Subba Rao, J. -
(1.)This appeal by special leave is directed against the judgment of the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad dismissing the petition filed by the appellants under Art. 226 of the Constitution to issue a writ of quo warranto against respondents 1 to 10 directing them to exhibit an information as to the authority under which they are functioning as members of the Vicarabad Municipal Committee and to restrain them from selling certain plots of land belonging to the Municipality to third parties. Vicarabad was originally situate in the Part B State of Hyderabad and is now in the State of Andhra Pradesh. The Municipal Committee of Vicarabad was constituted under the Hyderabad Municipal and Town Committees Act (XXVII of 1951). In the year 1953 respondents 1 to 10 were elected, and five others, who are not parties before us, were nominated, to that Committee. On November 27, 1953, the Rajpramukh of the State Hyderabad published a notification under the relevant Acts in the Hyderabad Government Gazette Extraordinary notifying the above persons as members of the said Committee. Presumably with a view to democratize the local institutions in that part of the country and to bring them on a par with those prevailing in the neighbouring States, the Hyderabad District Municipalities Act, 1956 (XVIII of 1956), (hereinafter referred to as the Act), was passed by the Hyderabad Legislature and it received the assent of the President on August 9, 1956. Under S. 320 of the Act the Hyderabad Municipal and Town Committees Act, 1951 (XXVII of 1951) and other connected Acts were repealed. As a transitory measure, under the same section any Committee constituted under the enactment so repealed was deemed to have been constituted under the Act and the members of the said Committee were to continue to hold office till the first meeting of the Committee was called under S. 35 of the Act. Under that provision respondents 1 to 10 and the five nominated members continued to function as members of the Municipal Committee. In or about the year 1958 the said Committee acquired land measuring acres 15-7 guntas described as "Varad Raja Omar Bagh" for Rs. 18,000 for the purpose of establishing a grain market (gunj). For one reason or other, the Municipal Committee was not in a position to construct the grain market and run it departmentally. The Committee, therefore, after taking the permission of the Government, resolved by a requisite majority to sell the said land to third parties with a condition that the vendee or vendees should construct a building or buildings for running a grain market. Thereafter the Committee sold the land in different plots to third parties; but the sale deeds were not executed in view of the interim order made in the writ petition by the High Court and subsequently in the appeal by this Court.
(2.)In the writ petition the appellants contended, inter alia, that the respondents ceased to be members of the Municipal Committee on the expiry of three years from the date the new Act came into force and that, therefore, they had no right to sell the land, and that, in any view, the sale made by the Committee of the property acquired for the purpose of constructing a market was ultra vires the provisions of the Act. The respondents contested the petition on various grounds. The learned Judges of the High Court dismissed the petition with costs for the following reasons:
1. The old Committee will continue to function till a new Committee comes into existence.
2. "Section 76 contemplates that property vested in it under Ss. 72(f), 73 and 74 should be transferred only to Government. Here, the transfer is not in favour of the Government. That apart we are told that in this case sanction of the Government was obtained at every stage. It cannot be predicated that the purpose for which the properties are being disposed of is not for a public purpose. It is not disputed that the properties are being sold only to persons who are required to build grain market."
3. The act now opposed is not in any way in conflict with the provisions of Ss. 244, 245 and 247.
4. "It looks to us that the petitioners lack in bona fides and that this petition is not conceived in the interests of the public." The present appeal, as aforesaid, was filed by special leave granted by this Court.
(3.)Mr. P. A. Chowdury, learned counsel for the appellants, canvassed the correctness of the findings of the High Court. His first argument may be summarized thus:Under S. 320 of the Act any Committee constituted under the repealed enactment shall be deemed to have been constituted under the Act and the members of the said Committee shall continue to hold office till the first meeting of the Committee is called under S. 35 of the Act. Under S. 35 of the Act, the first meeting of the Committee shall not be held on a date prior to the date on which the term of the outgoing members expires under S. 34. Section 34 of the Act provides that the members shall hold office for a term of three years. Therefore, the term of the members of the Committee deemed to have been constituted under S. 320 is three years from the date on which the Act came into force. If the term fixed under S. 34 does not apply to the members of the said Committee, the result will be that the said members will continue to hold office indefinitely, for the first meeting of the Committee could not be legally convened under the Act as S. 16 which enables the Collector to do so imposes a duty on him to hold a general election within three months before the expiry of the term of office of the members of the Committee as specified in S. 34. and, as no definite term has been prescribed for the members of the Committee under S. 320, the election machinery fails, with the result that the members of the "deemed" Committee would continue to be members of the said Committee indefinitely. On this interpretation learned counsel contends that the section would be void for the following reasons:(1) S. 320(1)(a) of the Act would be ultra vires the powers of the State Legislature under Art. 246 of the Constitution, read with entry 5, List II, VII Schedule; (2) the said section deprives the appellants of the right to equality and equal protection of the laws guaranteed under Art. 14 of the Constitution; (3) S. 320 would be void also as inconsistent with the entire scheme of the provisions of the Act.