1. The appellant before us IT. M. Vythilingam Pillai) was the grantee in, respect of a stage' carriage permit for the route Cuddalors to Vridhachalam before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, Madras. The Regional Transport authority awarded the permit to one R. Lakshminarayana, who, aggrieved by the judgment of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, filed W. P. No. 637 of 1960 for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Tribunal. This was heard by Srinivasan, J. who held that the basis of the order of the tribunal was vitiated both by error of law apparent on the record, and by an assumption, by the tribunal, of a jurisdiction in excess of the restraint imposed Under Section 57 14) of the Motor Vehicles Act. The a order was quashed and as we stated earlier, the grantee before the Tribunal appeals.
2. Before the Regional Transport authority there were as many as 38 applicants but six of them were absent at the hearing, and the rest were heard; the proceedings resulted: in the grant of the permit to R. Lakshminarayanan, that present first respondent. There were sixteen appellants before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, and their respective claims have been discussed by that tribunal in a judgment that runs to 75 paragraphs. Both statutory bodies adopted the system of marks under the relevant Government orders, and the revised tabulation of the Tribunal will be found set forth in paragraph 51 of its judgment. We are not now concerned with the claims of the others, except the| present appellant and the present first respondent. Both of them equally obtained 1 1/2 marks, and it is important to scrutinise and set forth, with some care, the/ grounds upon which the tribunal preferred T. M. Vythilingam Piliai, appellant, and made him the grantee. For, the vital aspect of the appeal is, whether the learned Judge, Srinivasan J. was justified in issuing the writ quashing the order, when those grounds are distinct, and one of them could validate the Preference exercised, though another ground might be a misdirection in law, or, the assumption of a jurisdiction in excess of the inhibition of Section 57 (4) of the: Act. The facts of this matter are quite simple, but, and this is all the more essential, because of the length of the Judgment of the Tribunal, the separable grounds of justification for the grant have to be distinctly set forth, and not regarded as compounded together.
3. Both the appellant and the first respondent qualified as small operators, to the exclusion of other applicants who obtained equal marks, or even greater marks, but who had to be disqualified as large operators and fleet owners; their cases, as earlier stated by us, are not now in the controversy. The appellant had one permit in addition to the grant, and the first respondent, Lakshminarayanan, had four. We must reiterate that, before the tribunal, each of them obtained the same marks upon qualifications (l-1/2). In addition to the four permits, the first respondent had succeeded in obtaining a permit for the route Pondicherry to Kalapet, of which four miles is in Pondicherry territory and four miles is in Madras State. The circumstances under which that permit was' obtained by the first respondent are as follows.
4. The meeting before the Regional Transport authority was held on 29-6-1S59. The Motor Vehicles Act seems to have been extended to Pondicherry State) with effect from 19-6-1959, by a notification of the Central Government. Prior to that, certain Regulations of Pondicherry governed the issue of permits within that State, whether the permits related to routes exclusively within that State, or to routes which included any extent in Madras State as well. Under the law then prevalent, the concerned authorities in Pondicherry passed a resolution on 25-24958 approving the grant of this permit in favour of R. Lakshminarayanan. But this was subject to the concurrence of the Regional Transport authority, South Arcot, as four miles of the route lay within the South Arcot Dt. The administrative concurrence of the Regional Transport authority, South Arcot, was obtained on 19-2-1959. The concurrence was recorded by the Pondicherry authorities on 1-3-1959, and on 7-4-1959, those authorities passed a formal order granting the permit to the first respondent.
5. These facts are, not in dispute, but, throughout the proceedings before the tribunal, it appears to have been strenuously contended on behalf of the first respondent that, though the permit itself was authorised on 7-4-1959, the formal issue was on 2-7-1959, and the. communication to the grantee was only in the first week of July 1959. With regard to the distance of four mites, which is part of the route, lying in South Arcot Dt. the, first respondent was granted a permit by the relevant Regional Transport Authority on 11-8-1959. We may here note that the argument regarding the date of receipt off formal orders relating to the permit by the first respondent is not of much significance, for the tribunal specifically finds that the1 Pondicherry State proceedings (Motor No. 805 dated 7-4-1959) were communicated to the first respondent on 13-4-1959. In other words, the first respondent undoubtedly had adequate knowledge! of this grant in his favour, which he could have disclosed before the Regional Transport authority, if he had been so minded.
6. Upon these facts, the Appellate Tribunal proceeded to consider two relevant aspects. The first was, whether the first respondent was not guilty of making false representations, when he claimed that till the first week of July 1959, he had no certain knowledge: of the grant of the Pondicherry permit in his favour. It was Urged per contra, before the Tribunal, that the statements made by the first respondent or. by learned counsel on his behalf, amounted to fraud and misrepresentation, and that the permit should not be granted upon, this ground, having reference to Section 60 (d) of the Act. But this argument did not find favour with the State Transport appellate Tribunal. The Tribunal observed that these were false statements made only in the course of the; appear the falsity of which could well have been exposed by other counsel. Actually, the conclusion was as follows:
'I feel, therefore, that the permit cannot be set aside on the sole ground of the falsity of the statements of the respondent (Lakshminarayanan) and of his counsel on his behalf. But I also feel that the falsity of the statements can be taken into account for refusing to grant him any privilege or indulgence......But I do not wish to rest my decision in the present case on this ground of denial of the privilege on the ground of falsity of statements, because, in my opinion, the permit has got to be set aside even apart from the falsity of the statements on ground that the Pondi-Kalapet permit must be taken into account.....'
7. In other words, though the Tribunal did express itself somewhat hesitantly, to the effect that the: falsity of the representations could well be considered for denying any indulgence or privilege to the first respondent, the actual decision did not rest on this basis. The actual decision rested on certain other alternative grounds. The first was that, the Pondicherry-Kalapet permit could be taken into account, in addition to the four permits already possessed by the first respondent. This actually would have made the first respondent a fleet owner, technically, and would have thus constituted a sufficient and complete ground of disqualification, at least as against the claims of the appellant, who was a single bus owner with equal marks. But, even here, the Tribunal was not prepared to adopt such a clear and definite course, while it was prepared to regard the possession of the permit on the Pondicherry Kalapet route by the first respondent as tilting the scales in favour of this appellant, the actual grantee. For, upon this aspect the tribunal stated-
'........ .I am assuming.... that the Pondi-Kalapet permit need not account as the 5th permit, so as to take the respondent out of the category of small operators and disentitle him to the preference in the case G. O.'.
The Tribunal also observed that there was one circumstance in favour of the first respondent as against the appellant, the grantee before it. The workshop of the appellant was not fully equipped, whereas the workshop possessed by the first respondent at cuddalor was fully equipped, and he had also other workshops and a branch office at Nelveli. But, according to the Tribunal, these facilities possessed by the first respondent would not avail him to obtain the permit, as against the appellant grantee. There were two distinct grounds for this perspective of approach. The first was, as we have stated earlier, that, in addition to the four permits, the 'first respondent had the Pondicherry-Kalapet permit, which would tilt the scales in favour of the appellant grantee. the second was that, in any event, the grantee, vythilinga Pillai, was only an one-bus operator 'and generally speaking it will not be unreasonable to encourage an one-bus operator by allowing him to become a two-bus operator, particularly as against a person like the respondent who, (resides that four permits, has also the Pondy Kalapet permit.' In other words, since the grantee had one other permit, and the first respondent had four other permits at least, the preference of the grantee could be validated on this basis, even if both were regarded as small operators [G. 0. No. 1298 admittedly not being relied on in the present case). It is unfortunate that the language of the judgment of the Tribunal is somewhat lacking both in lucidity and definiteness. in these appropriate contexts; that largely springs from the hesitancy and cam with which the rival claims of these two persons have been assessed. But it would be quite an unfair interpretation of the Judgment of the tribunal, to assume that at least one distinct ground of preference was not the fact that, as between these rivals, who had equal marks and possessed approximately equal facilities, the grantee before the tribunal was only an one-bus operator, while the first respondent had four other permits. In the view of the Tribunal, this out-weighed any advantage the first respondent could claim by the possession of better workshop facilities.
8. Srinivasan, J. issued the writ upon two quits simple grounds. The first was that the Tribunal acted in excess of jurisdiction by taking into account the facts of the Pondecherry-Katapet route; there was no representation Under Section 57 (3) of the Act by any of the parties, and the matter was not adverted to even in the grounds of appeal before the Tribunal. In a passage in the judgment of the Tribunal, the Tribunal concedes this position, but observes that the judicial conscience of the Tribunal must be satisfied on the facts and circumstances, and hence that thy Tribunal had jurisdiction itself to proceed into the question, as the preference indicated in the Government Order was a kind of 'equitable privilege and not a matter of right'. The learned Judge (Srinivasan J.) did not agree with this view. He considered that the facts relating to the Pondicherry-Kalapet permit essentially constituted a matter which should come within the scope of a representation Under Section 57 (3) of the Act He pointed out that the situation might be otherwise, in cases where representations affecting public interests had to be canvassed. But this was not such a case, and all the applicants must have been fully aware of the facts of the Pondicherry-Kalapet permit, and, in the absence of a relevant representation, the Tribunal could not make this a ground of preference. The learned Judge further observed that though the Motor Vehicles Act was extended to the Pondicherry State) with effect from 19-6-1959, the legal entity was different; 'it cannot be regarded that the same Act is in force in the two territories.' Owing to certain complications arising from Treaty Rights with regard to Pondicherry State between France and the Government of India, and in respect of the exercise of jurisdiction under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act by the Government of India, that State could still be regarded as technically outside the Indian Union, and the mere extension of the Motor Vehicles Act to the area, would not thereby ipso facto render the two Acts identical. On this aspect certain arguments have been addressed before us by the learned Advocate-General on behalf of the appellant. He has cited the observations of Balakrishna Aiyar J. in Radhakrishna v. State of Madras, : AIR1960Mad231 , upon the legal consequences of the Pondicherry enclave, with regard to movements to and from India and that foreign territory. He has also cited the. judgment of the Privy Council in Papiah Naidu v. Raja of Ramnad , concerning the extension of the Transfer of Property Act to the Civil and Military Station of Bangalore Wider the Indian (Foreign Jurisdiction) Order, 1902. But we think it is quite superfluous to proceed into this technical and debatable aspect of the situation. It is sufficient for us to point out that the learned Judge (Srinivasan J.) though he was' of the view that the entire permit must be regarded as integral and liable to be excluded from consideration, because it related to a foreign territory, was also prepared to concede that there was a distinct permit granted by the Regional Transport authority, South Arcot, for the four mites in Madras State. That permit at least, could be taken into consideration in assessing the rival claims of the parties. The learned Judge really rested his decision upon the excess of jurisdiction: of the Tribunal in considering the question at all, in spite of absence of any representation Under Section 57 (3) of the Act. His view was that the taking into account of this foreign permit. treating it integrally, was an error of law and that, in any event, when the Tribunal made the matter at all a basis of preference, it both exceeded jurisdiction in respect of a statutory inhibition (Section 57 (3)) and committed an error of law apparent on the face of the record. Those are the grounds stated, justifying the issue of the writ.
9. But the learned Judge appears to have entirely overlooked the other distinct ground of preference, namely, the fact that as one of these two small operators (appellant) is a one bus operator, he was clearly entitled to be preferentially considered as against the first' respondent, a four-bus operator. We have already extracted the passage from the judgment of the tribunal, where this ground of preference is unambiguously stated. It may be that the mind of the tribunal, with regard to its decision, was also influenced by the facts of the Pondicherry-Kalapet permit. But where there are distinct and separable grounds of preference, and one of them is indisputably valid, this court would not be justified in interfering, in writ jurisdiction, merely because another ground is opposed to law. Even here, we are unable to hold that, in taking the Pondicherry-Kalapet permit into consideration, or at least in taking into consideration a part of it which relates to the four miles in Madras territory, covered by the concurrence, the tribunal committed an error of law apparent on the face of the record. The issue is at least debatable, and it is not every error of law which will be rectified by this court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. It is true that the preponderance of authority appears to favour the view that, at least with regard to a matter which does not directly impinge on public interests or the wider issues of such interest, there should be a representation Under Section 57(3) of the Act, before notice could be taken of a ground of preference or disqualification. But it has to be carefully noted that the decision of the Tribunal did not rest upon this alone, or upon this even in a primary sense; it equally rested upon the preference with regard to the permits admittedly possessed by the parties prior to the grant. Sri Kumaramangaiam for the first respondent is unable to show how this ground of preference could , be impugned or exorcised away in any manner; it is there in the judgment of the; Tribunal, though the statement of it might be less than happy. In order to justify interference in writ jurisdiction, the error of law must be apparent on the face of the record, and must have directly led to the result or caused it. Otherwise, if the result can be justified as a distinct ground, it may be proper for this court to point out and correct the error of law in its judgment, for the* guidance of the concerned statutory body, but it will not be proper to make that a basis for interference by quashing the order. We are, hence, constrained to allow the appeal, and to set aside the writ issued by the learned Judge, thus restoring the grant of the permit to the appellant. There will be no order as to costs.