Harman Singh & Ors Vs. Regional
Transport Authority, Calcutta & Ors  INSC 75 (24 November 1953)
MAHAJAN, MEHR CHAND SASTRI, M. PATANJALI (CJ)
DAS, SUDHI RANJAN HASAN, GHULAM JAGANNADHADAS, B.
CITATION: 1954 AIR 190 1954 SCR 371
CITATOR INFO :
R 1970 SC 564 (192) R 1989 SC2105 (7)
Constitution of India, arts. 14,
19(1)(g)-Issuing permits to smaller taxis and fixing lower tariff for themWhether
infringes fundamental right of existing Permit holders to carry on occupation
or to equal protection of the laws-Right to carry on occupation Extent of the
Since1940 taxis plying in the streets of
Calcutta were required to be not below 22 H. P. and not above 30 H. P. and rule
179of the Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules as amended in 1944 fixed a minimum charge
of one rupee for the first mile and 2 as. for every one-sixth of each
subsequent mile. in 1952 the Regional Transport Authority issued a notification
inviting applications for permits to ply small taxis of not below 10 H. P. and
not above 372 19 H. P. and a proviso was added to rule 179 that in the case of
such small taxis the tariff shall be 8 as. for the first mile and 2 as for
every quarter of each subsequent mile. The permit holders of the bigger taxis
applied to the High Court under art. 226 of the Constitution for a writ
restraining the Regional Transport Authority from giving effect to the
notification and issuing permits to small taxis, on the ground that the
notification infringed their fundamental rights guaranteed by art. 19(I)(g) and
art. 14 of the Constitution :
Held, (i) that the introduction of small
taxis and the fixing of a lower tariff for them was based on a rational
classification and there was no contravention of art. 14 of the Constitution;
(ii) as the permit holders of bigger taxis were not prevented from carrying on
their occupation and to ply their taxis, there was no infringement of art.
19(1)(g) of the Constitution, and a writ as prayed for against the Regional
Transport Authority could not be granted.
Article 19(1)(g) does not guarantee a
monopoly to a particular individual or association to carry on any occupation
and if other persons are also allowed to carry on the same occupation and an
element of competition is introduced, that does not, in the absence of bad
faith on the part of the authorities, amount to a violation of the fundamental
right guaranteed under art. 19(1)(g).
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION Civil Appeal No.
112 of 1953.
Appeal under article 132(I) of the Constitution
of India from the judgment and Order dated the 9th January, 1953, of the High
Court of judicature at Calcutta (Himansu Kumar Bose J.) in Civil Revision No.
2754 of 1952.
R. Choudhry and A. K. Das Gupta for the
M. C. Setalvad, Attorney-General for India
(B. Sen, with him) for respondents Nos. 1 and 2.
1953. November 24. The judgment of the Court
was delivered by MAHAJAN J.-This appeal under article 132(I) of the
Constitution of India is directed against a judgment of the High Court of Calcutta
(H. K. Bose J.) dated the 9th January, 1953, dismissing an application under
article 226 of the Constitution.
The facts giving rise to the appeal are these
: By a notification dated 13th May, 1952, the Regional Transport Authority,
Calcutta Region, invited applications 373 from persons who had licences for
driving motor cabs, or who possessed knowledge of motor mechanism, for the
issue of permits for small motor taxi cabs of not below 10 H. P. and not above
19 H. P. The said notification also invited representations against the issue
of such permits. A number of associations and persons including the Calcutta
Taxi Association and the Bengal Taxi Association, accordingly made
representations objecting to the issue of such permits.
These objections were heard by the Regional
Transport, Authority on 5h July, 1952, and were ultimately rejected on 21st
August, 1952, and 48 permits for small taxis were issued.
Since the coming into force of the Motor
Vehicles Act in the year 1940 taxis plying in the streets of Calcutta were
required to be of not below 22 H. P. and not above 30 H. P. Rule 179 of the
Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules prescribed the tariff for all such taxis. This rule
was in these terms :"A single tariff shall be charged at the rate of two
annas for every quarter of a mile. Minimum charge shall be eight annas. The
tariff shall be in force in and day within the following boundaries......"
In the year 1944 in view of the rise in the prices of motor parts, tyres,
accessories, oil lubricants, petrol etc., rule 179 was amended and the amended
rule reads as follows :"A. minimum charge of one rupee for the first mile
or part thereof and annas two for every one-sixth of each subsequent mile.
Waiting charges Rs. 1-140 per hour or annas 2 for every 4 minutes. All charges
to be shown on the meter. Cabs returning empty to be paid annas 4 per mile up,
to the boundary." This increased rate of tariff was maintained by A
further notification issued on 13th January, 1951 After the issue of the
notification in May, 1952 inviting applications for permits to ply small taxis,
a further notification was issued on the' 7th June, : 1952, amending rule 179.
of the Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules. This notification was in these terms :"In
exercise of die power conferred by section 51 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939,
the Governor is pleased 2--93 S. C. India/59 374 to make the following
amendment to the rule published under the notification of the Government of
Bengal in the Home (Transport) Department No. 9354-T dated the 28th September,
1946, as subsequently amended, namely :To the said rule add the following
proviso:"Provided that in the case of small motor cabs of not exceeding 19
H. P., but not below 10 H. P., registered under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939,
in the city of Calcutta or. in the district of 24 Parganas the tariff on each
occasion of hiring shall for a period of 8 months with effect from 1st May,
1952, be annas 8 for the 1st mile or part of a mile and annas 2 for every
quarter of each subsequent mile." The result of this notification was that
the tariff for small taxis was fixed at the rate of eight annas for the first
mile or part of a mile and 2 annas for every quarter of each subsequent mile,
while the tariff for large taxis remained as before, namely, one rupee for the
first mile ;and 2 annas for every one-sixth of each subsequent mile.
This disparity between the tariffs of small
and big taxis introduced an element of competition among the taxi owners and
created an apprehension in the minds of large taxi owners that their occupation
would be seriously affected by the introduction of small taxis plying on
The appellants therefore on 21st October,
1952, filed a petition in the High Court ,of Calcutta under article 226 of the
Constitution against the Regional Transport Authority and the 48 permit holders
praying for a writ of prohibition restraining the Regional Transport Authority
from giving effect to the notification of the 7th June, 1952, and from
permitting or authorising small taxis to ply in the streets of Calcutta on the
allegation that this notification violated the fundamental rights guaranteed to
them under articles 19(1)(g) and 14 of the Constitution.
The High Court of Calcutta by its order dated
24th October, 1952, granted a rule and passed an ad interim order against the
respondents in terms of the prayer in the appellants petition. The rule then
came up for hearing before H. K.
Bosc J. and by his judgment 375 under appeal
dated 9th January, 1953, the learned Judge dismissed the petition with costs.
It was held that the circumstance that the notification dated 7th June, 1952,
might or might not have the effect of affecting economically the business of
taxi cab owners would not justify the court in holding that the notification
was in violation of article 19(I)(g) of the Constitution. It was further held
that there was no violation of the fundamental right guaranteed under article
14 of the Constitution because the fixation of tariff regarding the two classes
of taxis was based on rational classification. The learned judge was of the
opinion that small taxis had been introduced for the benefit of the general
public and that there was no unreasonableness in classifying the tariff in the
manner it had been done.
The learned Judge, however, granted a
certificate under article 132(I) of the Constitution.
Mr. Choudhry, who argued the appeal before us
reiterated the contentions that had been raised before the High Court and laid
great emphasis on the point found in. his favour by Bose J. that it was not
open to the owners of large taxis to charge tariff at a rate lower than the
prescribed minimum and contended that in that situation the occupation of the
proprietors of large taxis was bound to come to a standstill and as such the
notification amounted to a breach of their fundamental right guaranteed under
article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution. In our opinion, none of the contentions
raised by the learned counsel have any substance. Without in any way finally
deciding the question of the true construction of rule 179 of the Bengal Motor
Vehicles Rules, read with the provisions of section 42 of the Motor Vehicles Act,
because it does not directly arise here, as at present advised, we cannot
affirm the view of Bose J., that it is not open to the large taxi owners to
charge tariff at a rate lower than that pies cribed if they so desire. The
learned Attorney General who appeared for the Regional Transport Authority
shared our tentative view on this point, though he was not prepared to concede
the point in the absence of specific instructions. The learned Advocate General
took more or less the same line in his argument 376 before the High Court.
Section 42 of the Motor Vehicles Act enjoins that the owner of a motor vehicle
shall not use or permit the use of the vehicle save in accordance with the
conditions of a permit. The form of the permit in item 8 mentions the minimum
fare that can be charged in respect of a vehicle. On these provisions the
learned judge below reached the conclusion that there was no option left in the
owner of a vehicle to charge tariff lower than the prescribed minimum. Rule
179, however, which prescribes the minimum tariff for the different classes of
taxis does not prohibit the charge of a rate below the prescribed minimum if
the taxi owner so wishes. All that it enjoins is that a tariff higher than the
fixed minimum cannot be charged and that the hirer of a taxi on demand is bound
to pay at that rate. In the absence of a clear provision in the rule
prohibiting the charge of tariff below the prescribed minimum, we arc not
satisfied that the construction placed on these, provisions by Bose J. is
correct. Be that as it may, the rule prescribing a minimum rate of, one rupee
in respect of big taxi cabs by notifications issued in 1944 and 1951 is not in
challenge in these proceedings. If that rule is an unreasonable restriction on
the occupation of large taxi cab owners and infringes the fundamental right
contained in article 19(I)(g) of the Constitution., it was open to them to
challenge, the wires of that rule ; but that not having been done, that
question does not concern us here.
The only point for consideration in the
appeal is whether the issue of licences to small taxi cabs between 10 and 19
H.P. to ply in the streets of Calcutta and the fixation of lower rates of
tariff for this class of taxis than that prescribed for taxis between 22 and 30
H.P. violates the fundamental rights of the appcllants who are owners of taxi
cabs between 22 and 30 H.P.; under articles 14 and 19 (1)(g) of the
Constitution. In our judgment, this question can be answered only in the
negative. It has been repeatedly.
pointed out by this court that in construing
article 14 the courts should not adopt a doctrinaire approach which might well
choke all beneficial legislation and that legislation 377 which is based on a
rational classification is permissible.
A law applying to a class is constitutional
if there is sufficient basis or reason for it. In other words, a statutory
discrimination cannot be set aside as the denial of equal protection of the
laws if any state of facts may reasonably be conceived to justify it. It is
clear that it is in the interests and for the benefit of a section of the
public that small taxis have been introduced and cheaper rates have been fixed
having regard to the size, horse power and expenses ,of running such cars. We
are unable to see any unreasonableness in this classification or any discriminate
on which infringes the provisions of article 14 of the Constitution. The
contention of Mr. Choudhry, therefore, that the introduction of smaller taxis
at lesser tariff rates contravenes article 14 of the Constitution cannot be
The next contention of Mr. Choudhry that the
introduction of small taxis in the streets of Calcutta will bring about a total
stoppage of the existing motor taxi cab business of large taxi owners in a
commercial sense and would thus be an infringement of the fundamental right
guaranteed under article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution is again without force
Article 19 (1) (g) declares that all citizens have the right to practice any
profession, to carry on any occupation, trade or business. Nobody has denied to
the appellants the tight to carry on their own occupation and to ply their
taxis. This article does not guarantee a monopoly to a particular individual or
association to carry on any occupation and if other persons are also allowed
the right to carry on the same occupation and an element of competition is
introduced in the business, that does not, in the absence of any bad faith on
the part of the authorities amount to a violation of the fundamental right
guaranteed under article 19(I) (g) of the Constitution. Under the Motor
Vehicles Act it is in the discretion of the Regional Transport Authority to
issue permits at different rates of tariff to different classes of vehicles
plying in the streets of Calcutta and if that power is exercised in a bona fide
er by the Regional Transport Authority for the benefit of the citizens 378 of
Calcutta, then the mere circumstance that 'by grant of licence at different
tariff rates to holders of different taxis and different classes of vehicles
some of the existing licence holders are affected cannot bring the case under
article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
For the reasons 'given above this appeal has
no, merits and we accordingly dismiss it with costs.
Agent for the appellant: Sukumar Ghose.
Agent for respondents Nos. I & 2: P. K.