M. Anantanarayanan, C.J.
1. The appeal is instituted by Bharani Roadways (P.) Ltd. from the judgment of Kailasam, J., in Writ Petition No. 1655 of 1966. The essential facts are that the appellant firm sought for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Regional Transport Authority, Salem, in respect of a town service route (No. 19 of Salem Town) serviced by the 1st respondent firm, Safe Service Ltd. It appears that, originally, this town service route No. 19, was from Salem Junction to Salem Junction, via Asthampatti and three other fixed points. The route, as it exists, is a circular route, covering ten miles and two furlongs.
2. The first respondent applied for a variation of this route, to enable him to touch also the new Engineering College, beyond the Municipal limits, at a distance of five miles from Salem Junction. The relevant formalities in Section 57(3) of the Motor Vehicles Act were gone through, and the variation was ultimately granted.
3. The main attack on the variation, or, more strictly, on the route as varied, has proceeded on the basis, of amended Rule 268-A of the Madras Motor Vehicles Rules. We are not now concerned with that part of the rule, which relates to the determination or alteration of stages for stage carriages, or, for the determination of timings. But, a part of the rule relates to the power of the Transport Authority to determine which are town service routes. This crucial part of the provisions runs as follows:
For the purposes of this rule, the Transport Authority shall subject to the following restrictions determine which are town service routes:
(1) No route of a town service shall lie entirely outside, but at least one terminus of it shall lie within the limits of a municipal town or any built up place notified in the Fort St. George Gazette as 'town' for this purpose by the Transport Authority concerned with the prior concurrence of the State Transport Authority.
(2) The aggregate distance of a town service route lying partly within and partly outside the limits of a municipal town notified for the purpose by the Transport Authority concerned shall not exceed 24 kilometres;
(3) No route shall be determined as both town and non-town service route;
Provided that the restrictions specified in items (1), (2) and (3) shall not affect the existing town service routes.
4. The argument of Sri Mohan Kumaramangalam, for the appellant concern, can now be briefly stated. It was doubted at one stage of the argument whether this was a town service route at all, for the simple reason that both the termini of this circular route lay outside the municipal limits, which infringes condition No. 1 of Rule 268-A, already set forth by us, which condition, according to learned Counsel, should be construed, not merely as a rule of guidance for the fixation of stages and timings, but as a part of the conditions of the permit of a town service route itself. However, that might be, in order to satisfy ourselves that this route as it originally stood, was really a town service route, we sent for the permit and perused it. We have satisfied ourselves that this was such a route, and further, that it was classified as Route 19 of the Town Service Routes of Salem Town. This being incontrovertibly established, the restrictions specified in items (1), (2) and (3) of the rule, that we have quoted, will not apply to this town service route, as it stood. Obviously restriction (1) was infringed by the route, even as it stood, for the simple reason that both the termini were outside Salem Town.
5. The argument of learned Counsel for the writ appellant now becomes clear. His point is that though the route, as it stood, might well have been saved by the proviso to Rule 268-A that saving clause can no longer operate, once a variation has been granted, and, by virtue of this, the route becomes a different route. Learned Counsel relies for this argument of interpretation, upon the definition of the word 'route' embodied in Section 3, Sub-clause (n) of the Motor Vehicles Rules, as 'the shortest possible course on the existing road or roads connecting the termini,' and, also upon Section 48(3)(xxi)(a) as amended by Madras Act (III of 1964). The further argument is that, in any event, after the variation, the inclusion of the Engineering College as one of the points, which the bus could contact within the circular route, in effect, places the route beyond the category of a town services route, as Condition No. 2 of the conditions in Rule 268-A is also infringed. These are the two arguments on which, it is contended, the grant of the variation ought to be struck down.
6. In dealing with this matter, the learned Judge (Kailasam, J.), resolved the difficulty by taking the view that Rule 268-A, that we have earlier quoted, dealt only with the fixation or alteration of stages for stage carriages, and did not touch or affect the substance of the power with which the Regional Transport Authority is clothed under Section 48(3)(xxi) of the Act, in respect of the grant of variation. As far as the Act is concerned, that Authority has the power to grant a variation, provided the termini shall not be altered, and the distance covered by variation does not exceed this power, and, the rule cannot have the effect of restricting statutory power of the Regional Transport Authority with regard to the sanction of variation. The scope of the rule is restricted, and hence, it cannot be contended in the present case, that the Regional Transport Authority had no jurisdiction to grant the variation. It was on the basis of this reasoning that the writ petition was dismissed.
7. Without dissenting from the view adopted by the learned Judge, we consider that the sanction of the variation, in this case, can be sustained on a simpler and shorter ground. Admittedly, this route itself was saved from the operation of the restricting conditions of Rule 268-A because of the proviso. Actually, when we scrutinise the variation, we find that it has not introduced any alteration of either of the two termini. The route remains what it has always been, a circular route, starting from Salem... Junction and ending with the same point of commencement. Even with regard to Condition No. 2, it is not conceded by learned Counsel for the contesting respondent, that the inclusion of the Engineering College as a permitted point of contact in the route, renders the entire route beyond 24 kilometres in distance. No doubt, learned Counsel for the writ appellant contends that it does; but this appears to depend upon a further question whether the distance served by the variation has to be reckoned only as one way, viz., upto the new objective of contact, or has to be reckoned, for the purpose of ascertaining the length of the route. However that might be, we think it is clear that the route itself was saved by the proviso, and that the mere grant of this variation does not make the route a different town service route infringing the restrictions afresh, and therefore liable to be struck down on this basis. For this reason, quite apart from the distinction that the learned Judge has emphasised between the restrictions in Rule 268-A, and the statutory power to grant a variation, we consider that there is no room for interference in writ jurisdiction with the order sanctioning the variation.
8. The writ appeal is, accordingly dismissed. But we desire to observe that the question whether the route, as it stands, is hereafter entitled to be classed as town service route, is a question that has to be left open, without any prejudice whatever to the rival contentions of parties on both sides. We are not expressing any view on this, one way or the other. That question may become pertinent, only when either the stages have to be fixed under the rules, or the conditions to be embodied in the permit as a town service route have to be freshly determined.
9. Parties shall bear their own costs.