1. The Superintendent of Police, Tanjore, suspended for a period of ten days the driving licence of one Krishnan, a lorry driver, for the alleged offence of overspeeding. For exercising this power, the Superintendent relied upon the delegation mentioned in Rule 134-AA of the rules framed under the Motor Vehicles Act read with Section 44(5) and Section 16 of the Motor Vehicles Act. The Motor Vehicles Act under Section 16 conferred this power on the Regional Transport Authority. A power of delegation is conferred on the Regional Transport Authority under Section 44 (5) of the Act. Section 44 (5) of the Act contains a qualification that such delegation by the Regional Transport Authority of its powers and functions can be made only if authorised in this behalf by rules framed under Section 68. Rule 134-AA is a rule so framed. It was relied upon by the Superintendent of Police as the rule making such delegation to him of the power of suspension of a driver's licence.
2. The driver aggrieved against this order appealed to the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. The Tribunal was of the view-
'It will however be seen that Rule 134-AA, which authorises the Regional Transport Authorities to delegate their powers and functions under Section 16 of the Act, is framed under Section 68 of the Act under Chapter IV. It seems to me that there cannot be any delegation of powers vested in the Regional Transport Authorities under Section 16 of the Act even if rules are framed under Chapter II, for the simple reason that the only enabling provisions of the Act authorising the Regional Transport Authorities to delegate powers is Sub-section (5) of Section 44, which, as already indicated, restricts the powers that are capable of delegation to those that appear in Chapter IV'.
The State Transport Appellate Tribunal thereupon allowed this appeal.
3. The State of Madras has filed this writ petition for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, the second respondent in this writ petition, allowing the appeal of the driver, Krishnan, the first respondent for the reason set out above, namely, the absence of jurisdiction of the Superintendent of Police for disqualifying the driver.
4. Learned Counsel appearing for the State urged that the interpretation given to the scope of delegation enunciated in Section 44 (5) of the Act, by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal is incorrect. It was urged that though Section 68 of the Act in terms confers power to make rules for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of Chapter IV, the purport of Rule 134-AA is to give effect to the general power of delegation contained in Section 44 (5) which is a section found in the Chapter. It is only to find out what power conferred in the Regional Transport Authority which is sought to be so delegated under Section 44 (5), that one has to go to Section 16 of the Act, which confers the power to disqualify a driver on the Regional Transport Authority. In fact, there is a cross reference in Section 16 to Chapter IV, when it refers to a Regional Transport Authority constituted under Chapter IV, Therefore, the power to disqualify a driver is a power initially conferred on the Regional Transport Authority constituted under Chapter IV. Thereafter under the scope of the power of delegation contained in Section 44 (5), read with Rule 134-AA, the Superintendent of Police has exercised the power in this case. This is the course of reasoning adopted by the Government Pleader for the State for sustaining the attack against the finding of the second respondent, the State Transport Appellate Tribunal.
5. While I am generally inclined to accept this argument, it is not necessary to decide this question finally in this writ petition for the simple reason that the decision of the Supreme Court in Venkataraman and Co. v. State of Madras, : 60ITR112(SC) , has clearly laid down the principle that an authority constituted under an Act cannot, unless expressly so authorised, question the validity of any of the provisions thereof (vide page 438 of the report) (STC) = (at p. 1099 of AIR). Consequently, the State Transport Appellate Authority, as an authority constituted under the Motor Vehicles Act, in the absence of an authorisation to do so, cannot question the validity of the Act or a Rule framed thereunder. Therefore since the order of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal in this case, amounts to a declaration that Rule 134-AA is an invalid Rule, as it suffers from the defect of improper delegation, it was beyond the jurisdiction of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal to give such a decision.
6. I therefore allow the writ petition and issue a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. No order as to costs.