1. Six writ petitions were filed by various petitioners, who were operators on five stage carriage routes, namely, Allahabad-Shankergarh, Allahabad-Banda. Allahabad-Chitrakoot, Raiapur-Sitapur and Sitapur-Manikpur. These writ petitions were dismissed by a learned Single Judge of this Court by a common judgment The petitioners in five of the writ petitions have filed these special appeals against the order of the learned Single Judge dated 19th January 1971.
2. The appellants challenged the nationalisation of the five stage carriage routes mentioned above. On September 8, 1961, a notification under Section 68-C of the Motor Vehicles Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act) was published in the U. P. Gazette dated September 16, 1961 and a scheme was proposed for the nationalisation of the five routes mentioned above. The appellants and some others filed obiections in the year 1961. Mr. S. K. Bhargava. Deputy Legal Remembrancer Uttar Pradesh Government, Lucknow, respondent No. 2, was appointed the Hearing Authority. The objections were dismissed by Mr. Bhargava and the scheme was finally approved and published in the U. P. Gazette dated August 29. 1970. Thereafter a notification under Section 68-F (2) of the Act was published on September 12, 1970 cancelling the permits of the petitioners. By means of the writ petitions, the petitioners challenged the order of the Hearing Authority dated September 4. 1968, the publication of the final scheme on August 29, 1970 and the notification dated September 12, 1970 cancelling the permits of the operators.
3. Before the learned Single Judge a number of points were raised and they have been repeated before us. The learned Single Judge has dealt with them in considerable detail and we shall, therefore, refer to the Points and our reasons for agreeing with the learned Single Judge very briefly. The points raised before the learned Single Judge were these:--
(1) That the Hearing Authority has acted in violation of the principles of natural justice and on that account, its order dated September 4. 1968, is vitiated;
(2) That the Hearing Authority has failed to consider certain objection raised by the petitioners;
(3) That the Hearing Authority was biased and, on that ground also, its order is vitiated;
(4) That, on account of the lapse of time since 1961 when the draft scheme was published, there has been considerable change in the conditions and circumstances and therefore, the original proposal could not be approved;
(5) That Section 68-C of the Motor Vehicles Act offends Article 14 of the Constitution and that the action of the State Government in notifying the petitioners' routes for nationalisation is also discriminatory; and
(6) That the cancellation of the petitioners' permits is illegal.
4. The first argument, i.e. with regard to the violation of the principles of natural justice, had four limbs. It was argued that opportunity to produce witnesses was denied to the petitioners. The second limb of the argument was that the petitioners were denied an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses produced by the State Transport Undertaking. Thirdly it was urged that the petitioners were not permitted to put certain questions to their own witnesses. Fourthly, it was contended that the petitioners were not given an opportunity of addressing arguments before the Hearing Authority.
5. The manner in which the petitioners conducted themselves before the Hearing Authority is a complete answer to the first, second and the fourth limbs of the first point mentioned above. What happened before the Hearing Authority may now be briefly mentioned.
6. December 20. 1967 was the date fixed for hearing objections. At the instance of the petitioners the cases were adjourned to November 15, 1968. On this date the petitioners gave a list of 455 witnesses. An application was made for the examination of certain witnesses on commission. The Hearing Authority having already rejected an application for issuing summonses to the witnesses, the application for examining the witnesses on commission was rejected and at the instance of the petitioners the cases were adjourned to March 1, 1968. On this date the petitioners produced no witness and the cases were adjourned to March 18 and then to April 2, 1968. On April 2, 1968 the petitioners examined some witnesses and the cases were adjourned to April 16, 17, 1968 and on this date some more witnesses were examined and the cases were again adjourned to April 25, 26, 1968. The petitioners examined some witnesses on these dates and some others on May 3 1968. The cases were thereafter adjourned to May 30, 31, 1968. The petitioners filed an application on May 29, 1968 stating therein that some new permits had been granted on May 20, 1968 and a corrigendum should be issued modifying the scheme. The Hearing Authority rejected this application on July 20. 1968 after hearing arguments on both the sides. The cases were then fixed for August 12. 1968 and on this date evidence on behalf of the petitioners was closed and the cases were adjourned to August 29. 30. 1968 for examination of the witnesses of the State Transport Undertaking (hereinafter referred to as the undertaking). The Undertaking was directed to furnish a list of its witnesses six days before the date fixed and such a list was furnished by the undertaking and a copy of the list was served on the counsel for the petitioners. On August 29. 1968. however, none of the witnesses mentioned in the list given by the undertaking was present and a fresh list was given by the undertaking, out of which the undertaking wanted to examine six witnesses on that date. The learned counsel for the petitioners objected and wanted time. They prayed for one week's adjournment. The Hearing Authority was unwilling to adjourn the hearing for a week. Thereafter the learned counsel for the petitioners wanted one day's adjournment, which the Hearing Authority was willing to grant. At the instance of the petitioners, however, learned counsel for the petitioners again pressed for one weeks' adjournment and when this prayer was refused, both the petitioners and their counsel walked out. The undertaking then examined 4 of its witnesses and closed the evidence. The Hearing Authority fixed August 30. 1968 for arguments. On that date one of the petitioners and his counsel appeared before the Hearing Authority but the counsel was unwilling to argue the case. He asked for adjournment which was not granted and thereupon both the petitioner and his counsel walked out. The Hearing Authority thereupon heard arguments on behalf of the undertaking and passed the impugned order dated September 4, 1968.
7. On the facts mentioned above, It is impossible to contend that the petitioners were not given an opportunity to produce evidence or to cross-examine the witnesses or to address arguments. We should like to emphasise one admission made on behalf of the petitioners in paragraph 19 of the writ petition and paragraph 14 of the rejoinder-affidavit. They have mentioned that there were three counsel representing the petitioners and it was settled that anyone of the counsel present would represent them all. The counsel, who appeared before the Hearing Authority on August 30, 1968 could have argued the cases on behalf of all the petitioners but he refused to do so. As has been rightly pointed out by the learned Single Judge all that the principles of natural justice require is that a reasonable opportunity should be afforded to the person against whom a decision is taken. The petitioners had themselves to blame for the manner in which they behaved before the Hearing Authority. As regards the refusal of the Hearing Authority to examine witnesses on commission and to issue letters of request, it is well settled that a Tribunal such as the Hearing Authority is not bound to issue summonses to witnesses or to examine them on commission. Issuing letters of request is a matter of discretion. (See: Capital Multipurpose Co-operative Societies Bhopal v. State of M. P., AIR 1967 SC 1815).
8. The third limb of the first point is that the petitioners were not permitted to put a particular question to their own witnesses. The question, which was disallowed by the Hearing Authority was as follows:--
'Whether it is in the public interest to allow the State Transport Undertaking to operate exclusively the said route to the total exclusion of the private operators?'
The learned Single Judge has rightly pointed out that the question was sought to be put with a view to obtaining the opinion of the witnesses and not to elicit any fact or information. The Hearing Authority was perfectly justified in disallowing the question.
9. As regards the second point urged before the learned Single Judge, and also before us, namely, that certain objections raised by the petitioners were not considered by the Hearing Authority, we entirely agree with the learned Single Judge that those objections were outside the purview of Section 68-D (1) of the Act. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court have pointed out in Gullapalli Nageswara Rao v. Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, AIR 1959 SC 308 the objections which are permissible under Section 68-D (1), namely:
(i) That under the scheme, the undertaking would not be able to provide an efficient, adequate, economical and properly co-ordinated road transport service;
(ii) That the scheme of nationalisation is not in the public interest; and
(iii) That the objectors should not be excluded.
In this connection, reference may also be made to the case of Capital Multipurpose Co-operative Societies. AIR 1967 SC 1815 (supra). The learned Single Judge has rightly pointed out that it was not open to the petitioners to raise objections on the ground that, because of certain reasons, they would be able to operate the routes better than the undertaking. The objections were mostly legal and they have been dealt with by the Hearing Authority. It should also be noted that there is no objection to the effect that the petitioners, or any of them, should not be excluded from the Scheme.
10. The third point raised was that the Hearing Authority was biased. The mere fact that the Hearing Authority passed certain orders, which were adverse to the petitioners is no ground for the contention that the Hearing Authority was biased.
11. An objection, (the fourth point) which was not raised before the Hearing Authority was, however, raised before the learned Single Judge, namely, that the scheme was proposed in the year 1961 and it was approved in the year 1968 and that the circumstances must have changed during the intervening years. The learned Single Judge rightly did not allow this objection to be raised, as it had not been raised before the Hearing Authority, despite the fact that supplementary objections had been filed in addition to the objections originally taken. Learned counsel for the appellants has tried to point out certain objections such as poverty of the petitioners, loss of their livelihood and other kinds of financial losses. We agree with the learned Single Judge that such objections are clearly outside the purview of Section 68-D (1) of the Act.
12. The fifth point Is with regard to the violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. This point stands concluded by two decisions of Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in H. C. Narayanappa v. State of Mysore. AIR 1960 SC 1073 and J. Y. Kondala Rao v. Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corpn., AIR 1961 SC 82. The allegation that the State Government has discriminated against the operators of the eastern region of Uttar Pradesh and has favoured the operators tin the Western part of U. P. has been controverted in the counter affidavit and there is nothing on the basis of which it could be said that there has been discrimination.
13. The last argument advanced before the learned Single Judge and also before us, is that the Regional Transport Authority could not cancel the permits of the petitioners under Sub-section (2) of Section 68-F of the Act, until the undertaking had applied for permits under Sub-section (1) of Section 68-F of the Act and such Permits had been granted. In other words, the contention is that action under Section 68-F (2) of the Act can be taken only after action has been taken under Sub-section (1) of that section. Such a contention was rejected by the Supreme Court in the case of Sobhraj Odharmal v. State of Rajasthan. AIR 1963 SC 640.
14. It was further contended that the undertaking was bound to issue a corrigendum when the petitioners brought to its notice that new permits had been granted on the route covered by the scheme. This argument is not sustainable in view of a Division Bench decision of this Court in Amolak Singh v. Government of Uttar Pradesh Civil Misc. Writ No. 2736 of 1968. D/- 26-7-1968 (All). This decision was followed by another Division Bench of this Court in Mukut Bihari Agarwal y. U. P, State Road Transport Undertaking Civil Misc. Writ No. 242 of 1968. D/- 15-1-1970 (All Luck B.).
15. A completely new point was raised before us which was not taken anywhere before. It is contended that Sri S. K. Bhargava was the Deputy Legal Remembrancer and in that capacity, he gave advice to the various departments of the State Government including the Undertaking and the Road Transport Authority. It has been sworn in the counter affidavit that Mr. Bhargava was never consulted in connection with the scheme which was sought to be impugned by the petitioners.
16. Before parting with these appeals, we should like to point out the scope and the nature of the jurisdiction exercised by tribunals such as the Hearing Authority and the permissible extent of interference by this Court in the exercise of its writ jurisdiction. The following observations of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the case of AIR 1960 SC 1073 at p. 1079 amply explain the exact legal position:--
'The guarantee conferred by Section 68-D of the Motor Vehicles Act upon persons likely to be affected by the intended scheme is a guarantee of an opportunity to Put forth their objections and to make representations to the State Government against the acceptance of the scheme. This opportunity of making representations and of being heard in support thereof may be regarded as real only if in the consideration of the objections, there is a judicial approach. But the legislature does not contemplate an appeal to this Court against the order passed by the State Government approving or modifying the scheme. Provided the authority invested with the power to consider the objections gives an opportunity to the objectors to be heard in the matter and deals with the objections in the light of the object intended to be secured by the scheme, the ultimate order passed by that authority is not open to challenge either on the ground that another view may possibly have been taken on the objections or that detailed reasons have not been given for upholding or rejecting the contentions raised by the objectors'.
These observations were made by their Lordships while deciding a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution but in our view, they are equally applicable to the exercise of jurisdiction by this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.
17. We find no merit in these appeals and they are dismissed with costs. The interim orders are vacated.