1. These three references arise out of three writ petitions, No. 144 of 1958 by Ashoka Bus Transport Corporation, Bhilwara, No. 145 of 1958 by Motor Workers Co-operative Society Ltd., Bundi, and No. 158 of 1958 by Korah Transport Ltd., Kotah, in which similar questions of law have arisen, and have been referred to this Full Bench.
2. The facts, which have led to these writ petitions, are common to all of them. By a Notification of 21st March, 1957, published in the Rajpatra of 4-4-1957, the Regional Transport Authority, Udaipur, invited applications for various routes including the Kutah-Bundi-Chittorgarh route, mentioning the number of permits to be granted on this route to be 2. It was, however, mentioned in the notification that 'the Regional Transport Authority reserves the right to amend nr cancel the route or change the number of permits or vary the condition thereof on any route.' Various persons applied for permits on this route, and their applications were published in the Rajasthan. Rajpatra of 6th June, 1957, under notification of 24th May, 1957.
The date when the applications were to be taken into consideration was mentioned to be notified later on. It so happened that the application of one Framji Motor Transport Company, Nasirabad, was left out of publication by some inadvertence, and a fresh Notification dated 25th June, 1957, was issued in the Rajpatra of 11th July, 1957, publishing the said application in continuation of the previous Notification.
3. The Regional Transport Authority (R. T. A.) held its meetings on 29/30th July, 1957. At the outset the R. T. A. decided that four permits should be granted in place of two advertised on the Kotah-Chittorgarh route, and then proceeded to consider all the applications and decided to grant one permit each to Kotah Transport Ltd., Kotah, Bundi Electric Supply Co. Ltd. Bundi, Motor Workers Co-operative Society Ltd., Bundi, and Ashoka Bus Transport Corporation, Bhilwara. The rest of the applications, including Framji's application, were rejected.
4. M/S. Bundi Electric Supply Co. Ltd., Bundi, filed an appeal before the Appellate Tribunal of the State Transport Authority on the grounds which may be summarised as under:
1. That the Bundi Electric Supply Co. Ltd. was better qualified for various reasons mentioned in the application for grant of permits;
2. That it applied for two permits, but would have applied for four if it would have been known from before that the R. T. A. was going to grant four permits on the route;
3. That it had applied for two permits, and although one had been granted, one more should be granted to it;
4. That the other three persons, to whom permits were granted, were not as qualified as the appellant;
5. That the R. T. A. had committed an error in considering all the applications on 29th July, 1957, when the period of 30 days prescribed by Section 57(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act had not expired between the date of publication of the application and its consideration by the R. T. A.
Certain other objections were also taken, but they are not relevant for the purposes of these references. Shri Kishan Chand, Shri Syed Mumtaz Ali, Rajasthan Transport Corporation, Mohammad Bux and Sons, and Shokat Ali and Brothers also filed appeals against the refusal to grant permits to them.
5. Kishan Chand raid Rajasthan Transport Corporation did not enter appearance, and their appeals were dismissed for default. The other four appeals were allowed, the order of the grant of permits on this route by Resolution of the R.T.A., Udaipur, dated 29/30 July, 1957, was set aside, and a directionwas given for reconsideration of the whole question of grant of permits on this route. The relevant portion of the judgment is as under:
'We have heard at length the arguments of all the parties and examined the record of the Regional Transport Authority. Point at issue before us is whether Regional Transport Authority can ignore the provisions of Section 57(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act. A bare perusal of Section 57(3) reveals that it is mandatory for Regional Transport Authority to observe it strictly failing which it deprives any other applicant from making representations or objections against the applicant whose name was published subsequently. In this case, all applications except one were published on 6-6-57 and the application of M/s. Framji Motor Transport Co. was published on 11-7-57 and all the applications were considered on 29-7-57, i. e., 30 days margin was not allowed from the last publication i. e., 11-7-57. We, therefore, decide that proceedings of Regional Transport Authority regarding this case are nullity on account of the contravention of Section 57(3) and direct the Regional Transport Authority to reconsider the whole Question after observing the provisions of law. Therefore, appeal of appellant No. 1 (i. e. Bundi Electric Supply Co. Ltd. Bundi) is accepted and a sum of Rs. 5/- is ordered to be refunded to him out of the appeal fee deposited. The appeals of appellants Nos. 3, 5 and 6 (i. e. Syed Mumtaz All, Mohammad Bux and Sons, and Shokat Ali and Brothers) are accepted to the extent that Regional Transport Authority will reconsider their case afresh as the entire proceeding of the Regional Transport Authority has now been declared nullity. A sum of Rs. 5/- may also be refunded to appellants Nos. 3, 5 and 6'.
6. Aggrieved by this order of the Appellate Tribunal, Ashoka Bus Transport Corporation, Bhil-wara, Motor Workers Co-operative Society Ltd., Bundi, and Kotah Transport Ltd., Kotah, tiled the three writ petitions mentioned aforesaid. These writ petitions came before a Division Bench, and the following two questions have been referred to the Full Bench:
'(1) Whether the provision contained in Section 57(3,) of the Motor Vehicles Act (No. IV of 1939) as amended up-to-date) as to the date to be fixed for the consideration of the applications being not lass than 30 days from the date of publication thereof in the prescribed manner is mandatory or directory?
(2) In case the answer to the first question is that the aforesaid provision is mandatory, whether the Appellate Tribunal of the State Transport Authority has committed a manifest and palpable error in setting aside the order of the Regional Transport Authority on appeal by other parties notwithstanding the fact that no permit had been granted to the party (namely Messrs. Framji Motor Transport Company Nasirabad) the application of which had been published late, and, therefore, came up for consideration and decision within the forbidden period of 30 days, and notwithstanding the further fact that no appeal had been preferred by that party against the order rejecting its application; and, whether in such circumstances, this Court can properly quash the order of the Appellate Tribunal in the exercise of its certiorari jurisdiction'?
7. The relevant provision of Section 57(3) is as follows:
'On receipt of an application for a stage carriage permit or a public carrier's permit, the Regional Transport Authority shall make the application available for inspection at the office of me Authority and shall publish the application or the substance thereof in the prescribed manner together with a notice of the date before which representations in connection therewith may be submitted and the date not being less than thirty days from such publication, on which, and the lime and place at which the application and any representations, received will be considered'.
8. Section 47 of the Act directs a Regional Transport Authority, while considering an application for a stage carriage permit, to have regard to certain matters, and to take into consideration any representation made by persons already providing passenger transport facilities by any means along or near the proposed route or area, or by any association representing persons interested in the provision of road transport facilities recognised in this behalf by [the State Government, or by any local authority or police authority within whose jurisdiction any part of the proposed route or area lies.
Section 47 thus clearly refers to certain persons, authorities, and associations whose representations must be taken into consideration by the R. T. A., and the representations which may be made on publication of the application under Section 57 (3) would include representations referred to in Section 47. Section 47 is, however, not exhaustive of the matters or representations which may be taken into consideration. Other persons as for example competitors can and generally do make representations why permits should not be granted to other persons whose applications are published.
9. The scheme of the Act seems to make it necessary that a particular time be allowed for making of the representations particularly mentioned in Section 47. It is only when the applications are published that anyone interested can know who the applicant is and decide whether any representation is to be made. Some time is also required to muster facts in support of the representation.
When there are several applications for the same route, it is not unusual that the virtues of a particular applicant may be enumerated and the deficiencies of the competitors pointed out to the R.T.A. It is on these representations and other facts that the R.T.A. is enabled to make up its mind as to the fittest person or persons to whom permits should be granted.
10. It seems to us that the period of 30 days from the date of the application has been laid down in the law as the minimum period allowed to the persons, who want to make representations, to do so, before a particular application can be taken into consideration. Since any person can make an application for a stage carriage permit, each of such applications has to be scrutinised and in order that the R.T.A. may be in a position to consider all aspects of the case, the law has provided opportunity for persons to submit their objections to the grant of permit to a particular person, and since some time must also elapse before the publication is brought to the notice of the persons who may like to make representations, the Legislature has thought fit to allow 30 days for such objections.
If, therefore, any application is considered before the expiry of 30 days from the date of publication, the opportunity granted by the law for submitting objections is reduced, and it may be that in certain cases full information, which otherwise could come before the R.T.A. is not available to it. When any R.T.A. therefore, proceeds to consider an application for a stage carriage permit prior to the expiry of 30 days from the date of publication, a breach of the provisions of Section 57 (3) is committed. But in judging the effect of such contravention the provisions or Section 134 (2) of the Act shall have to be kept in view. That section is as under:
'No order made by a competent authority under this Act shall be reversed or altered on appeal orrevision on account of any error, omission or irregularity in the proceedings, unless it appears to the prescribed appellate authority or revisions authority, as the case may be, that such error, omission or irregularity has, in fact, occasioned a failure of justice.'
11. The consequences of taking into consideration an application before the prescribed period is over will be different according to the decision that is taken on such application. If the application is rejected, it would amount to a consideration by the R.T.A. of all the good points that could be urged on behalf of the petitioner, and the fact that enough time was not allowed for objection is of no consequence and as it has not in fact occasioned any failure of justice the decision of the R.T.A. will not be reversed or altered on appeal or revision on account of this defect.
12. If, on the other hand, a permit is granted to such an applicant without expiry of the full period within which objections can be preferred against the application, it may be that the persons authorised to make representations under Section 47 or any other person interested in opposing the application had not been granted the opportunity permitted by law to submit the objections which may show that the application should not have been granted. If such person having the right to prefer objections finds himself aggrieved by the grant of permit takes up the matter with the higher authority, the order of grant of permit will have to be reversed as the contravention of Section 57 (3) would be taken to have occasioned a failure of justice inasmuch as an opportunity for submitting, objections allowed by law was not fully afforded to such person.
13. In the first case, the applicant can have no grievance that time had not been given to other persons to raise their objections because even without those objections the applicant was not considered fit for the grant of permit. In the second case also the applicant can have no grievance for permit was granted to him, but other persons who had the right to make the representation may have a grievance if they can show that they were desirous of making an objection and would have objected within the period permitted by law. A third case may also be considered. Suppose, that in the first case on refusal of permit by the R.T.A. the applicant files an appeal, and the Appellate Authority does not agree with the R.T.A. in respect of the grounds on which the permit has been refused.
The Appellate Authority in such cases can set aside the order of the R.T.A., but cannot direct grant of permit, because the full opportunity for objections had not been afforded earlier by the R.T.A. If the Appellate Authority, however, proceeds to grant a permit, any person aggrieved will be able to raise this question of the breach of the provisions of Section 57 (3) before a higher tribunal, and the order of grant of permit will have to be reversed for the same reason as in the second case.
Now, so far as the applications of Ashoka Bus Transport Corporation, Bhilwara, Motor Workers Cooperative Society Ltd., Bundi, Kotah Transport Ltd.. Kotah, and the Bundi Electric Supply Co. Ltd.. Bundi. are concerned they were taken into consideration after full compliance with the provisions of Section 57 (3), and no irregularity attached to the decision made by the R.T.A. on these applications. The Appellate Authority had no jurisdiction to set aside the grant of permits by the R.T.A. to these persons On the ground that somebody else's, that is Framji's. application was considered before the expiry of the time.
14. Framji's application for permit was rejected, and one might say so that this was done without affording full opportunity permitted by law to file objections against the grant of permit to Framji. It was a case of the first kind mentioned above, and no person could have any grievance that he wag not afforded an opportunity to object to the grant of permit to Framji. It is, therefore, a matter of surprise how the Appellate Authority came to set aside the permits of the Ashoka Bus Transport Corporation, Bhilwara, Motor Workers Co-operative Society Ltd., Bundi, Kotah Transport Ltd., Kotah, and Bundi Electric Supply Co. Ltd., Bundi, because of any error in the consideration of the application of Framji, and more so, when Framji himself did not and could not feel aggrieved by that error.
15. It may be pointed out for the sake of clarification that in case Framji had filed an appeal, and the Appellate Authority was inclined to think that the reasons for the grant of rejection of the application of Framji were not justifiable, the Appellate Authority could only have directed for a fresh consideration of the application of Framji after affording full opportunity for objections as required by Section 57 (3), and even in that case the R.T.A. would have only taken into consideration Framji's application vis a vis the four persons to whom the permits had been granted, and it would have been for the R.T.A. to decide whether Framji should be given an additional permit or he should take the place of any of the other four. There was no justification whatsoever for the Appellate Authority to direct that the whole question of the grant of permit on this route should be considered afresh. The order was without jurisdiction.
16. The facts of the present case may, therefore, be summed up as follows;
Framji's application was taken into consideration before the expiry of the requisite period allowed for filing objections. His application was, however, rejected. He did not file any appeal. The fact that some objections which may have been preferred were not preferred did not affect his case. There was, therefore, no failure of justice in his case, and Section 134 (2) became applicable. All the applications except that of Framji were considered after the expiry of the period of 30 days of their publication as required by Section 57 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act, and the decision on these applications did not suffer from any defect on that account. It was clearly outside the jurisdiction of the Appellate Authority to have set aside the decision granting four permits to persons whose applications had been properly considered on the sole ground that Framji's application was considered before the expiry of the time prescribed for filing objections.
17. As a result of the above discussion, our answers to the questions are as follows:
1. Section 57 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act is mandatory so far as the interests of persons entitled to make representations are concerned in the sense that the full period of 30 days should be allowed from the date of publication of an application for grant of permit for the purpose of submitting objections before taking into consideration such application.
2. Notwithstanding the omission to comply with the requirement, the Appellate Tribunal had no jurisdiction and was not authorised to quash the entire proceedings of the R.T.A. when no appeal had been preferred by Framji, and the irregularity committed by the R.T.A. in taking into consideration the application of Framji before the expiry of the period did not occasion any failure of justice, which could induce the Appellate Authority to reverse thedecision in respect of his or other applicants, and in such circumstances this Court has full jurisdiction to quash the order of the Appellate Tribunal.
18. Let these answers be returned to the Bench which made the reference.