1. The Surrendra Transport and Engineering Company (Private) Ltd., Kalka, petitioner, has been carrying on its transport business since before the reorganization of the State of Punjab with its headquarters at Kalka. In the year 1958 it was granted regular permits for plying passenger buses on Kalka-Nalagarh route. On 15th April, 1966, one of these permits was extended by the Regional Transport Authority, Patiala, to cover the route between Nalagarh and Rupar, with the result that the petitioner-company started running its regular service from Kalka direct to Rupar.
2. Subsequently, this route fell within the jurisdiction of the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala. The petitioner, Surrendra Transport and Engineering Company (Private) Ltd., applied that its other three route permits from Kalka to Nalagarh be also extended to Rupar on a regular basis. In accordance with the provisions of Section 57 of the Motor Vehicles Rules, notice of this application was ordered to be published by the Secretary, Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, in three different papers in different parts of the country. One of these notices (copy of which is A.1 to the petition) was published on 11th August, 1963, in the Weekly Transport Gazette, Delhi, and another in ;the Transport Weekly, Jullundur on 8th August, 1963. The third publication appeared in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, on 15th August, 1963, copy of which forms Annexure R-1 to the return filed on behalf of respondent No. 3. Unfortunately, in the latter publication (R-1) the route to which the petitioners' application for extension related, was wrongly mentioned as 'Kalka-Nalagarh up-to-Kalka' instead of 'Kalka-Nalagarh-Rupar'. By all these notices, objections to the petitioners' application for extension of their route permits from Kalka to Nalagarh of the publication, but curiously enough in none of these notices the date, time and place at which the objections were to be heard were specified or indicated.
The State Transport Commissioner, Punjab, had, however, fixed 31st October, 1963, for consideration of the objections, but this was later postponed to 7th November, 1963. Before these dates, on 10th September, 1963, the State Transport Commissioner received the letter (R. 2) from the Ambala Bus Syndicate (Private) Ltd., Rupar and other areas. This letter referred to the advertisement of the petitioners' application that appeared in the Motor Transport Gazette. Chandigarh, dated 15th August, 1963, and pointed out that there was some obvious mistake in it in describing the route for which the extension was applied for, as 'there is no question of extension of Kalka-Nalagarh route up to Kalka.' In view of this error in the advertisement that appeared on 15th August, 1963, in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, it was considered necessary to have fresh publication in that paper, and the corrected notices appeared in the issue of that paper, dated 22nd January, 1964 (copy of which is marked Ex. 1).
3. Before the petitioners' application could be considered after this advertisement, the petitioners came to this Court with this petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution, with the prayer that the order of the respondent transport authorities directing the publication of the fresh notices and the consequent publication which appeared in the Motor Transport Gazette on 22-1-1964, be quashed, and the petitioners' application for extension of route-permits be disposed of ignoring the impugned publication of notices. This petition has been resisted not only by the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala and the State Transport Commissioner, Punjab (respondents 1 and 2) but also by the Ambala Bus Syndicate (Private) Ltd., Rupar (respondent No. 3) who had pointed out the error in the notices as originally published in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, dated 15th August, 1963.
4. Mr. D. S. Nehra, appearing for the petitioners, has argued:-
(1) that the Act provides for inviting objections only once, and the notices having once appeared could not be re-published especially when in two of the papers there was no error in publication;
(2) that the order directing re-publication of the notices in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, after necessary correction was not made by the competent authority, and
(3) that the re-publication of notices was ordered merely to enable respondent No. 3 (The Ambala Bus Syndicate (Private) Ltd., Rupar) to file objections, which it did not choose to the file within the prescribed period of 30 days from the date of the first publication, and thus the action of the Transport Authorities in ordering re-publication was mala fide.
5. All these contentions have been vehemently contested by the respondents in their return, and it is asserted by respondents 1 and 2 that they acted bona fide as without proper publication the petitioners' application could not be heard and decided.
6. Before proceeding to consider the contentions referred to above, it is necessary to take note of the Reorganization of the State. At the time the petitioners applied for extension of their route-permits to Rupar. Rupar was within the district of Ambala. Subsequently, on 1st November, 1966, when the State of Punjab was reorganized, the district of Ambala was split up, and Rupar was constituted into a separate district falling within the State of Punjab, while the rest of Ambala district, except for Union Territory of Chandigarh and the areas included in Himachal Pradesh, became a part of the State of Haryana. As a result of this Reorganization, the entire route the district of Rupar, came under the jurisdiction of the State Transport Commissioner, Punjab. It is thus evident that at present the jurisdiction over the route for which the extension of the petitioners' existing permits from Kalka to Nalagarh is applied for is that of the Punjab Transport Authorities and not of the Regional Transport Authority. Ambala, whom the petitioners had approached in the year 1964 for extension of their permits. In this changed situation. I doubt very much if the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, can extend the permit for a route between Nalagarh and Rupar, which falls entirely within the State of Punjab. Mr. Nehra has not been able to point out any provision in the Punjab State Reorganization Act, 1966, or the Motor Vehicles Act under which the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, before whom the petitioners' application for extension of permits is pending, is competent at present to grant such extension so as to cover the route between Nalagarh and Rupar.
In these circumstances, this Court will not be justified, even if we assume that the order of re-publication of notices of the petitioners' application is not valid, to issue any writ or direction to the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, and on this short ground the petition is liable to be rejected.
7. I, however, now proceed to deal with petitioners' case on merits. The plea of mala fides put forward by the petitioners merely proceeds on the fact that within 30 days from the date of the first publication of notices, no objections to the petitioners' application for extension of their route permit were preferred by any one. From this, it is argued that respondent No. 3, a rival transport company, having omitted to put in the objections within the prescribed period of 30 days, had cleverly managed to get the time to the detriment of the petitioners. This argument has no basis and does not bear a moment's scrutiny. As has been observed earlier, the notices in the three papers had appeared on 8th, 11th and 15th August, 1963. Admittedly, the objections could be preferred within 30 days from the date of publication of these notices. The letter of respondent No. 3 pointing out the error in publication of the notice in the issue of the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, dated 15th August, 1963, admittedly reached the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, on 10th September, 1963. This was clearly within 30 days from the date of the publication of the notices in that paper, and there is no dispute that is respondent No. 3 had filed objections on that day or uptill 13th September, 1963, those objections would have been well within time and had to be considered. There is nothing to indicate that respondent No. 3 deliberately avoided filing objections within this period.
It is abundantly clear from their letter to the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, (Annexure R-1) that they were anxious to contest the petitioners' claim for the extension of their route permits, but they could not do so because the route for which the extension was sought was not correctly described in the advertisement that appeared in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, dated 15th August, 1963. In that advertisement, the portion of the route permit for which the extension was sought was not indicated. Under these circumstances, they had no other course open to the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, so as to ascertain from it the exact route for which the extension was applied for.
8. The submission of Mr. Nehra that the wrong publication, which appeared in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, was manipulated for respondent No. 3, as the Editor of this paper was in league with the Managing Director of respondent No. 3 has no basis. There is no such averment in the petition nor any affidavit in support of it. On the other hand, the course which the Transport Authorities had adopted in ordering re-publication is perfectly understandable, and it was the only course that was open to the authorities when the defect in publication was brought to their notice.
9. The contention of Mr. Nehra that there is no provision for re-publication of notices in the Motor Vehicle Act or the Rules framed thereunder, and thus the Regional Transport Authority had no power to order re-publication, is clearly untenable. Under sub-section (3) of Section 57 of the Motor Vehicles Act, it is incumbent upon the Regional Transport Authority to publish the application for grant of permit or the substance thereof together with a notice of the date before which the representations in connection therewith may be submitted, and the date, not being less than thirty days from such publication, on which, and the time and place at which, the publication and any representations received will be considered. The manner of publication of notices is laid down in Rule 4.6, which requires inter alia that the publication be made in a newspaper of standing circulation in the region. There is nothing in any of these provisions, or in the Act itself or the Rules framed thereunder, which debars the authority from ordering fresh publication in case the notices originally published are found to the defective. In fact, I cannot imagine that any such provision would be made or that the legislature or the authorities would countenance wrong publications to go unnoticed or unremedied. It cannot be disputed, and in fact Mr. Nehra has conceded, that the notice published in the 15th August, issue of the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, was not a correct notice, and the error which related to the description of the route to which the application for extension related, was a material one. On the basis of that notice, it was not possible for any one interested in such route to put in his objections. In these circumstances. It was incumbent upon the authorities to re-publish the notices so as to inform all concerned of the correct particulars of the petitioners' application, and this is what has been done in this case.
10. The only other objection of Mr. Nehra, which remains to be dealt with is about the competency of the authority ordering re-publication. The corrected notice which was sent for re-publication in the Motor Transport Gazette, Chandigarh, as its copy (Annexure E-1) goes to show, was published in the name of the Regional Transport Authority, Ambala. The records produced by that Authority further show that this corrected notice was published at the instance of the Secretary. Regional Transport Authority, Ambala, who forwarded the same to the paper concerned. It is the same Authority that has taken steps to have the original notices published. The authority to order such publication and to take the necessary steps for that purpose clearly vests in the Secretary of the Regional Transport Authority under Rule 4.6 of the Punjab Motor Vehicles Rules. It is true that the Secretary, Regional Transport Authority, was not competent to dispose of the petitioners' application for extension of grant of permit or to deal with the objections raised to such an application, but in the instant case, the Secretary has not in any way dealt with the merits of the petitioners' application. All that he has done is to remedy the defect in the publication of notices, which he under the Rules was required to issue, and thus there is no substance in the complaint that the publication of fresh notice was in excess of his jurisdiction or was not by a competent Authority.
11. In fact, I find that even the other two notices published in the Delhi and Jullundur papers were also defective. As they did not mention the date, time and place at which the objections were to be heard, the omission could be remedied only by ordering fresh publication.
12. For all these reasons, I find no force in this petition and dismiss the same with costs.
14. Petition dismissed.