P. Chakravartti, C.J.
1. This is an appeal by the Commissioner of Burdwan Division against an order of Sinha, J., dated the 1st of December, 1954, whereby the learned Judge quashed an order made by the appellant Commissioner on the 18th of July, 1952 and, consequentially, quashed an order dated the 5th of May, 1952, of the Regional Transport Authority for the Hooghly Region. In my opinion, the appeal is absolutely without any merits.
2. The learned Judge's order was made on an application made under Article 226 of the Constitution by one Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee, who is respondent No. 1 in this appeal. It appears that Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee's father, and after him Mrinal Kanti himself, held a stage Carriage permit for Route No. 2 (Chinsurah-Serampore), but the permit was lost on account of non-payment of the renewal fee which is said to have been caused by certain circumstances stated in the petition. Thereafter, Mrinal Kanti asked for and obtained a temporary permit for a period of three months expiring on the 27th of February, 1952, but when he applied for a second temporary permit after the term of the first had expired, his application was rejected. In the meantime, a permanent vacancy had arisen on account of the failure of the holder of another permit to renew it and applications had been invited from the public with respect to that vacancy. Mrinal Kanti made an application which, along with twenty-eight other applications, came to be considered at a meeting of the Regional Transport Authority held on the 7th of April, 1952. On that day, the matter was considered only in part and further consideration was adjourned till the next meeting which was directed to be held on the 28th of April following. On the 28th of April, consideration of the applications was concluded and Mrinal Kanti's application was refected on the ground that the police report about him was not favourable. Against that order Mrinal Kanti appealed to the Commissioner of the Burdwan Division, but by an order, dated the 18th of July, 1952, the Commissioner dismissed the appeal and upheld the order of the Regional Transport Authority. I may mention here that of the twenty-nine applicants before the Regional Transport Authority, the application of one Pijush Kanti Sinha Roy, who is respondent No. 2 in this appeal, was accepted.
3. The application to this Court was directed only against the order of the Commissioner. This was rather unusual, because even if the appellate order was quashed, the order of the Regional Transport Authority would remain. The learned Judge seems to have noticed that difficulty and he has, accordingly, treated the order of the Regional Transport Authority as merged in the order of the Commissioner and having found reason to quash the former, quashed the latter as well.
4. The present appeal, as I have stated, is by the Commissioner of the Burdwan Division. This, again, is somewhat unusual, because if the decision of some Authority upon a contest between a number of private parties is set aside, it is not usual for the Authority himself to appeal against the order of reversal. He leaves it to the parties whose interests are affected by the order to seek redress against it, if they so desire.
5. To return now to the merits of the case, the only ground urged before the learned Judge and the only ground to which he gave effect was that the particular body which had considered the applications for a permit was not a duly constituted body. To describe the ground in that language is somewhat misleading, because the point here is not that there was some defect in the constitution of the Regional Transport Authority, either as regards the manner in which it came to be formed or as regards its personnel, but the point is that at the particular sitting of the Regional Transport Authority at which the applications for a permit were considered, certain outsiders who were not members of the body, were present and took part in its deliberations. How this point arises requires explanation.
8. As I have already stated, the Regional Transport Authority imposed of the applications finally at its meeting held on the 28th of April, 1952. It is disclosed in the supplementary affidavit, to which I have already referred, that only three members of the Regional Transport Authority were present at that meeting and they were the District Magistrate one Sri N.N. Dhar, an Advocate and the senior Deputy Collector, who was the Secretary. The minutes of the proceedings of the meeting, as also set out in the same affidavit, contain the following passage as to the attendance of certain other persons :--
'Sri S. Mukherjee, Additional S.P., Hooghly, and Sri Narendra Nath Sen, B.L., Vice-Chairman, D.B., Hooghly, attended the meeting on behalf of the S.P., Hooghly and the Chairman, D.B., Hooghly, respectively. The S.D.O. Sadar attended the meeting on invitation.'
9. It will thus appear that neither the Super intendent of Police, nor the Chairman, District Board, each of whom is a member of the Regional Transport Authority, attended this particular meeting, but each sent a representative, the Superintendent of Police sending the Additional Superintendent and the Chairman of the District Board sending the Vice-Chairman. The third person, the Sub-Divisional Officer, was a complete outsider.
10. In his petition to this Court, Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee referred to the attendance of these non-members and took the ground that the proceedings of the 28th of April, 1952, had been wholly vitiated by their presence. He also alleged that the non-members had taken part in the proceedings of the meeting. About Sri Narendra Nath Sen, the Vice-Chairman of the District Board he also made the astounding disclosure that at the earlier meeting of the 7th of April, 1952, that very person, who is a lawyer by profession, had appear ed before the Regional Transport Authority on his behalf and had pressed his application. About the Additional District Superintendent he stated that the Police report, which was the cause of the dismissal of his application, had been submitted be fore him at an earlier stage and bore his signature and, therefore, so far at least that person was concerned, he had participated in the rejection of the application on the strength of a document which he himself had previously endorsed in the course of the performance of his departmental duties.
11. On the above facts, the learned Judge held that the proceedings had by the Regional Transport Authority on 28-4-1952, were utterly void and so was the decision taken at the meeting, because the decision was a decision of a body which included a number of strangers. The learned Judge also held that there was a further reasons to why the decision was void, because the necessary quorum for the meeting could be found only by including unauthorised persons.
12. I may say at once that on the question of quorum the learned Judge was not right. He has proceeded on the basis that the quorum required was five, but I have been unable to discover where-from he got that number. Even the old Rules, which had been placed before him, state that the quorum, in the case of the Calcutta Region, shall be six and, in other cases, three. That is to be found in Rule 61(c). In the revised Rules, the provision for the quorum is contained in Rule 53 (d) and, under that Rule, where the Authority consists of not more than three members, the quorum is the total number of the members and in any other case, it is three. If so, there was no difficulty about a quorum at the meeting of 28-4-1952, because even if the strangers were excluded, there would still be three persons attending the meeting who were members of the Regional Transport Authority.
13. The other object to which the learned Judge has given effect is, however, fatal. Mr. Das Gupta, who appears for the appellant, wanted to argue that the mere fact that certain strangers were present at the meeting of the Regional Transport Authority would not make the proceedings void. That argument ignored actual facts. It is perfectly clear that the unauthorised persons did not attend the meeting as mere visitors, but two of them deputised for members and participated in the proceedings on their behalf', while the third who was not even a proxy or deputy, also participated in the proceedings. The language of the minutes, as recorded, which I have read, is that the Additional Superintendent of Police and the Vice-Chairman 'attended the meeting on behalf of the S.P. Hooghly and Chairman, D.B. Hooghly, respectively.' They were thus not mere visitors, but persons who thought that they had a right to function as members of the Authority and as proxies or delegates of the Superintendent of Police and the Chairman respectively.
14. I can only characterise what happened at the meeting of the 28th of April as astounding. The District Magistrate is the Chairman of the Regional Transport Authority and he is the head of a statutory body. What he permitted to happen suggests that he forgot altogether the character and composition of the body over which he was presiding and conducted himself as if he was performing some executive function and was at liberty to call in his Service Chiefs or those next in command for their advice and assistance. Nothing could have been more irregular than the procedure adopted. Nor can the attendance of the Sub-Divisional Officer be justified on any ground, because he is not a member of the Regional Transport Authority and, therefore, had no business to attend a. meeting of it or to take part in its deliberations.
15. The strangest part of what happened on the 28th of April is the attendance of Sri Narendra Nath Sen as a representative or proxy of the Chair man of the District Board. As I have already stated, he had appeared in his professional capacity of a lawyer on behalf of Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee with respect to the very application which fell to be further considered on 28-4-1952 and yet he found nothing improper in sitting on the Regional Transport Authority as a member and participate in deciding the fate of the application. He is not before us and, therefore, I shall refrain from making the comments which he deserves, but I cannot help observing that he might be expected to know his duties and responsibilities as a lawyer better than his conduct, which has been denied by no one, discloses.
16. The proceedings of 28-4-1952, were thus not proceedings of the Regional Transport Authority at all, but proceedings of a body or miscellaneous persons, some of whom were members of the body, some deputies of members, although they had no right in law to deputise and one invitee. Added to that, one of the persons who took part in the proceedings had appeared before as a representative of one of the applicants and he was now sitting as a member of the tribunal before which he had previously appeared to decide, inter alia, the fate of the very application he had filed and argued as a Pleader. It need hardly be pointed out that in those circumstances, the entire proceedings were utterly void and, necessarily, the decision taken with respect to the application of Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee was also void.
17. I do not think I need say anything further to show how unsupportable was the order of the Regional Transport Authority and how wrong it was for the Commissioner to uphold it. The appeal preferred by the Commissioner cannot possibly succeed. It fails for the reasons which I have already given and is dismissed with costs to respondent No. 1, the hearing-fee being assessed at five gold mohurs.
18. The cross-objection by respondent No. 1 is not pressed and is, accordingly, dismissed, but without costs.
S.C. Lahiri, J.
19. I agree.