1. The facts in this case are shortly as follows : The petitioner is the Bankura Transport Co. Ltd. On the 27th February, 1954 they Regional Transport Authority, Bankura, granted a stage carriage permit to it, on the Bankura-Fulkusma Route. Against this order, two appeals were preferred to the Appellate Sub-Committee, being Appeals Nos. B-23 and B-24 of 1954. On or about the 8th November, 1954 the Appellate Sub-Committee dealt with the appeals and set ' aside the order of the R. T. A. and directed it to reconsider the matter. The R. T. A. thereupon proceeded to appoint a sub-committee and to consider the matter. Against the order of remand, there was an appeal before the Appellate Committee being Appeal No. 17 of 1954 but no stay was obtained. The result was that the R. T. A. proceeded to consider the matter sent to it on remand, and on the 25th February, 1955 granted' a permit to the petitioner. Another party appealed against this order before the Appellate Sub-Committee and this is Appeal No. B-20 of 1955. The Appellate Committee, finding that there was an appeal already pending between the same parties, and concerning the same subject-matter, sent down the Appeal No, 17 of 1954 to be tried by the Appellate Sub-Committee, together with appeal No. B-20. The Appellate Sub-Committee trying all these matters made an order on the 27th April, 1956 wherein they said, inter alia, as follows:
'The Sub-Committee found that the opposite party Bankura Transport Co., who had been granted the permit for the route, already held a number of permits for stage carriages. Rule 57-A of the B. M. V. Rules, 1940, provides that preference shall be given to an applicant having no permit over an applicant holding one or more permits. Admittedly, Messrs. Amar Gari Transport Co. had no permit. There was some dispute as to whether R. K. Transport Service Ltd. possessed one permit or not. In the circumstances the Sub-Committee set aside the order of the R. T. A. Bankura dated 25-2-55 granting a permit to Bankura Transport Co. and directed the R. T. A. to grant the permit for this route in terms of Rule 57-A of the B. M. V. Rules, 1940, taking into consideration all applications received in this respect including the two applicants but excluding the application of the opposite party.'
2. In other words, the Appellate Sub-Committee found that the Bankura Transport Co.Ltd. held more than one permit while the others held permits less than the petitioner and therefore according to their own interpretation of Rule 57-A held that the petitioner should be excluded altogether. I am informed that against this order there was an appeal to the Appellate Committee but the appeal has been dismissed.
3. Rule 57-A which has been introduced by an amendment published in the Calcutta Gazette dated the 30th December 1954 runs as follows:
'57-A.-- Limitation for the grant of stage carriage or contract carriage permits--
(1) When applications for a permit in respect of a stage carriage or a contract carriage had been received from a person holding one or more permits in any one or more regions, areas or routes or from a person having no such permit, other conditions being equal, preference shall be given to the latter'.
4. In my opinion, the Appellate Sub-Committee has not interpreted this Rule correctly. This Rule lays down that if applications have been received from a number of persons in respect of a stage carriage or a contract carriage permit, then if one of the applicants holds one or more permits in any one or more regions or areas or routes, and another person has no such permit, then preference shall be given to the latter. But this is subject to an important qualification, viz., 'other conditions being equal'. In other words, it is only between two persons who are equal in every other respect that the question of preference under Rule 57-A arises, and it does not arise where the other conditions are not equal, For example, a person may have no permit but may be otherwise quite an undesirable person for the issue of a permit, or a person may have one or more permits but he may be so efficient that for the benefit of the travelling public, it may be more desirable to issue the permit to him. As I have had occasion to remark before, in another case, the duty of the authorities in issuing permits, is subject to the overriding condition that every thing should be done to confer the maximum benefit upon the travelling public, that is to say, the public utilising the particular route, area, or region, where the permit is being granted. This is the paramount consideration, and must take precedence over all others. Therefore, there is no question of a mechanical calculation, namely, to count and compare the number of permits possessed by applicants. Other circumstances must be considered as indicated above. It is only when all conditions are equal, namely, that it does not affect the interests of the travelling public as to who gets the permit, that the Rules of priority and precedence are to be applied, that is to say, in such a case, a person having no permit should be preferred to one having one or more permits, this being a Rule calculated to avoid monopolies, and so far as it goes is based on sound policy. The Appellate Committee however completely ignored this aspect of the question. It thought that the matter was a purely mechanical one, namely, that one should count the number of permits that each applicant had, the lesser excluding the greater. This is not a correct interpretation of the Rule in question. I express no opinion as to whether if the real facts were taken into consideration, the petitioner should have been granted the permit or not. The petitioner is at least entitled to compel the authorities to do their statutory duty. It is obvious that the authorities must consider firstly whether the conditions are equal between the applicants, regard being had to the benefit of the travelling public, and then apply the Rule of preference relating to the number of permits possessed by the applicants. In view of this, the order dated the 27th April, 1956 is a bad order and must be set aside and quashed.
5. A subsidiary complaint is made, namely, that the Appellate Committee should not have sent down the Appeal No. 17 of 1954 to the Appellate Sub-Committee for consideration. In view of my finding however, this is of no importance.
6. The learned Government Pleader points out that the term of the original permit has expired on the 27th February, 1957 and therefore it is futile to give any direction in regard to the permit in question. Mr. Dutt has however pointed out, and not without reason, that the Court should not desist from interpreting Rule 57-A, because in considering the permit to be issued for the next term, the very same process will be repeated, and if the interpretation of the Appellate Sub-Committee be allowed to stand, then automatically the petitioner will be excluded. I think that there is great force in this argument of Mr. Dutt. So, although no direction can effectively be given with regard to the permit which has expired, I must, set aside and quash the order of 24th April, 1956 on the ground stated above, together with the appellate order dated the 14th September, 1956 whereby the appeal against it has also been dismissed. It is not possible to make any order with regard to the direction dated the 6th December, 1956 asking the petitioner to stop plying because the period having expired, the petitioner can only ply after a fresh permit has been granted, for which the necessary proceedings will have to be taken.
7. The Rule is accordingly made absolute in part and a Writ in the nature of Certiorari will be issued quashing the orders aforesaid. There will also be a writ in the nature of mandamus directing the respondents not to give effect to the same. There will be no order as to costs.