(1) In this Writ Petition the petitioner challenges the order of the Union Government, Ministry of Steel and Mines contained in letter No. M.V. I (395)/62, dated 24-5-1965, and the consequential G.O. Ms. No. 681, dated 1-6-1965 issued by the Government of Andhra Pradesh by and under which the 3rd respondent was granted a mining lease for a period of twenty years in Survey No. 759/B in Kalugotla village, Dhone taluk, Kurnool district. It is averred by the petitioner that, himself, one Subbareddy, and the 3rd respondent had applied for a mining lease with reference to Survey No. 759/B referred to above between 13-4-1959 and 28-1-1961 which was assigned to one Chintakyala Rangayya, who entered into an agreement with one A.V. Raghavarao in the year 1955. The Government of Andhra Pradesh cancelled the assignment as well as the temporary permission granted by the District Collector Kurnool to A.V. Raghavarao for operating this mine, as it thought that the dealings were irregular. The Government of Andhra Pradesh in G.O. Ms. No. 861, dated 8-6-1962 rejected all the three applications as premature inasmuch as it though that the land was not available.
Of the three applicants, only the 3rd respondent filed a revision petition to the Union Government which called for comment of the State Government, and after perusing the same granted the mining lease to the revision-petitioner. The petitioner states that because on two previous occasions the Government of India had taken the view that the land was not available, and hence any grant of mining lease would be premature, he did not file a revision petition. It if further stated that the Government of Andhra Pradesh had subsequently in G.O. Ms. No. 1498, dated 15-9-1962 had notified the same land as being available for regrant, and in pursuance with this notification, the petitioner had applied to the State Government on 23-10-1962, but that application has not been disposed of till now, and that he had also filed a revision for the non-disposal of his application to the Government of India.
(2) The 3rd respondent states that on the revision filed by the petitioner on 4-12-1961 about which he is not aware, the Central Government had directed the State Government to dispose of his application. As such, the State Government, by its Order, dated 8-6-1962 considered all the three applications and disposed of them by directing them as premature. As against this order, which is the important order disposing all three applications for the said plot, the 3rd respondent alone filed the revision to the Central Government. In the circumstances, the petitioner cannot have any grievance as he never filed the revision against this order as he was satisfied with the same. According to him, it is also untrue to say that his application was defective. On the other hand, the 3rd respondent avers, that he satisfied all the requirements. The petitioner who filed his application without filing a valid income-tax clearance certificate as required under the Rules of 1960, was defective. At any rate, the petitioner cannot be allowed to say that 3rd respondent's application was defective for the first time in his additional affidavit when throughout and in all these orders 3rd respondent's application was treated as, dated 28-11-1960, and which date was never in question so far at any stage.
(3) Sri Ramachandra Rao on behalf of the Union Government contends that the petitioner cannot be allowed to raise all sorts of grounds at this stage which are not supported by the affidavit inasmuch as a rule nisi which is issued on averments of an affidavit, cannot be allowed to be supported by Supplemental affidavits. A moot point that has now been raised, according to him in that according to R. 60 of the Mineral Concession Rules, applications for the grant of a mining lease in respect of areas covered by R. 58 shall be deemed to be premature, and shall not be entertained at all and the fee paid in respect of any such application shall be refunded. Accordingly, the State Government has treated these applications as being hit by R. 58 and, therefore acted under R. 60. Secondly, even if the State Government acted illegally, there was no revision to the Central Government. The Central Government has no jurisdiction to entertain a revision inasmuch as an application which is statutorily forbidden from being entertained cannot be the basis of any revision of the Central Government.
(4) The Writ-Petitioner went up in revision asking the Central Government to direct the State Government to dispose of his application. The State Government then applied for extension of time in respect of his two applications also, and the Central Government extended time for all the three applications. This action of the Central Government, it is stated is without jurisdiction inasmuch as it could not extend time for all when only one person, namely, the Writ-petitioner had filed a revision petition.
(5) The question which arises in this writ petition is whether the Central Government could straightway grant the mining lease to the 3rd respondent who was the revision-petitioner, or should it have remanded the matter back to the State Government with a direction that the area for which the mining lease was being sought was in fact available, and the application could not be said to be premature and thus, ought to have directed the State Government to dispose of the application on that basis.
(6) A good many points have been urged as usual, in this Writ Petition which are not really germane to the main question which falls for determination. The simple question for determination is whether or not the Central Government could dispose of the revision petition as an original petition for the grant of a mining lease? It may be stated that the 3rd respondent filed his application on 28-1-1960. Subbareddy who is now not interested, is not a party in this writ petition, filed his application on 13-4-1959. The petitioner's application was on 28-1-1961. From point of time, the Writ Petitioner's is the last, and that of Subbareddy's the first.
(7) The State Government by its order, dated 8-6-1962 in G.O. Ms. No. 861 treated these applications as having been in order. It is stated that all the applicants are Certificate of Approval-holders and have produced valid Income-tax Clearance Certificates, as well as paid the preliminary expenses as prescribed in the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. It further stated that the survey number in question was in the occupation of Chintakayala Ellappa for the past several years and every application for the grant of mineral concession over the area was rejected under the plea that it was under S.J. occupation. Subsequently it transpired that in 1955 the land was assigned to Chintakayala Mangiah who entered into an agreement with one A.V. Raghavarao of Vijayawada, leasing the land for purposes of mining, and the Collector of Kurnool also permitted the lease. A.V. Raghavarao was permitted to conduct mining operation in G.O. Ms. No. 5303, Dev., dated 22-12-1950. On a representation received from Sri B.V. Joshi, the case was got investigated, and the Government came to the conclusion that as the dealings were irregular, the assignment should be cancelled, and it was accordingly cancelled, so was also the temporary permission granted. Accordingly, the plot was available from 26-3-1956, the date of the cancellation of the temporary permit. Inasmuch as there has been no notification under R. 58 of the Mineral Rules of 1960 that the land was available for the grant of lease, all the applications were treated by the Government to be premature. The Collector was asked to send proposals for notifying the area under R. 58 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960.
(8) A revision has been filed under R. 54 as stated earlier, by the 3rd respondent. Rule 54 is as follows:-
'54. Application for revision: (1) Any person aggrieved by any order made by the State Government or other authority in exercise of the powers conferred on it by the Act or these rules may, within two months of the date of communication of the order to hi, apply to the Central government in triplicate in Form N for revision of the order. The application should be accompanied by a treasury receipt showing that a fee or Rs. 100 has been paid into a Government treasury or in any branch of the State Bank of India doing the treasury business to the credit of the Central Government under the Head of Account - 'XXXVI - Miscellaneous Departments-Miscellaneous-Central-Mineral Concession Fees:'
Provided that any such application may be entertained after the said period of two months, if the applicant satisfied the Central Government that he had sufficient cause for not making the application within time. (2) In every application under sub-r. (1) against the order of a State Government refusing to grant a prospecting licence or a mining lease, any person to whom a prospecting licence or mining lease was granted in respect of the same area or for a part thereof, shall be impleaded as a party.
(3) Along with the application under sub.r. (1), the applicant shall submit as many copies thereof as there are parties impleaded under sub-r. (2)
(4) On receipt of the application and the copies thereof, the Central Government shall send a copy of the application to each of the parties impleaded under sub-r. (2) specifying a date on or before which he may make his representations, if any, against the revision application.'
(9) It is contended that since the State Government has failed to dispose of an application for grant or renewal of a prospecting licence or a mining lease within the period specified, it is deemed to have made an order refusing the grant of such licence or lease on the date on which such period expires. Accordingly, the admitted date on which it is said to have refused such an application under R. 24 (1) is nine months from the date of its receipt. The revision petition to the Central Government was filed far beyond the period of limitation and consequently, the Central Government had no jurisdiction to entertain it. This argument, however, has no force inasmuch as the writ-petitioner himself has filed a revision petition on 4-12-1961 asking the Central Government to direct the State Government to extend the period for disposal of his application, and on a report called for from the State Government, the State Government asked for extension of time for all the three applications, which was granted by the Central Government on 11-4-1962 by directing the State Government to dispose of the applications before 30-9-1962. There was in my view no want of jurisdiction to make subsequent order. These applications were in fact disposed of on 8-6-1962.
(10) The argument that the revision filed by the petitioner did not enure for the benefit of all the parties, is a very feeble one. Under S. 30 of the Mines and Minerals Act, 1957, the Central Government may, of its own motion or on application made within the prescribed time by an aggrieved party, revise any order made by a State Government or other authority in exercise of the powers conferred on it by or under this Act, so that the Central Government can suo motu entertain a revision, revising the order made by the State Government. So, the extension of time of the disposal of all the applications before a certain day was within jurisdiction of the Central Government even though it may be made on being moved by one of the applicants only. In these circumstances, it cannot be said that application of Kondiah was deemed to have been rejected on 28-8-1961 when, in fact, the Central Government extended the period of disposal of the application by 30-9-1962, and the date on which the actual order was communicated to the 3rd respondent would be the time from which two months time for filing the revision should be reckoned. If so, the revision petition filed by the 3rd respondent cannot be said to be time-barred.
(11) The other contention based on sub-.(2) of R. 4, namely, that the other applicants should have also been made parties does not in my view, stand scrutiny. Sub-rule (2) of R. 54 provides for a person to be made a party in a revision filed by an unsuccessful party if that party has been granted a licence or mining lease. In this case, since none of them have been granted any license there is no question of making the other applicant who has been granted such a licence a party.
(12) Now, coming to the main question, it appears that this A.V. Raghavarao, on the strength of this lease, applied to the Collector for a mining lease. The Controller granted him temporary permission to enter upon the plot of Ac. 4-66 in survey No. 759/B of Kalugotla village, Dhone taluk. Kurnool District, and commence mining operations and extract and dispose of iron-ore subject to the conditions laid down in G.O. Ms. No. 5303, dated 28-12-1950. The mining lease, however, was not executed by the Collector. The grant of the plot in favour of Chintakayala Rangiah by that time was cancelled. There, was, in fact, no grant of a mining lease or a prospecting licence, subsisting at any time under the rules, Under R. 40, the State Government has to maintain a register of applications for mining lease, which shall be maintained by it in Form L., and the State Government has to maintain another register of mining lease which it shall maintain in Form M. Under R. 58 it is provided that no area which was previously held or which is being held under a prospecting licence or a mining lease or in respect of which an order had been made for the grant thereof but the applicant has died before the execution of a licence or lease, as the case may be, or in respect of which the order granting licence or lease has been revoked under sub.r (1) of R. 15 or sub-4. (1) of R. 31, shall be available for grant unless-
'(a) an entry to the effect is made in the register referred to in sub-r. (2) of R. 21 or sub-r. (2) or R. 40, as the case may be, in ink; and
(b) the date from which the area shall be available grant is notified in the Official Gazette at least thirty days in advance.'
Regarding these two rules together, it is clear that unless the area in respect of which mining lease has been granted is entered into the register maintained under R. 40(2), it cannot be said that that area is not available. When in fact there has been no prospecting licence or mining lease granted in accordance with the mining rules, there is no warrant for the contention that that area is not available. This is the view that the Central Government has taken, which is in consonance with the rules and having taken that view it had ample jurisdiction to dispose of the matter on merits under R. 55. Rules 55 empowers the Central Government to call for the records from the State Government, and after considering any comments made on the petition by the State Government or other authority as the case may be, may confirm, modify or set aside the order or pass such other order in relation thereto as the Central Government may deem just and proper, provided that no order shall be passed against an applicant unless he has been given an opportunity to make his representations against the comments, if any, received from the State Government or other authority. This power, in my view, confers jurisdiction on the Central Government to pass such other order in relation to the comments made by the State Government in respect of the petition.
Once it was clear that the State Government was wrong in thinking that the area is not available, and that the notification under R.58 (b) was not necessary, it could pass orders on merits. In fact, in point of time between the petitioner, and the 3rd respondent, there is no dispute that the 3rd respondent's application was the earlier. Mr. Choudhary, however, contends that the 3rd respondent's application was no in order. But, that is a question of fact which has not been challenged in the affidavit in support of rule nisi. In fact, as we have seen earlier, the State Government in its order G.O.Ms. No. 861, dated 8-6-1962 considered all the applications in order. Mr. Jayachandra Reddy states that the petitioner's application was not I order as it was not supported by the Income-tax Clearance Certificate. I cannot go into these questions of fact. The petitioner also has no case on merits, vis-a-vis the 3rd respondent in whose favour the Central Government has quite properly granted the lease.
(13) The only question that remains is whether the petitioner ought to have been given an opportunity to be heard in the revision petition filed by the 3rd respondent, or at any rate, whether the orders of the Central Government passed in favour of the 3rd respondent without giving a hearing to the petitioner, is improper and invalid
(14) As stated already, when there is no obligation for the 3rd respondent to make the Writ-petitioner a party under R. 54, the Central Government is not bound to hear any other person other than the revision-petitioner. It was open to the Writ-petitioner to have filed the revision-petition himself, but as stated by him, he did not do so because the Central Government had earlier taken certain view of the matter, which he thought, consistent with the views taken by the State Government. It the Writ-petitioner was content with the order passed by the State Government, and did not file revision-petition under R. 54 even though he was aggrieved by it, he cannot now complain that he was not heard.
That apart, in Nukala Seetharamaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh, : AIR1963AP54 , a Bench of this Court consisting of Chandra Reddy, Chief Justice, and myself held that the Central Government, while deciding an application under R. 54 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960, exercises quasi judicial functions as there is a lis as between the person to whom the lease was granted and the person who is aggrieved by the refusal of the lease, and as such it is the duty of the authority reviewing the matter to act judicially. While it is so, it is different in so far as the State Government is concerned. Neither the fact that it has to decide the applications for grant of leases in the manner required by R. 32 of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1949, nor the requirement to state reasons for preferring one applicant to another, makes any difference to the discharge of its duties under the Mineral Concession Rules. In taking action under R. 32, the State Government does not perform the act in a quasi judicial capacity. There is nothing in the scheme of the Act and the Rules which necessitates the State Government to act judicially.
(15) It may be observed that in that case a similar view has been taken under R. 54 (2), namely, it is only after the grant of a mining lease by the State Government that the proceeding became quasi judicial, and in a revision by an aggrieved party, the person in whose favour the licence has been granted must be made a party, and the Central Government is bound to hear the parties affected by the grant, and is required to act judicially by affording reasonable opportunity to the other party to present his case.
(16) In two decisions of this Court one by Seshachelapathi, J. in Writ Petn. No. 920 of 1960 (Andh Pra), and the other in Writ Appeal No. 127 of 1965 (Andh Pra), from a judgment of Manohar Pershad, J. (as he then was) decided by Satyanarayana Raju, C.J. (as he them was) and Venkatesam, J., it was held that the applicants who have not preferred revision-petitions to the Government cannot be heard. No doubt, those two cases were under the Motor Vehicles Act. Seshachalapati had there observed:
'An appeal preferred by a person who is aggrieved by the order of the Regional Transport Authority cannot enure to the benefit of anybody, but himself. The fact that all the appeals were considered in a batch wall, to my mind, make no difference to the individuality of each of the appeals. Nor can any argument be built up on the expression 'the case' used by the State Transport Authority. The expression 'the case' in the context can obviously mean only the 25 appeals before the State Transport Authority.'
These observations were approved by the Bench.
(17) In the view I have taken, this Writ-petition has no merits, and is dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.
(18) Petition dismissed.