J.K. Tandon, J.
1. The petitioner is a transport operator who possessed three public carrier permits in 1948 for Basti-Bahraich route which travelled via Faizabad. He possessed another permit for Basti-Tanda route which again travelled via Faizabad. Ajodhia is one of the towns through which these routes travel; a part of the route thus lies between Ajodhia and Faizabad. These permits when they were granted were not treated by the Department to be permits for inter-regional routes; they were, on the other hand, assumed to lie within one and the same region, i.e. Gorakhpur region.
The necessary permit fee also was charged on that basis. After these permits expired in 1950 the Chief Inspector of Offices discovered, in the course of one of his inspections in 1951, that the above two routes were inter-regional routes as the portion of the routes between Ajodhia and Faizabad existed in the Allahabad region though the rest existed in the Gorakhpur region. According to Rule 55 of the U. P. Motor Vehicle Rules, 1940, as in force in this State, a higher fee is chargeable in the case of temporary permits where a route happens to be an inter-region route. As, however, the fee realised by the Department from the petitioner was on the assumption that the above routes lay exclusively in the Gorakhpur region the amount paid by him was found to be deficient.
He, therefore, reported that the balance might be recovered from the permit-holders. The transport authorities thereupon made a requisition from the petitioner who disputed his liability for any additional amount. His objection failed and so did his appeal to the Deputy Transport Commissioner which was dismissed on 14th October, 1957. The present petition was then commenced under Article 226 of the Constitution asking the order of the Deputy Transport Commissioner to be quashed and at the same time, for the grant of a writ of mandamus directing respondents 3 and 4 the former is the Regional Transport Officer (Taxation) and the latter is Deputy Transport Commissioner (Administration), to desist from realising the alleged deficiency.
2. There is indeed no dispute about facts which as already noticed show that the petitioner held four permits which covered the portion between Ajodhia and Faizabad also. From the papers on record this again is clear that the road between Ajodhia and Faizabad lies within Allahabad region and not Gorakhpur region. But this fact never attracted the attention of the departmental authorities at any time until it was pointed out by the Chief Inspector of Offices.
Prior to his pointing out the mistake all concerned, including the petitioner and the transport authorities, took it for granted that this small portion of the routes also was a part of the Gorakhpur region. That this was so is again borne out by the circumstance that the permits granted to the petitioner were never countersigned or required to be countersigned by the Regional Transport Authority of the Allahabad region.
3. Section 63 of the Motor Vehicles Act provides for validation of permits for use outside the region in which they are granted. According to it a permit granted by the Regional Transport Authority of one region shall not be valid in any other region unless it has been countersigned by the Regional Transport Authority of the other region. Sub-section (4) states an exception to the general rule above by which a temporary permit issued by the Regional Transport Authority of one region can be valid in another region also if the Regional Transport authority has given its concurrence either generally or for any particular occasion.
This exception, however, is not attracted in the present case because the respondents do not claim, in fact they cannot do so, that any general concurrence or concurrence in respect of any particular occasion had been given by the Allahabad Regional Transport Authority in the case of permits granted by the Gorakhpur Regional Transport Authority acted on the assumption, but never on any concurrence by the Allahabad Regional Transport Authority, that the Ajodhia-Faizabad portion of the route was a route lying within their region. The provision of law applicable to the permits held by the petitioner is thus Sub-section (1) of Section 63.
4. In order that a permit granted by the Regional Transport Authority of one region may be valid in another region also the counter-signatures of the Regional Transport Authority of the other region are very necessary. Unless and until a permit is thus countersigned it is not valid law in the other region. The validity is conferred upon it by the counter-signatures which are not a purely formal affair, because the Regional Transport Authority of the other region has power under the same section to impose further conditions at the time of counter-signatures. A consideration upon the merits in each case by the Regional Transport Authority of the region ig surely In the contemplation of the law.
5. Now the question that will at once arise is whether the transport authorities can require the petitioner to pay the deficiency in spite of the fact that the relative permits were never countersigned nor asked to be countersigned by the Regional Transport Authority of the Allahabad region. Rule 55 of the U. P. Motor Vehicle Rules in laying downthe liability for payment of fees has provided in these terms, viz.
'The fee for a temporary permit shall be (these permits were temporary permits) if valid for more than one region, four rupees for the first seven days or part thereof after the first seven days.'
The above provision requires the payment of fees on permits valid for more than one region. The presence of a permit valid for more than one region is an essential prerequisite for the payment of fee chargeable in the case of inter-region permits. If, however, for any reason any permit is not valid for more than one region, whatever other liability the permit-holder might incur under the other provisions of the law, he cannot be compelled to pay the fee chargeable in the case of inter-region permits for the simple reason that his permit is not valid for more than one region.
The validity of a permit for more than one region can take place in the manner laid down in Section 63 (1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, which requires the counter-signatures of the Regional transport Authority of the other region. This was not done in this case with the necessary result that the permits held by the petitioner though on their face purporting to cover the Ajodhia-Faizabad portion of the route were not valid in the absence of the counter-signatures of the Regional Transport Authority, for the Allahabad region. The petitioner's liability for the increased fee did not under the circumstances arise.
6. The learned Standing Counsel has pointed out that despite the absence of counter-signatures by the Regional Transport Authority of the Allahabad Region the petitioner admittedly operated the vehicle over the Ajodhia-Faizabad portion; he has, thus drawn the benefit which was allowable by an inter-region permit and cannot now be heard to dispute his liability for the increased fee payable in the case of inter-region permits. He also invited reference to Rule 31A of the Rules which is to the effect that if any undercharge in the levy of fees provided under the Motor Vehicles Act or the Rules made thereunder is discovered in respect of any person the authority prescribed in that behalf under Chapters II, III and IV of the Act can require the persons concerned to make up the deficiency.
Relying the above prohibition he has urged that for all intents and purposes the permits which had been granted to the petitioner were inter-region permits, he was, therefore, liable to pay the increased charges in respect thereof and the deficiency which had subsequently been discovered can be asked to be made up. Rule 31A, no doubt, authorises the authority concerned to require any deficiency or undercharge in the fees payable by a person under the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules made thereunder to be made good. But once again the Increased fee must be payable by such person under the Act and the Rules.
If by any mistake, whether of the transport authorities or of any other authority concerned, a permit remains a permit which, on its face is not liable to a higher rate of charge, whatever other liability the permit holder may thereby incur, he cannot be held liable to the charge at the higher rate unless all the conditions necessary therefor under the law are fulfilled. Rule 31A has contemplated cases of undercharge where the amount realised is less than what was legally payable.
Speaking in the present context the rule will apply if it can be said that the permits held by the petitioner were valid as inter-region permits hence liable to a charge at the higher rate. Once again, therefore, the success of this argument depends on whether the permits held by the petitioner werevalid as inter-region permits. Under the circum-stances I am unable to accept that Rule 31A can entitle the respondents to compel the petitioner to pay the deficiency in these cases.
7. The net result of the foregoing discussion is that the petitioner cannot be compelled to pay the deficiency pointed out by the Chief Inspector of Offices. There is no power also under the law to require him to pay the same as there was never a valid inter-region permit. Under the circumstances this petition should succeed. The order of the Deputy Transport Commissioner (Administration) dated the 14th October, 1957, as well as the requisition for payment of the deficiency out of which that order arose are quashed. Respondents 3 and 4 are further directed not to recover the alleged arrears. The petitioner will get his costs from the respondents. The amount, if already deposited, shall be refunded to him.