action for damages or the like. This cannot mean that the action cannot be adjudged to be invalid even if it is in contravention of the law. Reading the previous judgment as a whole, I hold that the Regional Transport Authority could have carried put the mandate of this Court both in letter and spirit if it were also to dispose of the other pending applications simultaneously. In these circumstances, the contention raised by learned counsel for the respondent does not cut much ice and the contention has to be rejected.