Bisheshwar Prasad Singh, J. -
(1.)The core question which arises for consideration in this appeal by special leave is whether the Transport Commissioner of the State of Haryana has any financial interest within the meaning of S. 68(2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 in the Government undertaking known as the Haryana Roadways so as to render him ineligible for appointment as Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority. The appellant had challenged by a writ petition the Notification dated March 27, 1993 whereunder the Transport Commissioner was appointed as Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority. Since the aforesaid Notification was superseded by a subsequent Notification of December 31, 1998 appointing the Secretary, Regional Transport Authority as Chairman and the Traffic Manager of the Haryana Roadways as a member of the authority, apart from a representative of the District Administration, the appellant amended the writ petition and challenged the Notification of December 31, 1998 also. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana dismissed the writ petition by its impugned judgment and order dated February 21, 2000. Later by a Notification dated February 20, 2001 in supersession of the earlier Notification, the Transport Commissioner of Haryana was again appointed as Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority and the District Transport Officer to act as Secretary, Regional Transport Authority of concerned region as member. Before us, the counsel has challenged only the appointment of the Transport Commissioner as Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority and not the appointment of the District Transport Officer who has been appointed to act as the Secretary of the Regional Transport Authority.
(2.)The appellant herein is a co-operative society duly registered under the Haryana Co-operative Societies Act. It deals in the business of passenger transport and for that purpose obtains stage carriage permits issued through the Regional Transport Authority, Hissar. Presently, it holds one permit to operate four return trips on Hansi-Bad Chhappar route which falls within the District of Hissar.
2A. The case of the appellant pleaded in the writ petition was that the Haryana Roadways is a department of the State of Haryana. It also carries on business of providing passenger transport facility. It competes with private stage carriage operators and owns and operates a fleet of motor vehicles. The Haryana Roadways is also subject to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act (hereinafter referred to as "the Act") and the rules framed thereunder. Stage carriage permits are issued by the concerned Regional Transport Authority constituted under S. 68 of the Act.
(3.)It was contended that for about two decades the entire passenger transport service in the State of Haryana remained nationalised and stage carriage service was operated only by the State Transport Undertaking known as the Haryana Roadways. However, in the year 1993 by Notification issued under S. 100 of the Act, a provision was made for grant of stage carriage permits to private operators but confined to co-operative societies. Under the Notification, the routes falling within the districts with not more than 10 kilometers falling on the National or State Highways, were available for operation by co-operative societies. Accordingly, stage carriage permits are being granted to co-operative societies under Chapter V of the Act by the concerned Regional Transport Authorities of which the Transport Commissioner, Haryana was, and again is, the Chairman. By Notification dated March 27, 1998 the Government of Haryana in exercise of the powers conferred by S. 68 of the Act, in supersession of its earlier Notification dated December 30, 1996 constituted Regional Transport Authorities for each of the regions of Ambala, Hissar, Faridabad, Rohtak, Karnal and Rewari consisting of Transport Commissioner as Chairman and Secretary, Regional Transport Authority of the concerned region as member to exercise and discharge the powers and functions conferred by or under Chapter V of the Act on such authorities in the areas specified in the Notification. The aforesaid Notification of March 27, 1998 was challenged by the appellant co-operative society on the ground that the Notification was illegal inasmuch as S. 68(2) of the Act was a complete bar to the appointment of the Transport Commissioner as Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority, he being an employee of the State Government having financial interest in the Government undertaking namely, Haryana Roadways, within the meaning of S. 68(2) of the Act. In the writ petition the High Court issued a show cause notice to the respondents by order dated 5-12-1998. However, on 31-12-1998 another Notification was issued in supersession of the Notification dated March 27, 1998 whereunder the Secretary, Regional Transport Authority of concerned region was appointed as Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority and the Traffic Manager concerned of the office of General Manager, Haryana Roadways at District Headquarters as member of the authority. Another member was appointed who was a representative of the District Administration to be nominated by the Deputy Commissioner concerned.