1. The short question for consideration by the Full Bench in this batch of writ appeals is, whether a licensee of an existing rice mill has locus standi to apply for a writ of certiorari to quash the grant of a permit for the establishment of a new rice mill in the locality, under the Rice-Milling Industry (Regulation) Act, XXI of 1958 (hereinafter referred to as the Act). The appeals have been preferred from the dismissal of petitions for certiorari on the ground that an existing rice mill owner is not a person aggrieved by the grant of permit to another and has no standing to apply for certiorari. In Kuppuswami Pillai v. The State of Madras W.P. Nos. 2332 of 1966 etc., Kailasam J., observed that the mere fact that a person who has a mill in close proximity to the one to which licence has been granted is likely to suffer financial loss is not sufficient to make him an aggrieved person entitling him to maintain a writ petition challenging an order of the licensing authority granting permit to a new applicant. In taking this decision, the learned Judge considered that the matter was not res integra but governed by the decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Lakshmi Ammal v. Vaithilingam W.A. No. 195 of 1962. Proceeding the learned Judge held that the decision of Rajagopalan, J., in Abdul Mazid v. State of Madras I.L.R. , taking a contrary view
could not, in view of the decision of the Division Bench, be said to be good law. But the contrary view finds confirmation of the observations by another Division Bench in Thiruvengadam v. Muthu Chettiar W.A. No. 150 of 1968.
2. The Rice-Milling Industry (Regulation) Act, 1958 is an Act to regulate the rice-milling industry in the interests of the general public. Manifestly, it is a restriction on the carrying on of business of rice-milling. Section 8 of the Act prohibits the establishment of any new rice-mill by any person or authority after the commencement of the Act except under and in accordance with a permit granted under Section 5 of the Act. The permit has to be followed by securing a licence under Section 6 for carrying on rice-milling operation. There is a prohibition against an owner of rice mill changing the location of the whole or any part of the rice-mill, and against expansion of the rice-mill except with permission. Severe penalties, imprisonment and fine, are provided by Section 13 for contravention of provisions of Section 8. Section 5(1) requires an application to be made to the Central Government, for the grant of a permit for the establishment of a new rice-mill or for re-commencing rice-milling operation in a defunct rice-mill. Under statutory powers, the Central Government has delegated its function to the State Board of Revenue. Section 5 (4) requires a full and complete investigation to be made in the manner prescribed, before the grant of a permit. The investigation should have due regard to the number of rice-mills operating in the locality, the availability of paddy in the locality, the availability of power and water supply for the rice-mill in respect of which a permit is applied for and the type of the rice-mill--huller type sheller type or combined sheller-huller type. The investigation has also to be directed to ascertain whether the functioning of the rice-mill would cause substantial unemployment in the locality and other matters that may be prescribed. The Rules made under the Act bring out more clearly the object of the Regulation. They emphasise that the investigation shall be made with a view to ascertaining whether the grant of a permit is necessary for ensuring adequate supply of rice. Information has to be gathered as to the pattern of trade and commerce in rice in the locality, the effect that the operation of the new or the defunct rice-mill may have on the local economy, and the necessity or otherwise for an addition to the productive capacity of the existing rice-mills in the locality. The inquiry inter alia must be directed to ascertain whether hand-pounding industry in the locality is already well-organised and whether the establishment of a new rice-mill is likely to affect adversely that industry. The object of the Act, it is manifest, is not to give monopoly in rice-mill business, but to regulate the rice-milling industry in the interests of the general public. At the same time, it emereges from the statutory provisions and Rules that the grant of a permit is not arbitrary, but should have due regard to the local potential for entertaining a new rice-mill or what may be called local economic expediency, namely, the availability of paddy in the area to be hulled, the existing number of rice mills which serve the public need, the availability of power and water-supply for the efficient running of the rice-mills and the adverse effect a new rice-mill may have on allied industries like hand-pounding industry. Rice-milling industry is thus a controlled business and there is a restriction of the citizens right to carry on the business or occupation of rice-milling. The Regulation purports to impose reasonable restrictions in the interests of the general public. In the cases before us, the existing rice-mill owners carrying on business under the Regulation complain that the Regulation or Rules made thereunder have been violated by the administrative agencies, authorised to grant permits, by granting fresh permits when not warranted under the Regulation and Rules made the reunder. This contravention of the Regulation or Rules, it is their case, prejudicially affects them, the local economy being disturbed.
3. The Full Bench reference is confined to a very narrow question; but Counsel would raise other points. Inter alia Mr. V. K. Thiruvenkatachari, learned Counsel appearing for the respondent in one of the cases, would contend for invalidating the Act itself. It is said that the Act unreasonably restricts the carrying on of a common occupation and is, therefore, violative of the rights guaranteed under Article i9 (1) (g) of the Constitution. Reference is made to the opinion of the Supreme Court, United States, expressed in New State Ice Co. v. Liseliman 285 U. S. 268 at 277-279 : 78 L.Ed. 747, that a regulation which has the effect of denying or unreasonably curtailing the common right to engage in lawful private business, such as manufacturing ice, cannot be upheld consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment. It is urged that, if Act XXI of 1958 and Rules made thereunder could be utilised by an existing rice-mill owner to prevent a competitor from entering into the business, the Act should be struck down as not regulating the rice-milling industry but as precluding persons from engaging in the industry. In view of the limited nature of the question under consideration in this reference, we leave open the question of vires of the Act. Nor is it necessary for us to examine whether existing rice-mill owners are entitled to notice on an application for a permit to instal a new rice-mill in the locality and whether the authority, when overruling objections raised by existing rice-mill owners who intervene must give reasons for doing so.
4. It is not contended for the existing rice-mill owners that any of their fundamental right is violated. They say " We do not have and we are not claiming any monopoly in the business. We are carrying on business under the restrictions imposed by the Act and Rules made thereunder. When, without due regard to local economy, availability of paddy and the capacity of existing rice-mills, a permit is granted to another person, the grant prejudicially affects our business. But we are not free to adjust our economy. We cannot shift elsewhere at our convenience to maintain the required turnover for profitable business. We are constrained to carry on the business under the Act and the Rules thereunder. Even so, let the new entrant be permitted to enter business, if that can be done subject to the same conditions, that is in due accord with the Act Rules. Arbitrary grants in breach of the law in a business activity regulated by the statute injures our business. Constrain the authority administering the Act to apply the law and rules current to all and at all stages with an even hand, so that the rule of law may prevail". The question is whether, when that is the prayer, it is correct for this Court to say, without examining whether in fact there is breach of any Rule or the Regulation and whether there is reasonable cause for feeling aggrieved, that the grievance of an existing rice-mill owner, if any, is not one which the Court should take cognisance of and grant redress under Article 226 of the Constitution, and turn him away at the threshold. Our answer, as will be presently seen, has to be ' no'.
5. Article 226 of the Constitution confers powers on High Courts in language of the widest amplitude to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases any Government, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them not only for enforcement of fundamental rights but also for any other purpose. The article does not, in terms, provide as to who can apply for writs or orders thereunder. It is pointed out by the Supreme Court in Calcutta Gas Co. (Prop.) Ltd. v. State of West Bengal .:
It is implicit in the exercise of the extraordinary jurisdiction that the relief asked for must be one to enforce a legal right....The right that can be enforced under Article 226 also shall ordinarily be the personal or individual right of the petitioner himself, though in the case of some of the writs like habeas corpus or quo warranto this rule may have to be relaxed or modified.
6. In Election Commission, India v. Saka Venkata Rao , the Supreme Court observed that power of High Courts for issuing directions, orders or writs for purposes other than fundamental rights was confered with a view apparently to place all the High Courts in this country in somewhat the same position as the Court of King's Bench in England. In Basappa v. Nagappa , the Supreme Court said:
In view of the express provisions in our Constitution we need not now look back to the early history or the procedural technicalities of these writs in English law, nor feel oppressed by any difference or change of opinion expressed in particular cases by English Judges. We can make an order or issue a writ in the nature of ' certiorari' in all appropriate cases and in appropriate manner, so long as we keep to the broad and fundamental principles that regulate the exercise of jurisdiction in the matter of granting such writs in English law.
In the light of the above observations, when on the question as to who may ligitimately apply for certiorari, it may not be out of place to examine the broad principles on which the standing of an applicant for certiorari is viewed in English Courts. We are assuming that there is good ground for the remedy. No serious problem of locus standi can properly arise, when a judicial or quasi-judicial order on a lis inter se between parties is sought to be quashed. In such a case manifestly a party could be aggrieved by an adverse decision, and, so, would have status to attack it. Again, if an authority has power to do an act under a statute which will per judicially affect the citizen, then, even though there are no two parties apart from the authority and the person affected, and the contest is between the administrative authority and a citizen opposing it, clearly the citizen, would be a person aggrieved if the order passed is against him. The question of locus standi actually arises for consideration, when third parties who oppose such orders are affected by them. Is it open to them, because they have been prejudicially affected, to question the legality of the orders passed on one or other ground on which a writ of certiorari could be issued? The citizen affected may not be able to aver infringement of any common law right or direct violation of his individual right. Yet the citizens interests might have been adversely affected by an unreasonable or arbitrary determination of the administrative authority. Keir and Lawson in Cases in Constitutional Law, 5th Edition, at page 406, have these to say on the question:
As has already been said, the direct control of public authorities becomes especially necessary when a subject cannot show that he has suffered the infringement of an actual right. The question therefore arises, what sort of locus standi an applicant for relief must have. The matter has been mainly discussed of recent years in relation to the prerogative orders, and the view is generally held that, although the older decisions seem to apply different tests to the various orders, at the present day the matter is entirely in the hands of the Judges, except where the Crown applies for an order and probably also where the applicant, though a subject, can show that an actual right of his has been infringed. This discretionary power of the Judges, since it allows them to refuse an order on general grounds, also makes it unnecessary for them to insist on any proof of locus standi in the applicant; they can in a proper case say that his interest is too remote without giving any special reasons. Thus the prerogative orders can be granted at the instance of any person who has an interest sufficient to satisfy the judges that he has reasonable grounds for his application; and, for instance, it was once a matter of course for a brewery company to apply for certiorari to quash a licence granted to a rival company. This freedom from strict rules of locus standi would seem to be one of most valuable characteristics of the prerogative orders.
In our view, this sums up the position in England neatly. To examine some of the leading cases : In R. v. Surrey, Justice (1870) L.R. 5 Q.B. 466, the Justices had made an order that the repair of certain unnecessary roads by the parishes should cease and be stopped up. An appeal against the order failed. The statute concerned had provided that notices of the stopping-up should appear at each end of the roads to be stopped up. But notices had appeared only at one end of each of the roads. On certiorari being sought by an inhabitant, to have the order quashed, a question arose as to who should apply for the writ. The following observations of Cockburn, C.J., governed the case:
I entirely concur in the proposition that, although the Court will listen to a person who is a stranger, and who interfere to point out that some other Court has exceeded its jurisdiction, whereby some wrong or grievance has been sustained, yet that is not ex debito justitiae, but a matter upon which the Court may properly exercise its discretion, as distinguished from the case of party aggrieved, who is entitled to reliefs debito justitiae if he suffers from the usurpation of jurisdiction by another Court.
The expressions certiorari " of right " or " ex debito justitiae''' mean only certiorari that cannot be had until due grounds are shown, but then will not be refused unless the grounds shown are answered. In Reg. v. Nicholson L.R. (1899) 2 Q.B. 455 at 471, Vaugham Williams, L. J., remarked that, besides the case of an aggrieved person who applies as of right for the writ, there is another case in which the Court has regard to the question whether the applicant is an aggrieved person, and that is where the Court has to exercise its discretion as to the issue of the writ. " In such a case " it is observed, " the Court will consider whether the interest of the applicant is so small, or his grievance so like that of the rest of Her Majesty's subjects, as to have no sufficient ground for the issue of a writ." A.L. Smith, L.J. observed that as a matter of discretion the certiorari ought not to go, as the applicants should have shown that they have a peculiar grievance of their own beyond some inconvenience suffered by them in common with the rest of the public. In Rex v. Groom ex parte Cobbold L.R. (1901) 2 K.B. 157 at 162, a case under the licensing Act relating to sale of intoxicating liquors, Lord Alverstone, C.J., after observing that if he could see his way to decide against the applicants for certiorari who were only rivals in trade of the person to whom the licence had been granted and were taking a purely technical objection he should be glad to do so, made the rule absolute as he had to recognise their locus standi. He observed:
As to the question whether the applicants for the rule are persons aggrieved, there can be no doubt that they have no real grievance arising from the omission to serve the notice in time. That, however, is not the sense in which persons applying for a certiorari are required to be persons aggrieved. It is sufficient if they have a real interest in the decision of the justices, and they have in this case. They took the point now raised before the justices at the adjourned general annual licensing meeting and when the confirming order was made, and it would be too strong to say that they had not a sufficient interest in the matter to enable them to apply for the Rule.
In Rex v. Ex parte Howitt L.R. (1921) 1 K.B. 248 at 255, another case under the licencing Act in respect of sale of liquors, setting out the true principle on which Courts act in the matter of certiorari, the Earl of Reading, C.J., observed:
Here the applicant had an interest distinct from the general inconvenience which may be suffered by the law being wrongly administered.
It was further observed:
The question whether a person has a particular interest in the subject-matter as distinguished from the interest which the general public has must always be a question of degree. Of course it may be that a person's interest is so slight that the Court will not act upon it, but where, as here, it is substantial the Court is bound to issue the writ when it appears on the face of the order that there has been a wrongful exercise of jurisdiction in the sense of an excess of jurisdiction.
The applicant in that case, it is remarked, did not stand in the same category as a member of the public who could be said to have only a general interest in seeing that the law was properly carried out : but he had a particular interest in the subject-matter and that was shown by the fact that he incurred the expense of instructing Counsel to secure if he could, the refusal of the confirmation, and to contend that the confirming authority had no jurisdiction. The applicant for writ in that case was only a licensee of other premises in the same Borough. We may here notice that the principle, enunciated in the foregoing two decisions, was accepted by a Full Bench of this Court in S. M. Transport v. Raman and Raman . Referring to
these decisions, the Full Bench observed:
The true principle is to determine whether the applicant has an interest distinct from the general inconvenience which may be suffered by the law being wrongly administered.
In Maurice v. London County Council L.R. (1964) 2 Q.B. 362 at 378, interpreting the words " persons aggrieved " in a statute, Lord Denning, M. R., observing that the narrow view that had been given to the words in the Court that it meant a person who had suffered a legal grievance must be rejected adopted the following observations of the Judicial Committee in Attorney - General of the Gambis v. N' Jie L.R. (1961) A.C. 617 at 634.
The words ' person aggrieved' are of wide import and should not be subjected to a restrictive interpretation. They do not include, of course, a mere busybody who is interfering in things which do not concern him; but they do include a person who has a genuine grievance because an order has been made which prejudicially affects his interests.
A wide interpretation has been given to the words " persons aggrieved," even when they are found in a statute. When an order is passed against a person prejudicially affecting his interest, he may have cause for genuine grievance. The determination need not have arisen between him and the authority; it would be sufficient if he had intervened to protect his interests. In the English cases under licensing Acts cited above, an existing licensee, as a person concerned with the grant or withholding of licence to another public house, was held to have sufficient interest to be a person aggrieved. Another illustrative case where the interest was not considered remote to give locus standi is the decision in R.V. Minister of Health ex p. Dore L.R. (1927) 1 K.B.
765. There, an Auditor had surcharged Borough Councillors for overpaying or expanding and when the Minister of Health without jurisdiction remitted the surcharge, a person who was only a rate payer from the District which the Councillors, represented, applied for and had certiorari. In a recent case Reg. v. Russell ex parte Beverbrook Newspapers Ltd. (1968) 3 W.L.R. 999 at 1003, the question arose whether the proprietors of a newspaper have sufficient standing to apply for certiorari to quash an order in committal proceedings, which lifted the restrictions against publication of the proceedings imposed under the Criminal Justice Act, 1967, to a limited extent only. The Act permitted removal of the restrictions on an application by a person charged, and on the application of one of the five persons involved, the Magistrate lifted the ban limiting its effect to those parts of the proceedings relating to the applicant. The proprietors of the newspapers contended that, in law, in the circumstances, they were entitled to an unlimited order and applied for orders of certiorari and mandamus. On the question whether the newspaper proprietors had a standing to make the application, Parker, C.J., observed that the standing of the proprietors of the newspaper to apply for the order was perfectly clear and they were certainly a person aggrieved, so as to be able to make the application. S.A. de Smith in his Judicial Review of Administrative Action, at page 313, sums up the position thus:.in strict law any member of the public may apply for certiorari to quash an order : in practice no application is likely to succeed except one made by a person aggrieved; the meaning of a person aggrieved is, for this purpose, much wider than in most other branches of the law; but an applicant's personal interest in the subject-matter of an impugned order may be too slight or too remote for him to be treated as a person aggrieved by it.
7. The broad principles are well established. The interest of the applicant need not be proprietory, but as a claim for certiorari implies a grievance, there must be a grievance--a grievance that the Court would take cognizance of. Having regard particularly to the amplitude of the power of the Court that may be invoked under Article 226, a scrutiny of the locus standi of an applicant for certiorari is clearly necessary to keep off meddlesome interlopers and professional litigants invoking the jurisdiction of the Court in matters that do not in the least concern them. In Venkateswara Rao v. Government of Andhra Pradesh , the Supreme Court observes:
This Court held in the decision Calcutta Gaz Co. [Prop.] Ltd. v. State of West Bengal , that " ordinarily ". the
petitioner who seeks to file an application under Article 226 of the Constitution should be one who has a personal or individual right in the subject-matter of the petition. A personal right need not be in respect of a proprietory interest; it can also relate to an interest of a trustee. That apart, in exceptional cases as the expression " ordinarily " indicates, a person who has been prejudicially affected by an act or omission of an authority can file a writ even though he has no proprietory or even fiduciary interest in the subject-matter thereof.
8. An existing rice-mill owner who contends that he is prejudicially affected by the grant of a permit for installation of another mill in the locality contrary to law would, manifestly under the principles discussed above be entitled to apply for relief under Article 226. A case where a business rival was held to be a person aggrieved is the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Lakshmi Narain v. The State Transport Authority, Uttar Pradesh , a case under the Motor Vehicles Act. Section 47 (3) of that Act provides for determination by the Regional Transport Authority of the number of stage carriages generally or of any specified type for which stage carriage permits may be granted in a region or in any specified area or route within the region. There is no specific provision for representations to be made at an inquiry in the matter by persons already providing transport facilities. A revision is provided for from the order at the instance of a person aggrieved. While answering in the affirmative the question whether a revision would lie at the instance of an existing operator as a person aggrieved, the Supreme Court observed:
We are unable to say that no existing operator can be aggrieved by an order made under Section 47 (3), increasing or decreasing the number of stage carriages; it would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. In a particular case it may be to his advantage and he then would not file a revision against it, but if he files a revision when an order made under Section 47 (3) is prejudicial to his interests, there is no ground for denying him the right to approach the revisional authority and seeking its order. An order under Section 47 (3) affects the future working on a route and we are of the view that such an order would have repercussions on the working of the existing operators, whether for their good or not.
9. Even so the installation of a fresh rice-mill would have its repercussions on the working of existing rice-mills in the locality. Existing rice-mill owners may be affected by the installation of a new rice-mill, if the paddy available in the locality is not sufficient to go round for all the mills. It is thus clear, on the legal principles involved and on the authorities, that an existing rice-mill owner will have locus standi to approach this Court for certiorari, if he is aggrieved by the grant of a permit for a fresh rice-mill in the locality. The Act may provide for appearance and representation by existing rice mill owners in the locality. The Act may not provide for appearance and representation by existing rice-mill owners in the locality. But the authority is constrained, by the law and Rules made thereunder, to have due regard to certain considerations. There is nothing to preclude an existing rice-mill owners suo motu placing before the authority these considerations, as failure to have regard to them may effect him prejudicially. An adverse order need not necessarily be against a person, who, as of right, is entitled to make representation. In Lakshmi Narain's case (1968) 2 S.C.J. 74 : (1968) 1 S.C.R. 635 : A.I.R. 1968 S.C. 410 at 413, the existing operator had been given no statutory right to make representation. S. A. de Smith in his Judicial Review of Administrative Action at page 307, referring to authority, states:
It would seem that one who has no right to appear or to be represented at a hearing may nevertheless be a person aggrieved by the determination made in consequence of that hearing.
It is relevant, in this connection, to refer to the decision of a Division Bench of this Court inValliammal v. State of Madras , where a person applied for certiorari to quash
proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act in respect of a land adjacent to his land. When the question of locus standi of the applicant was raised, it was observed by this Court:
It is not in dispute that the writ appellant has a site immediately adjoining the site proposed to be acquired as a burial and burning ground; if the writ appellant builds a house thereon, and other houses also spring up in the locality, the inmates of those houses may very well claim as the Kala Kshetra authorities previously did, that the proximity of this cremation and burial ground is an injury to health and hygiene. In that sense, the writ appellant is a person affected and it is in accordance with the principles of equity and law, that too rigid an interepretation of that term ought not to be adopted by Court.
The Court proceeded in the view that the applicant had, by reason of his local situation, a peculiar grievance of his own entitling him to a writ ex debito justitiae.
10. The decided cases show that, when certiorari is sought, the Court generally looks for some personal interest of the applicant in the matter, something more substantial and related to the applicant than due observance of law by authorities, and do not countenance a mere excess of zeal in the observance of law by others. A person who is denied a permit or one who is wrongfully deprived or refused something to which he is entitled, or on whom a legal burden is cast are obvious cases. But that does not exhaust the list. Other persons may be affected and genuinely aggrieved by excess or abuse of powers. The requirement as to the standing of an applicant for certiorari cannot be circumscribed by any narrow definition. Of necessity it would vary according to the law administered, the illegality alleged, and the grievance suffered. The right to apply for relief deeming himself aggrieved--if that is the test--is one thing; making out a case for the issue of certiorari is a different thing. That would depend on the judicial scrutiny of the record in relation to and his establishing one or other of the recognised grounds for quashing. The necessity for judicial scrutiny, when a person comes to Court complaining against an act of commission or omission of an administrative authority regulating trade, business or occupation under law which prejudicially affects him, springs from our concept of the supremacy of the Rule of law and the authority of the Court to determine the legality of the act. The fact that the licensing law vests the authority with some discretion in the matter, does not take the act of the authority out of judicial scrutiny. When an authority is entrusted with discretion, the authority must direct himself properly in law. He must direct his attention to matters which he is bound to consider and he must exclude from consideration matters which are irrelevant to what he has to consider. If he does not obey those rules, then he oversteps the bounds of his jurisdiction. In matters that could vitally affect citizens in their normal avocations, trade and business there is no such thing as absolute discretion in administrative authorities. The law on these matters, to be valid, has to provide guide-lines and the discretion has to be controlled by the guide-lines. We may here adopt the observation of Lords Reading in Ridge v. Baldwin L.R. (1964) A.C. 40, where the learned Law Lord said:.nothing short of a decision of this Court (House of Lords) directly in point would induce me to accept the position that, although an enactment expressly requires an official to have reasonable grounds for his decision our law is so defective that a subject cannot bring up such a decision for review however seriously he may be affected and however obvious it may be that the official acted in breach of his statutory obligation.
11. Of the decisions of this Court on the question under consideration, the earliest directly on the question is that of Rajagopalan, J., in Abdul Mazid v. State of Madras I.L.R. . It was given under the Rice Mills Licencing Order (1955) which was replaced by the Rice Milling Industry (Regulation), Act, 1958. It is not contended that the replacement of the Licensing Order by the Act makes any difference. The applicant for certiorari in that case was an existing rice-mill owner who objected to the grant of a fresh licence in the locality. On the question of locus standi of the applicant, the learned Judge observed:
In my opinion a statutory right to object to the grant of licence or permission may not be the exclusive test to apply in deciding whether an applicant for a writ of certiorari is an " aggrieved " person entitled to challenge the validity of the order which he seeks to avoid....the petitioner before me certainly had an interest of his own in the question, whether the third respondent should be granted a licence to work a rice-mill in close proximity to the petitioner's. That the statutory rules in the Rice Mills Licensing Order did not specifically confer a right on a trade rival, situate as the petitioner was, to object to the grant of a licence under that Order may not, in my opinion, affect the real principle to apply in such cases.
In the next case, Ramasundara Nadar & Co. v. State of Madras W.P. No. 644 of 1961, Jagadisan, J , having found against the applicant on the merits, considered it unnecessary to examine the question whether the applicant had any locus standi. In Ramanathan Chettiar v. Board of Revenue, Madras (1963) 2 M.L.J. 320, when the question of locus standi of existing rice-mill owners was raised, Veeraswami, J., observed that, as the records established that the authority was satisfied about the surplus position of paddy, before the issue of the new permits, the petition for certiorari need not be dismissed for want of locus standi. There is no express decision on the question of locus standi.
12. Lakskmi Ammal v. Vaithilingam W.A. No. 195 of 1962, which Kailasam, J., purported to follow and is relied on before us, does not, on our reading of the judgment (one of us was a party to it), decide the question of locus standi. The writ appeal was dismissed, at the admission stage, on an examination of the case on merits. It is observed therein:
There are no materials to assume that the Commissioner did not consider the relevant matters. Further we are by no means satisfied that, by granting the licence to the first respondent any right of the appellant had been affected so as to entitle him to approach this Court by way of a writ of certiorari.
The reference to ' right of the appellant', it is apparent from the context in which the above observation was made is to the factual aspect. Referring to the argument that the productive capacity of the village being limited the running of more than four rice-mills for the locality would entail a lessening of the business of the appellant in that only less paddy would come to his mill for husking, it was observed:
That argument is based upon several speculative hypotheses, none of which has been made out by the materials available on record.
We are unable to take this decision as determining that an existing rice-mill owner has no locus standi to question the grant of a permit for a fresh rice-mill in the locality. In Lakshmi Ammal v. Commissioner for Land Revenue W.P. No. 1091 of 1962, Veeraswami, J., declined to entertain the writ petition', filed by an existing rice-mill owner who had opposed the grant of a permit to instal a new rice-mill in the area, on the ground that the applicant could not be deemed to be a person aggrieved. On writ appeal therefrom, Lakshmi Ammal v. Commissioner for Land Revenue I.L.R. (1964) 2 Mad. 869 at 871, the dismissal of the writ petition was confirmed, but on other grounds on the merits. On the question of locus standi, the learned Judges observed:
The conclusion reached by the learned Judge can, in our opinion, be supported on the merits of the case as well.
The question of locus standi was not discussed. All the same the learned Judges were not inclined to differ from the view taken by Veeraswami, J. The question was not specifically left open. The question of locus standi was the subject of specific discussion and consideration by Kailasam, J., inKuppuswami Pillai v. The State of Madras W.P. Nos. 2332 of 1966 etc. batch, referred to already. The learned Judge proceeded in the view that the mere fact that a person who has a mill in close proximity to the one to which licence has been granted is likely to suffer financial loss is not sufficient to make him an aggrieved person in law. The learned Judge thought that the decision of the Division Bench, in Lakshmi Ammal v. Vaithilingam W.A. No. 195 of 1962, has held that the grant of a new licence to a person will not entitle an existing rice-mill licence holder to approach this Court for a writ of certiorari. In this view, the learned Judge would hold as already stated that the decision in Abdul Mazid v. State of Madras (1957) 2 M.L.J. 1 : I.L.R. (1957) Mad. 845 : (1957) M.L.J. (Crl) 263, cannot be said to be good law. The learned Judge observed that, as the petitioners before him (existing rice-mill owners) were not aggrieved persons, they were not entitled to move this Court and ' challenge the orders on any ground.' It may be observed that the learned Judge, however, examined the records produced by the Government and was satisfied that an elaborate enquiry had been made by the authorities in compliance with the requirements of the Act and Rules. The learned Judge, it may be pointed out, in Veerappa Goundar v. The State of Madras W.P. No. 1042 of 1967 quashed an order granting permit on the application of an existing rice-mill licence holder observing:
It is no doubt true that this Court has held that an existing rice-mill licence holder is not a person aggrieved. But the Court has the discretion to grant a writ at the instance of even a stranger who brings to the notice of the Court that statutory requirements have not been complied with.... This, in my opinion, is a fit case for the issue of a writ, even though the petitioner cannot be called an aggrieved person.
The decision of Kailasam, J., in Kuppuswami Pillai v. The State of Madras W.P. Nos. 2332 of 1966 etc., was taken up in appeals Paramasivam v. Pannerselvam W.A. Nos. 87, 90 and 120 of 1967 batch. The writ appeals were dismissed at the admission stage itself. On the question whether existing rice-mill owners who had objected to the grant of new permits are aggrieved persons, it was observed that it was not necessary to examine the matter at any length for disposal of the writ appeals.. The point particularly pressed in the writ appeals was the absence of reasoning in the order granting a permit and the Court was satisfied that there was an elaborate enquiry, at which all objections of the objectors were duly considered. The Court was inclined to agree with the contention of the objectors that the authorities, while granting the permit, were exercising
some kind of a quasi judicial function, if for no other reason, for the sufficing reason that to refuse a permit, may be to abridge or curtail a fundamental right.
13. In the appeal Thiruuengadam v. Muthu Chettiar W.A. No. 150 of 1968, Veeraswami O.C.J., and Rama-prasada Rao, J., from a decision of Kailasam, J., dismissing an application for certiorari questioning the grant of a permit for installation of a rice-mill by the representative of a temple on the ground that the order granting the permit was an administrative order and that in any case the applicant could not be considered to be an aggrieved person, the learned Judges examined the records and felt satisfied that the licensing authority, in making the impugned order under Section 5 of the Act, had applied its mind to all the relevant matters enjoined by the statutory provision to be taken into account. On the contention of the Government that the applicant in any case cannot be regarded as an aggrieved person, the Court while observing that the question did not call for consideration in the case, affirmed the principle laid down by this Court in S. M. Transport v. Raman and Raman (1961) 2 M.LJ. 127 : I.L.R. 1961 Mad. 110 : A.I.R. 9961 Mad. 180 at 184 (F.B.) already set out, that the applicant must have interest distinct from the general inconvenience which. may be suffered by the law wrongly administered. The learned Judges were inclined to the view that an existing rice-mill owner would be a person aggrieved, for they observe, when examining the locus standi of the appellants before them:
He is not a rival applicant for a rice mill permit, nor is he the owner of a rice-mill, nor, as far as we are able to see, is he interested in the matters specified in Section 5 (4) of the Act.
The decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in I. Venugopala Reddi v. Amara Venkata Narasimhulu A.I.R. 1962 A.P. 363 at 368, does not help the respondent, as the grant of permit in that case was found to be in conformity with the licensing provision. It was observed that an existing rice-mill owner could not object merely on the ground that there was 1 kelihood of his profits in the trade being diminished, as he had no exclusive monopoly to do the rice-milling business in the area though he was entitled to his fundamental right under Article 19(1) (g) to carry on his trade or business. Manifestly there was no ground for quashing. The decision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Maina Bai v. State of Madhya Pradesh A.I.R. 1965 M.P. 247, to which reference was made for the respondent, has no relevancy in the context of the issue now under consideration. The application for certiorari in that case was against an order rejecting an application for the grant of rice-milling permit. The question of locus standi as such was not raised and considered.
14. It is not contended for the existing rice-mill owners that they have monopoly in their area. Nor do they claim a right to question in certiorari proceedings the installation of a fresh rice-mill in their area, if there is no violation or infringement of the Rules and regulations governing the grant of fresh permits, merely on the ground that their own trade or business may go down. Clearly if the law is wrongly administered and an existing rice-mill owner is prejudicially affected in consequence, his interest in due observance of the law is personal and sufficiently substantial. We are of opinion, that an existing rice-mill owner who has objected to the installation of a fresh rice-mill in the locality and contends that he has been prejudicially affected by the grant of permit for installation of a fresh rice-mill, has sufficient interest to give him locus standi to make an application for certiorari under Article 226. In our view, cases taking the contrary view are not correctly decided. The rejection of the applications for certiorari in the cases now before us on the ground of want of locus standi cannot be sustained. The writ appeals are allowed. The writ petitions will have to be disposed of on merits. Petition to leave to raise additional grounds are dismissed.
15. No order as to costs.