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N.P. Motor Service (P.) Ltd. Vs. Andavar Transports (P.) Ltd. and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1970)1MLJ354
AppellantN.P. Motor Service (P.) Ltd.
RespondentAndavar Transports (P.) Ltd. and ors.
Cases ReferredRamaswami Goundar v. Obliswami Naidu C.M.P. No.
Excerpt:
.....passed under section 47 (3) fixing the number of stage carriages on a route, applications for grant of permits were considered by the regional transport authority under section 57 and while dealing with those applications, the regional transport authority was exercising the power both to fix the number of stage carriages as well as the person or persons to whom permit should be granted. after such determination has been made, a decision has to be taken at the second stage as to which of the applicants is best qualified for the grant of the permit. the considerations that weigh for deciding upon the number of stage carriages which could be allowed on a route while dealing with the question under section 47 (3) are quite different from the considerations which will be taken into..........on a particular route. section 48 prescribes the power of the regional transport authority to grant permits. section 57 provides for the procedure before granting the application for a permit, including a public hearing at which representations shall be heard. formerly, there was some uncertainty in the decisions as to the scope of section 47 (3) in the scheme of the act. it would appear that even without formal orders passed under section 47 (3) fixing the number of stage carriages on a route, applications for grant of permits were considered by the regional transport authority under section 57 and while dealing with those applications, the regional transport authority was exercising the power both to fix the number of stage carriages as well as the person or persons to whom permit.....
Judgment:

P. Ramakrishnan, J.

1. The order of reference to which two of us were parties sets out the question for decision. At the time of the hearing of the reference, the parties who appeared as petitioners in the civil miscellaneous petitions were heard through their counsel. The learned Government Pleader also was heard.

2. Under Section 42 of the Motor Vehicles Act, no motor vehicle can ply except in accordance with the terms and conditions of a permit granted by the Transport Authority. Section 47 of the Act prescribes the matters which should be taken into consideration while considering an application for such a permit. Section 47 (3) authorises the Regional Transport Authority to fix the number of buses on a particular route. Section 48 prescribes the power of the Regional Transport Authority to grant permits. Section 57 provides for the procedure before granting the application for a permit, including a public hearing at which representations shall be heard. Formerly, there was some uncertainty in the decisions as to the scope of Section 47 (3) in the scheme of the Act. It would appear that even without formal orders passed under Section 47 (3) fixing the number of stage carriages on a route, applications for grant of permits were considered by the Regional Transport Authority under Section 57 and while dealing with those applications, the Regional Transport Authority was exercising the power both to fix the number of stage carriages as well as the person or persons to whom permit should be granted. But recent decisions of the Supreme Court, starting from the decision in Abdul Mateen v. Ram Kailash : [1963]3SCR523 , have clarified the position beyond any manner of doubt. The gist of these decisions is that applications for the grant of stage carriage permits must be dealt with by the Regional Transport Authority in two stages. The first stage involves the determination under Section 47 (3) of the Act of the number of stage carriages which could be permitted to operate on the route. After such determination has been made, a decision has to be taken at the second stage as to which of the applicants is best qualified for the grant of the permit. The considerations that weigh for deciding upon the number of stage carriages which could be allowed on a route while dealing with the question under Section 47 (3) are quite different from the considerations which will be taken into account when deciding the person best qualified for the grant of the permit under Section 57 of the Act. In Abdul Mateen v, Ram Kailash : [1963]3SCR523 , it is observed:

Where a limit has been fixed under Section 47 (3) by the Regional Transport Authority and thereafter the said Authority proceeds to consider application for permits under Section 48 read with Section 57, the Regional Transport Authority must confine the number of permits issued by it within those limits.

The position is made further clear in Jayaram Motor Service v. Sri S. Rajarathinam and Ors. (1967) 2 S.C.W.R. 857, by the Supreme Court:

On an examination of the relevant provisions of the Act and the purpose behind Sections 47 and 57, we are convinced that before granting a stage carriage permit two independent steps have to be taken.

Firstly, there should be determination by the Regional Transport Authority under Section 47 (3) of the number of stage carriages for which stage carriage permits may be granted in that route. Thereafter applications for stage carriage permits in that route should be entertained. The Regional Transport Authority is not competent to grant stage carriage permits for more carriages than fixed under Section 47 (3).

In R. Obliswami Naida v. The Additional State Transport Appellate Tribunal, Madras : [1969]3SCR730 , the Supreme Court held that first there should be an order under Section 47 (3) and only thereafter applications for grant of stage carriage permits could be enter-tained. The right course in such cases would be to dismiss the applications in limine on the ground that there had been no prior order under Section 47 (3), and not keep the applications pending in order to await an order under Section 47 (3). Taking the principle of these decisions into consideration, a Bench of this Court consisting of Veeraswami, C. J., and Gokulakrishnan, J., held in--Gajendra Transports (P.) Ltd., Tiruppur v. Annamalai Bus Transports Ltd., Pollachi, and Anr. W.A. No. 274 of 1968. (Mad. H.C.), that an order under Section 47 (3) is a condition precedent to the exercise of the power under Section 48 (1) read with Section 57. The same Bench observed also that the absence of such an order under Section 47 (3) goes to the root of the jurisdiction of the Regional Transport Authority to exercise its power to grant a permit to an applicant under Section 48 (1) read with Section 57.

3. From the principles laid down above it follows as a broad proposition that once there has been a decision under Section 47 (3) of the number of permits for a given route, the Regional Transport Authority in dealing with the applications for the grant of such permits cannot exceed that number, nor can the State Transport Appellate Tribunal in appeal from the Regional Transport Authority's order exceed that number. The further question is whether when the decision of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal is challenged in a writ petition before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, the High Court by way of an interlocutory order can give a direction which will imply that both the grantee of the Regional Transport Authority and the grantee of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal can operate on their permits pending disposal of the writ petition. Prima facie such a direction cannot be given at the conclusion of the writ proceedings, because it will imply the grant of more permits than what have been settled under Section 47 (3) proceedings. It is clear to us that even at the interlocutory stage it would be illegal to give such a direction, because it will go contrary to the determination under Section 47 (3) as to the exact number of bus permits that can be granted for the given route, in the background of the relevant circumstances, including the requirements of the public, the condition, of the road and so on for the route in question.

4. The learned Counsel Sri K. K. Venugopal, appearing for some of the petitioners, relied upon the observations of a Bench of this Court consisting of Rajagopalan and Balakrishna Ayyar, JJ., in--Ramaswmai Goundar v. Obliswami Naidu and Anr. C.M.P. No. 1387 of 1958 in W.P. No. 173 of 1958 (Mad. H.C.). The attention of the Bench was drawn to the question that by reason of such an interlocutory order, Section 47 (3) would be contravened. This argument was repelled by the Bench by observing that notwithstanding the provisions of Section 47 (3), the Regional Transport Authority has power to add to the number of stage carriage permits in a particular route and an appellate authority can pass whatever order the authority of the first instance could have passed. By extension of this principle the Bench appears to have been of the view that there would be nothing illegal from the point of view of Section 47 (3) if an interlocutory order is passed by this Court in a Writ Petition under article 226 of the Constitution permitting both the grantees to operate on the route. But this view of the Bench cannot be sustained any longer after the subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court as well as the Bench of this Court referred to above. They clearly lay down that the jurisdiction of the Regional Transport Authority as well as the State Transport Appellate Tribunal is limited to grant only permits upto the number decided upon in proceedings under Section 47 (3). It would therefore follow that even in interlocutory proceedings before this Court, it would be improper to pass an order which will have the effect of exceeding that number.

5. The learned Counsel, Sri K.K. Venugopal, referred to the inherent powers of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to pass appropriate orders to meet the exigencies of the situation and the needs of a given case. While we are prepared to concede that such a power exists in the High Court, it appears to us that it cannot be exercised so as to contravene the provision of a statute such as is found, in Section 47 (3), in the context of the other provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act dealt with above.

6. Our attention has been drawn at the time of the hearing of these petitions, to a decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Nagabhushanam v. Ankiah : AIR1968AP274 . The facts in that case were that under Section 47 (3) of the Motor Vehicles Act, the running of two buses on a given route, had been permitted. The Regional Transport Authority granted the permits to two persons. The State Transport Appellate Tribunal in appeal set aside the permit granted to one of the persons and maintained the grant to the other. The question arose whether in a writ petition filed by the grantee of the Regional Transport Authority whose grant was set aside by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, an interlocutory order could be passed so as to permit the two grantees of the Regional Transport Authority, to operate on the route along with the grantee of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal. Relying upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Abdul Mateen v. Ram Kailash : [1963]3SCR523 , the Andhra Pradesh High Court hold that an interim relief of the above kind cannot be granted. When the attention of the learned Judges was drawn to the wider powers under Article 226 of the Constitution, they observed that while the High Court could pass suitable orders granting interim relief, ordinarily it would not pass an order which would amount to issuing permits contrary to the law. We are of opinion that the above decision lays down a correct view of the law. What we are required to consider is not the propriety of an interlocutory order standing by itself, but an interlocutory order on which depends the grant of additional permits albeit for the time being--which are beyond the limit prescribed under Section 47 (3), and therefore will be violative of the law. A dependent grant in such circumstances cannot be validly made.

7. Learned Counsel Mr. K.K. Venugopal while recognising the validity of the propositions mentioned above, in cases where there has been a prior determination of the number of permits for the route under Section 47 (3), would urge that in the present cases, there has been no such prior determination, and therefore it will be still open to us to pass interlocutory orders, permitting both the grantee of the Regional Transport Authority and the grantee of the State Transport Appellate Tribunal to operate their buses. He urged that when there has been no decision under Section 47 (3), the power of this Court cannot be fettered. We are unable to agree with this representation also. In the Bench decision referred to above in W.A. No. 274 of 1968, it has been held that a prior determination of the number of permits under Section 47 (3), is the very basis of the jurisdiction to grant subsequently permits to qualified applicants. It would the refore follow that when there has been no prior determination of the number of permits under Section 47 (3), the very grant of a permit under Section 48 read with Section 57 to an applicant would be illegal, because an essential preliminary part of the statutory procedure, had not been followed. A fortiori it would follow that when the result of an interim order will be to enlarge the number of permits for the route beyond the number which has been granted by the Regional Transport Authority (or the State Transport Appellate Tribunal in appeal) such an enlargement also will be without jurisdiction, in the absence of a prior determination under Section 47 (3), permitting such enlargement.

8. Next, the learned Counsel urged that when there has been a determination under Section 47 (3) that a particular number of permits could be granted for a given route, but the Regional Transport Authorityhas granted permits only upto a lesser number, it will be open to this Court in interlocutory proceedings to pass an order which will have the effect of enlarging the permits upto the maximum permitted under Section 47 (3). But this is a purely hypothetical situation which has not arisen in these cases. It is also very unlikely to rise, because in our experience when once there has been a decision under Section 47 (3) about the number of permits, it rarely happens that all the permits are not granted.

9. There was a reference by the learned Counsel to Section 62 of the Motor Vehicles Act which deals with the grant of permits for a temporary period, and the power vested in the Regional Transport Authority to grant them in certain special circumstances. Obviously that power cannot be relied on, by this Court for passing an interlocutory order during the pendency of Writ Proceedings.

10. Finally, there is the question of ultimate hardship to the parties, which is referred to by the parties concerned for granting such interlocutory relief. The Bench of this Court in Ramaswami Goundar v. Obliswami Naidu C.M.P. No. 1387 of 1958 in W.P. No. 173 of 1958 (Mad. H.C.) has referred to the necessity to reduce to a minimum the inconvenience, hardship and the loss, actual or prospective, to which the parties would be put, in suitable interlocutory orders are not passed. While it is necessary to bear these requirements in mind, they cannot be justification for passing an order which will be contrary to the statute. Relief should be so moulded as to reduce the loss, inconvenience, etc., but without transgressing the statute. This is the view which the Andhra Pradesh High Court held in the decision cited above. Further, in our experience, what happens in these cases it that during the pendency of the appeal before the State Transport Appellate Tribunal, the Regional Transport Authority grantee is allowed to operate on his permit to meet the requirements of the public. If the State Transport Appellate Tribunal reverses in appeal the grant of the Regional Transport Authority, considering the large stakes involved, the Regional Transport Authority grantee wastes no time and applies for relief under Article 226 of the Constitution before the High Court with the minimum delay. In such circumstances, the State Transport Appellate Tribunal grantee could not be expected to have run his buses on the permits granted by the State Transport Appellate Tribunal for any appreciable length of time when interlocutory orders are applied for in writ proceedings. There will always be occasion in. such cases to determine which of the grants should be preserved pending the disposal of the writ petition, so as to cause the minimum hardship and inconvenience and without violating the statute which will be the case if there is a direction to grant two permits where there is jurisdiction to grant only one permit. But we do not want to give any further precise directions so far as this aspect of the matter is concerned, as they must depend upon the circumstances of each case.

11. The reference is accordingly answered as above.


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