P. Subramonian Poti, J.
1. The petitioners in both these petitions are stage carriage operators and they challenge the order of the Kerala State Transport Appellate Tribunal directing the Secretary of the State Transport Authority of Kerala to countersign two contract carriage permits issued to respondents 5 and 6 bv the State Transport Authority of Mysore State. The question to be considered in both these petitions are the same. I will refer to the facts arising in and to the parties as arrayed in O. P. 5027 of 1971.
2. On applications made by the 5th and 6th respondents before the 3rd respondent, the Mysore State Transport Authority, they were granted permits to run contract carriages in regard to their vehicles MYA 162 and MYA 3400. The routes on which such contract carriages could be run were specified as Bangalore-Calicut and Bangalore-Cannanore respectively. These primary permits granted bv the 3rd respondent were subject to the counter-signature bv the State Transport Authority of the Kerala State since part of the route was in the Kerala State. Accordingly respondents 5 and 6 made applications before the 4th respondent, the State Transport Authority of the Kerala State for counter-signature. This was obiected to bv respondents 7. 8, 9 and also the petitioner. The 9th respondent is the petitioner in O. P. 6514 of 1971.
3. The 4th respondent by its order dated 23-3-1971, Exhibit P-l, reiected the applications for counter-signature. Against this, respondents 5 and 6 filed appeals, before the first respondent, the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. After hearing the parties, the Tribunal allowed the appeals and directed the Secretary of the State Transport Authority to countersign the permits granted to respondents 5 and 6. It is Ext. P-2, the order passed bv the first respondent on these appeals that is challenged in both the petitions.
4. In rejecting the applications for counter-signature, the 4th respondent took the view that the possibility of passengers being picked UP or set down en route is very great if permits were granted and if there was regular flow of passenger traffic between Bangalore and Calicut and Bangalore and Cannanore the remedy lay in initiating steps to provide regular stage carriage services on the routes which would also incidentally be beneficial to passengers on route. The 4th respondent further noticed that steps had been taken to provide stage carriage services on the routes in auestion and reciprocal agreement relating to sharing of permits between the States of Kerala and Mysore was in the process of finalisation. For these reasons, it was of the view that, in the public interest, there was no case for introducing contract carriage services on the routes in question and therefore it rejected the applications. The Appellate Tribunal felt that the approach to the auestion by the 4th respondent was not quite proper. It took the view that the fact that there were a large number of private operators or that the K. S. R.T. C. and M. S. R. T. C. are operating stage carriage service along the route or area are extraneous considerations. The auestion would be whether there were contract carriages operating services in the two routes in auestion sufficient in number to warrant rejection of the applications for counter-signature. The Appellate Tribunal further took the view that the representations which were before the 4th respondent would have justified the conclusion that there was necessity for further contract carriages in the route and therefore the primary permits granted by the State Transport Authority of the Mysore State ought to have been countersigned by the State Transport Authority of Kerala.
5. The essential distinction between a stage carriage and a contract carriage has to be noticed. A contract carriage is defined in Section 2 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 as follows:
'2 (3) 'contract carriage' means a motor vehicle which carries a passenger or passengers for hire or reward under a contract expressed or implied for the use of the vehicle as a whole at or for a fixed or agreed rate or sum--
(i) on a time basis whether or not with reference to any route or distance, or
(ii) from one point to another, and in either case without stopping to pick up or set down along the line of route passengers not included in the contract; and includes a motor cab notwithstanding that the passengers may pay separate fares;'
A stage carriage has been defined in Section 2 (29) as-
'2 (29) 'stage carriage' means a motor vehicle carrying or adopted to carry more than six persons excluding the driver which carries nassengers for hire or reward at separate fares paid by or for individual passengers, either for the whole journey or for stages of the journey'.
The Supreme Court in the decision in Roshan Lal v. State of U. P. AIR 1965 SC 991 has considered the distinction between a stage carriage and a contract carriage in these terms:
'By Section 2 (3) a contract carriage is defined as a motor vehicle which carries a passenger or passengers on hire or reward under a contract from one point to another without stopping to pick up or set down along the line of that route passengers not included in the contract. A stage carriage is defined as a motor vehicle carrying or adopted to carry passengers for hire or reward at separate fares paid for the whole journey or for stages of the journey. The distinction between the two is this: the contract carriage is engaged for the whole of the journey between two points for carriage of a person or persons hiring it but it has not the right to pick up other passengers on route. The stage carriage, on the other hand, runs between two points irrespective of any prior contract and it is boarded by passengers en route who pay the fare for the distance they propose to travel.'
6. The main distinguishing feature between the two operations is necessarily the fact that in the case of a contract carriage the use of the whole of the vehicle is hired whereas in the case of a stage carriage the contract for carriage is with each one of the passengers and there is no case of the use of the entire vehicle being the subject of an agreement between the two contracting parties. Though, normally, in a case of a contract carriage there is no scope for the vehicle picking up passengers en route, the very definition of the term 'contract carriage' indicates that that too is possible in cases where parties agree to pick up passengers included in the contract en route in terms of the contract.
7. It is the wide-spread abuse of the system of operating contract carriages which has resulted in such stiff opposition by stage carriage operators to the issue of contract carriage permits. On the strength of such permits which really enable only the hire of the whole vehicle for use on a time basis or for carriage from one point to another and in either case without stopping to pick up or set down along the line of the route passengers not included in the contract, very often the vehicles are used in essence as stage carriages by taking up through individual passengers for carriage. In practice it is not easy to prove such abuse as little co-operation from these who are availing of such transport can be expected in such cases. But the answer to this is to be found not in any opposition to the grant of contract carriage permits but on insistence and demand for efficient enforcement of the rules by the authorities concerned with the administration of the Motor Vehicles Act to prevent such abuse.
8. The main point urged before me in this petition is that the order of the first respondent is vitiated for errors apparent on the record. According to counsel Sri Ramachandran and Sri San-karan, appearing for the petitioners in these two cases, the first respondent did not have any relevant material before it to come to a decision that there was necessity for, the issue of contract carriage permits.
9. The State Transport Authority of the Kerala State who was approached for counter-signature by respondents 5 and 6 seems to have taken the view that provisions for additional stage carriages would meet the requirements of the situation. That is because, according to it if there was more traffic between Bangalore and Calicut and Bangalore and Cannanore than what the present operations of stage carriages would be able to meet, then, the answer to it would be to provide vet more stage carriages. In this, the State Transport Authority has apparently lost sight of vital distinction between a contract carriage and a stage carriage and the fact that these are intended to meet two different requirements. A stage carriage may meet the requirements of the general travelling public. But the contract carriages are for those who would like to hire vehicles collectively for their transport from place to place. They may want to travel in groups as in the case of school parties, picnic parties, pilgrim groups, sight seeing groups, marriage parties and the like. It may also be that they may be anxious to take on hire the whole vehicle to travel in an exclusive group. They may desire to stop at places en route and spend time as they plan or may want to reach the destination early without stopping unnecessarily en route. It is open to such persons to hire the use of the whole vehicle which will then be at their disposal. This type of transport is therefore essentially different from that in stage carriages. Therefore it cannot be said that the requirements for more contract carriages, if the requirement be genuine, can be satisfied by providing more stage carriages. The approach made by the State Transport Authority is therefore evidently wrong and this has been rightly noticed by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal which, in paragraph 8 of its iudgment has properly posed the question. It has mentioned-
'None of the respondents contend that there are contract carriages operating services in the two routes in question. Hence the objections raised by the respondents deserve no consideration'. The State Transport Appellate Tribunal has further gone on to examine the various representations available in the file. These representations are from Members of the Legislative Assembly, President of the Congress Committee, a Municipal Councillor and from members of the business community. Referring to these, the Appellate Tribunal observes--
'All of them sav that there is a long felt need and that the introduction of contract carriage on the routes will advance the interests of the travelling public'.
The Appellate Tribunal further refers to the investigation made for the introduction of inter-State stage carriage services and the fact that on such investigation the existence of a need for contract carriages, was found as seen from Ext. R-1 order. It cannot be said that there was no material before the first respondent to reach the decision reflected in Ext. P-2 order. The sufficiency or otherwise of such material is not a matter for this Court to consider. It cannot be said that the materials are not relevant nor can it be said that the approach to the Question by the first respondent was in any way wrong. The order of the 4th respondent could not be sustained because it understood the effect of operation of stage carriage as synonymous with that of the operation of contract carriage or at any rate, took the view that the necessity for the contract carriage could be met by providing additional stage carriages.
10. The result is that, I see no reason to interfere with the order of the first respondent. The petitions are dismissed. In the circumstances, parties are directed to suffer costs.