1. These two appeals from the judgment of the learned single Judge of this Court raise a common question as to the true meaning of the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' appearing in the scheme of nationalisation of passenger road transport services on the Jaipur-Bharatpur route and of similar words appearing in the similar scheme as to the Jaipur-Alwar route, both duly approved and published in accordance with the provisions of Section 68-D, Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (for short, the Act), in the Rajasthan Gazette Extraordinary dated, December 14, 1960. The expression 'approved scheme' will hereafter be used as having reference to either or both of these schemes.
2. In order to appreciate the controversy, it is necessary to state a few facts here. The approved schemes which admittedly carry the force of law and which are pari materia lay down, inter alia, that:--
(1) The State Road Transport Service shall commence to operate from the 28th January, 1961, or thereafter,
(2) State Road Transport Service shall be provided on Jaipur-Bharatpur/Jaipur-Alwar route of Jaipur region or portions thereof,
(3) State Road Transport Services are to be provided on the route or portions thereof mentioned in Clause (2) above. The provision of transport services otherwise than under the Scheme is prohibited.
(4) No other person than the State Transport Undertaking (Rajasthan State Headways) will be permitted to provide passenger road transport services on the route or portions thereof specified in Clause (2) above.
Clauses 5 and 6 of the approved scheme-which are not relevant for the present purpose may not be reproduced here. Clause 7 which consists of several sub-clauses, is important. The sub-clauses deal with existing permits and temporary permits held by private operators, at the time, the approved scheme came into force, relating to route or routes overlapping the Jaipur-Bharatpur/Jaipur-Alwar routes (hereinafter called the notified route). Sub-clause (g) relating to the Jaipur-Bharatpur route may be reproduced here:--
7 (g) The vehicles covered by permit Nos. (1) P. St. P. 349 (2) P. St. P. 350' (3) - P. St. P. 351 and (4) P. St. P. '878 which have been granted to (1) Ft. Ram Ratan Sharma Ramlal Bharatpur (2) M/s. Hari Ram Gopaldass (3) M/s. Ramchandra Kedarmal and (4) Shri Babulal Gupta respectively on Bharatpur-Bhusawar route under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 will be allowed? to ply till the validity of the aforesaid permits but will be made ineffective to respect of the Bhartpur-Chhokervada portion of the route specified in Clause (2) above, that is to say that they will not pick up passengers from Bharatpur to Chhokervada and vice versa and from any place in between these two places in either direction.'
The Bharatpur-Bhusawar route was overlapping the notified route (Jaipur-Bharatpur) to the extent of 29 miles from Bharatpur to Chhokerwara. After running 29 miles on the notified route, the Bharatpur-Bhusawar route branches off from Chhokerwara from where the distance to Bhusawar is only 4 miles. When the approved scheme came into force, Babulal Gupta held permit No. P. St. P. 878 which entitled him to ply his vehicle on the Bharatpur-Bhusawar route till January 11, 1961, Babulal applied for renewal of this permit. The Regional Transport Authority (for short, the R.T.A.) rejected the application in respect of the Bharatpur-Chhokerwara sector of the notified route but allowed it for the remaining portion from Chhokerwara to Bhusawar. In appeal, the tribunal directed renewal subject to the renewed permit being made ineffective on the Bharatpur-Chhokerwara sector of the notified route as per restrictions indicated in sub-clause (g) of Clause 7 reproduced above. In compliance with the appellate order, the R.T.A. granted' renewal of this permit from 12-1-1961 to 11-1-1964. Subsequently, he granted fur-'ther renewal from 12-1-64 to 11-1-1967. During the period of the second renewal, Babulal Gupta transferred this .permit to Mithalal who is respondent 2 in D. B. Civil Special Appeal No. 19 of 1968, which is one of the appeals, beingdealt with by this judgment. Mithalal obtained the third renewal of this permit from the R.T.A. for the period from 12-1-1967 to 11-1-1970. The Rajasthan'State Road Transport Corporation (for short, the Corporation) which had, in the meantime, succeeded the Rajasthan State Roadways as the State Transport Undertaking challenged this renewal by way of an appeal before the Tribunal, appointed under the Act, as well as through a writ petition (No. 509 of 1967)filed in this Court. The appeal was allowed to be withdrawn on the ground that it was likely to fail on a technical ground. The Corporation, however, prosecuted the writ petition which waseventually dismissed by the learnedsingle Judge on merits vide his judgment, dated, December 5, 1967.
3. Turning now to the facts in the other appeal (D.B. Civil Special AppealNo. 20 of 1968), it relates to the notified route, Jaipur-Alwar. The Jaipur-Achrol-Partapgarh route was overlapping thisnotified route to the extent of 42 miles between Jaipur and Achrol. Hanuman Prashad, respondent 2 herein, held permit No. P. St. P. 909 which entitled him to ply his vehicle on the Jaipur-Achrol-Partapgarh route, even after the approved scheme came into force in respect of the notified route of Jaipur-Achrol, but he could ply only till the validity of his permit and that too subject to its being made ineffective as provided in Clause 7of the approved scheme. He succeeded in getting this permit renewed from the R.T.A. twice, for a period of 3 years each. The R.T.A. granted a third renewal, but the same was challenged by the Corporation by way of a writ petition (No. 1850 of 1966) filed in this Court. This writ petition was dismissed by the learned single Judge by the same judgment whereby he dismissed the otherwrit petition, viz., No. 509 of 1967.
4. An additional fact which may be mentioned here in respect of writ petition No. 1850 of 1966 is that the Corporation had also challenged therein the .grant of a fresh permit by the R.T.A. to Radha Gopal Aggarwal, respondent 3, herein, vide resolution, dated November 16, 1966 in contravention of the approv-ed scheme. The learned single Judge held this grant to be illegal and without jurisdiction, but nonetheless dismissed the writ petition qua Radha Gopal Ag-garawal as well on the technical ground that the General Manager of the Corporation who had filed it had no locus standi to do so.
5. It will be seen from the judgment of the learned single Judge that he has construed the crucial words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' appearing in the relevant clause of the approved scheme to mean, in effect, the validity of a permit as counted not merely from what is specified therein as to its duration but also from the renewals of that permit as may be granted from time to time by the R.T.A. after the commencement of the approved scheme. In other words, the learned Judge is of opinion that the power or jurisdiction of the R.T.A. to grant periodic renewals of existing permits, listed in Clause 7 (g) of the approved scheme, can be spelled out from the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' occurring in that clause without doing any violence to the accepted canons of construction of statutes. He has therefore upheld the renewals of the permits of Mithalal and Hanuman Prashad granted from time to time by the R.T.A. after the coming into force of the respective approved schemes with effect from December 14, 1960. In that view of the matter, both the writ petitions filed by the Corporation have been dismissed. As already stated, the Corporation has appealed.
6. After giving the matter our careful consideration, we are of opinion that the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' are quite precise and unambiguous and must therefore be expounded in their ordinary and natural sense. These words mean what they say; and what they say is this that even after the approved scheme came into force on December 14, 1960, existing permits on a specified route overlapping the notified route shall remain valid for their respective durations extending beyond the said date subject to certain restrictions and limitations as laid down in the relevant clauses of the approved scheme. Section 58 (1) of the Act deals, inter alia, with the duration of a permit. It lays down that a permit 'shall be effective without renewal for such period, not less than three years and not more than five years as the Regional Trans-port Authority may provide in the permit'. In view of this section, an existing permit, as on December 14, 1960, when the approved scheme came into force, could not possibly have a period of validity for less than three years and more than five years from the date of its grant, For example, a permit granted for the maximum period of 5 years with effect from December 13, 1960, would have remained valid till December 12, 1965. But for the saving clause enacted in thewords 'the vehicles covered by permits ...... will be allowed to ply till the validity of their aforesaid permits', the permit covered by the aforesaid example would have been rendered invalid on December 14, 1960 for the approved scheme itself lays down (see clauses 1, '2, 3 and 4 reproduced in an earlier part of this judgment) that no other person than the State Transport Undertaking will be permitted to provide passenger road transport services on the notified route or any portion thereof. The framers of the approved scheme enacted the saving clause to let the holders of existing permits ply their vehicles on certain routes overlapping the notified routes ior the duration of their permits subject to certain conditions and restrictions laid down in the approved scheme. In the very nature of things, the arrangement envisaged by the saving clause could not but be transitory in character. Had it been intended otherwise, there was nothing to prevent the framers of thescheme from expressing their intention in clear and plain language. In that case, they would have used some such words as 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits and such subsequent renewals, thereof as may be granted from time to time'. The reason why they stopped short at the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' eschewing the remaining words is that they did not want the private operators to ply their vehicles on the notified route or any portion thereof beyond the duration of their permits which had already been granted before the publication of the approved scheme. It was precisely for this reason that they did not confer any power or jurisdiction on the R.T.A. to grant renewals of such permits after the approved scheme came into force.
7. A reference to the relevant clauses-of the approved scheme, reproduced in an earlier part of this judgment, Section 68-FF of the Act and the rules made under the Act, would show that extremecare has been taken to exclude the private operators from plying their buses on the notified route or any portion thereof. Clause 2 lays down that the State Road Transport Service shall be provided on the notified route or portions thereof. Clause 3 makes it clear that on the notified route which is to be covered by the State Road Transport Services, the provision of private transport services 'is prohibited'. The use of this strong language by the framers of the scheme is more than adequate to proclaim their intention and object that they wanted to totally exclude the private operators from plying their buses on the notified route or any portion thereof except for a limited period and subject to certain conditions and restrictions as prescribed in the approved scheme. As if the word 'prohibited' was not enough, they went further in Clause 4 and declared that 'no other person than the State Transport Undertaking (Rajasthan State Roadways) will be permitted to provide passenger road transport services on the route or portion thereof specified in Clause (2) above'. These are the prohibitory clauses in the approved scheme which leave no manner of doubt that private operators are totally excluded from plying their vehicles on the notified route except for a limited period and that too subject to certain restrictions specified in the scheme. Reference may also be made to Section 68-FF of the Act which expressly forbids the R.T.A. and enjoins on him that he 'shall not grant any permit except in accordance with the provisions of the scheme'. Rule 10, Rajasthan State Road Transport Services (Development) Rules, 1965 lays down that for the purpose of giving effect to the approved scheme, the R.T.A. 'shall forthwith cancel, or modify or refuse to renew or make ineffective existing permits in respect of the notified route or portion thereof.'
8. It is in the context of these prohibitory and exclusionary provisions of the approved scheme, the Act and the rules made thereunder that one has to read the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' in order to determine whether these words confer by necessary implication a power and jurisdiction on the R.T.A. to grant renewal of a permit after the commencement of the approved scheme. It seems impossible to us to hold that these plain and unambiguous words, which deal with entirely a different subject-matter, i.e., the validity of 'aforesaid permits', in other words, the existing permits at the time of the enforcement of the approved scheme, can legitimately be so extended as to read into them a power and jurisdiction in the R.T.A. to grant a renewal of a permit relating to the notified route or a portion thereof after the approved scheme was enforced.
9. Let us now consider the problem with the aid of the interpretation clause (definitions) as given in the Act. The word 'permit' as defined in Section 2 (20) of the Act means 'the document issued by Regional Transport Authority authorising the use of a transport vehicle'. Applying this definition to the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits', these words would read 'till the validity of the aforesaid documents issued by Regional Transport Authority authorising the use of a transport vehicle'. It is to be borne in mind that these words have to be construed with reference to a particular date when the approved scheme was enforced. The documents issued (mark the use of past tense in the verb used) by the R.T.A. at the time of the commencement of the approved scheme could only be the rexist-ing permits and not their renewals which may or may not have been granted and which, could not, in any case, be described as documents issued at a time when in fact they had not been issued.
10. Reference may then be made to the argument, which apparently found favour with the learned single Judge, to the effect that since in Ram Nath Verma v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1967 SC 603, the Supreme Court described the approved scheme, with which we are dealing in the instant case, to be a scheme of 'partial exclusion', it is implicit in the said description that the R.T.A. has the power and jurisdiction to grant renewals of the specified existing permits even after the commencement of the approved scheme. We have very carefully read the cited judgment and find that their Lordships used the expression 'partial exclusion' in a wholly different context merely suggesting thereby that the existing permits were not altogether invalidated by the approved scheme inasmuch as the scheme allowed the said permit-holders to ply their buses till the validity of their permits, even on the overlapping sector of the notified route, though they were forbidden to pick uppassengers on the overlapping sector for destinations on that sector. It is self-evident that an approved scheme which does not provide for the cancellation of all the existing permits cannot, strictly speaking, be described as a scheme of total exclusion. But then, as their Lordships subsequently explained in D. M. Thippeswamy v. Mysore Appellate Tribunal, AIR 1972 SC 1674, the question-whether a scheme provides for total exclusion in respect of a notified route or whether it provides for partial exclusion is 'wholly irrelevant' since all that the court should do in such a situation, is to see what the scheme says, whom it excludes, and to what extent. Reading the approved scheme in the instant case in the light of these observations of the Supreme Court, I find that it excludes all the private operators except a few and even the inclusion of those few is limited in point of time in that it is made conterminous 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' and, even during that period, it is restricted and curtailed for they are not allowed to pick up passengers on the overlapping part of the notified scheme for destinations on the overlapping part. The approved scheme in the instant case may therefore be described as a scheme providing for 'partial exclusion' for the duration of the existing permits and for 'total exclusion' after the said permits had expired by efflux of the period of their validity.
11. Reliance has also been placed by the learned single Judge on certain observations of the Supreme Court in V. C. K. Bus Service Ltd. v. The R.T.A, Coimbatore, AIR 1957 SC 489 to sustain his view that the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits', in the context of clause 7 (g) of the approved scheme, mean that, as he puts it, 'the existing permit holders on Bharatpur-Bhusawar route shall run their buses on it including the overlapping portion of the notified route for which these permits were made ineffective till they were valid, including the period extended by renewals of those permits'. We have read and re-read the cited ruling and must frankly confess to our inability to discover in this ruling any dictum which may be of any help in construing the crucial words appearing in Clause 7 (g) of the approved scheme. The question for decision before the Supreme Court in the cited case was whether, after the original permit had been set aside, re-newal of such permit, granted before the original had been set aside can survive. Their Lordships answered this question in the negative holding that when the original permit was non est, renewal must be treated as a nullity. In the process of their reasoning for arriving at the aforesaid conclusion, their Lordships remarked that a renewal is a continuation of the permit previously granted and that since the permit which had beenoriginally granted had been cancelled, the new permit became ineffective fromthe date of the cancellation of the original permit.
12. It appears that in arriving at the conclusion which he did, the learned single Judge was influenced, in some measure, by the failure of the Corporation to challenge the earlier renewals of the permit of Babulal Gupta by the R.T.A. after the commencement of theapproved scheme. This is how the learned Judge has dealt with this matter at page 15 of his judgment:
'It may also be observed that the Corporation did not object before the Regional Transport Authority the grant of the third renewal when the application of respondent No. 2 came up for consideration before the said authority. This conduct of the State Transport undertaking which was the author of the scheme also shows that it also interpreted the expression 'till the validity of the permits' to mean that the existing permit-holders on the Bharatpur-Bhusawar route shall not be precluded in future to get the renewal of their permits under the provisions of the M. V. Act in spiteof the nationalisation of the Bharatpur-Jaipur route.
With respect to the learned Judge, I amconstrained to say that he has proceeded on erroneous premises and drawn anequally erroneous conclusion therefrom. The Supreme Court had pointed out, as early as in 1961 in the case reported as Nilkanth Prasad v. State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 1135, that no matter whether the State Transport Undertaking raises any objection or not, if a private operator is not entitled according to the approved scheme (in other words according to law) to the renewal of his permit, the R.T.A. has no option but to refuse the renewal of the permit, for a statutory duty is imposed upon him to execute the scheme mechanically and therefore adapt his orders according to it. This view has been repeated by theSupreme Court in many other cases, Some of those cases are reported as Samarth Transport Co. v. R.T.A. Nagpur, AIR 1961 SC 83, Abdul Gafoor v State of Mysore, AIR 1961 SC 1556, Shobhray Odharmal v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1963 SC 640 and D. M. Thippeswamy v. Mysore Appellate Tribunal, AIR 1972 SC 1674. The learned Judge was therefore not legally justified in drawing an adverse conclusion against the corporation by reason of its so-called conduct, in not challenging the earlier renewals or not filing objections to the third application for renewal. There can be no estoppel against setting up a plea of non-compliance with a statute, nor waiver of compliance with statutory provisions like tbe approved scheme promulgated in public interest. In any case, the failure of the Corporation to do something which it ought to have done is not going to change the natural meaning of language used in the approved scheme. The language of a statute must be construed with reference to the words used therein and if we depart from the plain and obvious meaning of those words on consideration like the conduct of the legislature, we would not be construing the statute but adding words to it which the legislature, if it so intended, could have itself added.
13. Case-law is also available to support the view that the words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' appearing in the approved scheme do not admit of such construction as to bring within their purview the grant of renewal of a permit after the enforcement of the approved scheme. A similar fact-situation arose in a Patna case reported in Deep Narain v. State of Bihar, AIR 1960 Pat 575. The words used in the approved scheme in that case were 'until the dates of expiration of the existing permits'. The High Court refused renewal of the permits, holding that these words do not warrant such renewal. The Supreme Court affirmed this holding in Nilkanth Prasad v. State of Bihar, AIR 1962 SC 1135 (supra). The learned single Judge did not follow this ruling as, in his opinion, the corresponding words in the approved scheme in the instant case are different. Of course they are different, but the difference is without any distinction. With respect to the learned Judge, we are unable to discover any material difference in the meaning of the words 'the aforesaid permits' and'the existing permits' for the words 'the aforesaid permits' appearing in the approved scheme in the instant case do mean, in the context, the existing permits on the date the approved scheme came into force.
14. Before parting with discussion on this topic, it will be useful to refer to another Supreme Court case reported in Mahaboob Sheriff and Sons v. Mysore State Transport Authority, AIR 1960 SC 321. While dealing with the question of duration of a permit, their Lordships, pointed out that the words 'without renewal' appearing in Section 58 (1) (a) of the Act clearly signify that in counting the period of a permit, renewals should be disregarded. The words 'till the validity of the aforesaid permits' clearly call for determination of the period of those permits. In determining the period of validity of those permits, one cannot legitimately take into consideration the period of renewals which may or may not be granted.' In fact, power or jurisdiction to grant or withhold renewal is not dependent on those words. One must look for such a power or jurisdiction of the R.T.A. in other provisions of the approved scheme. If no provision is made for the grant of such a power or jurisdiction, it cannot, be explained earlier in this judgment, be forcibly extracted from words which do not reasonably admit of such extraction.
15. For all these reasons, we find ourselves unable to endorse the view of the learned single Judge that the words till the validity of the aforesaid permits' appearing in Clause 7 (g) of the approved scheme can be so construed as to confer on the R.T.A. the jurisdiction and power to issue a renewal of a permit after the commencement of the approved scheme. These words are quite precise and unambiguous. Their ordinary and natural meaning in the context and setting in which they appear, are that even after the approved scheme came into force, existing permits on a sector overlapping the notified route shall remain valid for their respective durations, extending beyond the date of the enforcement of the approved scheme subject to the restriction that the permit holders shall not pick up passengers on the overlapping sector for destinations on that sector.
16. We are also unable to uphold the view that writ petition No. 1850 of 1966 deserved to be dismissed on the groundwhich is at best no more than a technical ground that the General Manager of the Corporation had no locus standi to file it. The General Manager did not file this writ petition as an individual acting: for himself. aS the title would show, he filed it in his official capacity as 'General Manager, Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation, Jaipur'. It is abundantly clear from the text of the writ petition that the petitioner is none else than the statutory Corporation known as the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation. In substance therefore, no serious objection can be raised to the frame of the petition.
17. It may then be borne in mind that once the attention of the court was drawn to the fact that the R.T.A. in granting a fresh permit to Radha Gopal Aggarwal had acted without jurisdiction, and that the matter in which he so acted was one affecting the public generally, the court should have made allowance for the fact that the General Manager of the Corporation was the most appropriate person next only to the juristic person, i.e. the Corporation, to challenge the validity of that action.
18. The result is that both the appeals succeed and the judgment of the learned single Judge has to be set aside. We would order accordingly. Consequently, the impugned renewal of permit granted by the R.T.A. to Mithalal (respondent 2 in Special Appeal No. 19/ 1968) and the impugned fresh permit granted by him to Radha Gopal Aggrawal (respondent 3 in Special Appeal No. 20/1968) are hereby quashed. The parties are, in the circumstances, left to bear their own costs throughout.
P.D. Kudal, J.
19. I agree.