1. On 1-8-1963, the Regional Transport Authority, Visakhapatnam, took up for consideration the question of grant of two stage carriage permits on the route Visakhapatnam to Srikakulam. The rout is a medium route as defined by R. 212 (1) (I) (b) of the Motor Vehicles Rules of 1964 corresponding to Rule 153-D (A) (i) (b) of the old rules. There were as many as 75 applicants. After eliminating all the applicants who got less than five marks the Regional Transport Authority considered the applications of those who got five marks and amongst them preferred the Ramdas Motor Transport Limited, Visakhapatnam and M. V. Ramdas for the two permits. The Ramdas Motor Transport Limited was preferred on the ground that the company was located at Visakhapatnam where it had a good workshop and that its history-sheet was clean. M. V. Ramdas was preferred on the ground that, though he resided at Vizianagaram, he had a branch office Visakhapatnam and that he also owned a workshop, his history sheet was clean and he had only four permits and the grant of one permit would enable him to have a viable unit of five buses.
The applications of D. B. Seetharama Raju, first petitioner in W. P. No. 1283, A. Srirama Murthi, petitioner in W. P. No. 1089 and P. Suryanarayana Raju, petitioner in W. P. No. 1857 were rejected on the ground that they had punishments in their history-sheets. The application of P. Sanyasi Raju, second petitioner in W. P. No. 1283 was rejected on the ground that he resided at Vizianagaram which is not on the route. Thirteen of the applicants whose applications were rejected preferred appeals to the Appellate Authority. The Appellate Authority was of the view that under R. 153-D of the Motor Vehicles Rules preference had to be given to applicants holding 1 to 4 permits. The Appellate Authority found that both Ramdas Motor Transport Limited and M. V. Ramdas were fleet owners possessing five permits and more (the statement of the Regional Transport Authority that M. V. Ramdas had only four permits being incorrect) and therefore they were not entitled to preference. The appellate Authority also pointed out that there was a major adverse entry in the history-sheet of Ramdas Motor Transport Limited (the statement of Regional Transport Authority, that its history-sheet was clean once again being found to be incorrect). It was also pointed out that the company had been granted a permit in January, 1963 and there was no need to grant permits in quick succession to the same person. Regarding M. V. Ramdas, the Appellate Authority further pointed out part from being a fleet owner he was guilty of a serious charge that he had stopped his services for some time. The grant of permits to these two persons was, therefore, set aside. The claim of Sanyasi Raju was rejected on the ground that he was already a fleet owner and, therefore, not entitled to preference for grant of permit on a medium route.
Of the remaining applicants Suryanarayana Raju and Srirama Murthi were preferred on the ground that their history-sheets were better than those of others. Nine persons preferred revision petitions to the Government. The Government was of the view that Satyanarayana Raju ought not to have been granted a permit by the Appellate Authority as he already had two permits on the same route and the grant of more permits on that route to him will give him a virtual monopoly. The Government also held that Srirama Murthi ought not to have been granted a permit since it was found that when permits were granted to him on two other routes he was unable to put vehicles on the routes for a long time and, therefore, those permits had to be cancelled. The Government also pointed out that he did not possess workshop facilities.
The revision petition of Seetharama Raju was rejected on the ground that he did not have workshop facilities and had bad history-sheet. The revision petition of Sanyasi Raju was rejected on the ground that he was residing at Vizianagaram away from the route. Ramdas Motor Transport Ltd., and M. V. Ramdas were preferred on the ground that they had good history-sheets and workshop facilities. The Government observed that the solitary adverse entries against them may be ignored.
2. It is this order of the Government that is under challenge in these three writ petitions. D. V. Seetharama Raju and P. Sanyasi Raju are the petitioners in W. P. No. 1283 of 1965, P. Satyanarayana Raju is the petitioner in W. P. No. 1857 of 1965 and A. Srirama Murthi is the petitioner in W. P. No. 1089 of 1965.
3. Smt. Amareswari, learned Counsel for the petitioners in W. P. No. 1283 has raised the following contentions before me: -
(1) The grant of permits on a medium route to fleet owners like the respondents is contrary to Rule 153-D of the old rules under which preference has to be given to applicants with 1 to 4 permits. So long as such applicants are available and are not disqualified by reason of the provisions of Rule 153-D (A) (iii), they have to be preferred to fleet owners.
(2) The Government has not adverted to the reasons given by the Appellate Authority for rejecting the claims of the two respondents, namely, that Ramdas Motor Transport Limited has a major adverse entry in its history-sheet and has also been granted a permit recently and that M. V. Ramdas is guilty of a serious charge of stoppage of service.
(3) The order of the Government is also discriminatory because the claim of Sanyasi Raju who has a clean history-sheet with no adverse entry at all has been rejected on the ground that he resides at Vizianagaram which is not on the route, whereas M. V. Ramdas who also resides at Vizianagaram has been granted a permit in spite of the fact that he is guilty of a serious charge of stoppage of services.
4. Sri Sikhamani, learned counsel in WP. No. 1089 of 1965 and Sri Srinivasamurthi, learned counsel for the petitioner in W. P. No. 1857 of 1965 adopt the arguments of Smt. Amareswari and contend that the order of the Government must be set aside. Sri Sikhamani also points out that the allegation made against his client was not mentioned in the representations made to the Regional Transport Authority, under Section 57(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act.
5. Sri Manga Chari, learned counsel for the respondent argues that under Rule 158-D the Transport authorities are not bound to give preference to persons holding 1 to 4 permits for medium routes on that ground. He contrasts Rule 153-D with present Rule 212 and points out that while R. 212 (1) (ii) uses the words `preference shall be given, Rule 153-D (A) (ii) uses the words `preference may be given'. According to him this shows that authorities acting under Rule 153 have a discretion to give or not to give preference to operators possessing 1 to 4 permits for grant of permits on medium routes. Regarding other submissions he argues that the Government has given adequate reasons for preferring the respondents and the discretion of the Government cannot be interfered with in an application under Art. 226 of the Constitution.
6. Section 47(1)(a) of the Motor Vehicles Act provides that the Transport authorities, in considering applications for a stage carriage permit, shall have regard to the interests of the public generally'. The word `interests of the public generally' afford no guidance in weighing competing considerations of public interest on which rival claims may be based. In deciding questions of priority of such considerations, in the absence of proper guidance, a certain amount of arbitrariness is likely to creep in. In order to eliminate the element of arbitrariness to the extent possible, the Government in exercise of its powers under Section 68 of the Act, appears to have made Rule 153-D stating `the guiding principles' to be followed. The argument that the principles mentioned in Rule 153-D may be ignored whenever the Transport authorities think it desirable will defeat the very object of the rule and will once more throw the door open for all manner of arbitrariness. The word `may' is used in R. 153-D not to give any discretion but to confer a power on the Transport authorities to decide the questions before them in a particular manner. In the context the word `may' cannot be construed as a mere permissive expression since matters mentioned in the sub-rule can always the considered by Transport authorities even without the aid of that rule. Therefore, if the rule is to have any meaning, it must be construed as being imperative.
In the present case the Government has proceeded on the basis that it is open to it to ignore Rule 153-D (A) (ii) in appropriate cases. In my view it cannot do so, and the order of the Government has to be quashed on this ground. In this view it is not necessary for me to consider the other questions raised in the writ petitions. The Government will consider the matter afresh after giving notice to the parties concerned. There will be no order as to costs.
7. Petitions allowed.