1. The above six writ petitions are filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India by the Mysore State Road Transport Corporation (hereinafter referred to as the Corporation) praying for the issue of a writ in the nature of certiorari or such other appropriate order or direction quashing the orders dated 27-2-1970 passed by the Mysore State Transport Appellate Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as M. S. T. A. T) in Appeals Nos. 568 to 573 of 1969 on its file and also the resolutions dated 9-6-1969 passed by the Regional Transport Authority, South Kanara (hereinafter referred to as the R. T. A.) in subject Nos. 156, 158, 159 and 200 of 1968 against which the aforesaid appeals before the M. S. T. A. T. bad been filed, on the ground that the said resolutions and appellate orders are wholly without jurisdiction arid otherwise Illegal.
2. Since common questions of law and fact arise for consideration in all these petitions and the resolutions of the R. T. A. and the orders of the M. S. T. A. T. in question are common, these writ petitions are disposed of by this common order.
3. The undisputed facts in all these cases are briefly these: Respondent 1 in each of the above writ petitions is a person engaged in the business of providing transport facilities. All these respondents made applications to the R, T. A., South Kanara, which has jurisdiction over the District of South Kanara for the grant of contract carriage permits 'to operate on all the scheduled routes in Mysore State'. The Corporation which was interested in opposing the said applications appeared before the R. T. A., through its representative and submitted, inter alia, (i) that the R. T. A. had no jurisdiction to grant the contract carriage permits for the entire State of Mysore; (ii) that the applications in which the prayer was made for granting permits 'to operate on all scheduled routes in Mysore State' were vague in respect of the area or route in respect of which the permits were sought, and (iii) that the R. T. A. was not justified in issuing the permits without ascertaining whether there was any need to do so. Overruling the objections of the Corporation, the R. T. A. granted the permits as per its resolution dated 9-6-1969 passed in subject Nos. 156,158,159 and 200 of 1968 annexing some conditions to the permits. In all fourteen contract carriage permits were issued to the six applicants. Against the resolution of the R. T. A. granting the permits, the Corporation filed Appeals Nos. 568 to 573 of 1969 and four of the grantees filed Appeals Nos. 613, 635. 636 and 651 of 1969 before the M. S. T. A. T. whereas the Corporation Questioned the grant of permits in its appeals, the grantees questioned the imposition of certain conditions in the permits. The M. S. T. A. T. disposed of all the above appeals by its common judgment dated 27-2-1970. dismissing the appeals filed by the Corporation and partly allowing the appeals filed by the grantees. Aggrieved by the orders of the M. S. T. A. T. dismissing its appeals, the Corporation has filed these six writ petitions.
4. Section 2 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act) defines the expression 'contract carriage' as follows:--
a '2(3) 'contract carriage' means a motor vehicle which carries a passenger for hire or reward under a contract expressed or implied for the use of the vehicle as a whole at or for a fixed or agreed rate or sumaa (i) on a time basis whether or not with reference to any route or distance, or
(ii) from one point to another, and in either case without stopping to pick up.
or set down along the line of route passengers not included in the contract; and includes a motor car notwithstanding that the passengers may pay separate fares,'
No person can use or permit the use of a motor vehicle as a contract carriage without a permit granted by a competent R. T. A, Section 45 of the Act which defines the jurisdiction of the R. T. A. in respect of grant of permits under any of the provisions in Chapter IV of the Act, reads:--
'45 (1) Every application for a permit shall be made to the Regional Transport Authority of the region in which it is proposed to use the vehicle Or vehicles:
Provided that if it is proposed to use the vehicle or vehicles in two or more regions lying within the same State, the application shall be made to the Regional Transport Authority of the region in which the major portion of the proposed route or area lies, and in case the portion of the proposed route or area in each of the regions is approximately equal, to the Regional Transport Authority of the region in which it is proposed to keep the vehicle or vehicles:'
(The rest of the section is unnecessary for the purpose of these cases). It is clear from the first proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 45 of the Act that whenever it is proposed to use the transport vehicle on routes or area lying in more than one region the application has to be made to that region within which the major portion of the route or area lies, and when the portions of the route or area lying in each of the regions is approximately equal to the Regional Transport Authority of the region in which it is proposed to keep the vehicle or vehicles.
5. Sections 49 to 51 of the Act deal with what the application for a contract carriage permit should contain, the procedure to be followed in disposing of an application for contract carriage permit and the conditions subject to which a contract carriage permit should be issued. They are set out below:
'49. Application for contract carriage permit.-- An application for a permit to use one or more motor vehicles as a contract carriage or carriages (in this Chapter referred to as a contract carriage permit) shall contain the following particulars, namely:--
(a) the type and seating capacity of the vehicle or each of the vehicles;
(b) the area for which the permit is required;
(c) in the case of a motor vehicle other than a motor cab, the manner in which it is claimed that the public convenience will be served by the vehicle; and
(d) any other particulars which may be prescribed.
50. Procedure of Regional Transport Authority in considering application for contract carriage permit.-- A Regional Transport Authority shall, in considering an application for a contract carriage permit, have regard to the extent to which additional contract carriages may be necessary or desirable in the public interest; and shall also take into consideration any representation which may then be made or which may previously have been made by person already holding contract carriage permits in the region or by any local authority or police authority in the region to the effect that the number of contract carriage for which permits have already been granted is sufficient for or in excess of the needs of the region or any area within the region.
51. Grant of Contract Carriage Permits:-- Subject to the provisions of Section 50. a Regional Transport Authority may, on an application made to it under Section 49. grant a contract carriage permit in accordance with the application or with such modifications as it deems fit or refuse to grant such a permit:
provided that no such permit shall be granted in respect of any area not specified in the application.'
(Rest of this section is unnecessary for the purposes, of these cases). As already stated above, it was contended on behalf of the Corporation that the applications for contract carriage permits were made in respect of the whole of State of Mysore and that the R. T. A. which has jurisdiction over only the District of South Kanara which was not by any chance the biggest district in area in the State of Mysore could not entertain applications for permits covering the entire State. It is not disputed that there are several other Regional Transport Authorities in Mysore State having areas larger than the area of South Kanara District, under their jurisdiction. In that view of the matter, the applications were not maintainable. It was further contended that if Section 49 (b) and proviso to Section 51 (1) are read together, it would mean that applications in question by which permits had been prayed for to run contract carriages oh 'scheduled routes', without any explanation as to what the expression 'Scheduled routes' meant, were defective and in view of the proviso to Section 51 (1) of the Act. no permit could be granted. It was also urged that the first part of Section 50 of the Act required the R. T. A. to consider to what extent the additional contract carriages may be necessary or desirable in the public interest before issuing any such permit. It was contended that since the R. T. A. and the M. S. T. A. T. have transgressed material provisions of the Act in not conforming to any of the requirements referred to above, the impugned resolutions of the R. T. A. and the order of the M. S. T. A. T. were liable to be set aside.
6. In order to examine the validity of the contentions urged by the Corporation, we have carefully gone through the resolutions of the R. T. A. and the appellate orders of the M. S. T. A. T. we shall hereafter deal with the contentions one by one.
7. The first contention relates to the jurisdiction of the R. T. A, to entertain the application for contract carriage permit to run a motor vehicle, throughout the State of Mysore. In this case the permits have been issued in respect of the entire State of Mysore. The objection to the jurisdiction of the R. T. A. was repelled by the R. T. A. and the relevant part of the resolution of the R, T. A. is extracted below:--
'These subjects were in the agenda of this R. T. A. since August 1968. On the earlier occasion when this R. T. A. attempted to consider these applications the representative of M. S. R. T. C. raised objection questioning the jurisdiction of this Authority for considering these applications and he further stated that the similar grant made by the R. T. A., Bangalore were challenged in appeal before the M. S. T. A. T., Bangalore and requested to defer the subjects till a verdict is given by the said authority. At the time of the meeting held on 19-5-1969 the representative of M. S. R. T. C. produced a copy of the judgment of the Appellate Authority wherein it could be seen that the contention of the M. S. R. T. C. regarding the jurisdiction of the authorities was negatived. Therefore, we feel that there is no legal bar to consider the applications on its own merits. In spite of this verdict of the appellate authority, the representative of M. S. R. T. C. requested to defer the subjects stating that they have moved the M. R. A. T., i. e., the second appellate authority on the same point. He further pleaded that before considering these applications, this authority had to collect all the data required under Section 50 of the M. V. Act, 1939.....After perusing the Judgment of the M. S. T. A. T. produced by the representative of M. S. R. T. C. we are of the opinion that this authority has jurisdiction to dispose of these applications, and therefore, the preliminary objection of the M. S. R. T. C. was over-ruled and we proceeded to hear the applicants and the objectors.' Since there was no discussion on the merits of the said objection in the resolution of the R. T. A., we looked into the order of the M. S. T. A. T. to find out what reasons had been given in that order, the relevant part of which reads as follows:
'Sri S. Srinivasan, the representative of the M. S. R. T. C. vehemently argues that the permits that were sought by the present applicants were to operate contract carriages throughout Mysore State; under Section 45 of the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, those applications ought to have been presented before the R. T. A. in whose jurisdiction the major portion of the region or area lies, those applications ought to have been presented to the R. T. A., Bijapur where the major portion of the region lies and as such the R. T. A. Mangalore had no jurisdiction to dispose of the present applications. Such a contention was raised for the M. S. R. T. C. before the Tribunal in Appeal. Nos. 525/68 and 403/69 in the case of M. S. R. T. C. v. R. T. A., Bangalore and C. P. C. Co., Ltd., Bangalore and M. S. R. T. C. v. R. T. A., Kolar and M. S. Sadananda and was negatived. The M. S. R. T. C. filed appeals Nos. 956/69 and 1024/69 (MV) before the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal as against the order of this Tribunal, but those appeals were dismissed. When this Tribunal has taken a particular view on the question of Jurisdiction to give a disposal to the applications for contract carriage permits and the same view has been confirmed by the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal, it is needless to state that it is futile for the representative of the M. S. R. T. C. now to contend that the R. T. A., Mangalore had no jurisdiction to consider the present applications and give a disposal to them.' Even in this order we, were unable to find out the reasons for holding that the applications could be validly made to the R. T. A. The M. S. T. A. T. rejected the said contention observing that since in Appeals Nos. 956/69 and 1024/69 before the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal an earlier order passed by the M. S. T. A. T. holding that Bangalore Regional Transport Authority had jurisdiction to grant contract carriage permits in respect of the whole of State of Mysore had been confirmed, it was futile to raise the same contention again. Since we were unable to know the reasons in support of the above view, we called upon the parties to produce before us a copy of the order in Appeals Nos. 956/69 and 1024/69 on the file of the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal and the order of the M. S. T. A. T. against which that appeal had been filed. On reading the order of the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal, we found that the said Tribunal did not permit that question of jurisdiction to be raised at all since it had not been raised before the R. T. A. Hence it had not expressed any opinion. In the order of the M. S. T. A. T. in Appeal No. 525 of 1968 against which the appeal had been filed before the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal, it was observed by the M. S. T. A T. as follows:--
'A similar question was in issue before this Tribunal in Appeal No. 220/64 in which appeal, a contract carriage permit was granted to one M. Rama Reddy by the R. T. A., Kolar to ply throughout Mysore State (Except Belgaum District) was challenged by one C. T. Venkataswamy Reddy. That appeal, along with the appeal filed by M. Rama Reddy in Appeal'. No. 203/64. was disposed of by this Tribunal, on 29-5-1964. The relevant portion of the Judgment reads:--
'Every application for a permit under that Section shall be made to the R T, A. of the region in which it is proposed to use the vehicle or vehicles. Primarily, it is in the District of Kolar that the applicant proposes to use the vehicle or vehicles and even under the first proviso to that section, where the proposed routes or area are equal. It is the R. T. A. of the Region in which it is proposed to keep the vehicle or vehicles that has got jurisdiction to hear the application for a permit. In the case of a contract carriage, it is not possible to say in which District or area the vehicle is going to cover the largest number of miles. Therefore, the R. T. A. where the applicant proposes to keep the vehicle has got jurisdiction to hear and dispose of an application for a contract carriage permit.'
It was also contended, that the R T. A., Kolar who made the grant of a contract carriage permit to M. Rama Reddy. had no iurisdiction; the R. T. A., Bijapur in whose jurisdiction the largest area lies, were the only competent authorities who had jurisdiction to entertain an application for the grant of a contract carriage permit to ply a vehicle in the whole of the Mysore State and make an order of grant. Such a contention was negatived by this Tribunal as per the passage referred above. It is admitted that this finding of this Tribunal is not reversed by any appellate authorities. Since the finding of this Tribunal on the point in issue is not yet disturbed by any appellate authority, there are no additional reasons to take a view different from the one that has already been taken by my learned predecessor in Appeal No. 203/64. Admittedly, the second respondent is a resident of Bangalore, who has given his address in his application as '59 Madhavanagar. Vishwanath Rao Road, Bangalore-1.' Therefore the contention for the appellant that the R. T. A., Bangalore had no jurisdiction to consider the applications of respondent-2 and to make an Order of grant of contract carriage permits will have to be negatived in view of the finding of this Tribunal in Appeal Nos. 203 and 220. of 1964. The appellant, therefore, has to fail' A reading of the above extract would show that ultimately the ground on which the above contention was negatived was that it was not possible to say in which District or area the vehicle was going to cover the largest number of miles, and, therefore, that R. T. A. where the applicant proposes to keep the vehicle has got jurisdiction to hear and dispose of an application for a contract carriage permit.
8. The least that can be said about the manner in which the R. T. A, and M. S. T. A. T. have dealt with the above matter is that it is highly perfunctory. It looks as though they have not read the orders on which they relied. It is surprising that no attempt has been made by any of them to give reasons in support of their view they have taken with reference to Section 45 of the Act. The one reason we were able to find in the Order of the Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal which is extracted in the order of the M. S. T. A. T. in appeal No 525/68, namely, that it is not possible to say in which region the contract carriage is going to cover largest number of miles, is only to be stated to be rejected. The acceptance of this view will make the first part of proviso to Section 45 (1) of the Act nugatory and will lead to conferment of power on every Regional Transport Authority in the State to issue permits in respect of the whole State. On the basis of the area of a District, it cannot be said that the District of South Kanara is the largest. Therefore, the R. T. A. had no jurisdiction to grant the permits prayed for since the areas lying In some of the other regions are larger than the area over which the R. T. A, had jurisdiction. The R. T. A has to these cases only tried to clutch at a jurisdiction which it did not possess relying upon an untenable ground.
9. The Regional Transport Authorities and the M. S. T. A. T. should remember that they are authorities constituted under the Act and they are bounded by the law governing the matters which come up before them. Sooner they shed their indifference ac they have shown to the provisions of law in these cases, it would be better for all concerned. If statutory authorities, either by ignorance or deliberately, go on disobeying law. albeit in individual cases, its effect on the body politic is bound to be highly deleterious and ultimately the whole edifice of democracy which we can hope to sustain only by rule of law is bound to crumble.
10. Be that as it may, we are satisfied that in the circumstances of these cases, the R. T. A. had no jurisdiction to grant contract carriage permits for the entire State of Mysore.
11. The next contention urged on behalf of the Corporation was that the applications were vague regarding the area for which the permits were required. The expression 'all the schedule routes in Mysore State' does not convey any meaning. The said expression is not defined in the Act or the Rules. It was argued for the grantees that the said expression meant to include all motor-able roads in the State of Mysore during the period when the permit would be in force. According to them, the said expression included not merely the motorable roads in existence at the time of the application, but also those which would be opened for traffic in the State till the permits expired. In other words, the petitioners contended that the applications were made by them for the entire area covered by the State of Mysore. It is difficult to accept the above argument. Section 49 (b) of the Act requires the applicant to furnish the area for which the permit is required and the proviso to Section 51 (1) of the Act prohibits the issue of a contract carriage permit in respect of any area not specified in the application. Even though Clause (i) of Sub-section (2) of Section 51 of the Act authorises the imposition of a condition on the permit authorising the user of the contract carriage vehicle in a specified area or on specified route or routes, the emphasis in Sections 49 (b) and 51 (1) of the Act appears to be on the 'area' in which such a vehicle can operate and not on the 'routes'. Under Section 50 of the Act. it is the need of the region or any area that had to be decided. Having regard to the nature of business carried on by holders of permits to ply contract carriages, it is reasonable to hold that such permits are to be issued area-wise and not route-wise. It may not be necessary to express any opinion on this point in these petitions, since in the instant cases even the routes have not been particularised and they are couched in vague language. The applications which were defective in material respects could not therefore form the foundation for the grant of permits.
12. On the question of need fopthe issue of permits, the R. T. A. hasmainly dealt with the need in SouthKanara District and it has not discussedabout the need for the issue of permitsfor the whole State. The M. S. T. A. T.has only referred to the presence ofsome papers in the file which accordingto it contained material favourable tothe grantees, but it has not referred tothe contents of these papers. It heldthat since the resolution of the R. T. A.fixing the ceiling of contract carriagepermits at 25 had not been challenged bythe Corporation, the question of need 1 could not be agitated before the M. S. T. A. T. in the appeals. We are not satisfied that it is a tenable ground in| the case of contract carriage permits.
13. Lastly, it was urged that while several other Regional Transport Authorities in the State have issued the permits to ply contract carriage permits contrary to law, the grantees in these cases would be made to suffer if the permits are set aside. This may be an argument to urge the concerned authorities to take appropriate action against such illegal grants but cannot be availed of to sustain the permits in question.
14. In the result, these petitions succeed. In exercise of our jurisdiction under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, we quash the orders passed on 27-2-1970 by the M. S. T. A. T. in appeals Nos. 568 to 573 of 1969 and the resolution of the R. T. A., South Kanara passed on 9-6-1969 in subject Nos. 156, 158. 159 and 200 of 1968 in so far as it relates to the grant of fourteen contract carriages permits to the applicants concerned. The permits issued pursuant to the said resolution are also hereby quashed.
15. Respondent 1 in each of the above petitions will pay costs of the petitioner. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/- in each case.