K.B. Asthana, C.J.
1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution questioning the validity of an order passed by the U.P. State Transport Appellate Tribunal dated 21st April, 1973 by which a revision filed by Srimati Afsari Begum respondent No. 3 to this petition was allowed and the order of the Regional Transport Authority, Lucknow dated 2nd January, 1973 transferring the permit No. 381 of Vehicle No. USD-583 from the name of Srimati Afsari Begum to the name of Asad Yar Khan, the petitioner in this writ petition, was set aside.
2. It appears that in 1958 a permit was granted by the Regional Transport Authority, Lucknow in the name of Srimati Afsari Begum for plying a private stage carriage on Barabanki-Ganeshpur route. Later on the route was changed and the permit held good for Hardoi-Beniganj-Sandila route. During the period appropriate endorsements were made in the permit. In 1972 the said permit stood for the Vehicle No. USD-583. Srimati Afsari Begum is the widowed sister of the petitioner Asad Yar Khan. On 14-8-1972 the petitioner applied under Section 59 (1) of the Motor Vehicles Act to the Regional Transport Authority, Lucknow for transfer of the said permit in his name. On 12-9-1972 Srimati Afsari Begum filed an objection. On 26-11-1972 the petitioner filed a detailed affidavit amplifying the allegations made in the original application for the transfer of permit. On 27-11-1972 the Regional Transport Authority heard the parties and reserved orders. Then on 2-1-1973 the Regional Transport Authority allowed the application of the petitioner and transferred the permit in his name. It appears that in the final part of the order instead of the word 'permit' the word 'vehicle' was mentioned. On 4-1-1973 the petitioner went before the registration authority under the Motor Vehicles Act and got the Vehicle No. USD-583 registered in his name. Then the petitioner made an application before the Regional Transport Authority for correction of the order. The Regional Transport Authority by its order dated 17-1-1973 corrected the mistake by substituting the word 'permit' for the word 'vehicle' in the final order. Srimati Afsari Begum being aggrieved filed a revision before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal which as said above, allowed the revision on 24-1-1973, and set aside the order of the Regional Transport Authority.
3. The main controversy between the parties before the transport authorities related to the ownership of the Vehicle No. USD-583 to which the permit in question related. The petitioner's case was that his widowed sister Asfari Begum 'was living with him and in 1958 he acquired a vehicle and got the permit No. 381 issued benami in the name of his sister Srimaiti Afsari Begum as the petitioner had already several other permits in his name. The allegation of the petitioner further was that on 13-2-1960 Srimati Afsari Begum executed a document in which she admitted the benami nature of her status and gave an undertaking that whenever the petitioner wanted the permit to be endorsed in his own name she will not raise any objection. However, even after this agreement the permit continued to remain in the name of Srimati Afsari Begum with the change of vehicles which is alleged were always purchased by the petitioner. It was alleged in the affidavit filed by the petitioner before the Regional Transport Authority on 26-11-1972 that the Vehicle No. USD 583 was acquired by him for Rs. 26,000/- from one Mohammad Soyab. The case of the petitioner before the Regional Transport Authority was that Srimati Afsari Begum had no assets of her own and her name was just benami as regards vehicles and the permit, it was the petitioner who was looking after the business of running the stage carriage on the route endorsed on the permit and it was he who was keeping the accounts and receiving the earnings. It was alleged that Srimati Afsari Begum was always supported by the petitioner and she was living in the house of the petitioner but some time after Srimati Afsari Begum had married her daughter to Irshad Ali, the son-in-law, having an evil eye on the vehicle and the permit got his mother-in-law shifted to his own house so as to cause loss and embarrassment to the petitioner. The petitioner thus having been alarmed with this attitude of his sister and Irshad Ali, her son-in-law, was compelled to apply for the transfer of the permit to the Regional Transport Authority. Srimati Afsari Begum in her objection refuted the allegation that the permit and the vehicle endorsed in the permit was benami. She alleged that the permit was always in her name and she was the owner of the vehicle endorsed in the permit. She further alleged that the so-called agreement or document said to have been executed by her on 13-2-60 was not a genuine act on her part, her brother having taken a thumb impression on a blank paper forged the contents thereon.
4. The Regional Transport Authority on a consideration of the entire material on record recorded a finding that the permit and the vehicle in question were benami in the name of Srimati Afsari Begum and the petitioner was the real owner thereof. On this finding the Regional Transport Authority transferred the permit in the name of the petitioner. In revision the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, however, held that the question as to whether the permit was benami in the name of Srimati Afsari Begum could not have been decided by the Regional Transport Authority and the permit ought not to have been transferred in the name of the petitioner unless the petitioner had obtained a decree of the Civil Court as to the benami nature of the transaction. A perusal of the order of the Appellate Tribunal would show that it has contradicted itself. In the earlier part of its order the Appellate Tribunal criticised the Regional Transport Authority in not examining the attesting witnesses to the agreement dated 13-2-1960 but later on it held that such a question could not have been decided by the transport authorities as it fell beyond their power.
5. Sri A.J. Fanthome, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner, contended that in taking the view that the transport authorities cannot resolve a question as to the ownership of the permit and the vehicle endorsed therein or record a finding thereon on such a question, the Appellate Tribunal legally erred. The learned counsel submitted that the Regional Transport Authority had ample jurisdiction under the relevant provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules made thereunder to decide all questions of fact and law relevant to the controversy before it inasmuch as it is the exclusive jurisdiction of the Regional Transport Authority to grant a permit or not to grant a permit or to transfer a permit or refuse to transfer it. The learned counsel pointed out to Rule 45(f) of the U.P. Motor Vehicles Rules which empowers the Regional Transport Authority to call for all kind of information needed by it for the purpose of deciding the disputes relating to permits of stage carriages. My attention was drawn by the learned counsel to a decision of the Supreme Court in K.M. Viswanatha Pillai v. K.M. Shanmugham Pillai, (AIR 1969 SC 493) in which in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the reported judgment at page 496 the learned Judges observed as follows :--
'The learned counsel for the respondent says that at any rate the Act does not contemplate persons applying for permits benami. In India benami transactions are recognised and not frowned upon ........................ We see nothing in the Act which expressly or by implication bars benami transactions or persons owning buses benami and applying for permits on that basis.'
Reliance was also placed on the observations of this Court in the case of Khalil-ul-Rehman Khan v. State Transport Appellate Tribunal, (AIR 1963 All 383) in this connection. Another case of the Supreme Court was also cited in aid of his submissions by the learned counsel for the petitioner which is Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation v. Mangrulpir Joint Motor Service Co. (P) Ltd., (AIR 1971 SC 1804) to establish that the Regional Transport Authority under the Motor Vehicles Act has full powers to ask for any information and call the parties for furnishing any information necessary in connection with the grant of a permit. The Supreme Court in the later case was considering the question of grant of a permit. The transfer of a permit is nothing but a grant of a permit. Thus, the observations of the Supreme Court in that case are equally applicable when the Regional Transport Authority considers the question of transfer of a permit. Whenever a question arises before the Regional Transport Authority as to the nature of the permit, in my judgment, it will be failing in its duty in not deciding the issues as would be necessary for the purpose of resolving the dispute relating to the permit between the benamidar and the real owner. Though T have not been referred to any provision under the Motor Vehicles Act or the rules made thereunder by the State of Uttar Pradesh empowering the Regional Transport Authority to summon witnesses and examine them on oath but that does not mean that the Regional Transport Authority cannot in asking for information call a person to furnish the information or call for any material document for furnishing such information. It is not the law that a Tribunal can-not record a finding of fact on any material question arising before it for decision unless such Tribunal is empowered to examine witnesses on oath or has the power to summon witnesses. In this case itself as the record shows the petitioner had prayed before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal at the revisional stage to examine Srimati Afsari Begum on an affidavit filed by her before the Appellate Tribunal. Srimati Afsari Begum objected and pleaded that the Tribunal had no such power to examine her on oath.
6. Sri R.N. Trivedi, learned counsel for the respondent, Srimati Afsari Begum, contended that the appellate Tribunal was right in holding that the transport authorities could not decide the question of title as they had no power to summon witnesses and examine and cross-examine them on oath. I do not think that this contention of the learned counsel is sound. A reference was made to a decision of this Court in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Ratan Shukla, (AIR 1956 All 258) wherein it was held that unless a positive authorisation is conferred by law a constituted authority though administering the laws and affecting the rights of the parties cannot summon witnesses on oath and then examine or cross-examine them. I do not doubt the correctness of this proposition. The Regional Transport Authority not having been specifically authorised in that regard cannot examine or cross-examine witnesses on oath. Even if it may be so, the Regional Transport Authority having been constituted as a body to decide all disputes relating to permits and to call for any material information in that connection has to record findings in order to! arrive at its decision. Nobody disputes and can dispute that the Regional Transport Authority in granting permits or transferring permits acts quasi-judicially. It has to give fair opportunity to every party interested before it. A body which is under a duty to act quasi-judicially has to hear the parties and on the information before it arrive at conclusions or findings. It has to perform that duty though it may be that it has no power to call for witnesses and examine them on oath. As already observed above, taking of benami permits under the Motor Vehicles Act being permitted as the verdict of the Supreme Court referred to above shows it cannot, as a matter of law be held that the Regional Transport Authority cannot go into the question of benami. In my judgment it cannot throw out a party only for the reason that it is difficult to decide the question of benami and then direct him to go to civil court. It may be observed here that the Regional Transport Authority has to do its best in resolving such questions. But its verdict as to the ownership of the vehicle may not be final as it is only an incidental question to be decided in order to grant a permit or transfer it. I think it is always open to la party to go to a Civil Court for a declaration that he is the owner of a vehicle. The provisions under the Act and the rules made thereunder do not anywhere constitute the Regional Transport Authority as the forum to decide finally the title of a vehicle. No doubt, as observed above, that is a relevant fact for the purpose of coming to a conclusion as to the grant of a permit or to transfer a permit. This incidental question has to be decided by the Regional Transport Authority in order to do its duty under the law as it is the exclusive forum where all questions relating to permits of stage carriages have to be determined.
7. There is yet another difficulty in the way of the learned counsel for the respondent. It is not disputed that in practice before the Regional Transport Authority parties file affidavits. Affidavit is nothing else but a written statement on oath. Thus, before the Regional Transport Authority statements on oath are being furnished by way of affidavits and that has become the general practice. This practice, to my mind, is not legally erroneous. If a party voluntarily gives a statement on oath it will always be entertained though of course the Regional Transport Authority has no power to compel a party to give a statement on oath. When affidavits between the parties are exchanged it becomes again the duty of the Regional Transport Authority to resolve the disputes on the information furnished by the affidavits. Here before the Regional Transport Authority there were affidavits and other documents. In my judgment in coming to a conclusion on the benami nature of the ownership of the vehicle in order to find out as to in whose name the permit is to be given the Regional Transport Authority did not exceed its jurisdiction or power. The Appellate Tribunal was in error in setting aside the order of the Regional Transport Authority on that ground.
8. However, I find from the facts averred in the affidavits of the parties that the Regional Transport Authority did not afford a reasonable opportunity to Srimati Afsari Begum to refute the allegations made in the affidavit which was filed in the last stage by the petitioner on 26th November, 1972. As said above, in this affidavit the petitioner came out with a definite case. His earlier affidavit was merely an assertion that the ownership of the vehicle and the permit was benami, but it is in the later affidavit that he gave out all the circumstances. Srimati Afsari Begum ought to have been afforded an opportunity to reply to that affidavit. The Regional Transport Authority being a quasi-judicial authority in matters of grant of permit and transfer of permit thus erred in the exercise of ids jurisdiction as it did not afford Srimati Afsari Begum a reasonable opportunity to meet the case against her. Thus the order of .the Regional Transport Authority suffered from this infirmity and ought to have been set aside by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal on this score.
9. The result is that this petition succeeds. The impugned order of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal is quashed. I give a further direction that the order of the Regional Transport Authority dated 2-1-1973 be also quashed. The Regional Transport Authority is directed to reconsider the matter in accordance with law and in the light of the observations made in the above judgment. In the circumstances of the case I make no order as to costs.
10. Before I part with this case 1 direct that the interim order dated 4th May, 1973 as confirmed subsequently by this Court shall remain effective with this modification that in future the amounts will be deposited with the Regional Transport Authority, Lucknow and they will remain in deposit The party who ultimately succeeds will be entitled to withdraw the amount deposited in this court and before the Regional Transport Authority.