1. Three national permits having fallen vacant, the State Transport Commissioner exercising the power of Regional Transport Authority initiated proceedings for allotting the same. In pursuance of the advertisement made, sixty-three applications were received. The petitioners and respondent No. 3 were the applicants. The Regional Transport Authority, vide order dated 23rd Oct. 1979(Annexure P-1) allotted the three permits to Bishan Singh and Hardial Singh, petitioners, and Sukhjit Singh respondent (since deleted). Respondent No. 3, Balbir Singh, having failed to secure a permit filed appeal which was accepted by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, vide order dated 6th of May, 1981(Annexure P-2) on the ground that the order (Annexure P-1) of the Regional Transport Authority is not in conformity with the provisions contained in S. 57(7) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939(hereinafter the Act). The order of the Regional Transport Authority (Annexure P-1) was quashed and the case was remanded with the direction that the Regional Transport Authority, after having all the applicants, shall decide the matter afresh by giving reasons for refusal of permits to unsuccessful candidates. The petitioners have assailed the order of the Tribunal (Annexure P-2) in the present writ.
2. Section 63 of the Act deals with validation of permits for use outside region in which they are granted. Sub-section (11) thereof reads:--
'Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), but, subject to the rules that may be made by the Central Government under sub-section (15), the appropriate authority may, for the purpose of encouraging long distance interstate road transport, grant, in a State, national permits to the owners of motor vehicles who use, or intend to use, such vehicles for the carriage of goods, for hire or reward, in respect of such number of motor vehicles as the Central Government may specify in this behalf in relation to that State, and the provisions of Sections 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 59-A, 60, 61, and 64 shall, as far as may be, apply to or in relation to the grant of national permit.
Section 57(7) of the Act reads :--
'When a Regional Transport Authority refuses an application for a permit of any kind, it shall give to the applicant in writing its reasons for the refusal.'
The learned counsel for the petitioners has argued that in view of the provisions contained in S. 63(11) of the Act, it is clear that the provisions contained in S. 57(7) of the Act shall be applicable in the instant case to the extent it is practicable. The argument proceeds that an order passed by the Regional Transport Authority under S. 57(7) of the Act is a composite one. The reasons for which a permit is granted to a person are also the reasons for which it is not granted to unsuccessful candidates, in terms of S. 57(7) of the Act.
3. The relevant part of the order of the Regional Transport Authority (Annexure P-1) reads:--
'The main purpose underlying the National Permit Scheme is to facilitate speedy and smooth movement of goods. Such applicants as are likely to contribute to this purpose should, therefore be selected. Thus, while considering the merits of each applicant, the experience gained by him as a transporter is the most relevant factor to be kept in view. Preference is, therefore, being given to those also who have shown proof of plying their vehicles in other States by obtaining temporary permits. Care has also to be taken to ensure that the is no undue concentration of such permits in the hands of a few operators. Those applicants who are already holding a rational or zonal permit have not better right to get a permit out of these three vacancies. These national permits were previously held by three individuals. Therefore, I consider that they should now go to individuals only. In order to make a fair selection, other conditions being equal, preference is being given to the latest model vehicles which are less prone to breakdown and can meet adequately the hazards of long distance operation throughout the country. They are expected to give more assured service to the customers.
4. Keeping in view the above considerations, the following applicants are selected are grant of national permits:--
(i) Shri Bishan Singh s/o Shri Wadhawa Singh, S. No. 2, Bhatinda :
The applicant belongs to Bhatinda district which is developing fast as an industrial town but this district has got previously a poor representation in the matter of allotment of zonal and national permits. The applicant is an owner driver and owns a vehicle of 1979 model. He, therefore, deserves of be accommodated against one of those vacancies. (ii) Shri Hardial Singh s/o Shri Ram Singh, S. No. 1, Sangrur :
The applicant is a self-employed driver owner and owns a latest model vehicle. He has no other vehicle and depends on transport business for his livelihood. He has gained experience of plying his vehicle in other States. He is, therefore, selected for grant of a permit. (iii) Shri Sukhjit Singh s/o Shri Gurcharan Singh, S. No. 1, Kapurthala:-- The applicant owns a vehicle of 1979 mode and is an educated owner driver. He has gained experience of plying his vehicle in other States by obtaining temporary permissions. He is thus a deserving candidate and is selected for grant of a permit.'
5. The Regional Transport Authority, after detailing the criteria to be made applicable in the matter of selection of candidates of grant of permits, has given reasons for giving preference in favour of the petitioners and Sukhjit Singh. S. 57 of the Act does not provide for giving reasons for grant of permits in favour of successful candidates. It cannot be said that the Regional Transport Authority is absolved from the duty of recording such reasons. It is rather incumbent upon the Regional Transport Authority to give reasons for granting permits in favour of successful candidates in preference to unsuccessful candidates. The reasons given by the Regional Transport Authority for giving preference to successful candidates are, by implication, reasons for refusing to grant permits to the unsuccessful candidates. In the instant case, the Regional Transport Authority has given reasons for giving preference to the petitioners and Sukhjit Singh in the matter of grant of permits. Respondent No. 3 thereby knows the reasons for which preference has been given to the petitioners and Sukjit Singh qua him Respondent No. 3, cannot justifiably make a grievance that he is ignorant about the reasons for the refusal of permit to him as also the reasons for giving preference to the petitioners and Sukhjit Singh. It is, therefore, difficult to hold that the order of the Regional Transport Authority (Annexure P-1) contravenes the provisions contained in S. 57(7) of the Act.
6. The State Transport Appellate Tribunal has relied upon Mannarghat Union Motor Service Ltd., Mannarghat, South Malabar v. Regional Transport, Authority, Malabar, AIR 1953 Mad 59; Satya Narayan Transport Authority, West Bengal. AIR 1957 Cal 638 and Sudhanshu Sekhar Roy v. Regional Transport Authority, Howrah, AIR 1964 Cal 344, for recording a finding that the order of the Regional Transport Authority (Annexure P-1) contravenes the provisions contained in S. 57(7) of the Act.
7. In Mannarghat Union Motor Services' case (supra) the Regional Transport Authority passed the following order:---
'Nos. 4, 9 and 15 do not pres. Granted to M/s. C. C. Automobiles Ltd., as the most suitable. Time for production of vehicles two months.'
It was held that the provisions of Section 57(7) of the Act indicate beyond any reasonable doubt that the Regional Transport Authority should give reasons to the issue of a permit clearly in such a manner that an Appellate Court may be in position to canvass the correctness of the reasons given by it. Where the reason given by the Regional Transport Authority was that a certain person was the most suitable man, the reason is one not contemplated by the provisions of the Act. This authority supports the view that an order of the Regional Transport Authority, wherein reasons have been given for issuing a permit, shall be contravene the provisions contained in S. 57(7) of the Act.
8. In Satya Narayan Transport Company's case (AIR 1957 Cal 638)(supra), it was held that the reasons in the impugned order for refusing the application of the petitioner-company and other applicants for permits did not satisfy the requirements of S. 57(7) of the Act. The reasons are given in a rolled up manner in respect of a group of applications. The individual cases are not dealt with separately. In other words, the reasons are jumbled together. An applicant is not in a position to ascertain as to which particular reasons have been applied to his case for rejecting his application and he is thus hampered in the matter of the preferring an appeal against the order under S. 64 of the Act not knowing which case he has to make before the Appellate Authority. The ratio of this authority is not applicable to the facts of the instant case. The Regional Transport Authority has given reasons for granting permits to each of the three successful candidates including the petitioners. Respondent No. 3, therefore, knows the case which he has to make before the Appellate Authority.
9. In Sudhanshu Sekhar Roy's case (AIR 1964 Cal 344)(supra) it was held that the order of refusal merely stating that unsuccessful candidates were found unsuitable, is illegal. It is obvious that there ratio of this authority as well cannot be pressed against the petitioners.
10. In view of the discussion above, the order of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal dated 6th May 1981(Annexure P-2) that the order of the Regional Transport Authority (Annexure P-1) contravenes the provisions contained in S. 57(7) of the Act, cannot be sustained.
11. In the result, the writ is accepted and the order of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal (Annexure P-2) is quashed. The State Transport Authority shall decide the appeal filed by respondent No. 3 against the order of the Regional Transport Authority (Annexure P-1) afresh. No order as to costs.
12. The parties through their counsel are directed to appear before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal on 1st on October, 1982.
13. Petition allowed.