R.S. Narula, J.
1. Resolution of the Regional Transport Authority, Patiala dated June 23, 1967 (Annexure 'A'), whereby it was decided to grant two temporary permits with two return trips in favour of Massrs Mansahia Transport Company (Private) Limited, Mansa (respondent No. 2) for Bhikhi Sangrur via Dhanaula route and whereby it was further decided that the State Transport Authority be approached for opening the said route has been impugned in this case by the Prem Bus Service (Private) Limited, Barnala, on the following grounds:--
(1) The permits in dispute were directed to be sanctioned in violation of the statutory rights of the petitioner under Section 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (4 of 1939) (hereinafter called 'the Act') inasmuch as it had been made impossible by the first respondent authority to take into consideration any representation, which the petitioner might have made against the application of respondent No. 2 for the grant of the permits in dispute, as the petitioner admittedly held and was operating stage carriage service on Bhikhi-Barnala, Barnala-Sangrur and Barnala-Dhuri routes all of which were overlapped by the route in dispute;
(2) Even if no such statutory right has been claimed by the petitioner a available to him, the gap in the requirement is filled up by Article 14 of the Constitution, whereunder the principles of natural justice require that the petitioner whose interest was going to be vitally affected by the impugned grant, should have been given an opportunity of being heard before the disputed permits could be sanctioned to his prejudice; and
(3) In any case the impugned grant is mala fide and has been made in a clandestine manner at the instance of and because of the recommendation of Shri Bhan Singh Bhaura, M.L.A., who was a non-official member of the Regional Transport Authority. The manner in which and the haste with which the resolution in favour of the respondent No. 2 was passed by respondent No. 1 are relied upon in this respect.
2. The only other contention raised by Mr. Joginder Singh Wasu, learned counsel for the petitioner, is that the impugned order does not show that the need for the grant of the permits was a 'particular temporary need'. According to learned counsel no temporary permits could be issued if the need was of a regular or a permanent nature. Counsel has relied in support of this proposition on certain observations made by Tek Chand J. on 4th October, 1967 in Civil Writ No. 1418 of 1967 (Punj.) in re Patiala Bus Service (P.), Ltd. v. Regional Transport Authority, Patiala. Mr. G. R. Majithia, learned counsel for the State, has submitted that the abovesaid relevant observations of Tek Chand J. are not consistent with certain pronouncements of the Supreme Court. In the view I have decided to take of the first three arguments canvassed by Mr. Wasu, I do not think it necessary to deal with the fourth one.
3. Only one factual matter remains to be noticed before the legal arguments advanced on behalf of the petitioner-company are dealt with. This relates to the admitted fact that the consideration of the application of respondent No. 2 for the grant of two temporary permits in question was not mentioned in the agenda of the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority fixed for June 23, 1967. The matter was dealt with under item No. 53, which was in the following terms:--
' Consider any other item, any member might like to discuss.'
'Transport vehicle' has been defined in Clause (33) of Section 2 of the Act, to mean 'a public service vehicle or a goods vehicle'. The expression, therefore, relates both to the stage carriages as well as to public carriers. Section 62 of the Act authorises the Regional Transport Authority to grant temporary permits to be effective for a limited period not exceeding four mouths, to authorise the use of a transport vehicle, in any of the four contingencies mentioned below:--
(a) for the conveyance of passengers on special occasions such as to and from fain and religious gatherings, or
(b) for the purposes of a seasonal business, or
(c) to meet a particular temporary need, or
(d) pending decision on an application for the renewal of a permit.
4. Two exceptions to the jurisdiction of the Regional Transport Authority in the above respect have been carved out in the two provisos, with which we are not concerned in the instant case. The argument of Mr. Joginder Singh Wasu is that the only relevant provision of the Act, of which operation has been excluded in the matter of grant of temporary permits as compared with regular permits is Section 57 of the Act. Consequently, it is argued that Sections 46 and 47 of the Act have to be followed by a Regional Transport Authority even in the matter of grant of temporary permits under Section 62 of the Act. Corresponding provisions relating to the grant of stage carriage permits and public carrier permits in tile Act may be noticed at this stage:
Stage carriage permits.
Public carrier permits.
An application for a permit inrespect of a service of stage carriages or to use a particular motor vehicle asa stage carriage (in this chapter referred to as a stage carriage permit) shall, as taras may be, contain the following particulars, namely: -
An application for a permit touse one or more motor vehicles for the carriage of goods for hire orreward (in this chapter referred to as a public carrier's permit) shall, asfar as may be, contain the following particulars, namely; -
(a) the route or routes or thearea or areas to which the application relates;
(a) the area or the route or routesto which the application relates;
(b) the number of vehicles itis proposed to operate in relation to each route or area and the type andseating capacity of each such vehicle;
(b) the number of vehicles itis proposed to operate in relation to each area or route and the type and capacityof each such vehicle;
(c) the minimum and maximumnumber of daily services proposed to be provided in relation to each route orarea and the time-table of the normal service;
(c) the nature of the goods itis proposed to carry;
(d) the number of vehicles Intendedto be kept in reserve to maintain the service and to provide for specialoccasions;
(d) the manner in which it is claimedthat a public need will be served by the vehicle;
(e) the arrangements intended tobe made for the housing and repair of the vehicles, for the comfort and convenienceof passengers and for the storage and safe custody or luggage;
(e) the arrangements intended tobe made for the housing of the vehicles and for the storage and safe custody ofthe goods to be carried;
(f) such other mattersas may be pre-scribed.
(f) particulars as to whetherthe applicant is a co-operative society registered or deemed to have beenregistered under any enactment in force for the time being, or is anindividual owner;
(g) such particulars as the RegionalTransport Authority may require with respect to any business as a carrier ofgoods for hire or reward carried on by the applicant at any timebefore the making of the application, and of the rates charged by theapplicant;
(h) particulars of any agreement or arrangement,affecting in any material respect the provision within the region of theRegional Transport Authority of facilities for the transport of goods for hire orre-ward, entered into by the applicant with any other person bywhom such facilities are provided, whether within or without the region;
(i) Any other particularswhich may be prescribed.
A Regional Transport Authority shall in considering an application for astage carriage permit, have regard to the following matters, namely; -
A Regional Transport Authority shall, inconsidering an application for a public carrier's permit, have regard to thefollowing matters, namely: -
(a) the interests of the publicgenerally;
(a) the interests of the publicgenerally;
(b) the advantages to thepublic of the service to be provided, including the saving of time likely to beeffected thereby and any convenience arising from journeys notbeing broken;
(b) the advantages to thepublic of the service to be provided and the convenience afforded to thepublic by the provision of such service and the saving of time likely to beeffected thereby;
(c) the adequacy of other passengertransport services operating or likely to operate in the near future, whetherby road or other means between the places to be served;
(c) the adequacy of other goodsservices operating or likely to operate in the near future, whether by road orothermeans,between the places to be served;
(d) the benefit to anyparticular locality or localities likely to be afforded by the service;
(d) the operation by the applicantatother transport localities services, including those inrespect of which applications from him for permits are pending;
(e) the operation by the applicantof other transportservices, including those in respect of which applications from him forpermits are pending;
(e) the benefit to any particularlocality or localities likely to be afforded by the service;
(f) the condition of the roadsincluded in the proposed route or area;
(f) the condition of the roads includedin the proposed area or route;
(g) the nature of the goods tobe carried with special reference to any of a fragile or perishable nature;
(h) the volume of traffic and the distance of marketingcentres in the proposed area or along or near the proposed route;
and shall alsotake into consideration any representations made by persons already providingpassenger transport facilities by means along or near the proposed route or area, orby any association representing persons interested in the provision of roadtransport facilities recognised in this behalf by the State Government, or byany local authority or police authority within whose jurisdiction any part ofthe proposed route or area lies:
and shall alsotake into consideration any representations made by persons already providinggoods transport facilities by any means, whether by road or otherwise, inthe proposed area or along or near the pro-posed route, or by any localauthority or police authority within whose jurisdiction any pail of the proposedarea or route ties:
Provided that other conditionsbeing equal, an application for a stage carriage permit from a co-operativesociety registered or deemed to nave been registered under any enactment inforce for the time being shall, as far as may be, be given preference over theapplications from individual owners.
Provided that other conditionsbeing equal, an application for a public carriers permit from a co-operative societyregistered or deemed to have been registered under any enactment in force forthe time being shall, as far as may be, the given preference over applicationsfrom individual owners.
(2) A Regional Transport Authority shall refuseto grant a stage carriage permit if it appears from any time-table furnishedthat the provisions of this Act relating to the speed at which vehicles maybe driven arelikely to be contravened:
(2) A Regional TransportAuthority may, having regard to the matters mentioned in sub-section(1), limitthe number of trans-port vehicles generally or of any specified type forwhich public carrier's permits may be granted in the region or in anyspecified area or on any specified route within the region.
Provided that, before such refusal,an opportunity shall be given to the applicant to amend the time-table soas to conform to the said provisions.
(3) A Regional TransportAuthority may. having regard to the matters mentioned in sub-section(1), limitthe number of stage carriages generally or of any specified type For whichstage carriage permits may be granted in the region or in any specified area oron any specified route within the region.
Similarly, Section 48 corresponds to Section 56 of the Act.
5. As stated above, Section 62 authorises the grant of temporary permits both for public carriers as well as for stage carriages. The argument about the Section 62 being unconstitutional as conferring uncontrolled powers on a Transport Authority to grant temporary public carrier's permits on its whim in an arbitrary manner under Section 62 of the Act was repelled by a Full Bench of this Court in Ambala Ex-Servicemen Transport Co-operative Society, Ltd., Ambala City v. State of Punjab, AIR 1959 Punj 1 (FB), on the ground that the power of issuing temporary permits is controlled by the provisions of Sections 55 and 56 of the Act and the Legislature has in the aforesaid provisions indicated the basis for the exercise of the same Their Lordships of the Full Bench held that Sections 55 and 56 are applicable to public carrier's permits which may be granted on permanent basis as well as for a limited period under Section 62 and that all that Section 89 provides is that the procedure laid down in Section 57 shall not apply to the permits granted for a temporary period, and the applicability of Sections 55 and 56 is not excluded by Section 62.
It was emphasised by this Court that the matters which have to be taken into consideration while granting the public carrier's permits either permanently or temporarily and the limitations which have to be placed on them an provided for in the aforesaid two Sections (55 and 56) and it cannot, therefore, he held that the power given to the Regional Transport Authority for issuing permits under Section 62 is an uncontrolled or unrestricted one.
6. There is hardly any material difference between the relevant language of Sections 54 and 55 relating to the grant of public carrier's permits on the one hand and Sections 46 and 47 relating to the grant of stage carriage permits on the other. What has been stated by the Full Bench relating to the former category, therefore, fully applies to the latter. I have no hesitation in holding that the requirements of Section 47 of the Act have to be followed is the grant of temporary stage carriage permit under Section 62 of the Act, in the same manner and to the same extent, as is required in the grant of regular stage carriage permits. In view of the law laid down by the Full Bench, there is no escape from this proposition. It necessarily follows that a statutory duty is cast on the Regional Transport Authority, to take into consideration any representation made by the persons already providing passenger transport facilities by any means along or near the proposed route. The only way in which it can be made possible for such interested persons to make representations and to press them before the meeting of the authority, if any, is to give them a notice of the proposed grant of temporary permits. Not only was this not done in the instant case but the proposed grant did not find place even in the agenda of the meeting in which the impugned order was ultimately passed.
7. In a case relating to the grant of stage carriage permits on a temporary basis, it was held by a Division Bench of Rajasthan High Court in Kotah Transport, Ltd. v. Regional Transport Authority, AIR 1954 Raj 33, that the provisions of Sections 45 to 48 would apply also to the cases of the issue of temporary permits unless the context otherwise requires. Their Lordships of the Rajasthan High Court held that the function under Section 62 is a quasi-judicial one and it has got to be performed in accordance with the provisions of the procedure laid down in the Act itself and if an authority which is to act judicially or quasi-judicially acts illegally or with material irregularity, a writ of certiorari would lie. In the Rajasthan case the grant of temporary permits was quashed as the Regional Transport Authority was found to have acted in total disregard of the provisions of Section 62 itself.
8. After a careful consideration of the matter, I am of the opinion, that it is incumbent upon a Regional Transport Authority to give notice of the intended grant of a temporary permit to all those who are likely to be affected by the intended grant and who are entitled to make a representation referred to in Section 47 of the Act, before sanctioning temporary permits under Section 62 of the Act. If it could be argued that such a requirement cannot be spelt out of any statutory provision of the Act, I would prefer to follow the law laid down by a Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Conrt in Abdul Gafoor v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1962 Raj 174, wherein it was held that by virtue of grant of permits to certain operators to ply their buses upon certain routes they acquire a kind of proprietary right in the transport business on the route and when that right is sought to be interfered with because other operators are intended to be inducted on that route, it is only fair and in consonance with the principles of natural justice that the persons who are likely to be affected must be given an opportunity of being heard in the matter. The impugned order having been passed without any notice having been issued to the petitioner whose interest in the new route has not been and cannot be indeed questioned, cannot, therefore, be sustained and must be set aside on that short ground.
9. I feel still more strongly on the third point raised by Mr. Joginder Singh Wasu. The impugned order itself mentions that the application of respondent No. 2 for the impugned grant was being 'considered on the recommendation of Shri Bhan Singh Bhaura, non-official member of the Authority'. The member of the Regional Transport Authority, who had decided to recommend a particular application, had in my opinion, disqualified himself from participating in the deliberations relating to the item before the Regional Transport Authority. The impugned order, however, shows that he not only recommended the application of respondent No. 2, but actively participated in the passing of the resolution. It is settled law that the proceedings of the Regional Transport Authority in the matter of grant of permits are quasi-judicial. It is the function of such Tribunals not only to act in a just and legal manner but also to adopt such a procedure from which it patently appears that justice is being done and that no member has any personal interest in any particular party or item. It can safely be said that a member who is recommending a particular application is necessarily showing his own interest in the grant thereof. If any principle of natural justice is well settled, it is the that no one should participate as a Judge or as a member of a quasi-judicial tribunal who has even the most insignificant and remote interest in the matter before him being decided is a particular way.
10. I also find force in Mr. Wasu's argument that the whole impugned proceedings appear to have been conducted with somewhat indecent haste. The order itself mentions that 'no enquiry, etc., had been made in this case'. What is still more surprising is that instead of following the usual procedure of a new route being first opened by the State Transport Authority and then permits being issued for the route either on a temporary or a regular basis, the Regional Transport Authority, Patiala, adopted a somewhat queer procedure to first sanction permits and then direct that the State Transport Authority may be approached for opening the route. All this does not leave a very pleasant taste in the mouth of the Court. These things taken together with the fact that the Transport Authority did not even take the risk of mentioning this item in the agenda of the meeting has given an idea that the proceedings relating to the impugned resolution were not conducted in a quasi-judicial manner and according to requisite judicial norms. For this additional reason, the impugned order is liable to be quashed.
11. In fairness to Mr. Gopal Singh, Advocate-General for the State of Punjab, I have to notice an objection of preliminary nature which has been pressed by him in this case. It was urged that the writ petition should be dismissed on the short ground that it had become infructuous by merely five days having been left in the remaining life of the impugned permits. I do not think this to be a valid ground for refusing to interfere with an order which I have otherwise found to be wholly illegal and almost mala fide.
12. For the foregoing reasons, this writpetition is allowed with costs and the impugnedresolution of the Regional Transport Authorityis set aside.