S. Obul Reddi, C.J.
1. In this writ appeal against the judgment of Par-thasarathi, J. the interpretation of Rule 4 of the Andhra Pradesh Saw Mills (Regulation) Rules, 1969 is involved.
2. The respondents (writ petitioners) had established their saw mills and were operating them after obtaining licences from the Licensing Authority. The case of the respondent as presented by them in the writ petition, is that any person erecting a saw mill after the commencement of the Rules could proceed to operate the mill if the licensing authority failed to grant the licence within a period of one month from the date of the application but the proprietors of existing saw mills were denied that benefit as they cannot operate the mills unless a fresh licence was obtained by them in accordance with the Rules. It is, therefore, ne-cessary to see whether Rule 4 suffers from the vice of discrimination so as to be struck down by us as denying equal protection of laws to the respondents.
3. Rules 3 and 4 are the relevant rules and they may, therefore, be read:--
'3. No person shall instal, erect or operate a saw mill within a reserved, protected or proposed forest block or within 30 kilometres from the boundary of such forest block for cutting, converting, or sawing of timber without obtaining a licence for such installation from the licensing authority.'
4 (1) (a). Any person desiring to in-stal, erect or operate a saw mill shall make an application in that behalf to the licensing authority;
Provided that where within a period of one month from the date of application, the applicant has not been granted the licence, the applicant may proceed to establish a saw mill, but not so as to contravene any of the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1667 or any Rules made thereunder.
(b) Every proprietor of an existing saw mill shall obtain a licence from the licensing authority within ninety days from the date of the publication of these rules.
(2) On receipt of an application, the licensing authority shall make such enquiry as he deems fit, and after satisfying himself whether or not there would be any objection to granting, the licence applied for, having regard to safeguarding the timber in any reserved, protected or proposed forest, or in any land referred to in Rule 3, may grant a licence in the form appended to these rules subject to the conditions set out therein or refuse to grant a licence.'
4. Rule 3 injuncts that a saw mill shall be erected or operated within a reserved, protected or proposed forest block or within the distance referred to in that rule. It further injuncts that no person shall instal, erect or operate a saw mill without obtaining a licence from the licensing authority. Unless those two condition's laid down in Rule 3 are satisfied no person can operate a saw mill. Rule 4 provides for installation of new mills and also for operation of existing saw mills. Rule 4 (1) (a) makes it incumbent, where one is an existing proprietor of a saw mill to make an application to the licensing authority. An application could be made as provided in clause (a) of Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4 either for installation, erection or operation of a saw mill. Where a mill was already in existence prior to the commencement of the Rules, all that a proprietor has got to do is to ask for a licence as provided in clause (b) of Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4. The proviso to clause(a) of Sub-rule (1) according to Mr. Chow-dary, learned counsel for the respondents makes a hostile discrimination between those persons who propose to establish mills subsequent to the Rules and those who had already established mills. Mr. Chowdary learned counsel for the respondents, relied upon the phraseology of that proviso which entitles a new entrant, in the event of a licence not being granted to him within one month from the date of his application, to proceed with the operation of the mill. This proviso, we are unable to agree with Mr. Chowdary, applies only to those who make applications for establishment of saw mills after the rules have been brought into force. Clause (a) of Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4 speaks of not only installation or erection but also operation of a saw mill. The words 'to establish'' used in the proviso are comprehensive enough to take in not only installation or erection but also operation of the mill. Prima facie it may show that the proviso applies only to those who want to erect or instal saw mills after the commencement of the rules. But a scrutiny of the Rule as a whole, would show that the expression 'establish' would cover operation also. Clause (b) of Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4 only says that a proprietor of en existing saw mill shall obtain a licence from the licensing authority within ninety days from the date of publication of these Rules. Though it is not necessary for him to ask for a licence for erection or installation of the saw mill, it is however incumbent upon him to obtain a licence for operating a saw mill. Therefore, Clauses (a) and (b) of Rule 4 (1) have to be read together; and when read together, they show that, irrespective of the fact whether a person had a licence prior to the coming into force of the rules or a person desiring to establish a saw mill after the Rules came into force, he must make an application to the licensing authority. Sub-rule (2) of Rule 4 applies not only to existing saw mill owners, but also to those who seek to set up saw mills after the Rules have been brought into force; for, on receipt of an application, the licensing authority has to cause certain enquiries to be made end has to satisfy himself about the compliance of the requirements of Rule 3 in order to safeguard the timber in any reserved protected or proposed forest. The time limit of ninety days provided in Clause (b) of Sub-rule (1) of Rule 4 to a proprietor of an existing saw mill is only to enable him to continue the operation of his saw mill. The ninety days' period is a grace period given to him. We may also notice the form of licence prescribed for the establishment and running of a saw mill. This form is prescribed under Rule 4 (2). Whether one is a proprietor of an existing saw mill or a new comer who had made an application, the form of licence is the same for both. He has to seek a licence, as can be seen from the form 'for the establishment and running of a saw mill.'
The fact that a mill had already been established prior to the Rules came into force, does not put an existing mill-owner in any advantageous position nor does the form of licence to be obtained put a new comer in any disadvantageous position. We are, therefore, of the view that, on a harmonious construction of clauses (a) and (b) of Sub-rule (1) read with Sub-rule (2) of Rule 4 and the form of licence prescribed under Rule 4 (2) the proviso to clause (a) covers both categories, whether one was an existing operator or a new comer.
5. For the reasons recorded, we are unable to agree with the view expressed by Parthasarathi J. that Rule 4 (1) (a) is unconstitutional as offending Article 14 of the Constitution. In this view, the respondents (writ petitioners) will be entitled to the benefit of the view expressed by us and the writ petition is disposed of accordingly. The writ appeal is allowed to the extent it relates to the constitutional validity of Rule 4. No costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100/-. (Rupees one hundred only).