S. Mohan, J.
1. These two revisions can be dealt with under a common order, since both of them raise identical issues to be dealt with. They relate to the grant of a stage carriage permit for a town service route of a distance of 25 km. Bhavani Bus Stand to Andiyur. The revision petitioner in C.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981 (S. Palanisamy) was applicant No. 10. He was awarded 10 marks. The revision petitioner in C.R.P. No. 2324 of 1.981 is N. Ramaswamy who was applicant No. 3 who was also awarded 10 marks, while the contesting respondent A.S. Rajamani was applicant No. 2 before the Revisional Transport Authority. He was also awarded 10 marks.
2. The Regional Transport Authority while considering the respective claims noted the fact 'This is a town service route with a distance of 25 kms. However, the character of the route is primarily rural in nature and there is no advantage in preferring a town bus operator for this route on that ground only. He preferred on this basis applicant No. 10 (S. Palanisamy) and states that:
Applicant No. 10 is having sufficient knowledge of the sector and in possession of a spare bus. His record of service is also clean. This is a new town service route to be introduced in Bhavani Town, covering some unserved sector. Hence possession of spare bus is important in this case for efficient service.
Thus he was of the view that applicant No. 10 (revision petitioner in C.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981), was best suited and accordingly he granted the permit. On appeal, however, the Tribunal took a broad view of the matter that this being essentially a town service, only persons having town service experience alone should be preferred over those operating in the moffusil. The Tribunal relied on the decision in Jaganathan and Brothers v. Sowdambigai Motor Services (1964) 2 S.C.J. 330. It also relied on the judgment of Ismail, J., as he then was, rendered in S. Dharmalinga Mudaliar, S.D. Lingam Transports, Thanjavur v. Ms. Swami Transports (P.), Limited and 3 others W.P. No. 3280 of 1967, and a judgment of Ramaprasada Rao, J., as he then was in N.S. Rajasekaran, Raja Transport, Tiruchirapalli v. Manimegalai Transports (P.), Limited and Anr. W.P. No. 315 of 1971. On this basis, it proceeded to discuss the claims and says in paragraph 20:
The grantee namely applicant No. 10 though a single bus operator is an exclusive mofussil service operator. His sector knowledge relates to 11 kms., which is less than 50 per cent. of the length of the route. So it cannot be stated that the grantee has got substantial sector knowledge. So he cannot be treated as an existing town service operator... That being the case the grant made to applicant No. 10 in the present case cannot be justified. Hence it has to be set aside.
Accordingly the Tribunal set aside the grant. After so doing, it compared the qualifications of the respondent as well as the revision petitioner in C.R.P. No. 2324 of 1981 in paragraph 25 and concluded that inasmuch as applicant No. 3, namely revision petitioner in C.R.P. No. 2324 of 1981, had been granted a permit on a town service in the same sitting by the Regional Transport Authority which had been confirmed by the Tribunal, within such a short period there is no need to grant another permit in his favour. Ultimately, he concluded that applicant No. 2 became eligible for the grant. Thus the two revisions are (i) by the grantee at the hands of the Regional Transport Authority, namely S. Palanisamy, applicant No. 10 (C.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981); and (ii) by the applicant No. 3 who did not succeed either before the Regional Transport Authority or before the Tribunal (Revision Petition No. 2324 of 1981)'.
3. Mr. M.N. Rengachari, learned Counsel appearing for the revision petitioner in C.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981 urged the following points in his favour:
If as a policy the Regional Transport Authority prefers a single bus operator, unless and until it is found that such a policy would not be conducive to the interest of the public, there was absolutely no justification for the Tribunal to reject that policy. In this case, the revision petitioner was preferred by the Regional Transport Authority on the ground that he was a single bus operator; he was in possession of a spare bus; his history sheet was clean excepting for one violation and he had sector knowledge of 11 km. Of course, the Tribunal states that where persons with town bus service were available, there is no necessity to prefer operators with moffussil experience, this route having been classified as a town service. As a proposition of law, there can be no demur to this. However, what the Tribunal failed to note is that the Regional Transport Authority was alive to the situation that this route was classified as a town route and that notwithstanding the same, the Regional Transport Authority was of the considered view that the character of the route was primarily rural in nature. Under those circumstances, the Tribunal was equally obliged to note the character of the route and cannot blindly go by the classification. Even assuming such a classification is more or less conclusive of the matter, the Tribunal has misconstrued the scope of the ruling reported in Jaganatham and Bros, case (1964) 2 M.L.J. 81 : (1964) 2 S.C.J. 330, as well as the other rulings one of Justice Ismail, as he then was and the other of Justice Ramaprasada Rao, as he then was. As a matter of fact, this Court has in Anamdlas Bus Transport (P.). United, Pollachi v. R.T.A., Coimbatore and Ors. W.P. No. 3718 of 1967 and S. Dharmalinga Mudaliar v. Swami Motor Transports, P. 3 Limited, Tanjavur and Anr. W.P. No. 2394 of 1967, did consider the scope of the Supreme Court ruling in Jaganatham and Bros.'s case (1964) 2 M.L.J. 81 : (1964) 2 S.C.J. 330, referred to above. Of course, persons with town service experience could be preferred, if they were town bus operators in that particular town, but not where, like that of respondent the route is totally unconnected with the route in question, namely, Bhavani Bus Stand to Andhiyur. On the contrary, the respondent plies a town bus on the route Gobichettipalayam to Sambiyur. It cannot be contended that town service experience anywhere would be enough to gain preference; more. so, when the route in question is predominantly rural in character as held by the Regional Transport Authority. In such a case, the question of town service experience will not arise at all as per the ruling rendered in W.P. No. 2394 of 1967. Lastly it is submitted that as regards the workshop of the respondent, admittedly it exists in a site belonging to a Devasthanam. The lease came to an end on 15th April, 1980, as noted by the Tribunal and as stated by the Motor Vehicle Inspector.
4. Mr. G. Ramaswami, learned Counsel for the respondent in C.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981 states that where the route itself is a town service route, it is not open to the Regional Transport Authority to say that predominantly the route runs through rural area, Even if that be so, the character of the route is not changed. It is further urged that the Tribunal as appellate authority, is entitled to differ from the original finding and that there was no valid reason for preferring a single bus operator. This being a town route opened in Bhavani for the first time, as against a person like the petitioner who had absolutely no town service experience at all, because he was a mofussil operator, the respondent could be preferred, notwithstanding the fact that he has experience as a town operator in another town. The distinction between town experience and a mofussil experience has been the subject-matter of very many decisions which are placed before me by Mr. G. Ramaswami to which I will make a reference in the later part of my order. If, therefore, the appellate authority as the final Court of appeal on facts has taken a different view, it cannot be characterised as incorrect, or illegal.
5. One thing cannot be gainsaid in this case, for the first time town service route comes to be opened in Bhavani Town. The Regional Transport Authority therefore, finding there cannot be any existing town operator of that particular town, namely Bhavani, adopts a wholesome policy of preferring single bus operators with experience on the sectors of the route. For my part, I do not know why as a policy such a preference of single bus operators could not be made. That is well justified in law. In other words, so long as it is not for the purpose of choosing an operator but as a matter of policy. I do not think the Court can ever quarrel with such a policy, as it was such a policy which was enunciated by the Regional Transport Authority and, without any valid reason the appellate authority says such a preference is wrong. When the Tribunal states in paragraph 17, 'Applying, those principles we have to hold in the present case that only existing town service operators or moffusil service operators with substantial sector knowledge are eligible for consideration in the first instance', I can well appreciate it. But I should normally think when it says only town service operators, it should refer to that town alone and not some other town. Then again, having stated that moffusil service operators with substantial sector knowledge are eligible for consideration, certainly the claim of the revision petitioner in G.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981 cannot be overlooked. If this view had been stuck to, the Tribunal could not have found say valid reason to disturb the finding of the Regional Transport Authority. On the contrary, finding that there cannot be any existing town service operators in this town, it adopts a peculiar theory of preferring town operator, stating it is town service experience gained in the particular region. I am totally unable to understand this reasoning.
6. Now, I will refer to the various authorities relied on by Mr. G. Ramaswami.
7. In Jaganmthan and Bros. v. Sowdambigai Motor Service (1964) 2 S.C.J. 330, the ruling of the Supreme Court is to the effect that town experience is a 'must' for the grant of a town permit and that a person without town experience will be treated as a new entrant.
8. In W.P. No. 1163 of 1961, Veeraswami, J. (as he then was), has held:
It is, of course, open to the Tribunal and it has got full jurisdiction to do so, and deal with it and then, on a different opinion, direct grant of the permit to whomsoever it felt it should be given, but it can only do so after stating why, in its opinion, the Regional Transport Authority was wrong in the view that experience should be given weightage in a town route.
9. In W.A. No. 552 of 1969, Ramakrishnan and Maharajan, JJ., have while dismissing the writ appeal, pointed out that the State Transport Appellate Tribunal as well as the learned Judge in the writ petition have considered that town experience in the route in question in that case was an exacting one and that the operator should have operational experience in running buses in towns elsewhere.
10. In C. Ramaswami v. Sri Palani Murugun Automobiles, Salem-1 W.P. No. 1612 of 1968, and S. Samivel, Balamurugan Bus Service, Salem v. Karthikeyan Motor Service and 3 others W.P. No. 3681 of 1968, the observations of Ismail, J. (as he then was) were to the following effect. Motor Vehicles Rules expressly provides for a category of service known as town service route and, with regard to such town service, route, there are differences in relation to stages, fares, standing passengers and the type of vehicles. This distinction has been accepted by the Tribunal, the High Court and the Supreme Court.
11. In W.P. No. 3280 of 1967, Ismail, J., (as he then was) has observed: 'It is too late in the day to advance such an argument. The Motor Vehicles Rules do contemplate a distinction between a town service route and a moffussil service route' and has thereby emphasised that when an existing town service operator is available, a non-town service operator should not be preferred.
12. In N. Arunachalam, Salem v. Sugavmesswar Motor Service (P.) Limited and Anr. W.P. No. 799 of 1971, Ramaprasada Rao, J. (as he then was) has observed: 'The more the experience the more it is required for operation in a town. Traffic hazards in a town route are more than could be anticipated, which have to be taken into consideration when a grant for a town bus route is considered and decided upon by the statutory functionary'. The decision of the learned Judge is to the effect, that the Regional Transport Authority has no jurisdiction to consider the route as other than a town service route when applications are invited for a town route.
13. In A.T.S. Chirmasamy Chettiar and Co. v. R.K. Ayyasamy Gounder, Jaya Bus Transports, Pollachi C.R.P. No. 1261 of 1972, respondents Ramaprasada Rao, J., (as then was) has held:.if applications are called for town service route, the Regional Transport Authority cannot treat it as a short mofussil route for the only reason that the route runs on the mofussil side as well. Once it is, treated as town service route, it bears that badge until the proceedings for the grant are ever. As town service experience is required to run the town service, that is a relevant consideration which has to be taken into account.
14. In W.P. No. 315 of 1971, Ramaprasada Rao, J. (as he then) Was held;
If a person, though operating on a mofussil route, goes through the town, for purposes of such operation, then, in the realistic sense or in the practical sense, he must be considered to have town experience as well.
In W.P. No. 120 of 1971, decided by Veeraswami, C.J., and Raghavan, J., the first respondent had a town bus service whereas the petitioner was but a mofussil operator.
In C.R.P. No. 1134 of 1975, Ramanujam, J., has held:
The petitioner and the respondent are equally placed as regards their other qualifications. It is not disputed that the respondent has got experience as a town bus operator, while the petitioner had no such experience. Therefore, the grant of the permit to the respondent cannot be successfully challenged by the petitioner.
In C.R.P. No. 3088 of 1978, Padmanabhan, J., has held that an operator having experience of plying a bus on town service will be in a much better position to carry on the town service more efficiently than one who has no such experience.
15. None of these references, in my considered view, helps in arriving at a decision as to the issue involved in this case. Here, at the risk of repetition. I may state this was a case in which there cannot be any existing town operators and therefore when the Regional Transport Authority preferred an operator whose section knowledge was 11 kilometres, supported with a policy that single bus operators be preferred, there was absolutely no justification for the Tribunal to reverse the finding. This would amount to improper exercise of appellate jurisdiction. It is true the above cases pointed out the vital distinction between town route and mofussil route. But we are not on that point at all. Nobody says there is no such distinction. On the contrary, Ismail, J., (as he then was) in W.P. Nos. 1612 and 3681 of 1968 has pointed out that this Court as well as the Supreme Court had recognised the distinction, between a town service route and a non-town service route. Notwithstanding that, the question is, could it be said to be improper if a person with sufficient sector knowledge on that particular route is preferred? After all, he must know the hazards of the route, the nature of the route etc., which are essential. The revision petitioner according to the Regional Transport Authority, possessed that. A reading of the entire order of the Tribunal, leaves me with an impression that the Tribunal had made up its mind to grant the permit in favour of the respondent and started but stressing its conclusion with some reasoning or other. This would amount to improper exercise of jurisdiction. In view of what I have held above, ft is unnecessary for me to go into the other question, namely, workshop of the respondent. C.R.P. No. 1434 of 1981 will therefore stand allowed and the matter is remitted! to the Tribunal for fresh consideration in the light of the observations made above. No order as to costs.
16. C.R.P. No. 2324 of 1981.--In this case, the revision petitioner did not succeed either before the Regional Transport Authority or the Tribunal. He was excluded on the ground that he was granted another permit on the very same sitting with regard to the very same route. No doubt, recent grant by itself may not be a disqualification. But where, especially when new town routes are opened in a town, it will be not only unjust but also undesirable to confer a monopoly on one operator alone. If, therefore, from the point of view of introducing a healthy competition, another operator is preferred, certainly it is a valid preference. I therefore see no ground for interference. C.R.P. No. 2324 of 1981 dismissed. No costs.