Decided on January 02,1974



- (1.) The petitioners and respondent No. 2 are stage carriage operators in various routes in the Districts of Alleppey and Quilon as per permits issued under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1933. The petitioners are individuals, while the second respondent is a registered Cooperative Society governed by the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, 1969. Petitioners 1, 3, 5 and 7 have got six buses each, while petitioners 2, 4 and 8 have got three buses each and the 6th petitioner has got four buses. The second respondent has 20 buses. The routes operated by the petitioners and the second respondent overlap in some places; and all of them carry on their business under similar circumstances.
(2.) The Kerala Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1963 imposes a tax on all motor vehicles used or kept for use in the State at the rates fixed by the Government not exceeding the maximum rates specified in the First Schedule in the Act. Accordingly the tax fixed by the Government in the case of a stage carriage is Rs. 160/- per seat per year, and also an additional levy of Rs.40/- for every standing passenger. A special provision is contained in S.21 of this Act, which provides that a registered cooperative society which has got the characteristics specified in that section shall be liable only to 50% of the tax payable under the Act. The second respondent possesses all these characteristics, with the result the tax payable in respect of the twenty buses run by it is only at the rate of 50% of the tax payable by the petitioners. The petitioners seek a declaration that the said section is unconstitutional as violative of Art.14, 19(1)(f) and 31 of the Constitution.
(3.) The objection taken on the basis of Art.19(1)(f) and 31 are on somewhat remote grounds, and it was not rightly pressed at the bearing. It was the alleged violation of Art.14 that was seriously urged before me. This contention is based on the allegation that the petitioners and the second respondent do the same business in the same area under similar circumstances, that the second respondent is in a better position to carry on its business more economically and more efficiently than any one of the petitioners because of it special characteristics, and that the provision contained in S.21 is a baseless discrimination to the detriment of persons like the petitioners, with the result the second respondent gets an undue advantage over them in the matter of carrying on the business. It is also alleged that there is no cooperative society other than the second respondent satisfying all the requisites prescribed in S.21, and that the said provision amounts to singling out that society for a favourable treatment without any rational basis.;

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