1. The short facts leading to this writ petition are as follows: The State Transport Authority, Madras, pursuant to Government D. 0. No. 114321/ Transport/VII-77-78 Home, dated 22-41978, has issued a circular No. 6/79 dated 25-1-1979: in RC No. A. 1/77110/78 to all the Regional Transport Authorities, Officers of the State Transport department and the Managing Directors of all State Transport undertaken in the following manner:-
''the matter has been examined in the light of the legal provisions. There is no need to hold' conference when a new route is opened or additional bus or buses or trips are introduced on existing routes either under Chapter IV or Chapter W-A of the Motor Vehicles Act. The Regional Transport Authority or the State Transport Authority can fix suitable timings with reference to the timings of other operators on the same route or over-lapping sectors. A timing conference can be held later, if there is any objection by any operator. All the Regional Transport officers and District Transport Commissioners are requested to bear these in mind while fixing timings.' The petitioner, who is a bus operator, in Madurai, district, with three route buses, has come up to this court against the grant of temporary permits by the 3rd respondent by its proceedings dated 12-4-1979, in favour of Pandian Roadways Corporation, Madurai, without notice to the petitioner who is an operator on the route under, which he had fixed the timings in a subjective fashion. This according to the petitioner was by reason of the transport authority following the above circular.
2. The argument, shortly put, is under Rule 269 of the Motor Vehicles Rules, the power on the authority to fix the timings is conferred. Against such fixation of timings or revision of timings,'an appeal is provided for under R. 147 of the Motor vehicle Rules. Where purporting to follow the circular the transport authorities fixed timings without reference to the existing operators every damage is done. That is clearly in violation of Rule 269, more so, when an appeal is provided for. In other words, the contention is, to a statutory authority who is bound by the Act and the rules, no administrative instruction can issue. It has been held by this court in Vedachala Mudaliar v. State of Madras : AIR1952Mad276 , that fixation of timings is a quasi judicial function. To such a quasi judicial authority to issue an adminstrative instruction not to follow the rule with regard to fixation of timings is clearly opposed to the rulings of this court in -Swami Motor Transport Ltd. v. Raman and Raman Ltd., : AIR1961Mad180 (FB).
3. As against this, the learned Government Pleader argues that inasmuch as under Rule 269 (2) of the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules, if the operator is w9rieved about the timings fixed unilaterally by the Regional Transport Authoritv, it will be well open to him to take that matter in appeal. That does not mean even at the initial fixation of timings, the operator should be heard.
4. Rule 269 of the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules contemplates two situations. Under clause (1), the initial fixation of timings to a route conferred upon an existing operator enables him to approach that authority to seek a revision. In the instant can, where the petitioner is already an operator on the route on which the Pandian Roadways Corporation is granted the permit, must certainly be considered to be an aggrieved party if timings are fixed without reference to him. After all, this court has laid down categorically in Vedachala Mudaliar % State of Madras : AIR1952Mad276 , that the power to fix the timings is a quasi judicial function. Where by reason of those proceeding the operator is likely to be affected, it is a basic and an elementary principle that he should be put on notice. The respondents cannot take shelter under the argument that Rule 269 (1) of the Tamil Motor Vehicles Rules itself does not template issue of notice, That may be so. The rule need not so state. But when the authority knows fully well by reason of the objections or otherwise that by the proposed fixation of timings, operators who are operating on the very route, or on a -sector of the route are likely to be affected, they will have to be put on notice and their objections be heard. This as I said above is the barest minimum by adhering to the principles of natural justice. In this view, I am not impressed with the arguments of the learned Government Pleader that Rule 269 (2) of the Tan-dl Nadu Motor Vehicles Rules enables the aggrieved operator to seek a revision of the timings. It has to be remembered in this connection that Rule 269 (2) of the rules comes into play after the damage is caused. Law cannot' be construed in such an unreasonable way.
5. The learned Government Pleader cites the decision reported in Union of India v. J. N. Sinha. : (1970)IILLJ284SC and then contends that the aim of the rules of natural justice is only not to supplant the law but to supplement it and there is no need to give notice. I am afraid the reliance placed on this decision is wholly unjustified. The observation of the Supreme Court came to be made in connection with a case of compulsory retirement under Rule 56 (i) of the Fundamental Rules. It is well-known that compulsory retirement amounts to punishment But, in the instant can, we are concerned with an operator who is aggrieved with the fixation of timings. Therefore, this contention is rejected.
6. In view of the above conclusion, it is necessary on my part to state that the circular, above extracted, cannot bind the transport -authority while they are bound only by the Act and the Rules. Turning to the prayer of the writ petitioner, Mr. G. Ramaswami, learned counsel for the petitioner himself states that if the declaration is given that the impugned circular is not binding on the transport authority, the petitioner does not want any relief in this writ petition. Recording this statement after having clarified the position as above this writ petition is dismissed. No costs.
7. I am informed that the petitioner has filed an application for revision of timings as early as August 1979, which perhaps has not been disposed of because of the pendency of this writ petition. Now that the writ petition has been dismissed, the Regional Transport Authority, Madurai is directed to consider the request of the petitioner-and pass orders on or before 31st, March 1980.
8. W. P. No. 1800 of 1979 - For the reasons stated above, this writ petition is also dismissed. No costs.
9. Petition dismissed.