Om Parkash, J.C.
1. This is a writ-petition, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, for the issue of writs of mandamus. The petition has been filed, jointly, by nine petitioners. Every one of them owned a private carrier motor vehicle. The Assessing Authority, Mandi District, respondent No. 4, issued a notice of demand, to each petitioner, directing him to pay a sum specified in the notice, as tax, with respect to the goods, transported in his motor vehicle. The tax was levied, under Section 3 of the Himachal Pradesh Passengers and Goods Taxation Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), and the Rules, framed thereunder.
2. The nine petitioners have filed the present petition, challenging their liability to pay tax and the validity of notices of demand. The ground urged, in the petition is, that the petitioners were plying their motor vehicles for the carriage of their own goods and not for hire and that tax could not be levied for those goods, under Section 3 of the Act, which applied only if the goods were transported for hire. The petitioners pray for the issue of writs of mandamus, restraining the respondents, from issuing notices of demand and recovering the tax.
3. The petition has been contested, on behalf of the respondents. The plea of the petitioners that they are not liable to be taxed for goods, carried in their motor vehicles, has been controverted. It is contended that the petitioners are liable to pay tax, under Section 3 of the Act, for the goods transported, even though the goods belonged to them and no freight was chargeable or charged. A preliminary objection, against the' maintainability of the joint petition, by the petitioners, has also been urged, on behalf of the respondents. It is pleaded that as the claims of the petitioners are separate, each petitioner should have filed a separate petition and the present joint petition is not competent.
4. The preliminary objection, raised on behalf of the respondents, against the maintainability of the joint petition, appears to have force. The general rule is that two or more persons cannot join in a single petition for a writ of mandamus to enforce separate claims or to challenge the validity of separate orders. The petitioners, in the present petition, have got separate claims. Each petitioner owned the motor vehicle, individually, and not jointly with other petitioners. A separate notice of demand for a separate sum was served on each petitioner. As the claims ofthe petitioners were separate and distinct, they should have filed separate petitions. The joint petition, filed by them, questioning the validity of the notices of demand is not maintainable, though the ground of objection, namely, that they were not liable to pay tax under Section 3 of the Act, as they did not ply their vehicles for hire, is common. In this connection reference may be made to S. M. Mohammad Ibrahim v. Deputy Commercial Tax Officer, Pudukottai, AIR 1956 Mad 626, wherein it was observed :
'Again the fact that the relief prayed for by the several petitioners,--each of whose individual right is alleged to have been invaded improperly by the impugned order--is grounded on a common objection--the validity of the legislation, or the rule or some order interpreting or enforcing the statute or the rule does not also afford any basis for a joint writ petition by several petitioners aggrieved by similar orders. Each of them has to file independent petition.'
5. The above Madras authority was relied Upon in, In re, A. Gopalkrishnarao, (S) AIR 1957 Andh Pra 88, where the facts were similar to the facts of the present case. In that case, ten petitioners were individual owners of ten rice mills and were working them, under separate licences, on payment of a fixed licence fee and a deposit of Rs. 200/-, as security. When the petitioners applied, separately, for renewal of their licences, for the year 1956-57, the Collector demanded a further deposit of Rs. 300/-, from each petitioner. Aggrieved by the orders of the Collector, the ten petitioners filed a joint petition, calling in question the legality of the orders, passed on their respective applications, and requesting for the issue of writs of mandamus. It was held that a joint petition, by the ten petitioners, was not maintainable, as the claims of the petitioners and the orders, passed on their applications, were separate. After reviewing decisions of various High Courts on the point, involved, his Lordship observed :
'It is correct to state that such a writ petition is a civil proceeding and the jurisdiction of this Court in this behalf is original as distinguished from the appellate or revisional jurisdiction and it is summary in nature. Provisions of Civil Procedure Code are no doubt available to such proceedings but only as far as they are consistent with the nature and scope of the proceedings and general principles guiding such writs.
I am therefore not prepared to hold that the principles of Order 1, Rule 1, C. P. C. or Order 1, Rule 8, 0. P. C. must be extended to such petitions.'
His Lordship further, observed :
'The right of a person to apply for an appropriate writ flows from the order that affects him. A person desirous of questioning the validity or legality or such order is entitled, subject to other conditions, to apply for such writ.
It is not open to him to join in this petition other person or persons affected by similar orders, for they too have a remedy open to them andthe quashing of one order does not necessarily render the other order null and void.'
6. In the instant case, the orders passed and notices of demand, issued, against the petitioners, were separate. They should have filed separate petitions. The joint petition, filed by them, is not maintainable.
7. The writ-petition is liable to be dismissed on merits, also. The contention, urged on behalf of the petitioners, that they were not liable to pay tax, as the motor vehicles were being plied for transporting their own goods, and not for hire, lacks substance. Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, under which the goods, transported, are taxed reads as follows :
'There shall be levied, charged and paid to the State Government a tax on all fares and freights in respect of all passengers carried and goods transported by motor vehicles at the rate of one pie per anna value of the fare or freight, as the case may be, subject to a minimum of three pies in any one case; the amount of tax being calculated to the nearest whole pice (three pies).
Explanation.--When passengers are carried and goods are transported by a motor vehicle, and no fare or freight whether chargeable or not has been charged the tax shall be levied and paid as if such passengers were carried or goods transported at the normal rate prevalent on the route.'
8. From a perusal of Sub-section (1), aforesaid, and the preamble to the Act, it is clear that the liability to be taxed is incurred whenever goods, as defined in Section 2(d) of the Act, are transported, in a motor vehicle, which includes a private carrier (vide Section 2(e) of the Act) and that the liability is not dependent on the charging of any freight. The freight, charged, is relevant for determining the amount of tax, as according to Sub-section (1), the amount of tax is to be calculated at the value of freight. That value is to be calculated at the normal rate prevalent on the route, where no freight is chargeable or has been charged, for the goods transported. This is provided by the explanation, appended to Sub-section (1). It follows that the petitioners were liable to be taxed with respect to the goods, transported in their private carrier motor vehicles, even though the motor vehicles were not being plied for hire and no freight was chargeable or charged on the goods, transported. The tax, in case of the petitioners, will be levied, as if the goods were transported at the normal rate prevalent on the route.
9. The writ-petition is devoid of any merit and is dismissed with costs.