1. These four writ petitions arise out of the same order for granting a stage carriage permit in respect of one bus to ply on the route Pondicherry to Neyveli via. Villianur, Ariyur, Madagadipet, etc. There were 52 applicants before the State Transport Authority and 18 appellants before the State Appellate Tribunal who came before it after the grant was made to one P. C. Purushothama Reddiar, writ petitioner in W.P. No. 1710 of 1970. In these four writ petitions, the grant made by the Appellate Authority in favour of one Vanataya who is the contesting respondent in all the writ petitions is challenged. I shall now deal with the writ petitions one after another.
2. The contention of P. C. Purushothama Reddiar in W.P. No. 1710 of 1970 is that Vanataya (hereinafter referred to as the grantee) is not a resident of Pondicherry but ordinarily resides in Cuddalore; that he has not a shed as required under the rules governing such grants; and that the grantee did not produce a solvency certificate at the time when the enquiry was undertaken by the Appellate Tribunal. On behalf of the grantee, it is stated that he has a residence in Pondicherry, that Mr. Reddiar was denied the grant because his history sheet is not clean, that in so far as the shed is concerned, it is a matter which is not absolutely required under the rules, and that the solvency certificate has been produced before the authorities at the time of the enquiry. No further contention was urged before me by Mr. Reddiar and hence I am not dealing with any other aspect of the case.
3. In W.P. No. 2823 of 1970 the Writ Petitioner is challenging the grant in favour of the grantee on the ground that the Appellate Authority did make a wrong noting in the order as if the history sheet of the writ petitioner was not clean. Therefore, he would state that there is an error apparent, though he would concede that there has been a comparison of the qualification as between him and the grantee as generally required.
4. In W.P. Nos. 2562 and 3512 of 1970 a common point arises. It is not disputed by the grantee that the Appellate Tribunal whose order is challenged here, did not make any attempt to compare the relative merits of each of the writ petitioners along side the qualifications of the grantee excepting for a bare and casual reference made to them. While comparing the merits of the writ petitioners with those of the writ petitioner in W.P. No. 2023 of 1970; no attempt was made by the Tribunal to so compare their qualifications with the grantee and it does not appear from the record that any reasons have been given as to why these writ petitioners have to be screened at all.
5. I shall now consider the contentions in W.P. No. 1710 of 1970. The factual contention is that the grantee is a non-resident of Pondicherry. This is not borne out by record. As a matter of fact, the Appellate Tribunal in its order refers to the fact that the grantee has a sector qualification of 16 miles for the route in question and adds that he is a motor vehicle operator in respect of the route Pondicherry to Villianur (6 miles) and Villianur to Kalliapattu (10 miles). Apparently these two operations namely. Pondicherry to Villanur and Villanur to Kallipattu, are operations undertaken by the grantee within the State of Pondicherry and it would be highly improbable for any one to assume that the grantee is not a resident of Pondicherry, even though he is the local enterpreneur having a permit under the Motor Vehicles Act to operate vehicles whose starting point is Pondicherry and whose destination is another place within the same State. Again, a public record was produced before me so as to elucidate further the fact that the grantee is a resident of Pondicherry. The said document is translated to be an encumbrance certificate which was apparently produced by the grantee in connection with his solvency certificate. This also describes the grantee as a resident of Pondicherry, I am, therefore, unable to agree with Mr. Reddiar that the grantee cannot be deemed or accepted as a resident of Pondicherry.
The second contention is that there is no clinching material on record to show that the grantee has a shed inside the State for operational purposes. The State Transport Authority, as it is called in the State of Pondicherry, has referred to this aspect and finds that the grantee has arrangements for a shed at Pondicherry. But what is urged by Mr. M. K. Nambiar, the learned counsel for Mr. Reddiar, is that the rules governing the issue of permits under the Motor Vehicles Act, as applied in the State of Pondicherry, make it encumbent upon the authorities to find that there is a bus shed at Pondicherry and that is a condition precedent before any grant is made. The notification which contains the rules governing the issue of permits, uses the words 'have regard to' the matters specified therein. On such matter is the provision for a bus shed. It, therefore, follows that the provisions for a bus shed is one of the matters which the Transport Authorities should have regard to while granting or refusing a stage carriage permit. The words 'have regard to' in the context in which they appear in the notification, do not appear to be mandatory as ordinarily understood, but the provision for a bus shed seems to be one of the matters which shall also be taken into consideration by the Transport authorities while considering applications for a grant. The very text of the notification, when analysed, gives the impression that the matters therein stated should be considered by the authorities and it does not say that such requirements enumerated therein are compulsive or exhaustive, as the case may be. Even otherwise, factually, in the instant case the Transport Authority finds that the grantee has arrangements for a bus shed in Pondicherry. Thus, the mere fact that no reference has been made to it by the appellate authority cannot by itself be a ground to ignore a factual situation, namely, arrangements made by the grantee for the provision of a bus shed at Pondicherry.
6. The third contention is that the appellate authority ought not to have taken into consideration the various remarks made in the history sheet of Mr. Reddiar, as according to the learned counsel they are either technical or trivial. There are five entries in the history sheet out of which entry 5 is not one which could be relied upon, for there is record to show that, that charge has been ultimately dropped by the appropriate authority. We are, therefore, left with four entries, out of which two have a direct impact upon the operational efficiency of the motor vehicle operator. It is not disputed that Mr. Reddiar was charged for over-speeding on one occasion and on a second occasion for arriving at the destination 6 minutes earlier. The second charge also reflects over-speeding. It cannot be denied that a motor vehicle operator who has an eye on his trade and business, should also remember that public convenience and public interest are very much involved in his enterprise. He should avoid public hazards, and, if consistently the petitioner has been found to have been over-speeding at one time and arriving at the terminal earlier than prescribed at another time, it is indicative of the anxiety of the motor vehicle operator to gain his commercial end as against public interest, as such over-speeding or excessive speeding is against social interest. These two entries in the history sheet cannot lightly be ignored. So far as the other two entries are concerned, the Tribunal holds that one is a technical offence and another, an offence against public interests. This conclusion, the Tribunal entitled to reach and it is within its jurisdiction to reach such a conclusion. There is no abnormality in the decision so arrived at. Having regard to the fact that there are four entries in history sheet of Mr. Reddiar which were apparently recorded during the operations conducted by him as a motor vehicle operator, the Tribunal came to the conclusion that Mr. Reddiar has to be eliminated from consideration. This is not a case in which the Tribunal did not exercise its mind over the factual situations and merits; but, on the other hand, it did exhaustively deal with the merits in relation to law which was cited before it and come to the conclusion that Mr. Reddiar who is writ petitioner in W.P. No. 1710 of 1970 is not a fit and proper person to be considered for the purpose of the grant. There being no error of law or error apparent in the order challenged, the petitioner cannot succeed.
7. The gravamen of the charge of the writ petitioner in W.P. No. 2023 of 1970 is that the Appellate Tribunal, while considering the so-called history sheet of the petitioner is said to have found two entries therein when in fact it is stated by the grantee himself that the history sheet of the petitioner is clean. No doubt, a mistake has crept into the record. The question is whether this mistake is by itself sufficient for the petitioner to gain the rule absolute.
8. While considering the merits inter se between the writ petitioner and the grantee, the Appellate Tribunal finds that the grantee should be preferred, because (1) the grantee has a clean history sheet which the writ petitioner has not, (2) he has greater experience which is not denied and (3) he has also larger sector qualification which cannot be disputed. Therefore, taking to totality of circumstances into consideration, I do not think that the mere error of noting as regards contents of the history sheet which is likely to happen in such a case when 18 appellants and their merits are considered by the Tribunal should form the basis for the issue of a discretionary rule. I am unable to say that manifest injustice has been done in having negatived the right of grant to this writ petitioner. The matter considered as a whole reflects the position that on merits the writ petitioner was not preferred. There being no error of law or error of jurisdiction, the petitioner cannot have a grievance.
9. In W.P. Nos. 2562 and 3512 of 1970, the main contention of Mr. G. Ramaswami, the learned counsel for the petitioner in W.P. No. 2562 of 1970, appears to be well-founded. The writ petitioner in W.P. No. 2562 of 1970 was appellant No. 9 before the Appellate Tribunal and Writ Petitioner in W.P. No. 3512 of 1970, appellant No. 4 before it. Their grievance is that the qualifications of appellants 4 and 9 were not considered either by themselves or in contrast or comparison with the merits of the grantee. At one place while considering the merits of the appellants before it, the Appellate Tribunal observed:
'Appellants 4 and 9 have been granted permits at the same sitting of the State Transport Authority on 7-12-1968 in respect of other routes'
Except for making this bald allegation which possibly is a fact, this is not even mentioned as a ground for not preferring appellants 4 and 9. It is no doubt now settled by this Court that a recent grant is one of the circumstances which ought to be taken into consideration by the appropriate authorities while considering applications for grants under the Motor Vehicles Act. But that would not be the be all and end all of the situation--vide Kannan Motor Trans. (P) Ltd. v. Prabhu Trans. (P) Ltd., : (1970)2MLJ73 and W.P. No. 218 of 1962 (Mad). Be that as it may, as I observed already the fact that appellants 4 and 9 (writ petitioners in W.P. Nos. 2562 and 3512 of 1970) had the benefit of a recent grant was not perused by the Appellate Authority and that was not made the reason for its decision to exclude the writ petitioners. 'Though the principle of elimination is, no doubt, inherent in the process of selection of a motor vehicle operator for the purpose of a grant one or more routes, such elimination has to be done by disclosed reasoning which should appear ex facie in the order itself. I am of the view that, however, complicated and practically difficult the matter might be in view of plurality of applications for the grant before the Tribunal, still the merits of each of those applicants or appellants are not only to be considered but seem to have been demonstrably considered by such Tribunals which are obviously dealing with the rights of parties and are functioning as quasi-judicial Tribunals. This is the view also of the Supreme Court in Sri Rama Vilas (P) Ltd. v. Chandrasekaran, : 5SCR869 . Gajendragadkar, J. (as he then was) observed:--
'Large stakes are generally involved in these applications, and so it is of utmost importance that the appropriate authority should consider all the relevant facts carefully and in its order should set out concisely and clearly the reasons in support of its conclusions. It is hardly necessary to emphasise that applicants for permits whose applications are rejected should be satisfied that all points urged by them in support of their respective claims have been duly considered before the matter was decided'.
Therefore, the litigant public who are involved in such large stakes are to be satisfied both subjectively and objectively that their grievance and representations have been fully heard, considered and adjudicated upon by the statutory authorities. In the instant case, it does not appear to me that such a necessary consideration of the merits has ever been given or thought of by the Appellate Tribunal. It is surprising that the Tribunal should have so summarily done it with the merits of these two writ petitioners. As a matter of fact, it is stated in W.P. No. 2562 of 1970 that the writ petitioner is a local enterpriser, that his section qualifications are better, that he has his own workshop and also shed facilities and that he has experience from 1952. These are all material circumstances to be gone into by the Appellate Tribunal. This not having been done and the adjudication in the above sense not being full, there has not been a proper exercise of jurisdiction by the Appellate Tribunal. In this view, there is an error of law apparent on record. The petitioners are, therefore, entitled to the relief.
10. The next point is to what relief the writ petitioners are entitled.
11. W.P. Nos. 1710 and 2823 of 1970 are dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.
12. In so far as the order challenged by the writ petitioners in W.P. Nos. 2562 and 3512 of 1970 is concerned, the grant in favour of the grantee is set aside and the matter is remitted back to the Appellate Tribunal for being reconsidered on the merits and respective qualifications of the writ petitioners vis-a-vis the grantee. The Tribunal shall hear these two writ petitioners and the grantee and none others, reappraise the material and evidence relevant for the purpose and decide the issue. There will be no order as to costs in these two writ petitions.
13. Order accordingly.