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B.D. Tandon Vs. State of U.P. and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 65 of 1968
Judge
Reported inAIR1970All215
ActsMotor Vehicles Act, 1939 - Sections 43(1), 47(3) and 64A; Constitution of India - Article 226; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908
AppellantB.D. Tandon
RespondentState of U.P. and anr.
Appellant AdvocateR.N. Trivedi, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateChief Standing Counsel
DispositionPetition allowed
Excerpt:
.....court. ' if right of revision under section 64-a is not dependant on right of hearing by the regional transport authority, i fail to see as to how the right of hearing at the stage of section 47 (3) follows from the right of revision under section 64-a. it is said that unless it be conceded that an existing operator is entitled to notice at the stage of section 47 (3), it would be well nigh impossible for him to conform to the period of limitation provided in the first proviso to section 64-a for invoking revisional jurisdiction of the state transport authority thereunder. therefore, we are satisfied that the high court of allahabad was in error in coming to the conclusion that the application made by the appellant in the present proceedings was barred under the proviso to section..........main relief in each case is that the impugned resolution dated 15th december, 1967 passed by the regional transport authority, lucknow region, lucknow be quashed though in some petitions some other reliefs have also been claimed, such as in petition no. 65 it is further prayed that the regional transport authority impleaded as opposite party no. 2 in it be restrained from issuing permits more than one on unnao sandila route to which it relates since applications had been invited for the grant of only one permit on that route and further that the regional transport authority be restrained from issuing any temporary permit on that route during the pendency of the applications for the grant of permanent permit.3. regional transport authority has contested each of these petitions. a.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Lakshmi Prasad, J.

1. All these petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution can conveniently be disposed of by a single judgment In so far as all of them are directed against the resolution dated 15th December, 1967 passed by the Regional Transport Authority, Lucknow Region, revoking strength on all the routes in Lucknow region with effect from the date of the resolution.

2. All the petitions except that of Writ Petition No. 314 of 1968 are operators on some or the other route in the Lucknow. Region. The petitioner of Writ Petition No. 314 of 1968 is an association of operators providing motor passenger transport on the routes in this State. These petitioners challenge the validity of the aforesaid resolution for a number of reasons to appear from discussion to follow hereafter. The main relief in each case is that the impugned resolution dated 15th December, 1967 passed by the Regional Transport Authority, Lucknow Region, Lucknow be quashed though in some petitions some other reliefs have also been claimed, such as in Petition No. 65 it is further prayed that the Regional Transport Authority impleaded as opposite party No. 2 in it be restrained from issuing permits more than one on Unnao Sandila route to which it relates since applications had been invited for the grant of only one permit on that route and further that the Regional Transport Authority be restrained from issuing any temporary permit on that route during the pendency of the applications for the grant of permanent permit.

3. Regional Transport Authority has contested each of these petitions. A counter affidavit has been filed in Writ Petition No. 195 of 1968 and another in Writ Petition No. 233 of 1968. No counter-affidavit appears to have been filed in any other petition.

4. I have heard learned counsel appearing for these petitioners and learned Standing Counsel appearing for the opposite party at some length. Three points have been urged in support of the petition. The first contention raised on behalf of the petitioners is that it is incumbent on the authority to give notice to the existing operators whenever it chooses to revise under Section 47 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act strength on any route. A similar contention was raised before a Division Bench of this Court of which I happened to be a member in the case of Lakshmi Narain Agarwala v. State Transport Authority U. P. Lucknow, 1967 All LJ 657 = (AIR 1967 All 573). In that case the contention was rejected. Material observations which occur on page 660 (of All LJ) = (at p. 576 of AIR) may be reproduced below:--

'.....We are unable to see as to how a person placed in the position of the petitioner can claim, as a matter of right to be heard by a Regional Transport Authority whenever it decides to undertake redetermination of the strength on a route under Sub-section (3). Obviously, if no such right has been conferred on him by the statute, he can have none unless it be possible to say that by such determination any of his rights is affected. It may be that if a larger number of operators is put on the route with the result that the profits so far earned by the existing operators become divisible among a larger number of persons and as such, an increase in the strength of the route may, in ultimate analysis, mean some diminution in the income of existing operators. But that fact by itself does not furnish the existing operators with any cause of action in so far as by getting permits they get no monopoly and, as such, whatever be the ultimate effect of an increase in the strength on the route it does not entitle them to claim notice. It thus follows that neither there is any provision in the Act or in the rules requiring a notice being given to an existing operator in regard to a proposal to increase the number of operators on a route, nor the determination of such a matter affects prejudicially an existing operator so as to entitle him to be heard before the proposed action is taken. In that view of the matter we are unable to countenance the contention of the learned counsel that an existing operator must have his say in the matter of determination of the strength on a route under Sub-section (3) of Section 47 before a final decision is taken thereunder.'

Learned counsel urges that in view of the Full Bench decision of this Court in the case of Shiv Charan Dass Sharma v. Regional Transport Authority, 1968 All LJ 279 = (AIR 1969 All 269) (FB) and the decision of the Supreme Court in the appeal from the aforesaid case from which I have reproduced above certain material observations, AIR 1968 SC 410, Lakshmi Narain Agarwal v. State Transport Authority, U. P., the view expressed by the Division Bench must be taken to have been impliedly overruled. I am unable to agree with this contention. My attention has been drawn to the following observations in the Full Bench case occurring on page 286 (of All LJ) = (at p. 276 of AIR):

'Once a valid permit is granted to an operator he has a right to carry on his business of plying his vehicle on the route concerned and the right thus given to him is a proprietary right.'

I fail to see as to how these observations affect the decision in Lakshmi Narain's case, 1967 All LJ 657 = (AIR 1967 All 573) (Supra). These observations at the most mean that a permit holder has a right to ply his vehicle thereunder in accordance with the terms thereof and has also a right to see that none is inducted on the particular route otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. These observations do not in my opinion go any further. They cannot be construed to confer any right on an existing operator to resist revision of strength by the authority concerned under Section 47 (3) of the Act. With regard to the contention that an existing operator has no right to prefer a revision under Section 64-A of the Motor Vehicles Act from an order revising strength on a route the Supreme Court in Lakshmi Narain's case, AIR 1968 SC 410 observes in paragraph 7 on page 413:--

'We are unable to say that no existing operator can be aggrieved by an order made under Section 47 (3), increasing or decreasing the number of stage carriages; it would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.'

From these observations it is sought to argue that according to the decision of the Supreme Court an existing operator has a right of revision under Section 64-A from an order determining strength on a route and as such it must be inferred that he is entitled to have his say in the matter even before Regional Transport Authority while a strength on a route is being re-determined. I fail to see as to how that can be inferred from the abovecited observations of the Supreme Court. In my view these observations are based on the language of Section 64-A pure and simple. In fact Section 64-A is not designed to confer any right on any one but only to define revisional powers of the State Transport Authority though no doubt in its first proviso it says that the State Transport Authority shall not entertain any application from a person aggrieved by an order of Regional Transport Authority unless the same is made within 30 days from the date of the order. It is because of this provision in the proviso that it is possible to infer that a person aggrieved by an order of a Regional Transport Authority can invoke the revisional jurisdiction of the State Transport Authority provided he conforms to the rule of limitation laid down therein. It cannot in my opinion be construed to confer a right of revision on a person who feels aggrieved by an order of a Regional Transport Authority. Moreover, having regard to the language of the first proviso to Section 64-A, at the most it can be said that a person aggrieved by an order of Regional Transport Authority can invoke revisional jurisdiction of the State Transport Authority. That would be so by virtue of a specific provision in the Act. That there is no specific provision requiring notice to an existing operator at the stage of Section 47 (3) is not in controversy. The argument that in view of what is provided in subsequent Clause (f) to Sub-section (1) of Section 47 (it be taken that an existing operator has a right to make representations at the stage of Section 47 (3)) was repelled by a Division Bench of this Court in Lakshmi Narain's case, 1967 All LJ 657 = (AIR 1967 All 573) and that view has been upheld by the Supreme Court in AIR 1968 SC 410. Material observations occur in paragraph 5 on page 412. These are:--

'The learned counsel contends that the expression 'matters mentioned in Sub-section (1)' occurring in Sub-section (3) refers back not only to matters mentioned in sub-clauses (a) to (f) to Sub-section (1) in Section 47 but also the right of representation mentioned in Sub-section (1). We are unable to accept this line of reasoning as being sound.' So it is now settled that there is no provision in the Act requiring a notice to an existing operator at the stage of Section 47 (3). Such being the position, an existing operator cannot claim notice or right of hearing at the said stage unless it be possible for him to establish that by a re-determination of strength under Section 47 (3) any of his rights is affected. A person may be aggrieved by an order even without his right being affected. The Motor Vehicles Act is a regulatory Act. Its main purpose is to regulate vehicular traffic with a view to achieve maximum public convenience having due regard to relevant factors, such as the condition of road, demand of vehicular service in a particular region, number and nature of transport services available in a particular region and so on. Thus if a permit is granted under the provisions of the Act to a particular person to ply his vehicle on a particular route, it is obvious that it does not confer on him any right to exclude any person who is likewise granted a permit in accordance with the provisions of the Act. By introduction of another person on the route he may feel aggrieved in so far as such other person is likely to divide the income derived so far by him alone. That way he may be said to be aggrieved. But it cannot by any means be said that by such introduction of another person any of his rights has been affected. So even if an existing operator is a person who can invoke revisional jurisdiction of the State Transport Authority under Section 64-A on feeling aggrieved by an order of a Regional Transport Authority under Section 47 (3), it does not follow therefrom that any of his rights is affected by such an order so as to entitle him to claim a hearing from the authority concerned therefore it passes an order under Section 47 (3). Here, I may refer to the following observations of the Supreme Court in paragraph 7 of the report in AIR 1968 SC 410: 'The High Court, as stated above, was of the view that at the stage of Section 47 (3) existing operators would not be entitled to be heard by the Regional Transport Authority, But assuming that it is so, this does not affect the right of revision conferred by Section 64-A.'

If right of revision under Section 64-A is not dependant on right of hearing by the Regional Transport Authority, I fail to see as to how the right of hearing at the stage of Section 47 (3) follows from the right of revision under Section 64-A.

5. Another argument raised in this connection is with reference to limitation provided in the first proviso to Section 64-A. It is said that unless it be conceded that an existing operator is entitled to notice at the stage of Section 47 (3), it would be well nigh impossible for him to conform to the period of limitation provided in the first proviso to Section 64-A for invoking revisional jurisdiction of the State Transport Authority thereunder. In reply the learned Standing Counsel maintains that the expression 'from the date of the order' occurring in the first proviso to Section 64-A is to be construed to mean 'from the date of notice of the order.' In support of his contention he places reliance on the case of H.M. Shantanna v. State Transport Authority in Mysore, AIR 1960 Mys 141. The headnote of the Mysore case says that under Section 64-A, Motor Vehicles Act limitation for revision against the order of the Regional Transport Authority to the State Transport Authority begins from the date the aggrieved party has notice of the order of the Regional Transport Authority and not from the date the order is made. As against that, the learned counsel for the petitioners places reliance on the following observations in paragraph 24 of the report in the case of Municipal Board, Pushkar v. State Transport Authority, Rajasthan, AIR 1965 SC 458:--

'There is considerable force therefore, in the argument that if the legislature had intended that an application for revision under Section 64-A may be made within 30 days from the date of intimation or knowledge of the order to the aggrieved person it would have said so; and in the absence of any such thing the Court is bound to hold that the application will be barred unless made within 30 days from the date of the order by which the person is aggrieved.'

Learned Standing Counsel has then drawn my attention to the case of Harish Chandra Raj Singh v. Deputy Land Acquisition Officer, AIR 1961 SC 1500. In the last mentioned case after discussing some authorities it is observed in paragraph 11 on page 1505:--

'These decisions show that where the rights of a person are affected by any order and limitation is prescribed for the enforcement of the remedy by the person aggrieved against the said order by reference to the making of the said order, the making of the order must mean either actual or constructive communication of the said order to the party concerned. Therefore, we are satisfied that the High Court of Allahabad was in error in coming to the conclusion that the application made by the appellant in the present proceedings was barred under the proviso to Section 18 of the Act.'

In my view it Is unnecessary to come to a definite conclusion as to whether or not the words 'from the date of the order' occurring in the first proviso to Section 64-A can be construed in the manner indicated in the Mysore case because in any view of the matter the provision for limitation In the first proviso to Section 64-A for an application in revision to be moved thereunder cannot, in my opinion, be construed to confer a right of hearing before the Regional Transport Authority upon the person who may invoke revisional jurisdiction of the State Transport Authority under Section 64-A. If, as shown earlier, re-determination of strength under Section 47 (3) does not affect any right of an existing operator, he cannot claim a right of hearing before the Regional Transport Authority even if he may invoke revisional jurisdiction under Section 64-A on feeling aggrieved by a re-determination of strength under Section 47 (3). I would accordingly repeal the contention that an existing operator is entitled to notice at the stage of Section 47 (3).

6. The other contention urged on behalf of the petitioners is that a scrutiny of the impugned resolution would itself disclose that the decision incorporated therein proceeds on considerations not germane to determination of strength under Section 47 (3) and further that in fact the Regional Transport Authority did not at all apply its mind to any point material for such determination. This contention of the learned counsel does not appear to be without substance.

In its first sentence the resolution says that the authority had given serious consideration to the matter of grant of permits under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. In the second sentence it says that because of fixation of strength on different routes some such evils have crept in that it is essential to introduce some drastic changes to remove those evils. In the third sentence it says that some persons who obtain permits misuse them. In its fourth sentence it says that we have therefore, come to this conclusion that if the limit of permits on routes is altogether done away with these evils would disappear.

Then comes the decision to the effect that limit of permits on all the routes in Lucknow region be revoked. In my view considerations stated in the resolution as the reason for revoking the limit on the routes in Lucknow region are obviously such as appear to have nothing to do with the matters which are to be taken into consideration for determining strength under Section 47 (3). There is nothing on record to show as to what material was before the Regional Transport Authority to entitle it to say that some of the permit-holders after obtaining permits misuse them. The resolution itself does not indicate as to in what manner the permits were misused. If the idea is that permit-holders or some of them allowed vehicles owned by others to be plied thereunder then obviously that would not be an abuse or misuse of the permit. It is ruled in the case of Khalil-ul-Rahman Khan v. State Transport Appellate Tribunal, AIR 1963 All 383 that there is no provision in the Motor Vehicles Act which obliges a permit-holder to ply only that vehicle thereunder which he himself owns. As pointed out in the case it is open to a permit-holder to ply under his permit a vehicle owned by another and that would obviously be on such terms as may be agreed upon between the two. This decision of this Court is approved by the Supreme Court in the case of K.M. Vishwanatha Pillai v. K.M. Shanmugam Pillai decided on 25th November, 1968. Reference may be made to item No. 771 of 1968 SC (Notes), 524 = (AIR 1969 SC 493). Considerations indicated in Clauses (a) to (d) to Sub-section fl) of Section 43 of the Act are obviously relevant for determination of strength on a particular route at a givenl time. Far from suggesting that these are! the only matters which are to be taken into consideration while determining strength under Section 47 (3), I venture to say that those are certainly some of the relevant considerations which should weigh with the authority while determining strength under Section 47 (3). None of these appears to have been taken into account while passing the impugned resolution. On the other hand, as appears from an analysis of the resolution indicated above matters for the factual existence of which there was presumably no evidence whatsoever before the Regional Transport Authority and which appear to have hardly anything to do with the determination of strength on a route, have been made a basis for the revocation of strength on all the routes in a particular region irrespective of varying factors obtaining on different routes in relation to matters mentioned in Clauses (a) to (d) of Sub-section (1) of Section 43. These facts do indicate that the Regional Transport Authority acted in the matter mechanically rather by applying its mind to relevant factors. I have already indicated above that the so-called abuse of permit is, having regard to the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, not at all an abuse. The fact, that there existed different strength on each different route in the Lucknow Region prior to the passing of the impugned resolution, is enough to show that varying canditions existed on different routes in the region so as to justify fixation of different strength on these routes. If in such circumstances an uniform decision has been taken to revoke limit on each route in the region and grant permits to all eligible applicants regardless of the number of applications pending in respect of any route, there is no escape from the conclusion that such a resolution is bad in the eye of law and cannot be permitted to stand. I accordingly conclude that the contention raised on behalf of the petitioners must prevail.

7. The last and the third contention raised on behalf of the petitioners is that notwithstanding the use of the word 'may' in Section 47 (3), the provision contained therein is mandatory and not directory. It is well settled that the use of the expression 'may' or 'shall' is not conclusive of the matter. As to whether a particular provision is directory or mandatory notwithstanding the expression such as 'may' or 'shall' it uses depends on the intent of the Legislature and the same is to be gathered not only from the language of the particular provision but also from various other relevant factors. In this connection reference may be made to the following passage in Crawford on Statutory Construction on page 516:--

'The question as to whether a statute is mandatory or directory depends upon the intent of the legislature and not upon the language in which the intent is clothed. The meaning and intention of the legislature must govern, arid these are to be ascertained, not only from the phraseology of the provision, but also by considering its nature, its design, and the consequences which would follow from construing it the one way or the other.'

That being so, while interpreting Section 47 (3), we have not to go only by its language hut also by other factors such as indicated in the quotation cited above. There is no denying the fact that the Motor Vehicles Act is a regulatory Act--main purpose being to regulate vehicular traffic with dr.? regard to relevant factors such as among others those indicated in Section 43 of the Act. If no limit were fixed on any route as envisaged by Section 47 (3), it would always be open to a person intending to ply a vehicle on any such route to make an application as envisaged by the earlier part of Sub-section (1) of Section 57 and on such application a permit shall have to be issued after observing due formalities unless the Regional Transport Authority comes to a conclusion that the applicant is not a suitable person for the grant of a permit. In that event there would never arise an occasion for judging comparative merits of the various competing applicants for the grant of permits with the result that public interest may thereby suiter. Also in that event there would arise no occasion for the proviso to Sub-section (3) of Section 57 coming into play. Failure to fix strength under Section 47 (3) may very well nullify the very purpose of the Act which is primarily to regulate vehicular traffic having regard to relevant considerations.

Considered in this background, the provision contained in Section 47 (3) cannot possibly be held to be directory. I may refer to the following observations made by a Division Bench of this Court in the case of Mahfooz Jan v. State Transport Tribunal, Lucknow, Special Appeal No. 1060 of 1967 connected with Civil Misc. Writs Nos. 3396 of 1967 and 4210, 4211 and 4212 of 1968 decided on 13th March, 1969 (All) a certified copy of which judgment has been placed before me:--

'From this observation it would be seen that the provisions of Section 47 (3) of the Act have been treated by their Lordships of the Supreme Court as the first duty of the Transport Authority in every case i.e. deciding the number of permits that have to be granted and then to take up the question of the fitness of individual applicants.'

Reference may also be made to the following observations of the Supreme Court in R. Obliswami Naidu v. Additional State Transport Appellate Tribunal, Madras, Civil Appeal No. 1426 of 1968 decided on 17th February, 1969 (SC):--

'On an examination of the relevant provisions of the Act and the purpose behind Sections 47 and 57, we are convinced that before granting a stage carriage permit two independent steps have to be taken. Firstly, there should be a determination by the R. T. A. under Section 47 (3) of the number of stage carriages for which stage carriage permits may be granted in that route. Thereafter applications for stage carriage permits in the route should be entertained. The R T. A. is not competent to grant stage carriage permits for more carriages than fixed under Section 47 (3).'

The above-cited observations made by a Division Bench of this Court and by their Lordships of the Supreme Court clearly indicate that Section 47 (3) enjoins a duty on the authority to limit the number of stage carriages for which stage carriage permits may be granted in the region or in any specified area or on any specified route within the region, and further that so long as that has not been done, there arises no occasion for the authority to dispose of applications pending before it for the grant of permits. It thus follows that the direction conferred on the authority under Section 47 (3) is in fact coupled with an obligation. That being so, the provision contained in Section 47 (3) cannot but be held to be mandatory. In this connection I may refer to the following observations of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Jogendra Singh, AIR 1963 SC 1618 which occur in paragraph 8 of the report:--

'But it is well settled that the word 'may' is capable of meaning 'must' or 'shall' in the light of the context. It is also clear that where a discretion is conferred upon a public authority coupled with an obligation, the word 'may' which denotes discretion should be construed to mean a command.'

I have thus no hesitation in accepting the contention raised on behalf of the petitioners that Section 47 (3) is mandatory and not directory. Learned Standing Counsel drew my attention to a single Judge decision of this Court in Balkrishna Khattri v. Regional Transport Authority. Lucknow, (Civil Misc. Writ No. 4286 of 1967 connected with Civil Misc. Writ No. 4320 of 1967 decided on 23rd February, 1968 (All)) wherein he has held that provision contained in Section 47 (3) is directory and contended that if I did not agree with the view expressed therein, it was necessary for me to refer the matter to a larger Bench. Normally no doubt I should have in the circumstances referred the matter to a larger Bench but there are two reasons why I do not propose to do so in the instant case. My first reason is that the decision of these writ petitions does not hinge on the controversy under consideration namely whether Section 47 (3) is directory or mandatory because even if it is held to be directory, the petitions would have to be allowed in view of my finding recorded above on the second point urged on behalf of the petitioners. My other reason is that the above-cited observations of a Division Bench of this Court and of the Supreme Court regarding the true import of Section 47 (3) go a long way to shake the authority of the single bench decision referred to by the learned Standing Counsel. For the reasons mentioned above, I am of opinion that the view expressed in the two writ petitions by a learned single Judge referred to by the learned Standing Counsel requires reconsideration but it is not necessary to refer that controversy to a larger Bench in the instant case because the decision of these petitions, in view of my finding on. point No. 2, will in any event be in favour of the petitioners.

8. In the end, I allow these petitions and quash the impugned resolution revoking strength on all the routes in Lucknow Region. No other relief appears to be necessary in any of these writ petitions since once the resolution revoking strength on all routes in Lucknow region has been quashed, the Regional Transport Authority has in the matter of grant of permits to proceed on the basis of strength in existence unless the same has been revised according to law. I make no order as to costs.


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