G. Ramanujam, J.
1. These petitions have been filed under Article 133 (1) of the Constitution of India seeking leave to appeal to Supreme Court against the order in Writ Appeal Nos. 437 to 439 of 1969 on the file of this Court dismissing the appeals in limine.
2. The above appeals were filed against the common judgment of Natesan, J., in W.P. Nos. 1 and 3619 of 1967 and 408 of 1968 which arose out of proceedings for the grant of a stage carriage permit in respect of route Chidambaram to Thirukoilur. There were 42 applications before the Regional Transport Authority, South Arcot for the grant of a stage carriage permit on the said route. The petitioner in W.P. No. 1 of 1967 was the grantee before the Regional Transport Authority. But the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, on appeal, however, set aside the said grant made by the Regional Transport Authority and preferred Kannan Motor Transports, the first respondent in W.P. No. 1 of 1967 for the grant of permit. Writ petition 1 of 1967 has been filed by the grantee from the Regional Transport Authority and the petitioners in the other writ petitions were among the aggrieved and unsuccessful applicants.
3. All the three writ petitions were heard together by Natesan, J. It was urged before the learned Judge by all the writ petitioners that the grant made to Kannan Motor Transports, the common first respondent in all the writ petitions by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal was vitiated on the ground that the respondent has became a five bus operator by the issue of two recent grants in respect of two routes, one of which having a common sector with the route in question, that in fairness the other applicants who are not found otherwise unsuitable and whose merits are more or less equal with the first respondent should have been considered for the grant of permit and that the grant made to the first respondent who had been a grantee of two permits recently would be against public interest. The learned Judge, after referring to the decision of Veeraswami, J., (as he then was) in writ petition Nos. 852 and 1049 of 1962 which was relied on by the Tribunal for holding that the question of recent grant in a different route altogether will not be relevant for considering the relative merits of the applicants, expressed that the criticism levelled by the writ petitioners against the order of the Tribunal was justified, that there has been in reality no selection at all by the Tribunal considering the claims of applicants together, that a comparative assessment with refrence to the relevant and material facts is lacking and that the ratio of the decisions relating to the relevancy of recent grants has not been properly understood by the Tribunal, and directed the Tribunal to consider the claims of the aggrieved writ petitioners and the first respondent afresh.
4. The writ appeals filed against the judgment in the above three writ petitions were dismissed at the admission stage upholding the view taken in the writ petitions. In the order dismissing the writ appeals it was noted that the order directing the Tribunal to consider the relative claims afresh was based on the fact that there had been no proper consideration of the merits of the applicants by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal and that while reconsidering the matter the Tribunal should consider as a relevant circumstance the grant of permits more or less at the same time for different overlapping routes, as between competing operators.
5. In these present petitions the common first respondent in the writ petitions and the common appellant in the above writ appeals contends that he is entitled to the leave sought for as of right. It is his contention that the issues involved are substantial questions of law deserving to be certified as such by this Court under Article 133 (1) (a) of the Constitution. The judgment of this Court in appeal was in affirmance of the judgment of the learned Single Judge issuing the rule absolute and it was therefore necessary for the petitioners to establish that a substantial question of law is involved in the appeals sought to be filed before the Supreme Court. The substantial question of law that is said to arise in the proposed appeals before the Supreme Court is whether, while considering the relative merits of competing operators by the Tribunal in respect of a recent grant of permit for a particular route, the grant made to an applicant for the same route or a portion of the route or for a different route should be treated as a relevant circumstance or not. It is also said that this question has not been finally settled by the Supreme Court so far and that there is divergence of opinion in certain decisions of this Court.
6. We are not in a position to accept the contention put forward by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that the question involved in these cases is a substantial question of law so as to warrant the issue of a certificate either under Article 133 (1) (a) and (b) or under Article 133 (1) (c) of the Constitution.
7. As pointed out by Veeraswami, J., (as he then was) in Sivaram Transports v. Meenakshi Bus Transports W.P. Nos. 852 and 1049 of 1962.'
In motor transport cases which have come up to this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, the question as to what is relevant and what is not relevant has received shifting emphasis and approach and its treatment in decisions is closely related to the particular differing facts and circumstances; without reference to the facts no hard and fast rule in the abstract as to what is and what is not relevant can possibly be attempted or laid down. It has to be considered in the context....It should not be overlooked, while on the question of relevancy or irrelevancy of the circumstances to be taken into account that public interest is a governing factor in deciding to grant or not to grant a permit to a particular applicant in preference to a rival applicant.
Whether a particular circumstance is relevant or not has to depend on the facts of each case. What is not relevant in particular circumstances of grant or refusal of a permit may be relevant in another set of circumstances. Veeraswami, J., (as he then was) has pointed out in another case in Southern Roadways (Private) Ltd. v. Lal and Sons etc. W.P. Nos. 606 to 608 of 1961:
While it may be true that grant of another permit for the same route at the same sitting may not in itself be a relevant factor on the basis on which alone grant or refusal of permit in question can be made, remembering that the authority has to bear in mind among other things the public interest, there may be circumstances in which that fact may not be regarded as altogether irrelevant.
Where a recent grant related to routes with a common sector or in a major part with a common termini, that will be a relevant circumstance to be taken into account as has been held in M. Ramayya v. State of Madras (1951) 2 M.L.J. 597 : I.L.R. (1952) Mad. 698. Where a recent grant relates to a different route altogether and if that is the only circumstance present that in itself may not be a relevant circumstance or a sole ground for declining to grant the permit. If on the other hand there is a recent grant on a different route but the grantee has more permits when compared with other applicant, public interest may requite that monopoly should be avoided and in such circumstances a recent grant cannot be said to be an irrelevant consideration. In the nature of things, in deciding question of relevancy of a particular fact or circumstance, public interest is the governing factor and it is not possible to lay down as a proposition of law that a recent grant is a relevant circumstance or not irrespective of the facts of the case. That question has to depend on the circumstances of each case. It may be that the recent grant made in respect of a different route may be relevant in one set of circumstances and may not be relevant in a different set of circumstances. Taking for instance a case where one of the applicants for a permit has been granted a number of permits recently or simultaneously with the grant of the permit in question, though the recent grant have been made in respect of different routes, public interest may require that no further grant should be made to that applicant as his capacity might have reached the optimum limit and any further grant would reduce his operational efficiency. Even in respect of recent grants on the same route or a portion of the route in question it cannot be said as a rule that it should be taken as a relevant circumstance. Taking for instance a case of a town route, public interest may require that the grant should be given to a person already running his vehicle on the route with a view to increase the operational efficiency and to provide a co-ordinated system of transport within a particular area.
8. The learned Counsel for the petitioners also brought to our notice an unreported decision of a Bench of this Court in Lakshminarayanan v. State of Madras and Anr. W.A. Nos. 98 to 100 of 1959, where it had been observed that:
The mere circumstance that either recently or at any earlier time (the) operator was granted some other permit will hardly be a relevant factor.
But the learned Judges there have held that the question whether permits should be granted or not has to be decided with due regard to the interest of the public and that the Tribunal did consider that aspect of the matter and considered that the recent grant of three permits to the respondent therein would not in any way prejudice the interest of the public. According to us the decision above referred to also treats public interest as the prime consideration. The purport of all these decisions seems to be that the question of recent grant cannot be altogether ignored by the Tribunal but that it should be considered by the Tribunal along with other circumstances of the case and its relevancy or otherwise should depend upon the particular set of circumstances. The submission of the learned Counsel that the question of a recent grant is a relevant circumstance or not is a substantial question of law is not acceptable to us. It has to be noted that the statute is silent on this aspect.
9. The learned Counsel draws our attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in Sir Chunnilal V. Mehta and Sons Ltd. V. The Century Spinning and . (1962) 3 S.C.R. 549, where it has been held that a substantial question of law is one which is of general public importance or which directly or substantially affects the rights of parties and which have not been finally settled by the Supreme Court, the Privy Council or the Federal Court or which is not free from difficulty or which calls for discussion of alternative views by the Supreme Court. As already stated whether a particular circumstance is relevant or not has to be seen with reference to each case and it is not possible to divorce the particular set of circumstances under which the circumstance arises. In one of the decisions referred to above it has been held that if the recent grant related to a different route it may not be a relevant circumstance and in another it was ruled that if the recent grant was in relation to the route in question or part of it, it will be relevant. But as has been expressed by us even in respect of recent grants in a different route or in the same route it is possible to say that in one set of circumstances it is relevant and in another set of circumstances it is not relevant. On a due consideration of the matter we feel that the question does not involve a substantial question of law and as such it is not possible to grant the leave sought for by the petitioners. The petitions are therefore dismissed. No costs.