1. The petitioner is a transport contractor. In this petition under Article 227 of the Constitution, he challenges the legality of the order of the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal by which the permit of the petitioner on the interstate route from T. B. Dam to Ananthapur has been set aside.
2. The Government of Karnataka notified a draft scheme under Section 68-C of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, hereinafter called 'the Act'. The said scheme which is popularly known as 'the Bellary Scheme' was approved providing for the operation of trunk routes by the State Transport undertaking (which I shall call it as the 'Corporation'). The scheme which was approved on 18-1-1964, was brought into force on 1-7-1965. Clause (d) of the Schedule attached to the said scheme provides:
'The State Transport undertaking will operate services at all the routes to the complete exclusion of other persons except in regard to the portions of inter-district routes lying outside the limits of Bellary District; The existing permit holders on inter-state route may continue to operate such interstate routes subject to the condition that their permits shall be rendered ineffective by the competent authority for the overlapping portion in the district of Bellary.'
On the abovementioned dates, the petitioner was holding a stage carriage permit No. 199 of 1968-64 on the inter-state route. T. B.Dam to Ananthapur. That permit was valid upto 7-7-1968. He was operating his vehicle when the Bellary Scheme was brought into force. He was therefore an existing permit holder on an interstate route within the meaning of the said Clause (d). He had a right to continue to operate his services subject to the condition that the permit shall be rendered ineffective by the competent authority for the overlapping portion Jn the district of Bellary, Accordingly, his permit was rendered ineffective over a portion of his route overlapping the notified route. Unfortunately, he could not file his application for renewal of his permit within the period provided by law. He however filed a fresh application before the Regional Transport Authority. In the meanwhile, the Regional Transport Authority also invited applications from the public for the grant of permit on the said route. There were altogether four applications including the one from the petitioner and another from the Corporation. The Regional Transport Authority after considering the relative merits of the applicants, granted the permit to the petitioner subject to the condition that he should not pick up or set down inter-state passengers on the overlapping portion of the nationalised sector of the route. Against the said grant, the Corporation preferred an appeal before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. The appeal was dismissed holding that the petitioner was a 'saved operator' within the meaning of Clause (d) of the Bellary Scheme. But that decision was reversed by the Revenue Appellate Tribunal in a further appeal preferred by the Corporation. The Tribunal has stated that the petitioner applied for a permit on the inter-state route when the Bellary Scheme was in force, and his application could not have been considered by the Regional Transport Authority since he was not an existing permit holder under the scheme. The Tribunal has also stated that no new permit could be granted to a private operator on the inter-state route which overlapped the routes mentioned in the Bellary Scheme and the grant of new permit in favour of the petitioner was therefore without authority of law. While setting aside the permit of the petitioner, the Tribunal has granted the same to the Corporation, as according to it the Corporation alone is entitled to obtain the permit under the Bellary Scheme.
3. The sole question for consideration is, whether the petitioner is entitled to the benefit of the protection provided under clause (d) of the Bellary Scheme when he sought for a new permit instead of obtaining a renewal of his primary permit.
The decision on the question turns on the scope and meaning to be given to Clause (d) of the Bellary Scheme, When a question arises as to the interpretation to be put on an enactment, what the Court has to do is, to ascertain 'the intent of them that make it' and that must of course be gathered from the words actually used in the statute. See R. M. D. Chamarbaugwalla v. Union of India, : 1SCR930 . To arrive at the real meaning, says Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, Eleventh Edition, page 18: 'It is always necessary to get an exact conception of the aim, scope and object of tbe whole Act.'
If Clause (d) is closely perused, it consists of two parts. By the first part a monopoly is provided to the Corporation to operate its services on all the routes to the complete exclusion of other persons except in regard to the portions of inter-district routes lying outside the limits of Bellary District. The second part saves the existing permit holders on inter-state routes. Their right to operate the services was preserved subject to the condition that their permits shall be rendered ineffective by the competent authority for the overlapping portion in the District of Bellary.
The aim and object of the said clause as it appears to me, is that the permit holders on the inter-state route on the commencement of the Bellary Scheme, should not be deprived of their right to operate their services. The clause specifically provides that 'they may continue to operate such inter-state routes' subject to their permits being rendered ineffective for the overlapping portion in the District of Bellary. The right to operate on the inter-state route was not limited to the currency of their existing permit, or was limited to any vehicle. It was a right preserved to the petitioner to operate on the inter-state route. It was conceded by the counsel for the Corporation that the petitioner could have continued to operate on the said inter-state route by obtaining successive renewal of his permits. When that much was conceded, I fail to see how that right was lost to the petitioner, when he applied for a new permit on the said route for want of renewal of his original permit. Under the Act, there is no difference in the procedure for the renewal of a permit and for the grant of a new permit. Section 58 (2) provides that a permit may be renewed on an application made and disposed of as if it were an application for a permit. In other words, the application for a renewal of a permit has to be dealt with just like any other application for a fresh permit. There may be competing applicants even at the time of the renewal. The relative merits of those applicants have got to be considered by the authority before it grants renewal to the original permit holder. Same is the procedure provided for granting a new permit. If there are more man one application for a permit, the relative merits of these applicants have also to be considered with the objections, if any, by others. Therefore, if the petitioner could operate on his inter-State route on obtaining a renewal of his original permit, I see no reason why he cannot operate on the said route by obtaining a new permit, since that right has been preserved to him under Clause (d) of the Bellary Scheme. The contention to the contrary urged by counsel for the Corporation is not tenable. The order of the Tribunal, therefore, suffers from an error apparent on the face of the record.
4. In the result. I allow the petition, quash the order of the Revenue Appellate Tribunal and restore that of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. In the circumstances, no costs.
5. Petition allowed.