1. This petition by a trader, agriculturist and commission agent is directed against a bye-law framed by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee which requires the trader to collect the market fee from the purchaser and credit it with the Market Committee. The challenge is really twofold. Firstly, it is contended that the Market Committee itself was not properly constituted because the elections of three members from the traders' constituency were not held at all as those elections were stayed by an order of this Court in Special Civil Applications Nos. 1670 of 1974 and 1672 of 1974. The 2nd contention is that the bye-law amounts to an onerous burden on the Commission Agents and that it was the duty of the Market Committee to recover its own dues. Reliance is placed on the provisions of Section 31 of the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1963 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') under which, according to the petitioner, it is the duty of the Market Committee to recover fees from the purchasers.
2. We shall first deal with the challenge made to the legality of the constitution of the Market Committee. Under Section 13 (1) of the Act it is provided inter alia that three members of the Market Committee shall be elected by the traders and commission agents holding licences to operate as such in the market area. Section 14 of the Act provides for election and term of office of the Members of the Market Committee. In the case of a committee which was constituted for the first time, the members of the Market Committee were to hold office for a period of two years, otherwise the members of the Market Committee were originally to hold office for a period of three years which has now been changed to five years. Section 14 (4) provides that as soon as possible, after the result of any by-election or all the results of a general election are available, the State Government shall publish the names of all the members of a committee in the Official Gazette. Section 14 (4) consists of four paras, the second, third and fourth paras, read as follows:--
'If at a general election (including a general election held before the commencement of the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 1971, the names of any persons to be elected under Sub-section (1) of Section 13 cannot for any reason be notified as aforesaid, and if with the available election results, the Committee will consist of not less than 12 members, then the State Government shall publish the names of these members in the Official Gazette;
And as regards the remaining elections, the State Government shall subsequently publish the names of members in the Official Gazette as and when the results of such elections are available, or as the case may be, on failure to elect, the names of persons duly appointed under Sub-section (2) of this section, if any.
After every general election, upon the publication of the names of all the members of a Committee, or as the case may be, the publication of the names of not less than twelve members as aforesaid, in the Official Gazette, the Market Committee shall be deemed to be duly constituted.'
Now under the second para the provision made is that where the names of any persons to be elected under Section 13 (1) cannot for any reason be notified and if the available election results show that 12 members have been elected to the Market Committee, then the names of these 12 members shall be published in the Official Gazette. Under the third para the State Government is required to publish the names of the other members as and when the results of such election are available or on the failure of any person getting elected, the names of persons who are duly appointed under Section 14 (2) are required to be notified. Under Section 14 (2) it is provided that if for any reason any persons, co-operative society or its managing committee or a Panchayat Samiti or local authority fails to elect any members, the Director shall give notice in writing to them requiring them to elect members within one month from the date of the notice, but on failure again to elect members within the said period, power is given to the Director to appoint on behalf of such persons, co-operative society as its managing committee, Panchayat Samiti or local authority the required number of persons who are qualified to be elected under Section 13 (1). The 4th para of Section 14 (4) provides that after every general election when the names of all the members of a committee are published or where, as earlier indicated, the names of 12 members are published, the Market Committee shall be deemed to be duly constituted.
3. The contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that inasmuch as the election in respect of three members from the traders' constituency had not at all been held, there is no general election as contemplated by Section 14 (4) and, therefore, even though the names of 12 members, who have already been elected have been notified, the Market Committee cannot be said to be duly constituted.
4. In our view, there is no substance in this argument. The last para of Section 14 (4) is intended to provide for a contingency where all the persons who are required to constitute a Market Committee are not elected for one reason or the other when the general elections are held. Now, the election at which the 12 members have been elected was clearly a general election as contemplated by Sections 13 and 14 of the Act. If the process of election for the election of three members from the traders' constituency would not have been stayed by the High Court, three members from that constituency would also have been elected at the said general election. The steps which were being taken for the election of three members from the traders' constituency were clearly for the purposes of general election. The words 'general election' used in Section 14 (4) appear to be used in contradistinction with a bye-election and wherever after the term of office of the members of a Market Committee has expired and steps have to be taken to elect afresh the members of the Market Committee as contemplated by Sections 13 and 14 of the Act, such an election will be a general election. The word 'election' cannot be restricted merely to that part of the process which deals with actual voting or counting of votes and declaration of results of an elected candidate as contended on behalf of the petitioners. The word 'election' normally embraces the entire procedure to be gone through to return a candidate to the appropriate body for which the election has to be held. The Supreme Court in N. P. Ponnuswami v. Returning Officer, Namakkal, : 1SCR218 , while dealing with the word 'election' in Part XV of the Constitution has pointed out that the word has been used in a wide sense, that is to say, to connote the entire procedure to be gone through to return a candidate to the legislature. It is true that those observations were made in the context of the constitutional provisions, but the Supreme Court has dealt in that case with the general meaning of the word 'election' and has quoted with approval the statement of the law from Halsbury's Laws of England. The observations of the Supreme Court read thus:
'That the word 'election' bears this wide meaning whenever we talk of elections in a democratic country, is borne out by the fact that in most of the books on the subject and in several cases dealing with the matter, one of the questions mooted is, when the election begins. The subject is dealt with quite concisely in Halsbury's Laws of England in the following passage. See page 237 of Halsbury's Laws of England, Edn. 2, Vol. 12 under the heading 'Commencement of the Election'' :
'Although the first formal step in every election is the issue of the writ, the election is considered for some purposes to begin at an earlier date. It is a question of fact in each case when an election begins in such a way as to make the parties concerned responsible for breaches of election law, the test being whether the contest is 'reasonably imminent'. Neither the issue of the writ nor the publication of notice of election can be looked to as fixing the date when an election begins from this point of view. Nor, again, does the nomination day afford any criterion. The election will usually begin at least earlier than the issue of the writ. The question when the election begins must be carefully distinguished from that as to when conduct and management of an election may be said to begin. Again, the question as to when a particular person commences to be a candidate is a question to be considered in each case.'
The discussion in this passage makes it clear that the word 'election' can be and has been appropriately used with reference to the entire process which consists of several stages and embraces many steps, some of which may have an important bearing on the result of the process.'
5. The word 'election' is, therefore, fused in the sense of including the process starting with at least the commencement of the filing of the nomination papers and ending with the declaration of the result. Therefore, merely because no election has been held in respect of traders' constituency, it cannot be said that the other members more than 12 in number, whose results were declared and names were published under Section 14 (4), were not elected at a general election. Having regard to paragraph 4 of Section 14 (4), therefore, the contention that the Market Committee was not properly constituted must be rejected.
6. So far as the second contention is concerned, the provisions of Section 31 no doubt provide that it shall be competent to the Market Committee to levy and collect fees in the prescribed manner at such rate as may be decided by it from every purchaser of agricultural produce marketed in the market area. The power to levy and collect fees is regulated by the Maharashtra Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Rules, 1967 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Rules'). Rule 28 castes an obligation on the persons referred to therein to render assistance in the collection of fees in such manner as may be required by the Market Committee. Rule 28 of the Rules reads as follows:--
'Keeping of books by trader, commission agent, broker etc. -- Every trader, commission agent, broker, processor, weighman, measurer, warehouseman and surveyor and such other market functionary as the Market Committee may specify in this behalf, licensed under these rules shall keep such books in such forms and render such periodical returns and at such times and in such forms as the Director may, form time to time, direct; and shall render such assistance in the collection of fees, and prevention of the evasion of payment of fees, due under these rules and bye-laws and in the prevention of the breach of the provisions of the Act, rules and bye-laws, as may be required by the Market Committee.'
The Commission Agent who wants to carry On business Within the market area has to obtain the necessary licence as provided in Rule 6 of the Rules. The licence is to be granted in Form 1 and certain conditions are attached to the licence. Rule 28 which is extracted above makes it obligatory on the trader, commission agent, broker, processor, weighman, measurer, warehouseman and surveyor to render such assistance in the collection of fees and prevention of the evasion of payment of fees due under the rules and bye-laws as may be required by the Market Committee. Conditions Nos. 8 and 14 of the licence are important. Before that, we must point out that condition No. 1 of the licence provides that the licensee shall abide by the provisions of the Act and the Rules and the Bye-laws of the Market Committee, Therefore, one of conditions of the licence is that he will comply with Rule 28 of the Rules. Condition No. 8 is that the licensee shall help the Market Committee in preventing evasion of market fees, Condition No. 14 prohibits the licensee from soliciting or recovering any fees or recovering any charges other than those which he is entitled to receive or recover in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the Rules and Bye-laws made thereunder. Thus the Commission Agent having obtained a licence cannot contend that he cannot be required by the Market Committee to recover the fees which We payable to the Market Committee. It is now a condition of the licence issued that he shall render all assistance in the matter of collection and no grievance can now be entertained from any of the petitioners that the commission agent cannot be compulsorily required to recover the fees which are payable to the Market Committee.
7. In this view of the matter, the petition is liable to be dismissed. Rule discharged with costs.
8. Petition dismissed.