The State of Bombay Vs. R. S. Nanji
 INSC 2 (17 January 1956)
IMAM, SYED JAFFER DAS, SUDHI RANJAN BHAGWATI,
SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.
CITATION: 1956 AIR 294 1956 SCR 18
Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948 (Bombay Act
XXXIII of 1948), s. 5 (1)-Requisition of premises by Bombay Government for
housing an officer of State Road Transport CorporationWhether for a public
purpose-Expression 'public purpose'Meaning of Road Transport Corporation Act,
1950 (Parliament Act LXIV of 1960), S. 19(1)(c)-Corporation empowered to
provide living accommodation for its employees-Premises requisitioned for
Corporation-Whether for a public purpose.
In exercise of the powers conferred by
sub-section (1) of s. 5 of the Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948 the Government
of Bombay requisitioned by an order dated 12th May 1952, the premises specified
therein, for a public purpose, namely, for bouncing an officer of the State
Road Transport Corporation which is a public utility service. On a writ
application under Art. 226 of the Constitution filed by the respondent the
requisition order was set aside by the Bombay High Court on the ground that the
requisition was not for a public purpose and therefore could not have been made
under s. 5 of the Requisition Act. On appeal by special leave to the Supreme
Court. 19 Held (1) that in the circumstances of the present case the
requisition was for a public purpose and the impugned order had been wrongly
set aside by the High Court;
(2) the phrase 'Public purpose' includes a
purpose, that is, an object or aim, in which the general interest of the
community, as opposed to the particular interest of individuals is directly and
vitally concerned. It is impossible to define precisely the expression 'public
purpose'. In each case all the facts and circumstances will require to be
closely examined to determine whether a public purpose has been established;
(3) the Corporation has power to provide for
its employees suitable conditions of service including...............
living accommodation, places for rest and
recreation and other amenities vide s. 19(1) (c) of the Road Transport
Corporation Act, 1950;
(4) the provisions of the Road Transport
Corporation Act read as a whole lead to the conclusion that if the premises
specified in the impugned order had been requisitioned for the Corporation, the
requisition would have been for a public purpose;
(5)in the present case the Corporation is a
public utility concern and the general interest of the public is directly and
vitally concerned with its activities and undertaking.
Providing living accommodation for its
employees is a statutory activity of the Corporation and it is essential for it
to provide such accommodation in order to ensure efficient working of the road
transport system and therefore the impugned order was validly passed under the
Hamabai Framjee.Petit v. Secretary of State
for India in Council ( L.R. 42 I.A. 44), The State of Bombay v. Bhonji
Munji and Another ( 1 S.C.R. 777) and The State of Bombay v. Ali Gulshan
( 2 S.C.R. 867), referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 235 of 1954.
On Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment
and Order dated the 26th day of February 1953 of the Bombay High Court in
Appeal No. 120 of 1952 arising out of the Order dated the II the day of
September, 1952 of the said High Court in its Ordinary Original Jurisdiction in
Misc. Application No. 216 of 1952.
M.C. Setalvad, Attorney-General of India (B.
Sen and R. H. Dhebar, with him) for the appellant.
Sri Narain Andley, J. B. Dadachanji and
Rajinder Narain, for the respondent.
20 1956. January 17. The Judgment of the
Court was delivered by IMAMJ.--By an order dated 12th May 1952, hereinafter
referred to as the impugned order the Government of the State of Bombay
requisitioned under section 5 of the Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948 (Bombay
Act XXXIII of 1948), hereinafter referred to as the Requisition Act, the
premises specified therein. The impugned order, so far as it is relevant to the
present appeal, stated, "Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers
conferred by sub-section (1) of section 5 of the Bombay Land Requisition Act,
1948 (Bombay Act XXXIII of 1948) the Government of Bombay is pleased to
requisition the said part of the building for a public purpose, namely, for
housing an Officer of the State Road Transport Corporation which is a public
The respondent filed a writ application under
Article 226 of the Constitution in the Bombay High Court and the application
was beard by Tendolkar, J. who set aside the impugned order. Against his
decision the appellant appealed and a Division Bench of the said Court affirmed
the decision of Tendolkar, J. The present appeal is by special leave against
the decision of the High Court.
The principal ground upon which the impugned
order was set aside was that the requisition was not for a public purpose and
therefore could not have been validly made under section 5 of the Requisition
On behalf of the appellant, the
Attorney-General has urged that in the circumstances of the present case, the
requisition was for a public purpose and the impugned order had been wrongly
set aside by the High Court. In support of his submission he relied upon
certain provisions of the Road Transport Corporations Act, 1950 (LXIV of 1950),
hereinafter referred to as the Act, the decision of the Privy Council in the
case of Hamabai Framjee Petit v. Secretary of State for India in Council(1) and
the decisions of this Court in (1)  L.R. 42 I.A. 44.
21 The State of Bombay v. Bhanji Munji and
Another(1) and The State of Bombay v. Ali Gulshan (Civil Appeal No. 229 of
1953) decided on the 4th of October 1955(2). On the other hand, Mr. Andley, on
behalf of the respondent, contended that to requisition the premises to house
an employee of the State Road Transport Corporation, hereinafter referred to as
the Corporation, could not be regarded as a public purpose because that was a
matter in which the general interest of the community was not directly and
vitally concerned. He urged that although their Lordships of the Privy Council
rightly approved the observations of Batchelor, J. concerning the expression
'public purpose', they erred in their decision in Hamabai's case. In any event,
Hamabai's case could be distinguished as in that case there was a scheme for
constructing houses for Government servants generally and not procuring
residential accommodation for one particular individual. The validity of the
impugned order was also questioned by him on the ground that nothing had been
established to prove that by housing an officer of the Corporation in the
requisitioned premises the needs or the purposes of the Corporation would be
served or that it would contribute to the efficiency of the officer concerned.
Before Tendolkar, J. two points bad been
raised (1) that no enquiry, as required by section 5 of the Requisition Act,
was held and (2) that the impugned order was invalid as the requisition was not
for a public purpose. The former question was decided against the respondent
while the latter was decided in his favour. In appeal, the first point does not
appear to have been put forward as there is no reference to it in the judgments
of the learned Judges of the Division Bench. In this Court the only point
argued was as to whether the requisition was for a public purpose or not.
Before proceeding to consider that question
it is necessary to make some reference to the purpose for which the Corporation
is established, its composition, the extent of control exercised by the State
Government over it and its activities.
(1)  1 S.C.R. 777.
(2)  2 S.C.R. 867.
22 It was not disputed before us that the
Corporation is a public utility concern and is governed by the provisions of
the Act. The purpose for which the Corporation was created may be gathered from
the provisions of section 3 of the Act which enables a State Government to
establish a Road Transport Corporation having regard to the advantages offered
to the public, trade and industry by the development of road transport, the
desirability of coordinating any form of road transport with any other form of
transport and the desirability of extending and improving the facilities for road
transport in any area and of providing an efficient and economical system of
road transport service.
The Corporation consists of a Chairman and
members appointed by the State Government who are removable by that authority.
Where capital is subscribed by the issue of shares under section 23 of the Act
provision is made for the representation of the share-holders in the
Corporation and the manner in which they are to be elected in accordance with
rules to be framed under the Act. Its Chief Executive Officer or General
Manager and its Chief Accounts Officer are to be appointed by the State
Government. The other officers and servants are to be appointed by the
Corporation but the conditions of appointment and service and the scales of pay
shall be determined by regulations made under the Act subject to the provisions
of section 34, which authorises the State Government to issue directions and
general instructions to the Corporation and these instructions may include
directions relating to the recruitment and conditions of service.
The Corporation is under the effective
control of the State Government. In addition to what has already been mentioned
when referring to the composition of the Corporation, the capital of the
Corporation may be provided by the Central and State Governments in such
proportion as is agreed between them. When no such capital is provided, the
Corporation may raise capital, as is authorised by the State Government, by
issue of shares. These shares are guaranteed by that Government. The budget of
the Corporation has to be submitted to the State Government for approval and
its accounts are to be audited by an auditor appointed by that Government. The
balance of the net profits, after providing for various matters mentioned in
section 30 of the Act, is to be made over to the State Government for the
purpose of road development. The Corporation can be superseded by the State
Government or that Government may, after an enquiry under section 36, authorize
a person by notification in the official Gazette to take over the Corporation
and administer its affairs during the period the notification is in force.
The activities of the Corporation are
manifold in pursuit of which there is a statutory duty to so exercise its
powers as to provide, secure or promote the provision of an efficient,
adequate, economical and properly coordinated system of road transport in the
State or part of it and in any extended area (vide section 18 of the Act). The
powers of the Corporation are stated in section 19 of the Act.
These powers, although not exhaustive, cover
a wide field.
Particular reference need be made only to
some of them.
Section 19(1) provides:
"Subject to the provisions of this Act,
a Corporation shall have power:(a).................... (b)....................
(c)to provide for its employees suitable
conditions of service including fair wages, establishment of provident fund,
living accommodation, places for rest and recreation and other amenities".
Section 19(2) excluding the explanation to
clause (a) and some clauses with which we are not immediately concerned,
states, "Subject to the provisions of this Act, the powers conferred by
subsection (1) shall include power:(a) to manufacture, purchase, maintain and
repair rolling stock, vehicles, appliances, plant, equipment or any other thing
required for the purpose of any of the activities of the Corporation referred
to in sub-section (1).
24 (b) to acquire and hold such property,
both movable and immovable, as the Corporation may deem necessary for the
purpose of any of the said activities and to lease, sell or otherwise transfer
any property held by it.
(d) to purchase by agreement or to take on
lease or under any form of tenancy any land and to erect thereon such buildings
as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying on its undertaking." The
provisions of the Act read as a whole lead us to the conclusion that if the
premises specified in the impugned order had been requisitioned for the
Corporation, the requisition would have been for a public purpose. Indeed the
learned Judges of the High Court were of this opinion and Mr. Andley did not
contend to the contrary. According to him, in this case., the requisition was
not for the Corporation but for an employee of the Corporation and for his convenience
which could not be a public purpose.
The expression 'public purpose' has been
considered in many cases and it is unnecessary to refer to them except the
three cases cited by the Attorney-General. In Hamabai's case(1) the observation
of Batchelor, J. to the effect "General definitions are, I think, rather
to be avoided where the avoidance is possible, and I make no attempt to define
precisely the extent of the phrase 'public purposes' in the lease; it is enough
to say that, in my opinion, the phrase, whatever else it may mean, must include
a purpose, that is, an object or aim, in which the general interest of the
community, as opposed to the particular interest of individuals, is directly
and vitally concerned" received the approval of the Privy Council. Their
Lordships, however, rejected the contention that there cannot be a 'public
purpose' in taking land if that land when taken is no it in some way or other
made available to the public at large.
This contention had been raised because the
Government had resumed lands, which had been the subject of a lease and a sana
, the terms of which permitted the Government to resume the lands for any
public purpose, with a view to erect (1)  L.R. 42 I.A. 44.
25 thereon dwelling houses for the use of Government
officials as their private residence on adequate rent. The concluding portion
of the judgment of the Privy Council is important and needs to be quoted. It
stated, "But here, so far from holding them to be wrong, the whole of the
learned judges, who are thorough conversant with the conditions of Indian life,
say that they are satisfied that the scheme is one which will redound to public
benefit by helping the Government to maintain the efficiency of its servants.
From such a conclusion their Lordships would be slow to differ, and upon its
own statement it commends itself to their judgment". In Bhanji Munji's
case(1) the requisition was for housing a person having no housing
accommodation. After considering the affidavits, the facts and the circumstances
of the case, Bose, J . observed "The Constitution authorizes requisition
for a public purpose. The purpose here is finding accommodation for the
homeless. If, therefore, a vacancy is allotted to a person who is in fact
homeless, the purpose is fulfilled". In Ali Gulshan's case(2) the
requisition was for the purpose of housing a member of the staff of a foreign
Consulate. This Court held that the requisition was for a State purpose, which
it is needless to say must be regarded as a public purpose. An examination of
these and other cases leads us to the conclusion that it is impossible to
precisely define the expression 'public purpose'. In each case all the facts
and circumstances will require to be closely examined in order to determine
whether a 'public purpose' has been established Prima facie the Government is
the best judge as to whether 'public purpose' is served by issuing a
requisition order, but it is not the sole judge. The courts have the
jurisdiction and it is their duty to determine the matter whenever a question
is raised whether a requisition order is or is not for a 'Public purpose'. The
cases of Hamabai, Bbanji Munji and Ali Gulshan are merely illustrative. In each
of them primarily the person directly and vitally concerned -would be the person
to whom the residential accommodation would be (1)  1 S.C.R. 777.
(2)  2 S.C.R. 867, 4 26 allotted with
which prima facie the general interest of the community would not be directly
concerned at all. We must regard Hamabai's case as a decision to the ,effect
that the general interest of the community was directly and vitally concerned
with the efficiency of the Government servants because it would be to its
benefit to have such servants and, therefore, providing living accommodation
for them was a public purpose. The decision in Bhan Munji's case must be read
as one in which the general interest of the community was directly and vitally
concerned with prevention of lawlessness and disease and to house the homeless
in order to avoid such a contingency was a public purpose.
In Ali Gulshan's case a State purpose was
served because the State Government was interested in its own trade or commerce
and in the efficient discharge of his duties by a foreign Consul who would be
concerned with such trade or commerce.
In the present case it is possible to
construe the impugned order as a requisition on behalf of the Corporation as it
does not name any individual for whom the requisition is being made. In other
words the requisitioned premises were at the disposal of the Corporation to
house one of its officers to be named later on. Apart from that, there is a
statutory power in the Corporation under section 19 (1) (c) of the Act to
provide living accommodation for its employees and under section 14 the
Corporation appoints such number of its officers and servants as it considers
necessary for the efficient performance of its functions. It may be assumed,
therefore, that the Corporation appoints only such officers as are needed for
the efficient discharge of its functions and that the State Government was
requested to requisition some premises as living accommodation for one of them
whose posting at Bombay was necessary. Indeed the affidavit of Mr. Nadkarni,
Accommodation Officer of the Government of Bombay, states that the official of
the Corporation has to perform his duties in Bombay. Having regard to the
provisions of section 19 (2) (a) and (b) of the Act, the power in the
Corporation 27 to provide living accommodation for its employees must be regarded,
as one of its statutory activities under section 19(1). The word 'acquire' may
include the power to purchase by agreement but is wide enough to enable the
Corporation to request the State Government to acquire property under the Land
Acquisition Act (I of-] 894) in order to provide living accommodation for its
employees. The activities of the Corporation under section 19 (1) are so
interlinked with its successful functioning as a Road Transport Corporation
that requisitioning or acquisition of property to advance and ensure those
activities must be regarded as for a public purpose. It would not be sufficient
to merely establish the Corporation. It has to have an adequate and efficient
staff, living accommodation for whom would be an absolute need of the Corporation.
Its officers have to be efficient in the discharge of their duties, for upon
them depends the successful working of the road transport system upon which the
public must rely and thus it would be directly and vitally concerned with the
efficiency of 'the employees of the Corporation. It was suggested that a line
must be drawn somewhere, otherwise there was no guarantee to what lengths the
powers of requisition might be exercised by the Government. It is sufficient to
say that each case would have to be decided upon the facts and the
circumstances appearing therein. Here the Corporation is a public utility
concern and the general interest of the community is directly and vitally
concerned with its activities and its undertaking. A breakdown in the Organisation
of the Corporation, leading to dislocation of the road transport system would
create a chaotic condition to the detriment of the interest of the community.
Providing living accommodation for its employees is a statutory activity of the
Corporation and it is essential for it to provide such accommodation in order
to ensure an efficient working of the road transport system and it must,
therefore, be held that the impugned order was validly passed under the
In the result the appeal is allowed and the
decision 28 of the High Court is set aside.
Costs in the appeal in this Court shall be
paid by the appellant to the respondent as directed by the order granting
Special Leave. Each party, however, will bear his own costs in the High Court.