1. There are three applications before me, viz., Civil Revision Cases Nos. 139 of 1954, 37 of 1955 and 38 of 1955. These three Rules are based on facts which are common. I shall now state them briefly.
2. There is a Bus route, which starts from Balurghat in West Dinajpur and runs through Gangarampur-Baniadpur and touches Mehedipara which is on the border between the District of West Dinajpur and Malda. It then passes through Mehedipara and goes to Deutala and from there runs to Khejuriaghat, also known as Khejuliaghat, The distance from Balurghat to Khejuriaghat is 96 miles, being 56 miles in the Malda District and 40 miles in the District of West Dinajpur. The route also branches off within the District of West Dinajpur at Baniadpur and. proceeds upto the railhead at Kalia-gunj. Thus, a part of the two routes, namely, Balur-ghat-Khejuriaghat and Balurghat-Kaliagunj, is common.
3. In or about February, 1952, the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, invited applications for a route permit for a proposed new route, -- Balurghat to Deutola via Gangarampur. We know now that this route, in so far as it extended from Mehedipara to Deutola, is within the District of Malda and beyond the jurisdiction of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur. It appears that at or about that time there was an existing inter-regional route, -- Khejuriaghat (Malda) to Gangarampur (West Dinajpur).
4. On or about May 6, 1952, the Malda Transport Co. Ltd. applied to the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, for extension of the existing inter-regional route, upto Balurghat. On or about May 30, 1952, the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, rejected this application.
5. I have already stated that the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, had invited applications for a route permit in a proposed new route, -- Balurghat to Deotola. It must have subsequently discovered that part of the route was beyond its jurisdiction, and on October 31, 1952, the R. T. A., West Dinajpur; without taking, steps necessary for that purpose under the Motor Vehicles Act, altered the proposal and sanctioned a new route, namely, Balurghat to Mehendipara, and granted four permits on the said route to the National Road and River Transport Co.
6. On November 28, 1952, the Balurghat-Kaliagunj Bus Association preferred ari appeal against the said decision of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, to the Appellate Sub-Committee, This appeal was numbered as P-14 of 1952.
7. On or about December 9, 1952, the Malda Transport Co. Ltd. preferred an appeal to the Appellate Sub-Committee against the order of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, dated May 30, 1952 mentioned above. This was numbered as Appeal No. P-16 of 1952.
8. On April 7, 1953 the Appellate Sub-Committee began the hearing of the two appeals. On that date the Appellate Sub-Committee decided upon a course which is not warranted by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939 or the Rules and this has given rise to all the complications in these matters. What it did was to direct the Commissioner, Presidency Division, who was one of its members, to investigate the question of an inter-regional route between Balurghat and Khejuriaghat, after consultation with the two R. T. As. of Malda and West Dinajpur and other interested persons. He was asked to report to the Appellate Sub-Committee.
9. On April 28, 1953, the Commissioner, Presidency Division, held a joint sitting of the two R. T. As. On May 26, 1953 the Commissioner submitted a report. Thereafter, further hearings of the appeals took place. On September 29, 1953, the Appellate Sub-Committee passed the following order: 'The Committee further considered the appeals No. P-14 and P-16. As recommended by the Commissioner, Presidency Division, the Committee found that the issue of any permits on the Balurghat-Menedipara Route was not justified but an interregional route between Balurghat and Khejuraghat was necessary for meeting the needs of the public. The Committee, therefore, set aside the order of the R. T. A., dated 31-10-1952, issuing 4 permits for the Balurghat-Mehedipara route. The Committee approved of the recommendation of the Commissioner that two permits each should be issued by the R. T. A., West Dinajpur and Malda, for inter-regional route for Balurghat-Khejuriaghat and as regards the appeal of Messrs. Malda Transport Co. Ltd., seeking extension of their bus service from Gangaram-pur to Balurghat the Committee considered that the R. T. A., Malda, may select this party as one of the parties to whom two permits for inter-regional route Balurghat-Khejuriaghat might be issued, if the R. T. A. considered this to be. necessary.'
10. On October 27, 1953 the R. T. A., Malda, passed a resolution recommending the extension of the existing permits of the Malda Transport Co. Ltd. in respect of the route Khejuriaghat to Balurghat. On November 4, 1953, the S. T. A. accepted the above resolution.
11. On November 10, 1953 the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, invited applications for permits for the route Balurghat to Khejuriaght.
12. On November 30, 1953 the Balurghat-Kaliagunj Bus Association (hereinafter called the 'Association'), which is the petitioner in Civil Revision Case No. 139 of 1954, filed an objection be-fore the R. T. A., West Dinajpur. It is necessary to bear in mind that this objection was an objection to the route. That is to say, the Association was not an applicant for permits in the route. What it objected to, was the opening of the route at all. It will be remembered that part of the route is common between Balurghat and Khejuriaghat and Balurghat and Kaliagunj. The Association was already plying buses between Balurghat and Kaliagunj and it did not suit them to have a new route between Balurghat and Khejuriaghat,
13. So far as the order of the Appellate Sub-Committee is concerned, it authorised the R. T. A., Malda, to issue two route permits. It appears that on December 1, 1953 the S. T. A. granted these two permits to the Malda Transport Co. Ltd., which started operating on the route. So far as the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, was concerned, it invited applications for permits for route Balurghat-Khejuriaghat. It appears, however, that on December 24, 1953 a notice was issued calling for objections regarding this route. The Association objected before the S. T. A. to the grant of the permit to Malda Transport Co. Ltd., for the route Khejuriaghat-Balurghat,
14. Rule 139 of 1954 was issued on or about January 18, 1954 calling upon the opposite parties to show cause why a writ in the nature of manda-mus should not be issued directing them to withdraw and cancel the permission granted to the Malda Transport Co. Ltd. to ply on the proposed route Balurghat-Khejuriaghat and for other reliefs. In the original application, only the State Transport Authority, the. West Dinajpur Regional Transport Authority and the Malda, Regional Transport Authority, were made parties. Subsequently, the Malda Transport Co. Ltd. was added as respondent No. 4. No interim order was made.
15. On or about February 13, 1954 the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, overruled all objections and granted two permits in the Balurghat-Khejuriaghat route to the Balurghat Transport Agency. Against this order, the Association preferred an appeal before the Appellate Sub-Committee, numbered as Appeal No, P-10 of 1953-54. Another objector also preferred an appeal, being Appeal No. P-9 of 1953-54. On May 28, 1954 both these appeals were heard together by the Appellate Sub-Committee, which set aside the order of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, dated February 13, 1954 and directed issue of two permits in favour of the existing permit-holders of Balurghat-Kaliagunj route, for plying in the interregional route. There were about 30 buses and the idea was to allow the buses to run in the interregional route by turn. It will be remembered that the Association was not an applicant for a permit. What it did was to oppose the opening of the interregional route itself, Nevertheless, the two permits were granted to them, that is to say, their constituents. Against this order, the Balurghat Transport Agency preferred an appeal, being appeal No. 12 of 1954, to the Appellate Committee.
Another appeal was preferred, being appeal No. 9 of 1955. The Appellate Committee has been constituted by Government in purported exercise of power conferred by Sub-rule (9) of Rule 83 of the Bengal Motor Vehicle's Rules, 1940, as subsequently amended. By order No. 8192 W. T., dated July 29, 1953 the Governor of West Bengal appointed a Committee consisting of three members, namely, Sri Satish Chandra Roy Sinha, Dr. Amulyadhan Mukherjee and Dr. Jiban Ratan Dhar. These three members constituted the Committee. The relevant part of Rule 83 of the Motor Vehicles Rules runs as follows :
'83. Appeals against orders of the State Transport Authority or a Sub-Committee thereof : (a) The authority to decide an appeal against an order of the State Transport Authority or of a Sub-Committee thereof, in respect of any of the matters referred to in Clause (a), Clause (b), Clause (c), Clause (d), Clause (e) or Clause (f) of Section 64 of the Act, ..... shall be a Committee to be appointed in this behalf by the State Government by a general or special order.....'
16. On November 29, 1954 the Appellate Committee purported to deal with these appeals and made an order setting aside the order of the Appellate Sub-Committee, dated May 28, 1954, as also the order of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, dated February 13, 1954. It was pointed out that the Appellate Sub-Committee had granted permits to persons who never applied for the same. It further held that the Balurghat Transport Agency was a new-comer and therefore no permits should be granted to it, because a principle was laid down at the joint conference presided over by the Divisional Commissioner, that new-comers should not be given permits. It appears, however, that although the appeals were heard by the three members constituting the Committee, the order has been signed only by two. It is, therefore, challenged on the ground that the order itself is invalid. This order of the Appellate Committee has given rise to the two other Rules mentioned above. The Association took out rule in Civil Revision Case No. 37 of 1955 and the Balurghat Transport Agency took out rule in Civil Revision Case No. 38 of 1955. These two Rules were issued on January 4, 1955.
17. In my opinion, the whole matter has proceeded upon a complete disregard as to the provisions which must be followed under the Motor Vehicles Act and the Rules. There are two matters' which must be kept distinct. Firstly, we have the establishment of a route which is inter-regional. In other words, first of all the inter-regional route Balurghat-Khejuriaghat has to be established. Secondly, when it is established, then permits have to be issued in respect of operating in the said route. We must consider carefully as to how inter-regional routes are to be established, and how and by whom permits are to be issued therefor. Chapter IV of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, deals with the control of transport vehicles, that is to say vehicles carrying passengers or goods for hire or reward. Such vehicles are of four kinds. We are only concerned with one, namely, stage carriage. Section 42, imposes the necessity of having permits for the use of any such vehicle in any public place. By Section 44, the State Government has been granted the power to constitute for the State, a State Transport Authority (called the S. T. A.) and for a region, as may be specified in the Notification, a Regional Transport Authority (called the R. T, A.). In other words, the entire State is divided into small regions and in a particular region the Government may constitute a Regional Transport Authority. So far as the State Transport Authority is concerned, its powers are laid down by Section 44 (3) and are as follows :
'A State Transport Authority shall exercise and discharge throughout the State the following powers and functions, namely :
(a) to co-ordinate and regulate the activities and policies of the Regional Transport Authorities, if any, of the State;
(b) to perform the duties of a Regional Transport Authority where there is no such Authority and, if it thinks fit or if so required by a Regional Transport Authority, to perform these duties in respect of any route common to two or more regions;
(c) to settle all disputes and decide all matters on which differences of opinion arise between Regional Transport Authorities; and
(d) to discharge such other functions as may be prescribed.'
18. Where there is a Regional Transport Authority, then, the duty of deciding upon the routes and the granting of permits upon ' those routes are duties which arc the function of the Begional Transport Authority, or the R. .T. A., as it is popularly known.
19. I now come to the question of inter-regional routes, and permits in respect thereof. Section 63 of the Act lays down that a permit granted by the Regional Transport Authority of any one region shall not be valid in any other region unless, it has been counter-signed by the Regional Transport Authority of that other region, who may attach conditions' thereto. Section 68 grants power to the State Government to make Rules, inter alia, for laying down conditions subject to which a permit issued in one region shall be valid in another region (Section 68 (1) (i)). Rule 64 of the. Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules deals with such permits. The relevant pro-Vision thereof runs as follows :
'Permits : Inter-regional stage carriage :
(a) Subject to the provisions of Section 63 of the Act, an application for a stage carriage permit having validity in two or more regions within the Province shall, unless such a permit has already been countersigned by the Regional Transport Authority or authorities concerned other than the Regional Transport Authority issuing the permit, be considered at a Joint Conference of the Regional Transport Authorities concerned to be held periodically at such times and at such places within one of the regions concerned as the Chairmen of the said Regional Transport Authorities may jointly decide.....
(b) Upon receipt of such an application the Secretary of the Regional Transport Authority to which the application is preferred (hereinafter referred to as the original Transport Authority) shall if the application is in order, with all reasonable despatch, circulate particulars thereof to the other Regional Authorities concerned together with an enquiry as to the date on which the matter is to be decided by joint conference.
(d) The Chairman of the original Transport Authority shall be the Chairman of the Conference.
(e) The procedure for the hearing of applications for permits laid down in Rule 58 shall apply tothe hearing of applications at a joint conference under this rule.
(g) The decision of a joint conference shall be recorded in the form of a resolution.
(h) In accordance with any resolution recorded at the joint conference the original Transport Authority may issue the stage carriage permit applied for after obtaining the counter-signature of the Regional Transport Authority concerned according to the provisions of Section 60 of the Act and the permit so issued shall be of like effect in the regions of the other authorities as if it were issued by those authorities,
(1) Any person aggrieved by the failure of the original Transport Authority to grant a permit or the iailure of a Regional Transport Authority to counter-sign a permit in view of the resolution of the joint conference recorded under Sub-rule (j) may, ..... appeal to the Provincial Transport Authority .....'
20. So far as the Act is concerned, there is at the end of each Chapter provision for preferring appeals. The Appellate Authority is not mentioned, but the appeal is to be preferred to the prescribed authority in the prescribed manner. So far as appeals in respect of refusal to grant a permit is concerned, or where an association, having opposed the grant of permit, is aggrieved by the grant thereof, then the Appellate Authority has been prescribed under Rules 83 and 84. Under Rule 84, the authority to decide an appeal against the orders of the R. T. A. is to be a Sub-Committee of the said Transport Authority, usually known, as the Appellate Sub-Committee. Under l. 83, the authority to decide an appeal against an order of the S. T. A. or a Sub-Committee thereof is an Appellate Authority to be constituted under Rule 83 as mentioned above. It is necessary to bear in mind the distinction between the State Transport Authority as such and the Sub-Committee thereof hearing appeals from the Regional Transport Authority, relating to matters laid down in Section 64 of the Act. Regard being had to the facts I have stated above, it is quite clear that the provisions of the Act and Rules have not been followed at all. It is not part of the function of an Appellate Sub-Committee of the S. T. A. to inaugurate or establish an inter-regional route for stage carriages.
21. Here what was sought to be established was an inter-regional route for stage carriages and permits were to be granted in respect of the said route, that is to say, upon a route which was partly within the jurisdiction of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, and partly within the jurisdiction of the R. T. A., Malda. What then was the procedure to be follow-ed? One way of doing it would be for either of these Regional Transport Authorities to issue a permit, and have it counter-signed by the other Regional Transport Authority. The other procedure would be to proceed under Rule 64. For that purpose, the two Regional Transport Authorities will have to hold a joint conference. There are elaborate rules as to how the conference is to be convened, who is to preside over it, how its decisions arc to be arrived at, what would be the Appellate Authorities in respect of such decisions, and so forth. In this case what actually happened was that in the first instance the K. T. A., West Dinajpur, invited applications for a route which extended beyond its jurisdiction. Then it suddenly realised the difficulty and without any further notice altered the route so as to bring it within its jurisdiction, and also 'granted permits. The Malda Transport Co. Ltd. had applied to the R. T. A., West Dhiajpur, for extension of a route, and this had been refused. The matter then went to the Appellate Sub-Committee. No attempt was made to call any joint conference as is contemplated by Rule 64. The Appellate Sub-Committee, however, took it upon itself to direct the ; Commissioner to investigate the matter. The Commissioner undoubtedly caused a joint sitting of the two R. T. As. to be made, but this was not in conformity with Rule 64. As a matter of fact a completely different procedure was' evolved. The Commissioner consulted the two R. T. A. concerned and made a report. Thereupon, the Appellate Sub-Committee set aside the findings of the R. T. A. and directed that four permits were to be issued in the interregional route, two by the R. T. A., West Dinajpur, and two by the R. T. A., Malda. This again was entirely contrary to the rules, laid down or prescribed for the purpose of creating inter-regional routes or the granting of permits in respect thereof. I have already mentioned above how such routes 'had to be opened and how permits had to be granted therein. This was not done as required by law. Once the matter commenced with a complete disregard of the provisions of law, the procedure naturally, continued to become more and more confusing, and in the end the whole thing has become illegal and contrary to law. For instance, the order of the Appellate Sub-Committee was accepted as constituting an inter-regional route, and the S. T. A. granted two route permits to the Malda Transport Co. Ltd. in accordance therewith, which is a complete departure from the law as laid down in the Act-arid the rules. Then again, we find that the Appellate Sub-Committee granted a permit to the members of the Bus Association, mentioned above, who never applied for it. That was correctly set aside by the Appellate Committee. But unfortunately the order of the Appellate Committee is invalid because only two members signed the order, as I have mentioned above. The Appellate Committee is constituted by an order of Government, and consists of three members. The three members heard the appeal and only two signed it. The order consequently is entirely invalid.
22. In view of this I am not called upon to deal with another point which has been taken, namely, that the Act provides for an appeal, and therefore it is not competent for Government to constitute a second Appellate Authority.
23. The question is as to what is to be done under the circumstances. Since the whole procedure adopted is in contravention of the Act and the rules, it is not possible to rectify the matter in part only. In fact I am informed that the result has been that no buses at all are plying on the inter-regional route at present.
24. The proper order therefore will be to set aside and quash all the orders and direct that if an inter-regional route has to be established, the matter should be taken up from the very beginning andthe procedure adopted, should be the procedure as laid down by the Act and the rules.
25. The Rule is therefore made absolute and the following orders, resolutions and/or grants of permits are quashed by a writ in the nature of certiorari :
1. Order of the R. T. A., West Dinajpur dated 31st October, 1952.
2. Order o the Appellate Sub-Committee dated 7th April, 1953, and the orders dated 29th September, 1953 in appeals No. P-14 and P-16.
3. Resolution of R. T. A., Malda dated 27th October, 1953.
4. Order of the S. T. A., dated 4th November, 1953 accepting the said resolution.
5. Grant of two permits by S. T. A. to Malda Transport Co. Ltd., dated 1st December, 1953.
6. Grant of two permits by R. T. A., West Dinajpur to Balurghat Transport Agency, dated 13th February, 1954.
7. Order of the Appellate Sub-Committee dated28th May, 1954, in appeals No. P-9 and P-10 of1953-54.
8. Order of the Appellate Committee in Appeals. Nos. 9 and 12 of 1954 dated 29th November, 1954.
26. There will be a writ in the nature of mandamus directing the respondents to forbear from giving effect to the same. If the inter-regional route is going to be established, it must now be done in accordance with law. There will be no order as to costs.