1. These two appeals are from a judgment of Govinda Menon J. dismissing two writ petitions, Nos. 556 and 557 of 1962.
2. The appellant is a bus transport company in the Salem Dt. They were running 26 buses with permits granted by the Transport Authorities. On 24-10-1951, they made applications to the Regional Transport Authority, Salem, for renewal of permits for six of their buses bearing Nos. M. D. S. 1016, 1017, 1953, 933, 1226 and 606. While these applications were pending, on 24-12-1951, the Regional Transport Authority cancelled the permits for all these six buses on the ground of non-payment of taxes payable under the Motor Vehicles Act. Consequently, their applications for renewal were rejected on 16-1-1952.
Appeals were filed by the appellants against both the orders, i.e. the order cancelling the permits, and the order refusing to renew the permits. The Board, by its order dated 1-3-1952, set aside the order of cancellation and the order refusing the removal and remanded the case to the Regional Transport Authority for disposal of the applications for renewal in respect of the aforesaid six buses. Pending final disposal by the Regional Transport Authority of the remanded applications, permits for these six buses were renewed temporarily upto the end of June 1952, by an order dated 14-4-1952. Eventually, the applications for renewal were disposed of on 28-7-1952 by the following order of the Regional Transport Authority :
'Regarding 1016, 1017 and 1953, there is sufficient evidence that these vehicles had plied during several periods for which tax had not been paid. It is also seen that this act of the operator is deliberate and habitual. Regarding 606, 1226 and 933 the same remarks as above apply. Renewal of permits of these six vehicles is therefore refused.'
It is to quash this, order that the appellant filed W. P. No. 55G of 1952. The other W. P. No. .557 of 1952 was to have the order of the Regional Transport Authority dated 14-4-1952 renewing the permits only upto the end of June 1952 quashed. Govinda Menon J. dismissed both the applications. The appeals are from that order :
3. The main ground on which the appellant attacked the order refusing the renewal was that it infringed on his fundamental right declared by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution, incidentally, the appellant also impugned the order of the Government passed under Section 43-A, Motor Vehicles Act, namely, G. O. Ms. 2545 dated 15-7-1952, which runs as follows :
'Order : In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 43-A, Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 (Central Act 4 of 1939), the Government of Madras do hereby direct that while considering applications for transport vehicles, the transport authorities shall take into consideration also the conduct of the applicants in the past in the matter of payment of taxes due, from them in respect of any transport vehicle or vehicles, that is to say, whether the applicants have been regular and prompt in the payment of taxes, or whether they failed to pay the taxes on or before the due date, or whether they paid the taxes only after the omission on their part has been detected by the authorities concerned.
2. In dealing with cases referred to above, the authorities concerned shall distinguish
(a) between cases of deliberate or habitual omission to pay the tax and cases of casual omission, and (b) between cases involving moral turpitude and cases of carelessness or unavoidable default.'
4. The allegation of the appellant was that the Regional Transport Authority must have refused their applications for renewal on the strength of this order, and they contended that the order was illegal and 'ultra vires'.
5. In our opinion, the writ petition No. 556 of 1952, Which was the main petition, should have been dismissed 'in limine' on the ground, that the appellant had a specific remedy under the Motor Vehicles Act if he felt himself aggrieved by the order of the Regional Transport Authority refusing to renew the permits, namely, an appeal under Section 64 of the Act.
That section provides that any person aggrieved by the refusal of renewal of a permit may, within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, appeal to the prescribed authority, in this case the Central Road Traffic Board. That remedy was a complete and adequate remedy. The Central Road Traffic Board had every power to set aside the order of the Regional Transport Authority refusing to renew the permits. There was also a further remedy provided under Section 64-A of the Act, that is, a revision to the Government. As a general rule, the power under Article 226 will not be exercised by this Court when another effective and adequate remedy exists.
6. Apart from this technical objection, the appeals fall on the merits. Under Section 47(1) (a). Motor Vehicles Act, the Regional Transport Authority shall, in deciding whether to grant or refuse a stage carriage permit, have regard to the Interest of the public generally. Section 58(2) specifically deals with renewals. It says :
'A permit, may be renewed on an application made and disposed of as if it were an application for a permit; provided that other conditions being equal, an application for renewal shall be given preference over new applications for permits.'
We must accept the finding of the Regional Transport Authority that the appellants have been deliberately and habitually committing default in the payment of taxes in respect of the six vehicles. In our opinion, this fact was a circumstance which could be taken into consideration in arriving at a decision as to whether the grant of permits to a person in the position of the appellant company was In the interests of the general public, We agree with Govinda Menon J. that
'It cannot certainly be said that it is in the interests of the public to grant permit to a person who has been habitually deliberate in the non-payment of taxes.'
7. There is another way of looking at the matter. The applications by the appellant company were for renewals. An applicant for a renewal is given a special preference over new applicants for permits under the proviso to Section 58(2) of the Act. It appears to us to be not unreasonable that the Regional Transport Authority should refuse to give this preference to a person who has persistently broken one of the conditions of the permit. Either way, we cannot say that there has been such an unreason-able restriction on the right of the appellant as to call for interference under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Before Govinda Menon J. and before us, considerable reliance was placed on the judgment of Subba Rao J. in 'W. P. No. 476 of 1952. (A).
As pointed out by Govinda Menon J. the facts in that case were very peculiar. The non-payment of taxes in that case was not deliberate or habitual; it was, purely accidental and owing to circumstances which cast no blame on the permit-holder. His antecedents were beyond reproach. He was really not aware of the nonpayment of taxes, and immediately he came to know of it, he paid the taxes before even a notice was issued to him calling upon him to show cause why his permit should not be cancelled. In that case, the permits were cancelled after the entire arrears of taxes had been paid. It was In these special circumstances that the learned Judge held that the cancellation of the permits was an unreasonable restriction on his right to do business. We do not think that Subba Rao J. meant to lay down that a refusal to renew a permit to a person who had been deliberately and habitually defaulting in the payment of taxes was not a reasonable restriction in the Interests of the public. The Government Order above mentioned also draws a distinction between deliberate and habitual omission and casual omission to pay taxes.
8. W. P. No. 557 of 1952 need not be separately dealt with. It was open to the Regional Transport Authority to renew the permits upto the end of June only in view of the pendency of the main applications for renewal.
9. The writ appeals are dismissed with costs in W. A. No. 80 of 1953. Advocate's, fee, Rs. 100.