Rajinder Sachar, J.
1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the impugned order dated 27th of April, 1976, by the respondent, Regional Transport Authority which has permitted respondent No. 2 to ply its buses on Deeg-Kama portion of the Mathura-Kosi route along with the buses of the petitioner.
2. There is an inter-State route called the Mathura-Deeg-Kama-Kosi (hereinafter referred to as 'the Mathura route') under a permit issued by R.T.A., Agra (U. P.) respondent No. 2, was plying its buses on this route.
3. A scheme to nationalise Mathura route was approved and notified by State of U. P. on 23-3-63, and it became a notified route under Section 68-D (3) of Motor Vehicles Act (to be called 'the Act').
4. Some of the operators who were plying on this route challenged the same before the U. P. High Court and the objection was allowed by the learned single Judge. His judgment was however reversed by the Division Bench and ultimately the Supreme Court upheld the Division Bench judgment.
5. The case, however, was remanded back to the High Court of Allahabad and the matter is still pending. It may be mentioned that during the pendency of the writ petition a stay order was passed by the Allahabad High Court which though not directing a stay of the notified scheme permitted the respondent No. 2 to ply their buses on the Mathura route along with the U. P. Roadways. A portion of this route between Deeg and Kama falls within the State of Rajas-than.
6. On let of August, 1972 the petitioner published a scheme under Section 68-C of the Act to nationalise Bharatpur-Deeg-Kama-Pahari route (hereinafter referred to as 'the Bharatpur route'). It may be noticed that the portion Deeg-Kama is common both to the Mathura as well as Bharatpur routes.
7. Respondent No. 2 apparently feeling that because of the proposed nationalisation of Bharatpur route it may not be able to ply on portion Deeg-Kama applied to the Allahabad High Court for impleading the State of Rajasthan and the petitioner and others. The High Court allowed this application. On 21st of March 1974 High Court (Allahabad) passed an ex parte order directing that till further orders the Rajasthan State Transport Authority will not interfere with the respondent No. 2's right to ply on this route as per terms and conditions contained in the stay order already granted by that court.
8. Bharatpur scheme was approved and notified in the Gazette of 1st of November, 1974.
9. After the Bharatpur's approved scheme had been notified the matter was taken up by the respondent No. 1 on 28th of March, 1975. By its resolution it noted that the Corporation-petitioner wants to start operation on the said route with effect from 2nd of April, 1975. The resolution shows that according to the approved scheme no person will ply his passenger vehicle on the whole of the Bharatpur route or on portion of the routes or overlapping whole or any portion of the routes. The Bharatpur route was exclusively to be run by the petitioner, as it is a scheme of total exclusion. It therefore, resolved that the existing bus operators which included the respondent No. 2, be given notice that their permits have been cancelled with effect from 2nd of April, 1975, and that their area of operation has been curtailed as shown against them each. The curtailed route indicated against the Mathura permit of respondent No. 2 shows that Deeg-Kama portion has been curtailed and after curtailment it is shown for Kama-Kosi. The application of the petitioner was, therefore, accepted and the permits were granted to the petitioner for a period of five years with effect from 2nd April, 1975 for the Bharatpur route. The result of this action by the R.T.A. was that the respondent No. 2, which was operating on Mathura route, had his permit curtailed between Deeg-Kama and he could, therefore, operate from Mathura to Deeg and then from Kama to Kosi.
10. Apparently the respondent No. 2 felt that this curtailment was a disobedience of the order of the High Court of Allahabad and moved the said court for contempt against the R.T.A. for having disobeyed its order. This matter was disposed of by the High Court by its order dated 14th April, 1976. It took the view that the action of the R.T.A. could only amount to an act of impropriety but as the same is not a contempt even though it may not be wholly approved and therefore the rule was discharged. Thereafter on April 21, 1976 respondent No. 2 moved the R.T.A., Jaipur referring to the order in contempt application in the High Court of Allahabad end also pointing out that the stay order given earlier by the Allahabad High Court has not been vacated yet though the petitioners have applied for vacating the stay order and praying that the R.T.A. may countersign for the entire route subject to the orders of the High Court at Allahabad On this the matter was considered by R.T.A. and by its impugned order dated 27-4-76 (Annexure 5) it granted the necessary endorsement on the permit of respondent No. 2 so long as stay order by Allahabad High Court subsists to provide its transport service on the wholeof Mathura route including the Deeg-Kama, which is a portion of notified Bharatpur route. The result was that the earlier resolution of the R.T.A. dated 28th March, 1975 which had curtailed the respondent No. 2's permit for the portion Deeg-Kama was varied to this extent. Feeling aggrieved against the said order the petitioner has come up before this court, by way of writ petition.
11. The first contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner Mr. Munshi is that as portion Deeg-Kama is a part of Bharatpur route which is a notified route, no one can be allowed to ply on it even if Deeg-Kama forms part of inter-State Mathura route. He also maintained that the mere fact that Bharatpur notified route happens to overlap Deeg-Kama a portion of Mathura inter-State route does not mean that the Bharatpur route would cease to be intra-State route. An inter-State route, according to him, means a route in which one of the termini is in one State and the other in another State. When both the termini are in one State as in the case of Bharatpur route it is on intra-State route and refers me to Aswathanarayana v. State of Mysore (AIR 1965 SC 1848). In an effort to anticipate the possible argument of Mr. Vyas that proviso to Sub-section (3) of Section 68-D of the Act which says that no scheme which relates to any inter-State route shall be deemed to be an approved scheme unless it has been published in the Official Gazette with the previous approval of the Central Government, is applicable, Mr. Munshi counters if by contending that as both the termini of the Bharatpur route are within the State of Rajasthan it is not an inter-State route and therefore does not require the approval of the Central Government, and relies on Khasan Singh v. State of U. P. (AIR 1974 SC 669) Reference is also made to Malik Ram v. State (AIR 1975 Raj 229), where a Division Bench of. this Court held that where both the termini of a route area are in one State, it cannot be said to be inter-State route at all so as to require the approval of Central Government. It also rejected the argument that Section 68-J of the Act requires the approval of the Central Government merely because notified route overlaps a portion of inter-State route.
Mr. Vyas learned counsel for the respondent No. 2, however, does not wish to join issue on this pointwith Mr. Munshi, because according to him he has not challenged the notified scheme and therefore it is not necessary for him to urge a grievance against the notified scheme in the present proceeding. He seeks to maintain that the impugned order is only a consequential order to action under proviso to Sub-section (3) of Section 63. But that subsection provides that it shall not be necessary to follow the procedure laid down in Section 57 where the permits are required to be counter-signed by another State or by the Regional Transport Authority as a result of agreement arrived at between the States, after complying with the requirements of Sub-section (3A) for the grant of counter-signatures of permits in pursuance of any direction issued by the commission under Clause (c) of Sub-section (2) of Section 63-A. But Sub-section (3A), requires the said agreement to be published by each of the State Government concerned in the Official Gazette and also requires the representations to be received and a consideration thereof. There is nothing on the record to show that any such requirement of Sub-section (3-A) has been followed in this case. Moreover Section 63 (3) of the Act postulates those counter-signatures in pursuance of any directions issued by Commission under Section 63-A. There is nothing on record to show that any such directions have been issued by the Commission. Mr. Vyas's reliance on Section 63 (3) of the Act is of no avail to him. Apparently it appears that Mr. Vyas is relying on the inter-State agreement under which presumably the Mathura route has been operating both in Rajasthan and U. P. prior to the nationalisation of the route in 1963. Now if that be the only bulwark in favour of the respondent No. 2 the same will not be of any assistance because as held in S. A. Khader v. Mysore Revenue Appellate Tribunal (AIR 1973 SC 534) a scheme of nationalisation approved under Section 68-D would prevail over en inter-State agreement in respect of an inter-State route as the inter-State agreement is not law and cannot override Chapter IV-A.
12. Mr. Vyas then sought to draw assistance from the letter dated 9th February, 1976 of Regional Transport Authority, Agra to the Regional Transport Authority, Jaipur, requesting that as the permit in favour of the respondent on Mathura-Kama-Kosi route has been renewed, the said permit may be counter-signed upto the validity of the permit for the portion of the route lying in the Jaipur jurisdiction as per terms of reciprocity and to avoid any legal complications. Mr. Vyas sought to urge that this shows that there was a reciprocal agreement under Section 63 (3) of the Act and in pursuance of which the counter-signature was sought from the R.T.A., Jaipur. I am afraid, this letter has no reference to any agreement under Section 63 (3) (3-A) and is apparently referring to the terms of reciprocity way back much earlier to the coming into existence of notified routes of Mathura and Bharatpur, and such agreement cannot prevail over the notified route. It is relevant to note that even after receiving this letter the counter-signature which the R.T.A., Jaipur made on 2nd of March, 1976 was only for Mathura to Deeg and Kama to Kosi route, thus excluding Deeg-Kama portion. I take it that it was so done because the R.T.A., Jaipur did not accept that it was under an obligation toy any inter-State agreement to countersign on the Deeg-Kama portion of the permit of respondent No. 2.
13. Mr. Vyas has raised one of the objections against the maintainability of the writ petition by urging that as alternative remedy by way of revision under Section 64-A was available to the petitioner, and this petition should not be entertained by this Court. Now Section 68-F (3) as amended by the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act (Act No. 10 of 1974) in Rajasthan no appeal or revision lies against an order passed under Sub-section (1) or Sub-section (2) of Section 68-F of the Act, It is apparent that earlier order of 28th Mardh, 1975 and the counter-signature on 2-3-76 by which Deeg-Kama portion had been curtailed was undoubtedly passed under Section 68-F (2), subsequently, therefore when by the impugned order of 27th April, 1976 the R.T.A. has permitted Deeg-Kama portion also to be operated upon by respondent No. 2, the same would in fact be purported to be an order under Section 68-F (2) of the Act. Mr. Vyas says that if this order on the contention of Mr. Munshi is illegal, should be held to be revisable under Section 64-A on the ground that it is an illegal order. But the difficulty in the way of accepting his argument is that as this order purports to be issued under Section 68-F (2), the bar of appeal or revision will apply. I am, therefore, not satisfied that the petitioner would have a alternative remedy in revision and, therefore, cannot refuse toentertain this writ petition on thisground.
14. The next contention of Mr.Munshi is that the impugned order suffers from an infirmity inasmuch as it is assumed that the stay order of the Allahabad High Court requires the R.T.A. to permit the respondent No, 2 to ply on Deeg-Kama route so long as the stay order would operate. Mr. Munshi contends that the stay order can only be relatable to the stay with regard to the scheme which is the subject-matter in the proceedings in the High Court of Allahabad. According to him, the coming into force of the notified route has changed the situation with the result that Deeg-Kama portion cannot he operated by respondent No. 2, because the notified scheme is of total exclusion, end the stay order cannot operate to override the notified scheme. Mr. Vyas, however, urges that so long the stay order operates it must be held to have the result of keeping in suspense the notified route in so far as it excludes the respondent No. 2 from operating on Deeg-Kama portion even though it may prohibit other operators who have not the benefit of the stay order of the Allahabad High Court. According to Mr. Vyas the only way in which the respondent No. 2 could be prohibited from Deeg-Kama route is by getting the stay order vacated and as according to him the same has not been done the R.T.A, had only complied with and carried out the order of the Allahabad High Court. Mr, Munshi however refers me to the judgment of Gupta, J. in Civil Writs Nos. 1135 and 1136 of 1974 decided on 27th February, 1976 (Raj) in which the learned Judge has taken the view that the non-renewal of a permit to operate on Deeg-Kama route, even during the pendency of stay order by Allahabad High Court, did not mean that the authorities, even when a route of total exclusion had been notified were prohibited from stopping the operation on that route. According to the learned Judge the stay order only means that if the permit-holder has subsisting right and is not prohibited by any other law, he may operate and not that he will be allowed to operate notwithstanding the bar of the notified route. In view of the course that I am going to adopt I do not think it necessary to express any opinion on these respective contentions as to whether the stay order will operate even though there is a notified route oftotal exclusion or that the stay order will override the bar of a notified route so long as it has not been vacated. That matter will be left open to be decided by the R.T.A. to which I intend remitting the matter.
15. That brings me to the final and more formidable argument of Mr. Munshi that the R.T.A. when it varied its earlier order of 28th March, 1975 and the order of counter-signature dated 2-3-1976 (which had curtailed the permit of respondent No. 2 on portion Deeg-Kama route) by the impugned order of 27th April, 1976, which now permits the respondent No. 2 to ply on the Deeg-Kama route so long as the stay order of the Allahabad High Court remains in operation, was bound on the principles of natural justice to give a hearing to the petitioner before passing the said order when its interest was vitally affected. He refers me to AIR 1957 Pat 917; AIR 1961 All 214; 1973 WLN 917; AIR 1975 Madh Pra 212 to urge that the proceedings under Section 68-F (2) are quasi-judicial and therefore the respondent No. 1 was bound to give a hearing to the petitioner before passing the impugned order of 27th April, 1976. Mr. Vyas, however, urges that the duty under Section 68-F (2) of the Act is merely mechanical and it will be incorrect to say that in these matters there is any lis between the State Transport Undertakings, and the operator which is to be decided by the R.T.A. and that there is no justification for saying that when taking action under Section 68-F (2) the R.T.A. is exercising quasi-judicial function. He relies on Abdul Gafoor v. State of Mysore (AIR 1961 SC 1556) for this proposition.
16. It does appear that the observations in Abdul Gafoor's case (AIR 1961 SC 1556) do not support the observations made in the cases cited by Mr, Munshi that the proceedings under Section 68-F (2) are quasi-judicial. But in my view that is of no consequence because the distinction between the administrative and the quasi-judicial orders in the matter of observance of the principles of natural justice has now more or less vanished, and it is a settled law that the principles of natural justice do apply to administrative orders of proceedings and that the concept of natural justice cannot be put into a strait-jacket, vide Kesava Mills Co. v. Union of India (AIR 1973 SC 389). The question that has to be seen in each. case is whether any authority, even anadministrative one, is going to take a decision which is going to affect a particular party, and if does so, a duty is cast on the administrative authority to give a hearing to the party concerned. In the present case it will be seen that on 28th of March, 1975 when the R.T.A. considered the matter, it had taken the view that as the Bharatpur route had been nationalised, the respondent No. 2 could not be allowed to operate on Deeg-Kama portion. Not only that even on receipt of the letter dated 9th February, 1976 from the R.T.A. Agra requesting the R.T.A., Jaipur to countersign the permit of respondent No. 2 for the full Mathura route, it had refused to do so and it had only counter-signed from Mathura to Deeg and Kama to Kosi portions (thus omitting Deeg to Kama portion). The petitioner was plying on the Bharatpur route including the Deeg-Kama portion since April 1975. It is not in dispute that the respondent No. 2 never operated on Deeg-Kama portion since April 1975 when his permit was curtailed for that area. Therefore when the R.T.A. was going to review its earlier orders of 28th March, 1975 and 2nd of March, 1976 by permitting respondent No. 2 to ply also on Deeg-Kama portion, even if, it was an administrative act, it was incumbent on it to first hear the petitioner because such an action by respondent No. 1 would vitally affect the petitioners interest which was plying on this portion of the route for over a year. The principles of natural justice and a fair hearing demanded it. This was still more necessary because the only apparent justification by respondent No. 2 for asking to be allowed to ply on the entire route was said to be the continued existence of the stay order of the Allahabad High Court and a reference was also made to the contempt matter disposed of by the Allahabad High Court to which the R.T.A. and the petitioner was a party. Evidently as the R.T.A. was going to consider the effect of the stay order end also the observations of the learned Judge while disposing of the contempt application, with regard to the contention of respondent No. 2 that it had a right to operate on the Deeg-Kama portion fairness and justice demanded that it should also hear the view point of the petitioner which was a party to the proceedings before the High Court (Allahabad), as to the effect of the stay order. So irrespective of the fact whether the respondent No. 2 was discharging thequasi-judicial or administrative function, it was incumbent upon him to give opportunity to the petitioner before passing the impugned order because the petitioner was not only vitally affected but would he prejudiced by the passing of that order. Mr. Vyas has referred me to Mohammed Ibrahim v. S.T.A. Tribunal, Madras (AIR 1970 SC 1542) where it was held that no hearing was necessary while passing an order under Section 47 (3) of the Act. I do not see how that is relevant to the present case. Admittedly before passing the impugned order no opportunity of hearing was given to the petitioner by the respondent No. 1, and, as that has not been done, the impugned order suffers from a grave infirmity and cannot be allowed to stand and must be quashed and I do so.
17. Mr. Vyas has also referred me to Gani Mohammed v. State Transport Appellate Tribunal (1976 Raj LW 201). In that case one Gani Mohammed had been given a non-temporary permit by R.T.A. without first fixing the limit of number of permits under Section 47 (3) of the Act. Some parties, who were aggrieved, filed an appeal and the same was allowed by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. The said Gani Mohammed came up to this Court in the writ petition with the allegations that the appeal filed by the objectors was barred by time and should not have been entertained. This plea found favour with Gupta, J. and the question arose whether after allowing the writ petition, the order of R.T.A. granting permit in favour of the petitioner Gani Mohammed should be allowed to stand even though it was clear that the grant of non-temporary permit to Gani Mohammed without first deciding the limit of number of permits under Section 47 (3) was without jurisdiction The learned Judge thought and with respect, in my opinion rightly, that after having quashed the order of the appellate authority, he should not allow the order of the R.T.A. to stand as such, and therefore remitted the case back to the R.T.A. for deciding the matter afresh according to law. I do not see how this case helps Mr. Vyas. As a matter of fact because I feel that R.T.A. has acted against natural justice, it would be perpetuating injustice to let the impugned order stand and that is why I am remitting the case back to R.T.A. to decide afresh.
18. As a result of my above finding that no hearing was given to the petitioner, before respondent No. 2 passed the impugned order dated 27th April, 1976 I would quash the same and direct the respondent to No. 1 to consider the application of the respondent No. 2 dated 21st of April, 1976 afresh, and in accordance with law and in the light of the observations made in this judgment and after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner.
19. Both Mr. Vyas and Mr. Munshi say that some proceedings are still pending in the High Court of Allahabad. It will be open to both of them to bring to the notice of the R.T.A. if they have any relevancy in the matter.
20. At this stage Mr, Vyas says that as the matter is going to be reconsideredby the R.T.A. I should permit the respondent No. 2 to ply its buses on Deeg-Kama portion as was done in the impugned order. He refers to certain cases in which even though the grant of permit was cancelled and the matter was remanded but the plying of buses was not stopped. There can be no universal rule applicable to every case. The circumstances of each case alone will determine what interim order to pass, keeping in view various factors. In the case of Gani Mohammed (1976 Raj LW 201), he had been plying his vehicles in 1969 and that is why Gupta, J. considered that pending the decision by R.T.A., he should be allowed to continue plying his vehicles so as not to inconvenience the public. But facts are different in the present case. The reason is that from April 1975 to April 1976 admittedly the respondent No. 2 did not ply on Deeg-Kama portion. It was only when the order of 27th April, 1976 was passed that he was permitted to ply on this portion but the same was immediately challenged thereafter by the petitioner. This Court by its interim order of 20-5-76 stayed the operation of the impugned order dated 27-4-1976, and that order is continuing, so that the respondent No. 2 is not at present plying on the portion Deeg-Kama. As I have held that the impugned order was passed in flagrant violation of the principles of natural justice and the matter is to be reheard and re-decided, I feel there is no justification for now permitting the respondent No. 2 to start operating on this curtailed portion as it would be a nullification of my order quashing the impugned order dated 27th April, 1976. The R.T.A. is directed to decide the case within 2 months.
21. The result is that the writ petition is allowed as stated above. There will be no order as to costs.