1. This appeal has been preferred against the judgment of Ramaprasada Rao, J. dismissing W.P. 3915 of 1970 at the admission stage. The appellant is Murgan Theatre represented by its partner Sadayandi. Sri Murugan Theatre is a permanent cinema theatre in the revenue village of Andipatti in Madurai Dt. One Muthukaruppaswami Moopanar filed an application before the Collector for a certificate of no-objection to locate a touring cinema in S. No. 918/1 of Andipatti village, within the limits of Ethosakoil Panchayat. This application was made under the provisions of the Madras Cinemas (Regulation) Act 1955, (Madras Act 9 of 1955). The appellant made his representations before the Collector objecting to the grant of the certificate. The Collector refused the certificate. An appeal was preferred by Muthukaruppasami Moopanar to the Board as provided under the Act and the rules. The appeal was allowed and the Board granted a no-objection certificate. Against that W.P. No. 3915 of 1970 was filed. It was dismissed at the admission stage and hence the appeal.
2. Under Section 5 (1) of the Act, the licensing authority shall, in deciding whether to grant or refuse a licence, have regard to the following matters, namely-
(a) the interest of the public generally;................
(d) the adequacy of existing places for the exhibition of cinematograph films in the locality;
(e) the benefit to any particular locality or localities to be afforded by the opening of a new place of cinematograph exhibition;
and shall also take into consideration any representations made by persons already giving cinematograph exhibitions in or near the proposed locality or by any local authority or police authority within whose jurisdiction the place proposed to be licenced is situate or by any association interested in the giving of cinematograph exhibitions. It was under this provision that the appellant made representations to the Collector. We are at this state concerned only with two of those objections. The first is that there were already two permanent cinema theatres in the locality and they were adequate. The second is that there was a Community Radio Centre within a distance of 0.201 kilometres (one furlong) of the site where the touring cinema was proposed to be located and that is prohibited under Rule 103 (3) of the rules framed under the Act, namely, that there should be a minimum distance of 0.201 kilometres (one furlong) between the Community Radio Centre and the travelling cinemas in places where community radio set operates.
3. The Collector dealt with these objections thus:
"According to Rule 103 (3) T.N.C. (r) Rules (1957, there should be no community radio centre within a distance of one furlong. In this case there are two community Radio Centres, one outside the prohibited distance and the other at a distance of 480 ft. I. e., within the prohibited distance. It has however been reported that the community radio centre which lies within the prohibited distance is not functioning at present due to repairs. The Tahsildar has also reported that the possibility of its revival at any time cannot be ruled out. I consider that the site has not satisfied the requirements of Rule 103 (3).
The proposed touring cinema will affect the interests of the existing permanent theatre at Andipatti.
I carefully examined the issue with reference to the materials furnished by the Tahsildar, the objector and the applicant for N.O.C. According the Section 5 (1)(d) of the M.C.R. Act, 1955, the licensing authority shall take into account the adequacy of the existing cinemas in the locality and also take into consideration any representation made by licencees of permanent cinemas in or near the locality. There are already two permanent theatres within the limits of Andipatti revenue village which have a total population of 19412-one at Andipatti and the other at Kanniappa Pillai Patti. By any standard this is more than adequate to serve the local needs. I therefore feel that there is no use for licensing one more theatre, be it a touring cinema in this village. Besides, the giving of a N.O.C. would offend the statutory rules also. Under Rule 103 (3) of M.C.R. Rules 1957, a licence shall not be granted if there is a community radio centre within a distance of one furlong. There is however, provision that the licensing authority may relax this rule in very exceptional cases. I do not find any special circumstances to relax the condition stipulated in this rule."
On appeal this is what the Board stated in paragraph 4:--
"I have heard the counsel for the appellant and the respondent and perused the connected records. The application of the appellant was rejected by the Collector of Madurai on two grounds: (I) there was adequate facility in the locality and as such no more cinema licensing could be done; (ii) the existence of a radio centre within 0.201 km thereby offending the provisions of R. 103 (3) of Tamil Nadu Cinemas Rules. On the first point, Andipatti consisted of two Panchayats and one village Panchayat, viz, Andipatti, Ethekoil and Kanniappapillaipatti. There is no cinema located in Ethukoil Panchayat. It would not be therefore correct to hold that there is adequate facility for the residents of this Panchayat. In construing locality, a panchayat can be held to constitute a definite unit. In this view. I consider notwithstanding the fact whether the population of the village would support three cinema houses or not, there is justification for the location of a cinema house in Ethakoil Panchayat. On the second point, it is found that, as it is, no radio centre is within the prohibited distance. It is apprehended by the Collector that one such radio centre may function in future. Under this apprehension a no-objection certificate has been denied to the appellant. I consider this is a proper case in which the Collector should have used the power invested in him to relax this provision. As such, the grounds on which the Collector has rejected the application for no-objection certificate cannot be up-held. I, therefore, set aside the order of the Collector and direct that a N.O.C. be granted to the applicant."
4. Thiru M.K. Nambiar, the learned counsel for the appellant, contends that the Board committed an error of law apparent on the face of the record in equating the term "locality" in Section 5 (1)(d) of the Act to a Panchayat. He submits that, if the intention of the Legislature was to equate locality to a Panchayat, it would have been stated so very clearly. Secondly, the learned counsel submits that the Board failed to determine the adequacy of the existing places for the exhibition of cinematograph films in the locality, and that without determining that question the Board had no jurisdiction to grant a no-objection certificate and, therefore, its order is vitiated by want of jurisdiction.
5. It seems to us that the contentions of the learned counsel for the appellant have to prevail. The Act does not contain a definition of the term "locality" occurring in Section 5 (1)(d). The Board has proceeded on the footing that in construing the word "locality" a Panchayat can be held to constitute a definite unit, and in that view it considered that, whether the population of the village would support three cinema houses or not, there was justification for the location of a cinema house in Ethakoil Panchayat. Thus it proceeded on the footing that the word 'locality' occurring in Section 5 (1)(d) could be equated to a Panchayat. There is no warrant for this view. If the intention of the Legislature was to equate locality to a Panchayat, it would have been the easiest thing to say so.
6. Thiru V.K. Thiruvenktachari, the learned counsel for the respondent, Muthukaruppasami Moopanar, referred to Rule 14. The relevant portion of that rule is this:--
"14(1) There shall be no restriction to the grant of licences to permanent and touring cinemas on the basis of population in any place, except towns with a population of 50000 and above in which no touring cinemas will be allowed, if there are three or more permanent cinemas.
(2) The restrictions in respect of distance between cinemas shall be as specified below--A touring cinema in any place shall not be allowed within a distance of 1,609 km. of the nearest permanent cinema located in the same local area or in the adjacent village, panchayat or town or in the city of Madras. 'Local area' for this purpose means the area within the jurisdiction of a municipal council or a Panchayat board or a revenue village."
Here the finding is that the proposed touring cinema is beyond the distance of 1,609 km (one mile) of the nearest permanent cinema. The argument of Thiru V.K. Thiruvenkatachari was that, so long as Rules 14 (1) and 14 (2) were satisfied, a person like the appellant already giving cinematograph exhibitions in a permanent cinema theatre could not feel himself aggrieved by the order of the Board and was not entitled to file a writ petition. We shall deal with that submission in due course, but the point to be noted at this stage is that Rule 14 (2) cannot be pressed into service to throw any light on the term 'locality' occurring in Section 5 (1)(d). In other words, merely because Rule 14 (2) uses the words "local town," it cannot be urged that 'local area' would mean village, Panchayat or town, and the word "locality" occurring in Section 5 (1)(d) would also mean village, Panchayat or town. In fact, Thiruvenkatachari himself stated that R. 14 (2) would not have a bearing on the construction of S. 5 (1)(d).
7. In the judgment under appeal, Ramaprasada Rao, J. states:--
"It has to be noted that there is no cinema located to Ethakoil Panchayat. Having regard to the importance of Panchayats in the modern era, it is impossible to belittle the importance of a Panchayat as a unit, which is recognised as an administrative unit not only by statute, but also for executive purposes. If, therefore, Ethakoil Panchayat had no cinema within its jurisdiction, the Board considered that it would be unfair to characterise that the existing cinemas in the other Panchayat or in the town Panchayat were by themselves sufficient to hold that the cinemas in the locality were adequate. I agree with it."
8. With great respect, we are not inclined to agree. Thiru Nambiar points out that Ramaprasada Rao, J. himself had (on 10-8-1970) in Sengayan Chettiar v. State of Tamil Nadu, 1971-1 Mad LJ 21 = (AIR 1971 Mad 402) followed the judgment of a Bench of this court in Sundaralinga v. State of Madras, W. A. NO. 443 of 1968 etc. = () and held that, for the purpose of the Rice Milling Industry (Regulation) Act, 21 of 1958, a locality could not be equated to a Panchayat. We think that the principle of those decisions will also apply here. Hence, so far as this point is concerned, it is clear that there was an error apparent on the face of the record, because the Board equated locality to a Panchayat.
9. Further, the order of the Board was vitiated by want of jurisdiction, or, as has been stated in some decisions, by excess of jurisdiction, in that the Board failed to determine a vital question, namely, the adequacy of the existing places for the exhibition of cinematograph films in the locality, without equating the word locality to a Panchayat. Without determining that question, the Board had no jurisdiction to grant the no-objection certificate. The order of the Board must, therefore, be quashed in writ proceedings according to well-settled principles. See Basappa v. Nagappa, ; Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Syed Ahmed Ishaque, ; Shri
Ambica Mills Co. v. S. B. Bhatt, ; Irani v. State of Madras, . See also Rex v. Paddington Valuation
Officer, 1965-2 All ER 836, 842-
"If a Tribunal bases its decision on extraneous considerations which it ought not to have taken into account, or fails to take into account a vital consideration which it ought to have taken into account, then its decision may be quashed on certiorari."
In a recent decision of the House of Lords in Animinic Ltd. v. Foreign Compensation Commission, 1969-1 All ER 208 = 1969-2 WLR 163, a writ petition was filed questioning the decision of the Foreign Compensation Commission. Section 4 of the Foreign Compensation Act 1950 stated-
"The determination by the Commission of any application made to them under this Act shall not be called in question in any court of law."
It was held by Lord Reid, Lord Pearce, Lord Wilberforce and Lord Peerson that this could not exclude the court's intervention in a case where there was merely a purported determination given in excess of jurisdiction. Lord Reid, Lord Pearce and Lord Wilberforce pointed out that the Commission had misinterpreted the Foreign Compensation Order and, therefore, exceeded the area of their jurisdiction, and consequently their decision was a nullity. Lord Pearson, however, held that their construction of the order was not wrong, and that was why he declined to interfere. Thus the decision shows that a wrong construction of the statutory provisions would make the decision of the Tribunal a nullity.
10. Lord Morris of Borth-y-cest agreed that the Commission could not enlarge its area of jurisdiction by a wrong decision, But he held that in that case, the construction of the statutory provision had itself been left for determination by the Commission, that any error committed by it therein would be an error of law in the exercise of its jurisdiction and that, though normally even that would have entailed interference by a writ, such interference by the court was precluded by the provision that the determination by the Commission could not be called in question in any court of law. In India, however, in view of the wide amplitude of Art, 226 of the Constitution, the writ jurisdiction cannot be so curtailed. This has been made clear in the decisions already quoted.
11. Regarding the other point, our attention has been drawn by Thiru. V.K. Thiruvenkatachari to two reports of the Tahsildar dated 13-4-1970 and 25-5-1970 (pages 85, 86 and 129 to 133 of the Collector's file). We have looked into these reports just to understand the orders of the Collector and the Board and not with a view to determine the facts ourselves, because we cannot do so. We find that the position was this. Formerly a community radio had been installed in a private building in Ethakoil Panchayat limits and that was within a distance of one furlong from the place of the proposed touring cinema. That was removed, since the radio went out of order, and there was no suitable place for accommodating it. It was under these circumstances that the Board stated that, as things stood, there was no community radio centre within the prohibited distance of one furlong. On these facts, it cannot be said that the Board was wrong in stating that "as it is, no radio centre is within the prohibited distance' and consequently, there was no violation of Rule 103 (3). On the first point, however, the order of the Board is liable to be set aside.
12. We now turn to the objection of Thiru Thiruvenkatachari that the appellant cannot be said to be a person aggrieved, entitling him to file a writ petition in this court against the order of the Board. Section 5 (7) says that any person aggrieved by the decision of the licensing authority granting or refusing to grant a licence under the Act may appeal to the prescribed authority. Thiru Thiruvenkatachari does not dispute that under this provision the appellant could file an appeal to the Board, but his submission is that the scope of the appeal should be limited to a contention that statutory rules, like Rule 14, have been violated, and that in respect of other matters, the position of the appellant is no better than a member of the public, who also could send representations to Collector under Rule 106 (a).
13. His further submission is that, if the statutory rules are not violated, a person like the appellant cannot deem himself to be aggrieved for the purpose of filing a writ petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution. The learned counsel cited the following decisions in support of his contention: State of Orissa v. Madangopal, ; Calcutta Gas Co. Ltd. v. State of West Bengal,
; State of Punjab v. Suraj Prakash Kapur,
; Devasahaym v. State of Madras, 1958-1 Mad LJ 38, (58) = ILR (1958) Mad 158 = (AIR 1958 Mad 53) and Saling Borough Council v. Jones, 1959-1 All ER 226 = 1959-2 WLR 194.
14. In our opinion, this contention is absolutely untenable. Under Section 5 (1) the Collector shall also take into consideration any representations made by persons already giving cinematograph exhibitions in or near the proposed locality. The appellant is such a person. He had, therefore, a statutory right of representation. He could obviously make a representation under Section 5 (1)(d) that the existing place for the exhibition of cinematograph films in the locality were adequate and that no licence for a touring cinema should be granted. Otherwise, there was no point in giving him a right of representation. He could agitate the matter, if the Collector issued a licence overruling his objections. He would be a person aggrieved by the decision of the licensing authority and could appeal under Section 5 (7). In the appeal also he could urge that the existing cinemas were adequate. In the same way, if the appellate authority grants a licence, as he did in this case, the person already giving cinematograph exhibitions would be a person aggrieved and could file a writ petition under Art, 226 of the Constitution, which of course, would be a more restricted remedy than an appeal.
15. The decisions cited by Thiru Thiruvenkatachari merely lay down that Art. 226 can be invoked only to enforce a legal right and that ordinarily it must be a personal or individual right of the applicant. The same test has been reiterated in Swami Motor Transport Ltd. v. Raman and Raman Ltd., (FB) and Lakshminarayanan v. Maruthappa Nainar, (FB). In the last mentioned case, after discussing the authorities, it is states (at page 86)(of Mad LJ) = (at p. 142 of AIR):--
"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 could, manifestly under the principles discussed above, be entitled to apply for relief under Art. 226."
It was decided under the Rice Milling Industry (Regulation) Act (21 of 1958). We are of opinion that the above decision will apply to an existing cinema operator, who objects to the grant of a no-objection certificate under the Madras Cinemas (Regulation) Act 1955; he has a legally enforceable personal right. It may be added that Muthukaruppasami Moopanar himself impleaded Murugan Theatre as a respondent in the appeal filed by him to the Board and notice was issued to Murugan Theatre and the party was heard, and rightly. We have no doubt that in this case Murugan Theatre was entitled to file a writ petition against the order of the Board.
16. In the result, the writ appeal is allowed and a writ of certiorari will issue quashing the order of the Board of Revenue. The parties will, however, bear their own costs in the appeal.
17. Appeal allowed.