(Prayer: Writ Petitionis filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to issue a Writ of Certiorarified Mandamus, to call for the records pertaining to the impugned order in Na.Ka.No.A3/12884/14, dated 04.04.2014 on the file of the respondent No.3 and quash the same as illegal and consequently, direct the respondent Nos.1 to 3 to permit the share autos to operate in the Karaikudi Special Grade Municipality within the time frame fixed by this Court.)
S. Nagamuthu, J.
1. The petitioner had made an application in the proper form under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 and the Rules thereunder, seeking permit for plying a share auto (5 seater) in Karaikudi Town in Sivagangai District. The third respondent, by his proceedings in Na.Ka.No.A3/12884/14, dated 04.04.2014, rejected the said application and refused to grant permit. Challenging the same, the petitioner is before this Court with this Writ Petition.
2. We have heard the learned counsel for the petitioner and Mr.M.Govindan, learned Special Government Pleader appearing for the respondents. We have also perused the records carefully.
3. The learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that as per Section 74(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, the State Government has been empowered to restrict the number of a particular class of contract carriages in City routes in Towns with a population of not less than five Lakhs. This provision is not applicable to a Town, which has got less than five Lakhs of population. Except the said provision, according to the learned counsel, there is no other provision either in the Motor Vehicles Act or the Rules issued thereunder either by the Central Government or by the State Government to restrict the number of share autos in City routes in Towns.
4. The Regional Transport Officer, Sivagangai District, has filed a detailed counter, wherein, inter alia, he has stated that the Government of Tamil Nadu has issued G.O.Ms.No.277, Home (Transport VI) Department, dated 22.03.2001, wherein the Government has permitted the Transport Authorities to grant permit only for 100 share autos (5 seaters) in the city of Chennai, but, in the District Headquarters, the same shall be only 50 share autos. Since Karaikudi is not a District Headquarters, according to the respondents, no permit for plying a share auto could be granted.
5. The learned Special Government Pleader would submit that as per Section 67 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, having regard to various aspects as enumerated in Sub-Section (1) of Section 67, the Government has got power to restrict the issuance of permit for share autos.
6. This argument does not persuade us at all. A plain reading of Section 67(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, would make it abundantly clear that having regard to certain relevant factors as enumerated in Sub-Section (1), the Government may, by means of notification in the official Gazette, fix the fares and freights including the maximum and minimum in respect thereof for stage carriages, contract carriages and goods carriages. The said Section further empowers the Government to prohibit or restrict subject to such conditions as may be specified in the directions, of the conveying of long distance goods traffic generally, or of specified classes of goods by goods carriages. It further empowers the Government to issue notification regarding any other matter which may appear to the State Government necessary or expedient for giving effect to any agreement entered into with the Central Government or any other State Government or the Government of any other country relating to the regulation of motor transport generally, and in particular to its co-ordination with other means of transport and the conveying of long distance goods traffic. Thus, Section 67 empowers the Government to fix fares and freights and to control the goods traffic only. This provision does not empower the Government to restrict the permits for contract carriages in any town.
7. The learned counsel appearing for the petitioner would refer to Section 74 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, which speaks of grant of contract carriage permit. A glance through the said provision would make it abundantly clear that the Government has not been empowered at all to direct the Transport Authorities to decline to grant permit for share autos to ply in any town. As rightly contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner, as per Sub-Section (3) of Section 74 of the Act, such kind of restriction in respect of number of contract carriages, could be imposed only in respect of city routes in towns with a population of not less than five lakhs. In the instant case, it is not at all the case of the respondents that Karaikudi has got more than five lakhs of population. The learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that the population of Karaikudi Town is around 1.5 Lakhs, which fact is not disputed by the respondents.
8. The learned Special Government Pleader would submit that without challenging G.O.Ms.No.277, Home (Transport VI) Department, dated 22.03.2001, it is not open for the petitioner to challenge the impugned order alone.
9. The said argument also does not persuade us at all. That Government Order has got nothing to do with City routes in towns with a population of less than five Lakhs. Therefore, if the petitioner has made application for permit for contract carriage, in Karaikudi Town, which has got less than five Lakhs of population, he need not challenge G.O.Ms.No.277, Home (Transport VI) Department, dated 22.03.2001, as the same does not restrict the number of share autos in a City, like Karaikudi Town. Therefore, this argument is also rejected.
10. The learned Special Government Pleader would submit that in Karaikudi Town, to cater the needs of commuters, already, there are other transport facilities, like stage carriages, autos (3 seaters) and omnibuses. Therefore, there is no need to grant permit for 5 seaters autos. This argument also does not persuade us, because, as we have already held, the Government has got no power at all to restrict the issuance of permit for contract carriages in City routes in towns where the population is less than five Lakhs.
11. The learned Special Government Pleader would further submit that as against the impugned order, there is a right of appeal and, therefore, this Writ Petition is not maintainable. This argument also deserves to be rejected, because, in our considered view, the impugned order is wholly without jurisdiction quoting a wrong Government Order. At this length of time, in our considered view, it may not be appropriate for us to drive the petitioner to work out his appeal remedy.
12. In view of the foregoing discussion, we find that the impugned order is not sustainable and the same is liable to be set aside.
13. In the result, the Writ Petition is allowed; the impugned order is set aside and the third respondent is directed to consider the application of the petitioner afresh and if it is found that he satisfies all the other requirements, to pass order granting permit, as provided under Section 74 of the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, within a period of three months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. No costs. Consequently, the connected miscellaneous petition is closed.