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Rachapudi Subramanyam and ors. Vs. the District Collector and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. Nos. 62, 105, 335, 379, 411, 418, 431 and 586 of 1973 and 4078 and 4079 of 1972
Reported inAIR1974AP55
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 115
AppellantRachapudi Subramanyam and ors.
RespondentThe District Collector and ors.
Appellant AdvocateP. Babul Reddy, ;D.V. Reddipantulu, ;P. Vendatarama Sarma, ;N. Venkatrayulu and ;P.A. Chowdary, Advs.
Respondent Advocate3rd Govt, Pleader
constitution - license - section 115 of indian evidence act, 1872 - license for opening fair price shops (fps) granted to petitioners and deposit for same received - later on government refused to issue quota of sugar to them on ground that more fps not required in city and directed to keep allotment of new shops in abeyance - in view of above directions no further steps were taken by collector - doctrine of equitable estoppel argued by petitioners - petitioners contended that as license for fps granted by collector he cannot decline issuance of sugar quota to them - high court observed that allotment of fps was provisional and subject to the approval of government - also that while allotment there was no representation made by collector that he would issue sugar quota relying on which.....gopal rao ekbote, c.j.1. this batch of writ petitions raised common questions. they can therefore be dispossed of by a common order.2. the facts lie in a narrow compass and are not in all in dispute.3. on 12-4-1972 the collector, hyderabad district nominated in all 120 businessman for allotment of fair price shops to be opened by them in twin cities of hyderabad and secunderabad. the said persons were directed to deposit rs. 1,000/- each in the form of national savings certificates and to execute agreements and to complete other formalities.4. the petitioners are some of the persons who were nominated as above by the collector. they deposited rupees 1,000/- each, executed agreements, obtained licences and are alleged to have taken mulgies on rent for opening the shops. some clerks are.....

Gopal Rao Ekbote, C.J.

1. This batch of writ petitions raised common questions. They can therefore be dispossed of by a common order.

2. The facts lie in a narrow compass and are not in all in dispute.

3. On 12-4-1972 the Collector, Hyderabad District nominated in all 120 businessman for allotment of fair price shops to be opened by them in twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The said persons were directed to deposit Rs. 1,000/- each in the form of National Savings Certificates and to execute agreements and to complete other formalities.

4. The petitioners are some of the persons who were nominated as above by the Collector. They deposited Rupees 1,000/- each, executed agreements, obtained licences and are alleged to have taken mulgies on rent for opening the shops. Some clerks are also alleged to have been engaged by some of them. Ration cards were, however, not registered. The Government had not given their consent nor approved of them for the purpose of allotting sugar quota to them.

5. On the other hand on 25-4-1972 the Minister concerned took the view that in the cities more fair price shops are not required and in view of the quota of sugar allotted to the State by the Central Government, the Government will not be able to allot adequate sugar to all these shops. He therefore, directed to keep the allotment of new shops in abeyance. The Collector as a result took no further steps and allowed the matters to stand where they were.

6. 10 persons out of the said 120 consequently filed a writ petition No. 1878 of 1972. The petition cam for hearing before A. D. V. Reddy. J, By his judgment dated 15-9-1972, the learned Judge allowed the Writ petition and issued a writ of mandamus to do their statutory duty of allotting the necessary quota under the A. P. Rationing Order, 1966 in the matter of fair price shops of the petitioners. The learned Judge was of the view of that since the petitioners have done all what they were expected to do excepting the execution of agreements, they were entitled to the issue of quota. He said the petitioners hold licences and in order to exercise their right of business they must have stock of sugar, the Government cannot by withholding the issue of quota effect the right of the petitioners 'especially when there is no scarcity of total of commodity in the country.'

7. Another writ petition by another ten of the said persons was also filed. It came before Kondaiah, J. Following the earlier decisions referred to above the learned Judge also issued similar writ of mandamus.

8. Some of the Writ petitioners of Hyderabad have now filed these writ petitions for the same relief on almost the same grounds. There are some writ petitions from East Godavari and Nellore in which the facts though not similar grounds on which the relief is claimed are also similar. Whatever separate arguments were advanced, they are dealt with separately.

9. All these writ petitions came before C. Kondaiah, J. The learned Judge directed these petitions by his order to be posted before a Bench because it was contended that the matters raised are covered by a Bench decision in W. P. Nos. 3408 of 1972, etc. of 1972, dated 5-10-1972. That is how the cases have come before us.

10. The principal contention raised by Sri P. A. Chowdary. the learned counsel for some of the petitioners, was inasmuch as the petitioners, relying upon the proceedings of the Collector communicated to them dated 12-4-1972 made deposits, executed agreements, obtained licences, took mulgies on rent and appointed clerks, they thus acted to their detriment spending money on the faith of the assurance given by the Collector, Hyderabad, the Government therefore is estopped from declining to issue sugar quotas to the petitioners. In support of his contention he placed reliance on the following Supreme Court decisions : Union of India v. Anglo Afghan Agencies, AIR 1968 SC 718 and Century Spinning and Municipality, : [1970]3SCR854 .

11. It has been argued that the respondent is bound by the doctrine of equitable estoppel.

12. Now, estoppel is a rule whereby a party is precluded from denying the existence of some state of facts which he did previously assert and on which the other party had relied or is entitled to rely. It is in this sense it was contended that the respondent was bound by estoppel. The principle of estoppel indisputably applies to cases where private citizens alone are concerned. In other words, when an ordinary citizen clothes his agent with ostensible or apparent authority, he is estopped from denying that the agent was actually authorised, where his conduct has led another to change his position. Is it, however, true, where the principal happens to be the Government and the administrative agency estopped from denying the correctness of the prior advice or assurance given or representation made to a citizen Is the citizen protected, because of his reliance on the advice, assurance or representation ?

13. It is manifest that the present day Government is not only armed with administrative or executive powers. but is also empowerd to make rules and regulations. It also performs the functions of interpreting the law in order to carry out its legislative or executive functions. In so far as the legislative and interpretative functions are concerned, they are controlled by the relevant enactments. But in the case of relevant enactments. But in the case of administrative functions although by and large they are performed under one or the other statute, there are some functions which need not be always based on any statute or rules.

14. In the discharge of executive, legislative and interpretative functions, it is possible and sometimes becomes necessary for the Government to tender advice to citizens whenever they are asked to do so. For example, if the citizen asks a sales tax authority whether a particular transaction of a certain commodity is or is not exigible to tax, the question in such a case would be whether the Government would be bound by such advice at the time when the question of levying the tax comes in. Similar questions arise when any representation is made by Governmental agency or some assurance is given.

15. There has been a difference of judicial opinion in England on this question.

16. In Robertson v. Minister of Pensions, (1949) 1 KB 227, R was injured and the war office told him that the consequent disability had been accepted as attributable to Military Service. On the faith of that assurance he did not take the steps he otherwise would have taken to get independent medical opinion. The matter should have been in fact dealt with by the Minister of Pensions, and the question was whether that Minister was estopped, i.e., bound by the war Office representation or decision. Lord Denning observed at page 231.

'Crown cannot escape by saying that estoppels do not bind the Crown, for the doctrine has long been exploded.'

17. He was of the opinion that an administrative agency is bound by the doctrine of estoppel upon the same basis as is a private citizen.

18. Lord Denning L. J. reiterated the same view in the celebrated case of Falmouth Boat Construction Co. v. Howell, (1950) 2 KB 16. In that case, a license was required to do ship repair work. The work was started on the basis of an oral license given by the proper official, who later gave a written licence. When the plaintiff sued for payment for the work done it was argued that the work done on the basis of an oral license only.

19. Buckmill and Singleton, JJ. were of the opinion that the word 'licence' included both oral as well as written licences.

20. Denning L. J., however, assumed that the licence required was a written licence and proceeded to observe :

'They acted on what they were told by the licensing officer ...................... they could only rely on what they were told by the licensing officer. Can it be seriously suggested that, having relied on him, they have been guilty of an offence In my judgment, there is a principle of law which protects them from such an injustice. It is a principle of a particular importance in these days when the officers of Government departments are given much authority by order and circulars which are not available to the public. The principle is this : whenever Government Officers, in their dealings with a subject. take on themselves to assume authority in a matter with which he is concerned, the subject is entitled to rely on their having the authority which they assume. He does not know and cannot be excepted to know the limits of their authority and he ought not to suffer if they exceed it.'

The learned Law Lord further said:

'and as it is but an agent for the Crown, it binds the Crown also, and as the crown, is bound, so are the other departments, for they also are but agents of the Crown.'

21. When this case went to the House of Lords, Howell v. Falmouth Boat Construction Co. Ltd., 1951 AC 837, the House of Lords held that the Regulation required a written licence, but that in the circumstances the written licence covered the work done under the payment. The House of Lords, however, clearly criticised the view of Denning, L. J. and indicated that it disagrees with his views on the point under consideration.

22. Lord Simmons declared:

'My Lords. I know of no such principle in our law nor was any authority for it cited.......... The question is whether the character of an act done in face of statutory prohibition is affected by the fact that it has been induced by a misleading assumption of authority. In my opinion, the answer is clearly 'No'. Such an answer may make more difficult task of the citizen who is anxious to walk in the narrow way but that does not justify a different answer being given.'

23. Lord Normad also rejected Lord Justice Denning's view. He said:

'It is certain that neither a Minister nor any subordinate Officer for the Crown can by any conduct or representation ban the Crown from enforcing a statutory prohibition or entitle the subject to maintain that there has been no breach of it.'

24. It is interesting to note here that his House of Lord's decision has its counterpart in America. In a well-known case Federal Crop Insurance Corporation v. Merill, (1947) 332 US 380 the defendant was a Government owned Corporation created to insure producers of wheat against crop losses due to unavoidable losses including drought. It promulgated a regulation. Specifying the conditions upon which it would insure wheat crops including a provision making 'spring wheat acreage ineligible for insurance.' Without actual knowledge of this provision, the plaintiff wheat grower, applied to the local agent of defendant Corporation for insurance on his crop, informing the local agent that the most of it was spring wheat being re-seeded on winter wheat acreage. The agent advised plaintiff that the entire crop was insurable and, acting on this recommendation, the corporation accepted plaintiff's application for insurance. Two months later, plaintiff's crop was destroyed by drought. The Corporation refused to pay this loss, when is learnt that the destroyed acreage had been re-seeded. The American Court asserted that even though a private insurance company would be bound on similar facts the same was not true of a Government Corporation engaged in the insurance field. The Court said :

'It is too late in the day to urge that the Government is just another private litigant. for purposes of charging it with liability, whenever it takes over a business thereto conducted by private enterprise or engages in competition with private ventures.'

25. The Court rejected the view that the wheat farmer could rely on the administrative assurance which he had received. The Government Corporation is treated as an agency of the U. S. and is vested with Sovereign's immunity to a doctrine like estoppel. It was up to the farmer to determine whether that assurance was authorised by the statute. The Court noted that :

'men must turn square corners when they deal with the Government.'

26. It is thus plain that the American Court also echoed in wheeze 'the Government cannot be estopped by the acts of its agents .'

27. It is necessary to multiply English or American cases. We would, however, like to refer to two recent English decision, which, in our judgment, are relevant.

28. In Wells v. Ministry of Housing and Local Government, (1967) 2 All ER 1041, a local authority's Engineer informed the applicant, Wells, that planning permission was not necessary for proposed development. The authority later argued that the Engineer's letter was not a valid determination as the application itself had not been in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act. Wells should have followed up the Engineer's letter by a formal application. The Court of appeal rejected the contention. For many years that authority had followed the procedure used here of waiving a formal application. and they could not now say that it was of no effect.

29. The second case is Lever (Finance) Ltd. v. Westminster Corporation, (1970) 3 All ER 496. One Lever had planning permission for a group of houses. Westminster's planning officer told Lever that proposed variations to their plan did not need fresh planning permission. Later carried on with the work. When objections by neighbours to the varied plan was taken, Lever applied for permission to cover the variation. It was refused by Westminster Corporation. Lever brought and action claiming that they were entitled to go on with the work. The Court of Appeal held that in the light of the Planning Officer's proved practice and of the fact that Lever relied on his statement. Westminster Corporation was held to that statement.

30. Lord, Denning, who was a member of Court in both these cases. said in the latter case that a rule that a public authority cannot be estopped from doing its duty does not mean that it can rely on technicalities. He said :

'A default in procedure can be covered, and an irregularity can be waived, even by a public authority so as to render valid that which would otherwise be invalid.'

31. It is plain that these two recent cases and observation particularly of Lord Denning, however wide it may at first sight appear, have to be read subject to what was decided by the House of Lords in Howell's case.

32. What follows from these two cases is that while a public authority cannot waive a statutory requirement the Court would not insist on a technicality which had normally been waived. Thus 'if an officer acting within the scope of his ostensible authority makes a representation on which another acts. then the public authority may be bound by it, just as a private concern would be.' Thus the observation of Lord Denning must be read in the light of Howell. Thus read it cannot mean that an official can by his statement to a third party confer a power on his employing authority which it has not got. It is well to remember that Lord Denning illustrated his principle by reference to the Well's case.

33. That being the position of law in England and America, let us consider the decisions of our Supreme Court cited at the bar.

34. In Collector of Bombay v. Municipal Corporation of the City of Bombay, : [1952]1SCR43 , the Government of Bombay in 1865 decided to construct an Eastern Boulevard. The then Corporation of Bombay was asked to remove the fish and vegetable markets then existing on the site. Thereupon the Corporation applied for another site so that new markets could be constructed and the present markets thereafter be shifted. The Government approved the site for new markets and authorised its grants. The Government did not consider it fit to charge any rent as the markets were to be used by the public. No formal grant, however, as required was executed. Possession was given and the Corporation erected constructions on the site after the plan was approved by the Government. After a lapse of few years, the Government proposed to assess the land under the Bombay City Land Revenue Act.

35. The High Court of Bombay held that the conduct of Provincial Government in allowing and encouraging the Corporation to erect the buildings at great cost on the faith of the promise not to charge land revenue precluded the Government on the equitable principle in Ramsden v. Dyson. (1866) 1 HL 129 from assessing the land in question.

36. Das, J., on appeal to the Supreme Court did not directly deal with this question. Patanjali Sastri, J., however, was of the opinion that equitable principles can no more prevail against the statutory provisions. No question of estoppel by representation arose. For, the Government made no representation of facts of the case. Both parties knew the facts and neither was misled. There was no lying by and letting another run into a trap.

37. Chandrasekhara Ayyar, J., observed that when the Architectural Improvement Committee proposed to levy a nominal rent, the Government stated that no rent need be charged as the markets were for the benefit of the whole community. That was a representation made by the Government when the site was given and possession was taken. The learned Judge said :

'Can the Government be now allowed to go back on the representation, and, if we do so, would it not amount to our countenancing the perpetuation of what can be compendiously described as legal fraud which a Court of equity must prevent being committed If the resolution can be read as meaning that the grant was of rent-free land, the case would come strictly within the doctrine of estoppel enunciated in Section 115, Evidence Act. But even otherwise i.e., if there was merely the holding out of a promise that no rent will be charged in the future the Government must be deemed in the circumstances of the case to have bound themselves to fulfill it. Whether it is the equity recognised in Ramsden's case or it is some other form of equity is not of much importance. Courts must do justice by the promotion of honesty and good faith, as far as it lies in their power.'

38. The facts of AIR 1968 SC 718 were these :

The Textile Commissioner published a scheme called Export Promotion Scheme providing incentives to exporters of woollen goods. By the scheme as extended to exports to Afghanistan, the exporters were invited to get themselves registered with the Textile Commissioner for exporting woollen goods and 'R' was represented that he exporters will be entitled to import raw material of the total amount equal to 100% of the F. O. B. value of the exports.

39. Shah, J., who spoke for the Court, first found that the scheme cannot be assumed to be statutory in character. It was next found that it was clearly legislative in character. Thirdly but alternatively it was held that even if the scheme is executive in its character, the Courts have power to compel its performance. The learned Judge then said :

'We hod that the claim of the respondents is appropriately founded upon the equity which arises in their favour as a result of the representation made on behalf of the Union of India in the export promotion scheme, and the action taken by the respondents acting upon the representation and in the belief that the Government will carry out the representation made by it. On the facts proved in this case, no ground has been suggested before the Government from the equity arising out of the acts done by the exporters to their prejudice relying upon the representation. This principle has been recognised. ..............'

40. Referring to Municipal Corporation of the City of Bombay v. Secretary of State, (1905) ILR 29 Bom 580 it was observed :--

'This case is in our judgment a clear authority that even though the case does not fall within the terms of Section 115 of the Evidence Act, it is still open to a party who has acted on a representation made by the Government to claim that the Government shall be bound to carry out the promise made by it, even though the promise is not recorded in the form of a formal contract as required by the Constitution .'

The learned Judge concluded :

'Under our jurisprudence the Government is not exempt form liability to carry out the representation made by it as to its future conduct and it cannot on some undefined and undisclosed ground of necessity or expediency fail to carry out the promise solemnly made by it, nor claim to be the judge of its own obligations to the citizen on an ex parte appraisement of the circumstances in which the obligation has arisen.'

41. The next case we must consider is AIR SC 1021. In that case both the Municipality as well as the State Government had assured the petitioner-Company that octroi duty shall not be levied for seven years. Ignoring the advice given by the State Government, the Municipality sought to levy octroi duty of about Rs. 15 lakhs per set aside the order dismissing the petition by the High Court in limine. Shah, j., who spoke for the Court, in this case also observed :

'Public bodies are as much bound as private individuals to carry out representations of facts and promises made by them, relying on which other persons have altered their position to their prejudice ........... the obligation if the contract be not in the form may be enforced against it in appropriate cased in equity.'

42. It is relevant to note that in AIR 1968 SC 718, the decision of Denning, L. J. in (1949) 1 KB 227, was referred to and a passage therefrom was also extracted. But no reference was made to the decision of the House of Lords given in 1951 AC 837. In the latter case, i.e. : [1970]3SCR854 , however, a reference is made to the said decision of the House of Lords and an extract is given from that judgment. It is, however, not clear as to whether the learned Judges were agreeing with the view of Lord Denning or with the views expressed by the two learned lords, which views were contrary to that of Lord Denning. We have already noted that there the learned Law Lords criticised the view of Lord Denning.

43. Whatever that may be, the Learned Judge concluded:

'A public body is, in our judgment, not exempt from liability to carry out its obligation arising out of representations made by it relying upon which a citizen has altered his position to his prejudice.'

44. We do not think the abovesaid three Supreme Court decisions come in conflict with the view taken by the House of Lords and the English cases or with the American case referred to above. In the first Supreme Court case the doctrine was applied because there was no provision of law contrary to it. In the second case i.e. AIR 1968 SC 718, the scheme was found to be legislative in character. The representation was made by a competent authority within its power and in accordance with the scheme. The representation was enforced irrespective of the fact whether the scheme was legislative or executive in character. And in the third case, an assurance was given both by the State Government as well as the Corporation which assurance was not shown to be contrary to any provision of law nor was it shown that the assurance was made by an incompetent authority.

45. A careful reading of these decisions of the Supreme Court would make it plain that it was not lying sown anything different than what has been laid down by the English and American Courts to which we have made reference.

46. The observation of Chandrasekara Ayyar, J. that 'the Courts must do justice........... as far as it lies in their power' reveals that there would be cases where it would be inappropriate to apply the doctrine.

47. Similarly from the following words appearing in para 19 of the judgment in AIR 1968 SC 719 at p. 726. 'On the facts proved in this case no ground has been suggested before the Court from exempting the Government from the equity arising out of the acts done by the exporters to their prejudice relying upon the representation.' It is patently clear that the Supreme Court has not laid down any law in an absolute manner, it is recognised that there are certain exemptions to the doctrine of estoppel as regards the Government.

48. Likewise in : [1970]3SCR854 , in para, 11 of the judgment, the following qualifying words appear:---

'..........the obligation if the contract be not in that form may be enforced against it in appropriate cases in equity.' These words can leave no one in doubt that the rule laid down would be enforced only in appropriate cases and that it is not a universal rule without any exception.

49. What then are the circumstances in which the doctrine of estoppel would not apply to a representation made by a Government agency A careful and analytical reading of the text books of administrative law and various cases noted therein would reveal that broadly speaking the principle that the administration is not estopped from denying the correctness of the prior advice, representation or assurance would apply in the following cases:

(1) When the effect of its application is to override the clear words of a statute; in their words equity shoulnot be allowed to override law.

(2) Nor would it apply to criminal proceedings.

(3) It would also not apply if the result of it is to obtain powers in excess of those given to the authority by the statute. In other words, it cannot be used to give de facto validity to ultra vires administrative acts.

(4) The rule cannot validate an act prohibited by statutory authority.

(5) Nor can it be employed to enable a person to do a thing he is legally disabled from doing.

(6) Statutory powers cannot be fettered or bartered by estoppel.

(7) The administrative agency cannot be estopped by its enterial or acquiescence; and

(8) Doctrine of ostensible athority dose not apply to Government servants deriving limited power from statute.

50. What follows therefore is that, however desirable it may be not to place the State in a more privileged position of immunity from the principle of law of estoppel citizens, there are certain inherent inhibitions in the situation which compel the Courts no to apply the doctrine in certain cases as mentioned above, It is however, meet and proper that within the permissible limits the Courts should exercise broader discretionary power to determine whether in any given circumstances a Government unit should be estopped. The reasons for such a rational approach is not far to seek. Scwartz in his book on Administrative law at page 245 posed the following question after noting the similarity of approach of English and American Courts in regard to this topic.

'What is that has led both the English and American Courts to reject in the field of Administrative law a doctrine like estoppel that accords so fully with our sense of justice in private-law cases ?'

The learned author then himself answered that:--

'Both Courts fell that there is a fundamental difference, in this respect, between the administration and a private principle acting through an agent.............. at the United States Supreme Court has expressed it, 'Whatever the form in which the Government functions, anyone entering into an arrangement with the Government takes the risk of having accurately ascertained that he who purports to act for the Government stays within the bounds of his authority.'

'Unlike the case involving only a ordinary principle and agent, there is more than a mere private interest at stake when the administration acts through its agents . In such cases, the entire community has a vital concern in ensuring that administrative agents do not act beyond the bonds of the actual authority delegated to them by law. If such agents can bind the administration by their acts, even though such acts are not clearly within the scope of their authority, there is danger that they will assume powers not actually delegated to them, knowing that their Governmental principal will not be able to disallow even such acts. The doctrine of estoppel could thus be used to give de facto validity to ultra vires administrative acts.'

51. These are reasons why the two extreme views one pleading that the doctrine does not apply to Government at all and the other that the doctrine applies to it in all cases have to be avoided. Barring the cases mentioned supra and in other like matters to Court should try to use that doctrine to effect justice. In cases where there is no real public interest to justify refusing to estop the administration from denying the correctness of the advice of assurance given, the doctrine may in appropriate cases by applied.

52. Furthermore, in order that an estoppel may arise the representation must be clear and unambiguous. There must be an intention that the injured party should act thereon, and there must be detriment suffered by the party acting thereon as a natural consequence thereof.

53. In Woodhouse Ltd. v. Nigerian Produce Ltd., (1972) 2 All ER 271 it is held that '.................. to give rise to an estoppel, representations should be clear and unequivocal ...........................'

54. This is the position of law regarding equitable estoppel as we comprehend it to be. Bearing in mind the principles of law enunciated above, we must examine the facts of the present case. On a careful examination of the proceedings of the Collector and having regard to other facts and circumstances of the case, it cannot be legitimately contended that by the proceedings of the Collector dated 12-4-1972 the petitioners or any one of them were expressly or any one of them were expressly or by necessary implication assured that they would be supplied with levy sugar which the Government of India allots to the State Government. Even a casual reading of the proceedings would indicate that the petitioners were provisionally appointed as fair price shop dealers. It is under this provisional order that the petitioners were asked to furnish deposit, to execute the agreement and complete other necessary formalities. They were also warned that if it is found that correct information has not been provided, the allotment is liable to be cancelled. The provisional allotment was subject to the approval of the Government. Admittedly no such approval was granted. On the other hand, the Government after having found that more number of shops are not required, the petitioners could not be authorised finally and quota released to them. The agreements said to have been executed by them were also not approved by the borne in mind that the scheme of distribution of levy sugar in reality is framed by the Central Government. The Central Government while allotting the quota to the states indicated that for fair distribution of sugar the medium of fair price shops should be adopted. What number of shops are necessary to distribute the sugar in a certain locality is for the Government to determine. The registration of ration cards on the foot of which sugar is distributed is in the hands of the Government. Allotment of such cards to individual fair price shops is also left with the Government. What quota based upon these cards should be given to a shop is also left with the Government. In these circumstances. how can it be contended that there was a firm, clear, unambiguous and unequivocal representation made by the Collector to the petitioners that in any case under the provisional allotment of shops they would get certain quota of sugar. Allotment of fair price shops would entitle them to deal not only in sugar which is a controlled commodity because of the allotment; there is no restriction whatsoever on these shops. Even non-levy sugar may be available to them to deal in. We are therefore satisfied that there was no representation whatsoever made by the Collector or any other officer that they would be given levy sugar relying on which they could have acted to their detriment thus binding the Government by estoppel. It is seen that the Collector was not competent, to finally allot the shops and levy sugar quota without the prior approval of the Government. the Government had the necessary authority to keep in abeyance or even cancel the provisional allotment or even cancel the provisional allotment which was sought to be made by the Collector. Application of doctrine of estoppel therefore in the view which we have taken about the law is not possible.

55. In W. P. Nos. 4078 and 4079 of 1972 the only additional point which was sought to be argued by Mr. M. N. Rao, the counsel for the petitioners, is that the action of the collector in deciding in the committee to allot the shops to co-operative societies amounts to creation of monopoly and therefore the impugned order should be struck down. It was, however, soon realised that apart from the vice from which the decision of advisory body suffers inasmuch as the representatives of the co-operative societies were present in the meeting and voted for it, the decision of the committee admittedly is recommedatory and not final. The final Government is the final authority to take a decision. The Central Government desired the distribution through the fair-price shops. No final decision has yet been taken. The petitions therefore are premature. The facts and decisions have not yet ripened for consideration of the question whether they create monopoly violating the provisions of the Constitutions. These petitions therefore can be dismissed even on this ground.

56. W. P. Nos. 379 and 411 of 1973 are the cases where the petitioners do not hold licences to deal in sugar. These cases therefore are clearly government by the decision of this Court in W. P. Nos. 3408 etc. of 1972 dated 5-10-1972. For the reasons given therein, we would dismiss these writ petitions.

57. Since on other contention was raised, it follows that the peititons must be dismissed. They are accordingly dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rupees 100/- in each case.

58. Petitions dismissed.

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