V. N. KHARE, J. -
(1.)APPELLANT Nos. 4 to 22 before us are the companies incorporated under the Indian Companies Act and are engaged in the business of production and sale of sugar. These appellants own sugar factories (hereinafter referred to as 'sugar factories') which are located in various parts of the State of Uttar Pradesh. One of the raw materials required for production of sugar is sugarcane which is purchased from sugarcane growers through sugarcane co-operative societies - which are the respondents in these matters. The purchase of sugarcane by the sugar factories is regulated under the provisions of U.P. Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1953 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). In exercise of power conferred under Section 28 of the Act, the State Government has framed rules known as the U.P. Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Rules, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules). Section 18 of the Act requires the sugar factories to pay a commission known as society commission to the co-operative cane societies a share of which is also transferred to the Cane Development Council. The rate at which the said commission is payable is left to be determined and prescribed by the State Government by the statutory Rules. The share of commission which comes to the co-operative societies is to cover their administrative costs, which include mainly the maintenance of staff deputed for undertaking various co-operatives activities connected with the sale of sugarcane to the sugar factories.
(2.)IN the year 1985, the Government of Uttar Pradesh by amending Rule 49 of the Rules raised the society commission to .50 paise per quintal vide notification dated 11-7-85. Subsequently, the Government of Uttar Pradesh by a subsequent notification dated 1-6-91 again amended Rule 49 and revised the rate of society commission from the existing rate of .50 paise per quintal to 5% of the minimum statutory cane price fixed by the Central Government. After the existing rate of commission was enhanced, the appellants jointly submitted representation before the State Government, inter alia, contending that enhancement is excessive and arbitrary. Simultaneously, the appellants also filed writ petition challenging the enhancement of society commission. However, in January 1992, the writ petition was withdrawn.
It appears, the State Government on the representation of the appellants reduced the rate of society commission from 5% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane to 2.69% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane which worked out to .70 paise per quintal. This was done by the amendment of Rule 49 of the Rules by notification dated 24-4-92. The notification dated 24-4-92 runs as under :
"1. (1) These rules may be called the Uttar Pradesh Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) (Amendment) Rules, 1992.
(2) They shall remain in force with effect from 1-10-91 to 30-9-92.
2. In the Uttar Pradesh Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchases) Rules, 1954, for the rules set out in column 1 below, the rules as set out in column 2 shall be substituted :-
The affect of the aforesaid notification was that existing Rule 49 was deleted and in its place new Rule 49 was substituted. However, the substituted rule remained operative from 1-10-91 to 30-9-92. It is not disputed that the appellants herein continued to pay the society commission on the basis of substituted Rule 49 i.e. @ 2.69% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane. After 30-9-92, the Cane Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh issued a circular to the effect that the society commission after 30-9-92 shall be charged @ 5% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane fixed by the Central Government on the premise that since the substituted rule came to be inoperative after 30-9-92, the old Rule 49 has revived.
(3.)SINCE the respondents insisted to charge society commission @ 5% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane fixed by the Central Government, it is alleged that the appellants were compelled to file a writ petition before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad. In the said writ petition, the appellants challenged the order dated 5-1-93 passed by the Cane Commissioner whereby and whereunder the Cane Commissioner issued direction to realise society commission @ 5% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane, fixed by the Central Government.
One of the grounds of challenge of the said circular was that once the old Rule 49 having been deleted and substituted by new Rule 49 providing for 2.69% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane even though it has ceased to be operative after 30-9-92, the old rule does not revive and the respondents have no authority in law to charge society commission @ 5% of the minimum statutory price of sugarcane. The High Court was of the view that on the application of Section 6-C of the U.P. General Clauses Act, the repealed or deleted Rule 49 revived after the substituted Rule 49 ceased to be operative. In that view of the matter, the writ petition was dismissed. It is against the said judgment and order of the High Court, the appellants have filed the present appeal by way of special leave petition and there is also a connected writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, challenging the impugned society commission.