West Bengal & Ors. Va. Nurul Amin  INSC 434 (5 July 2010)
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.1961
OF 2006 With CIVIL APPEAL NO.1962 OF 2006 State of West Bengal & Ors. ...
Appellants S. K. Nurul Amin ... Respondent
These two appeals arising from order dated 27.4.2001 in MAT
No.1100 of 2001 and order dated 2.4.2001 in MAT No.586 of 2001 passed by the
Calcutta High Court, raise a common question relating to interpretation of
sub-section (1) of section 72 of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (`Act' for short).
The respondent made two applications to the State Transport
Authority, West Bengal (`Authority' for short) for grant of permanent stage
carriage permit, the first on 7.11.1997 for a permit for the route Dhulian
Bazar to Kolkata (via Raghunathganj and Barasat), and the second on 30.11.1998
for a permit for the route Raghunathganj to Kolkata (via Barasat). As the said
applications were not disposed of, the respondent approached the High Court by
filing separate writ petitions and the said petitions were disposed of with a
direction to the Authority to consider and dispose of the pending applications
of the respondent. Thereafter, the Authority, by communications dated
18.12.2000 and 3.11.2000, offered permits for the routes Dhulian Bazar to
Barasat and Reghunathganj to Barasat respectively, by curtailing/excluding the
last portion of the two applied routes from Barasat to Kolkata (26 kms.).
Feeling aggrieved, the respondent filed two writ petitions which
were disposed of by a learned Single Judge by orders dated 5.3.2001 and
13.2.2001 respectively. The orders directed the Authority to consider the
applications of the respondent afresh as the communications of the Authority
did not give reasons as to why the permits were not granted up to Kolkata.
Authority was also directed to pass reasoned orders after giving an opportunity
of hearing to the respondent.
The orders of the learned Single Judge were challenged by the
respondent by filing intra-court appeals before a Division Bench. The Division
Bench allowed the appeals by the impugned orders dated 27.4.2001 and 2.4.2001.
The Division Bench noted that the routes, for which the permits were sought,
were not notified ones. The Division Bench held that when permits were sought
for the routes - Dhulian Bazar to Kolkata and Raghunathganj to Kolkata, the
Authority could not have offered permits by curtailing the routes, thereby
changing one of the termini from Kolkata to Barasat. The division bench held
that the orders of the Authority violated Section 72(1) of the Act. The said
orders are challenged in these appeals by special leave.
Section 72 of the Act deals with grant of stage carriage permits.
Sub- section (1) thereof which is relevant, is extracted below :
Grant of stage carriage permit.--(1) Subject to the provisions of section 72, a
Regional Transport Authority may, on an application made to it under section
70, grant a stage carriage permit in accordance with the application or with
such modifications as it deems fit or refuse to grant such a permit;
that no such permit shall be granted in respect of any route or area not
specified in the application."
A careful reading of sub-section (1) of section 72 makes it clear
that the Authority is not bound to grant a stage carriage permit as sought. The
Authority could either grant the stage carriage permit in accordance with the
application or refuse to grant such stage carriage permit or grant the stage
carriage permit with such modifications as it deemed fit. The only restriction
on the power of the Authority is that it could not grant a permit for a route
not specified in the application.
In this case, what the Authority has done is to grant the
permanent stage carriage permits in regard to the routes for which the
applications were made, but with a modification, by curtailing the routes for
which the permits were applied, only up to Barasat. The Authority in effect
therefore refused to grant the permit for the last leg (Barasat to Kolkata) of
the two routes applied. Though the communications from the Authority to the
respondent did not contain the reason for curtailing the routes, it is stated
that the resolutions of Authority (which led to the issue of the impugned
communications) assigned the reason for curtailment. The reason was that in
view of the heavy traffic congestion and vehicular pollution in Kolkata, there
was restriction of entry of new passenger vehicles into Kolkata and, therefore,
the permits were granted only up to Barasat.
The Division Bench proceeded on the basis that when one of the
termini is altered by the Authority, then the permit is not granted in respect
of the route applied, and it would amount to granting a permit in respect of a
route not specified in the application. On a careful consideration, we are of
the view that the interpretation by the High Court is without basis. What is
prohibited by the proviso to sub-section (1) of section 72 is granting of a
permit in respect of any route or area not specified in the application. The
said proviso does not prohibit curtailment in regard to portion of the route
applied for, for any valid reason. In fact sub-section (1) specifically
authorizes the Authority to grant the stage carriage permit with such
modifications as it deems fit. Curtailment of a route would be a modification
as contemplated under sub-section (1). We may clarify this by an illustration
where the application is made for grant of a permit in regard to a route A to D
through points B and C. If the grant is made for the route A to C through B,
excluding the last portion C to D, it will be a modification which is
contemplated and provided for under sub-section (1) of Section 72 of the Act.
On the other hand, if the grant is made in regard to route E to F or in regard
to route A to E, the grant will be in regard to a route not specified in the
application and consequently the permit will be violative of the proviso to
sub-section (1) of Section 72 of the Act.
In this case, the route applied for was Dhulian Bazar to Kolkata,
via Raghunathganj and Barasat in one case and Raghunathganj to Kolkata via
Barasat in the other case. Permits were granted from Dhulian Bazar to Barasat
and Raghunathganj to Barasat, excluding the portion from Barasat to Kolkata.
Such curtailment was a modification which was permitted and authorized by
section 72(1) of the Act. The Division Bench of the High Court was not
therefore justified in holding that the grant of a permit for a route with any
curtailment would be a violation of Section 72(1) of the Act.
The next question is whether the Authority was justified in
curtailing the route and granting the permits only up to Barasat thereby
deleting the last leg of the route from Barasat to Kolkata. Though no reason
was given in the communications of the Authority about the grant of permits,
the resolutions of the Authority gave the reason that the curtailment was
necessitated due to the need to restrict entry of new passenger transport
vehicles into Kolkata on account of heavy traffic congestion and increasing
The respondent contended that the said reason was not a valid
reason, as during the pendency of these matters, long after the curtailment of
routes 7 in his case, several permanent stage carriage permits were granted on
various inter-regional routes, all up to Kolkata, without any curtailment.
The appellant-State responded by contending that in view of the
traffic congestion and automobile pollution in Kolkata reaching alarming
proportions, entry of vehicles in Kolkata was being restricted in a phased
manner as a matter of policy; that the State Government constituted a technical
committee on 2.1.2004 as per directions of the Division Bench of the High Court
dated 21.11.2003 in M/s. Sankar Automobiles v. State of West Bengal - CA No.
568/2002/APOT No. 83 of 2002) to examine inter alia the road space, availability
of halting space, terminus and related matters; that in accordance with the
recommendation of a Technical Committee, the State Government issued a
notification dated 2.8.2004 (gazetted on 6.8.2004) directing the Authority and
all Regional Transport Authorities in the State as follows:
1) No new
bus route be formulated and permits be issued which may pass through the
Central Business District viz. Esplanade and Band Stand in Kolkata and Howrah
station and approach areas of Howrah Bridge till further orders;
8 2) No
new permit for Stage Carriage shall be issued which may originate/terminate in
Esplanade and Band Stand in Kolkata and Howrah Station;
3) No new
bus route shall also be created/formulated in Kolkata and Howrah without
creating appropriate parking place having requisite amenities for both the
passengers as well as the transport workers.
appellants submitted that the validity of the said notification was upheld by
the Division Bench of the High Court by order dated 27.9.2005 in FMA No.604 of
2004 (Sujata Ganguly v. State of West Bengal). The State Government admitted
that it had granted some permits up to Kolkata during the pendency of these
matters, but that was in pursuance of specific directions of the High Court in
some writ petitions and before issue of the notification dated 2.8.2004. The
appellants have furnished the particulars of the orders of the High Court which
directed grant of permit up to Kolkata. It was submitted that as the issue of
notification (which was ultimately issued on 2.8.2004) was under process, and
as these matters were still pending, the appellants complied with the orders of
the High Court in those cases.
The respondent replied by contending that the prohibition under a
notification dated 2.8.2004 would not apply to him as his applications were of
the years 1997 and 1998 and the grant of permit for curtailed routes were 9 by
orders passed in 2000 long prior to the said notification and therefore, the
said notification was not relevant.
The notification dated 2.8.2004 was pressed into service by the
State Government only to counter the argument that some permits for routes up
to Kolkata were granted during the pendency of these matters. The question for
decision in these appeals is whether the Authority had the power to grant stage
carriage permits with modification by curtailing a part of the routes applied.
We have already held that the Authority has the power to grant a stage carriage
permit in accordance with the application or with such modifications as it
deems fit. So long as the reason for the modification is not found to be
arbitrary or unreasonable, the question of interfering with the order of the
Authority does not arise. The grant of some permits to others for routes
touching Kolkata during the pendency of these matters, would not affect the
validity of the orders of the Authority, nor be a ground for interfering with
the orders of the Authority, as appellants have explained the reason why in some
cases, during the pendency of the matter it had to issue permits.
In view of the subsequent events, the question of directing the
Authority to consider the applications of respondent afresh does not arise.
appeals are allowed, the orders of the High Court are set aside, the orders of
the Authority are restored and the curtailment of routes is upheld.
.................................J. (R V Raveendran)