1. The same question of law is involved in these three Letters Patent Appeals against the judgments of Subba Rao J. in three applications for the issue of writs of 'certiorari' and 'mandamus' against proceedings under the Motor Vehicles Act. The question arises on the following facts which are substantially common to all the three petitions though they related to different districts in the State. There were applications to the concerned Regional Transport Authorities for the issue of bus permits. One of the applicants was the District Co-operative Society for Ex-servicemen. It is common ground that the Collector of the concerned district is the President of the respective Co-operative Society. It is also common ground that the Collector of the district is a member of the Regional Transport Authority which has to adjudicate on the comparative claims of the applicants and which is under a duty to decide as to who should be granted the permit.
In all the three cases, a permit was granted to the respective Co-operative Society in the district. In all the three cases, the Collector happened to be the President of the respective Regional Transport Authority and took part in the proceedings in which the permit was granted. Two objections 'inter alia' were taken by and on behalf of the other applicants, namely, (1) that the District Collector was disqualified from being appointed as a member of the Regional Transport Authority, because he had a financial interest in a Transport undertaking, and (2) the order of the Regional Transport Authority was contrary to the principles of natural justice because the Collector who was a member of the Regional Transport Authority was also the President of the Co-operative Society which was one of the applicants.
Subba Rao J. overruled the first objection which was based on Section 44 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act. Under that provision, no person who has any financial interest whether as proprietor, employee or otherwise in any transport undertaking shall be appointed or continue as a member of a Provincial or Regional Transport Authority. The learned Judge held that the Collector of the District did not have any financial Interest in the Co-operative Society of which he was 'ex officio' the President and therefore he was not disqualified under that provision.
2. The learned Judge however upheld the second objection. He held that the order of the Regional Transport Authority issuing a permit to the Co-operative Society in each of these cases was not valid, because the President of the Society, namely, the Collector took part in the proceedings of the Regional Transport Authority, as one of its members. The reasoning of the learned Judge which was based on several decisions of English Courts to which reference was made before him was shortly this: Members of the Regional Transport Authority performed a judicial or quasi-judicial function in deciding on the applications made to the Authority for the grant of a permit and the member of such a body should not have a bias which is likely to affect his impartiality. It is not necessary that actual partiality should be established before the proceedings of that body are vitiated. The presence of a member having a bias vitiates 'ab initio' the constitution of the body itself. On this ground, the learned Judge quashed the orders of the Regional Transport Authority granting the permits to the respective Co-operative Societies.
3. In the three appeals before us, in one of the appeals the Government, is the appellant, and in the other two, the parties affected by the decision of Subba Rao J. are the appellants.
4. We agree with the learned Judge that the Collector of the District was not disqualified from being appointed as a member of the Regional Transport Authority under Section 44 (2) of the Act, merely because he happened to be the 'ex officio' president of the respective Co-operative Society for ex-servicemen. We are also in agreement with the learned Judge on the second point. It is not necessary to discuss at length the legal principles which have been well established in dealing with the proceedings of inferior tribunals entrusted with judicial and quasi-judicial functions. One of the great principles of civilised jurisprudence which is a part of the law in Britain and which has been adopted in this country is that no man shell be a judge in his own cause.
Closely allied to this principle is the other salutary principle that it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done but manifestly and undoubtedly seem to be done The combined result of these two well established principles is that irrespective of the possitaility or otherwise of actual partiality being proved, the constitution of a tribunal entrusted with judicial or quasi-judicial functions is deemed to be bad if and when it deals with any case in which it can be said that one of the members of that body is among the suitors or litigants before the body. See Halsbury's Laws of England, 2nd Edn., Vol. IX, page 883 ct seq.
5. Reference was made to a recent decision of the Allahabad High Court in -- 'Jagat Bus Service v. Stale Transport Authority', (A), in which it was held that merely be-cause the
Government owns an undertaking its servants and officials as such are not disqualified from being appointed as members of the State or Regional Transport Authority. We agree. But this decision was not concerned with facts like what we have before us in these appeals. The decision related to an interpretation of Section 44 (2), Motor Vehicles Act, and we are in entire agreement with the construction placed by the learned Judge on this provision. But it is of interest to note that in the judgment of Agarwala J. the following observations occur :
"I cannot part with this case, however, without observing that although I have held above that Government servants who are not servants in the Government Roadways undertaking may be lawfully appointed as members of the State or Regional Transport Authorities, the Government should in the larger interest of the State consider how far it will be desirable or advisable to appoint such persons to those bodies. Having regard to the scheme of the Motor Vehicles Act, the State or the Regional Transport Authorities are intended to be independent statutory bodies with quasi-judicial functions. They are expected to bring an independent mind to bear upon the problems presented to them for solution.
When the Government itself was not running any transport undertaking and was not competing with the private individuals in the business of transport, there could have been no objection to Government servants directly or indirectly connected with the Roadways being appointed to these quasi-judicial tribunal's. But now that the Government itself has become one of the interested parties, such of its servants as are directly or indirectly connected with the Roadways department cannot in the nature of things, inspire confidence in the minds of the public that they would get justice from the tribunals composed entirely or partially of the employees of one of the parties to the dispute. It has been said that justice must not only be done but seem to be done. I would say that the rule is equally applicable to all officers of law or statutory bodies called up to perform functions which are either judicial or quasi-judicial."
These observations so far as they go, do not run counter to the view which we have expressed.
6. Our attention was drawn to a recent decision of the Supreme Court of India in -- 'Ibrahim v. Regional Transport Authority, Tanjore', A.1R 1853 SC 79 (B). That case related to the fixing of a place for a bus stand. The Regional Transport Authority was entrusted with this function and the Collector of the District presided over a meeting of the Transport Authority which duly notified the Municipal bus stand in the place of a private bus stand which existed previously. The owner of the private bus stand applied for a writ under Article 226 of the Constitution to quash the order of the Regional Transport Authority, and one of the grounds on which he attacked the order of the Authority was that the District Collector who presided over the meeting of the Transport Authority had himself opened the new municipal bus stand sometime earlier. The suggestion was that he did not bring to bear upon the question an impartial and unbiassed mind. This objection was overruled by the Supreme Court' with the following observations:
"The District Collector was not acting in the exercise of judicial or quasi-judicial functions so that his action can be subjected to the scrutiny which is permissible in the case of a judicial officer. He was acting purely in his executive capacity and his conduct in presiding over the meeting of the Transport Authority in the exercise of his normal functions and also opening the Municipal stand which he was entitled to do as the head of the District, does not affect the validity or fairness of the order complained against."
It must not be overlooked that their Lordships of the Supreme Court in that case were dealing with an order of the Transport Authority fixing a particular place for a bus stand. It cannot be said that the said action was done in the exercise of judicial or quasi-judicial functions. But it cannot surely be denied that the Regional Transport Authority in dealing with applications for permits are acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity. It has been held over and over again in England that licensing justices who perform exactly similar functions as the Regional Transport Authority act judicially in granting or refusing licences and their orders are subject to the writ of 'certiorari'. With great respect we do not think that the observations of the Supreme Court can be relied on in this case to support an argument that the Regional Transport Authority of which the District Collector was a member was not acting in the exercise of judicial or quasi-judicial functions and that therefore its action could not be called in question before this Court on an application under Article 226 of the Constitution.
7. In our opinion, in this case, the Collector was a member of the Regional Transport Authority and was also one of the applicants before that authority. The fact that the Collector has this dual capacity 'ex officio' is neither here nor there. It is the same official capacity because of which he happens to be a member of the Regional Transport Authority as well as chairman of the Co-operative Society for ex-serviceman. He cannot be a judge in his own case. The order of the Regional Transport Authority in each of these cases was therefore rightly quashed by Subba Kao J.
8. The appeals are therefore dismissed. In L. P. A. No. 6 and 146 of 1953, the contesting respondent will be entitled to his costs from the appellant.