Narayana Pai, J.
(1) This Writ Petition has some connection with the Scheme for nationalisation of Road transport services on certain of the routes in Hassan District, which was the subject- matter of Writ Petition No. 72 of 1960 and connected petitions in which we have just pronounced the order. This Writ Petition is by four private operators of transport services in Hassan District, three of whom were petitioners in the aforesaid batch of Writ Petitions. It came to be filed in the following circumstances:
(2) Stage carriage permits of about 116 operators of the said District including those of the petitioners herein were due to expire at the end of September 1959. All these operators had applied to the Regional Transport Authority, Hassan, for renewal of their permits. All these applications were advertised under section 57 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act by a notification which appeared in the Mysore Gazette dated the 3rd of September 1959, fixing the 12th of October 1959 as the date for hearing of applications and representations, if any, made in respect of them.
(3) In the meanwhile, a draft scheme for nationalisation of services on certain of the routes in the District prepared by the Mysore Government Road Transport Department was published in the Mysore Gazette dated the 6th of August 1959. Thereupon, the General Manager of the said Department filed objections to the renewal applications of the petitioners and other operators claiming that the renewals prayed for should be refused for the reason that there was already a proposal to nationalise the services in accordance with the said draft scheme.
(4) The consideration of the renewal applications originally posted to the 12th of October 1959 was adjourned to the 15th and 16th of October 1959. On the 15th, only one of the members of the said Regional Transport Authority, viz., the Deputy Commissioner of the District was present, but the other members, viz., the Superintendent of Police and the Executive Engineer of the District, were absent. The Deputy Commissioner as the Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority adjourned the matters to the 18th and 19th of November 1959, recording the following proceedings:
'Since the other two Members are not present -- one being on leave for two days and the other on tour -- the meeting may be deferred to 18th and 19th of November 1959.'
The position was the same on the 19th of November 1959, viz., only the Deputy Commissioner was present and the other two members absent. Once again, the Chairman adjourned the proceedings to the 23rd and 24th of December 1959. It may be noted in passing that the certified copy of the second-mentioned proceedings indicates that the chairman signed them on the 10th of November 1959 which however, the learned Government Pleader points out, is a clerical mistake for 18.11.1959; we have no reason to disbelieve the statement of the learned Government Pleader.
(5) This Writ Petition was filed on the 25th of November 1959 and admitted on the following day. The prayer in the Petition is for the issue of a Mandamus directing the Regional Transport Authority to hear and dispose of the renewal - applications. The respondents, who are members of the regional Transport Authority, were served with notice of the petition on the 9th and 14 the of December 1959.
(6) On the 23rd of December 1959, the renewal applications were heard by the Regional Transport Authority but orders were reserved.
(7) The draft Scheme for nationalisation published on the 6th of August 1959 was approved by the State Government on the 22nd of December 1959 with certain modifications and published in an Extraordinary issue of the Mysore Gazette dated the 22nd of December 1959.
(8) Thereafter, a number of writ petitions were filed impugning the validity of the approved Scheme. The first, among them, W.P. 72 of 1960 was filed on the 25th of January 1960. It was admitted by this Court on the 29th of January 1960, on which date the Court also ordered stay of implementation of the impugned Scheme. On the application made by the respondents in W.P. 72 of 1960, the order of stay was modified on the 3rd of March 1960 whereby the State Transport Undertaking was permitted to take preliminary steps towards implementation of the Scheme subject to the condition that the Regional Transport Authority, Hassan, should defer the hearing of the matters under section 68-F (2) until the disposal of the said and enacted Writ Petitions.
(9) During the course of the hearing of this writ petition, viz., W.P. 977 of 1959, an order made by the Regional Transport Authority, Hassan, on the 4th of February 1960 has been produced before us. That order reads as follows:
'Decision on Subject No. 3 included in the Agenda for the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority, Hassan District, held on 23rd and 24th December, 1959.
Subject No. 3:-- Stay orders have been received from the High Court. The High Court has directed that pending disposal of the Writ Petition, the implementation of the approved Scheme may be stayed.
2. The question of renewal of permits is wholly dependent upon the validity or otherwise of the scheme to be implemented. The State Undertaking has also applied for permits. In view of these circumstances, it is not possible to pass orders on the renewal applications until the Writ Petitions are disposed of by the High Court.
Sd/- Chandappa Patel
Deputy Commissioner and Chairman,
R. T. A., Hassan.'
(10) The principle contention on behalf of the petitioners is that the Mysore Government Road Transport Department had no locus standi to appear and object to the grant of renewal even before the scheme had received the approval of the State Government and that the reasons stated for adjourning consideration of the renewal applications were not bona fide, the real reason, according to the petitioners, being a desire on the part of the members of the Regional Transport Authority who are all officers of the Government to accommodate the Mysore Government Road Transport Department which had published a draft Scheme for nationalisation, by deferring consideration of the renewal applications till after the approval of the scheme so that the State Transport Undertaking may escape liability of having to pay compensation to the petitioners and other operators which they would have been undoubtedly entitled to, had their applications been granted before the approval of the Scheme.
It is further stated that but for the untenable objections put forward by the Mysore Government Road Transport Department, there could have been no valid reason whatever for refusing renewal of permits of the operators. It is further pointed out that under the rules framed by the State Government under section 68 of the Motor Vehicles Act, Regional Transport Authorities are expected to meet at least once a month.
Reliance is also placed upon the observations of the Supreme Court in Samarth Transport Co. v. Regional Transport Authority, Nagpur, : 1SCR631 , to the effect that though the Act does not prescribe any outer limit for disposal of applications for renewal of permits, the general purport of the relevant provisions of the Statute indicates that such applications are expected to be disposed of ordinarily before the term of the existing permits expires or in case of unavoidable delay, within a reasonable time thereafter.
(11) The learned Government Pleader on behalf of the respondents contends that the respondents need explain only the delay between the 12th of October 1959, the first date fixed for the hearing, and the 23rd of December 1959 on which date the petitioners were actually heard, because after the 22nd of December 1959 on which date the approved Scheme was published, the provisions of section 68-F automatically became attracted and consequently the delay thereafter really enured to the benefit of the petitioners and other operators because until orders are finally passed upon the renewal applications the petitioners and other operators could, by virtue of one of the local rules under the Motor Vehicles Act, continue to operate their services. He adds that stay granted by this Court pending disposal of the Writ Petitions impugning the validity of the Scheme, also operated for the benefit of the petitioners.
(12) According to the learned Government Pleader, there are two very good explanations for the delay up to 23rd of December 1959. The first of them is stated to be a request in writing made on the 10th of September 1959 by one of the petitioners before us, viz., P.S. Raju and 31 others to the Regional Transport Authority for postponement of consideration of matters pending before that Authority until a final decision is taken on their objections filed before the Government to the proposed Scheme of nationalisation. The second explanation is the absence of quorum on the 15th of October 1959 as well as on the 18th of November 1959.
(13) We agree that the delay subsequent to the 22nd of December 1959 could not be said to have operated to the detriment of the petitioners. The mischief or injustice, if any, to the petitioners would already have been caused by merely keeping their renewal applications undisposed of till after the approval of the Scheme. The questions, therefore, for consideration are only two:
(1) Whether the omission or failure to dispose of the renewal applications before the 22nd of December 1959 was for justifiable reasons and
(2) If the reasons were not justifiable or were mala fide, what relief we can grant to the petitioners in existing circumstances.
(14) The first of the explanations suggested by the learned Government Pleader, viz., the aforesaid written request of the 10th of September 1959 clearly has no bearing whatever on the renewal applications of the petitioners, because the said request was for postponement of consideration of subjects placed before the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority on the 10th and 11th of September 1959, whereas the very first date fixed for the hearing of renewal was the 12th of October 1959.
(15) The absence of quorum for the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority on the 15th October as well as on the 18th of November 1959 is a fact recorded by the Deputy Commissioner of the District acting as the Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority. There is no reason to think that the Deputy Commissioner had made a false record, nor do the petitioners says that there was a quorum. Their contention is that the other members of the Regional Transport Authority deliberately absented themselves with a view to accommodate the Mysore Government Road Transport Department. Although allegations of mala fides against the persons occupying positions of responsibility who are expected to discharge the functions and duties appertaining to that position with rectitude and responsibility, are not lightly to be accepted without clear proof, the learned counsel on behalf of the petitioners contends that the circumstances of this case fully justify the allegations made in the affidavit in support of the petition.
Firstly, it is stated that although the notice of Writ petition was served as early as on the 9th and 14th of December 1959 on the respondents and the respondents entered appearance in the Writ Petition through the Advocate-General on the 28th of December 1959, none of the respondents has chosen to file any affidavit denying the allegations of mala fides made against them in the very first affidavit filed in support of the petition. Secondly, the Mysore Government Road Transport Department has gone out of its way by filing objections against the renewal of the petitioners permits on the strength of a proposed Scheme of nationalisation, long before the publication of its approval by the State Government.
(16) The allegation that the Mysore Government Road Transport Department did in fact file objections stating that the renewal should be refused because there is a proposed scheme is not denied by filing any counter- affidavit. It is undisputed that a State Transport Authority to refuse the renewal of permits held by private operators, only if there is in force an approved Scheme. The fact that a Scheme has been proposed and a draft thereof published inviting objections, does not entitle the State Transport Undertaking to oppose the grant of renewal applied for by private operators.
The learned Government Pleader has sought to support the objections filed by the State Transport Undertaking by stating that under section 47(1)(c), the adequacy of other passenger transport services likely to operate in the near future is one of the relevant considerations in the matter of grant of stage carriage permits and that because the Mysore Government Road Transport Department was actually operating services along about a dozen routes in Hassan District, they were entitled to make representations before the Regional Transport Authority in respect of the renewal applications of the petitioners, also under the same section. This argument cannot be accepted.
The representations, which the Department could have made by virtue of their having been operators on certain of the routes, could relate only to normal considerations relevant to the issue of permit asked for and not considerations arising out of a proposed scheme of nationalisation. The expression 'other passenger transport services likely to operate in the near future' occurring in section. 47(1)(c) obviously refers to services in addition to the one in respect of which a permit is applied for, and not services in substitution thereof; the services likely to be operated by a State Transport Undertaking in the event of a draft scheme getting approved are services which are expected to exclude private operators, and the proposed scheme in the present case, on the strength of which the Undertaking claimed that the renewals should be refused, was undoubtedly one which proposed to exclude private operators. Indeed, the matter is covered by authority.
A Bench of this Court in its judgment dated the 14th of November 1958 pronounced in Writ Petition (H) No. 13 of 1956, has held that the likelihood of the Government introducing a bus service in future is not a relevant consideration within the meaning of S. 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act.
(17) On the question whether the members of the Regional Transport Authority other than the Deputy Commissioner, had or had not any justifiable reasons for absenting themselves from two successive meetings, there is no sufficient material on record to come to a clear finding. The affidavit of the second petitioner filed in support of the petition, beyond stating that they did so with an oblique motive with a view to accommodate the Mysore Government Road Transport Department by delaying the renewal proceedings, does not expressly allege that these officers had no justification for their absence.
However, the reason for their absence being a matter within their personal knowledge and because their conduct in relation to a public duty has been called in question by a sworn statement filed into this Court, we think that these officers owed a duty not only to this Court and to the Government they serve but also to themselves to file an affidavit into this Court setting out the true facts. The gravity of the situation is enhanced by the fact that the public duty which they perform as members of Regional Transport Authority, is quasi judicial in nature. Interests of justice require that their conduct in relation thereto should be above reproach.
(18) In the circumstances, we find ourselves unable to say that it has been satisfactorily proved that there has been a justifiable reason for the absence of these officers not merely at one meeting but at two successive meetings.
(19) The question, however, is, whether any relief and if so, what relief we can grant to the petitioners in the circumstances now existing. Although the postponement of consideration till after the approved Scheme was published has resulted in the petitioners losing their possible right to compensation, delay by itself is not a matter which affects the jurisdiction of the authority, nor would petitioners themselves have described the delay as an inordinate one but for the fact that the scheme for nationalisation got approved by the State Government before the disposal of the renewal applications. The applications, as already stated, have actually been heard. Nothing more remains but to pronounce orders thereon.
The learned counsel for the petitioners says that having regard to the circumstances of the case, we might, in the interest of justice, direct that the renewal applications should be considered the light of the circumstances existing on the date of applications without reference to the approved scheme. We do not think that in the circumstances of the case and on the material placed before us, we can with propriety make any such positive direction as to the nature of the order to be passed. The primary duty of examining the relevant fir and material and passing an order which is appropriate to the case rests on the Regional Transport Authority, and if, for the purpose of effectively discharging that duty and doing complete justice between the parties, it thinks fit to do so, it has the undoubted jurisdiction of giving a fu hearing to the parties and objectors including the Mysore Government Road Transport Department, before making up its mind as to the nature of the order to be passed.
(20) We, therefore, make an order directing the Regional Transport Authority, Hassan, to proceed with the applications for renewal of permits still pending with them and dispose of them expeditiously in accordance with law and in the light of the observations contained in this order. No order as to costs.
(21) Order accordingly.