B.Prabhakara Rao. Vs. Desari
Panakalala Rao & Ors & Ors  INSC 97 (5 April 1976)
CITATION: 1976 AIR 1803 1976 SCR (3)1032 1976
SCC (3) 550
Motor Vehicles Act. 1947 s. 47 and 57-Andhra
Pradesh State Transport Appellate Tribunal Rules, 1971, s.15- Validity of.
Tribunal-If had power to admit evidence
beyond the time limited by 57(4).
Rule 15 of the Andhra Pradesh State Transport
Appellate Tribunal Rule 1971, states that parties to the appeal or application
shall not be entitled to produce additional evidence, whether oral or
documentary, before the Tribunal except in cases stated therein but it empowers
the Tribunal to allow evidence or documents to be produced or witnesses to be
examined for any other sufficient reason.
The Regional Transport Authority granted a
stage carriage permit to the appellant. Before the State Transport Appellate
Tribunal another applicant produced certain information against the appellant
which was not mentioned either in his history sheet or in the representations
of any party under s. 57(3) of the Act. Rejecting the appellant's objection
that such new grounds could not be heard from an rejector at the stage of
appeal, the State Transport Appellate Tribunal cancelled the appellant's permit
and gave it to respondent On appeal it was contended that a representation
under s. 57(4) could not be made at the appellate stage beyond the time limited
by that section and if rule IS permitted it, it violated the substantive
provisions of the Act.
Dismissing the appeal,
HELD: Rule 15 is intra vires and it merely
makes patent what is otherwise latent in the statutory provisions. . Rule 15
does not entitle parries to the appeal or application to produce additional
evidence but clothes the Tribunal with dn creationary power to allow such
evidence. What is received is not qua representation under 8. 57(4) but qua
evidence with public interest flavor. [1041F 1039C] United Motor Works, A.l.R.
1964 Pat. 154 and Cumbum Roadways, A.I.R. 1965 Mad. 79, approved.
(a) Public interest is the paramount
consideration in transport business while private rights apparently constitute
a quasi-lis for decision. The touchstone of better merit is solely the ability
to serve the public and the hierarchy of transport tribunals, bearing true
faith and allegiance to s. 47 of the Motor Vehicles Act. 1948 have the duty
and, therefore, the power to consider all factors pertinent to the larger
scheme of efficient public transport. The duplex scheme of the statute is the
holding of a public enquiry to determine who will serve public interest best
but ordinarily activated into that enquiry by private applicants for permits.
The pro bono publico character of the hearing cannot be scuttled in the name of
competitive individual rights and narrow procedural trappings. [1033E-G] (b)
Section 47 enjoins upon the Regional Transport Authority to have regard to the
presiding idea of public interest generally and in ib ramification as set out in
s. 47(1)(a) to (f). In addition, the RTA shall also receive representations as
mentioned therein and take them into the reckoning. It is not as if the sole
source of decision- making materials consists of the representations made under
s. 57(3) within the time stipulated in s. 57(4). The primary channel the
information that the RTA may gather bearing on matters touched upon in 47(1)(a)
to (f) supplemented by facts stated in representation referred to In 1033 s.
57(3). Under s. 47 passengers' associations, police officers, local authorities
and existing operators who may have nothing directly to do with the rivalry for
A a permit have a place in the scheme and may make representation on a variety
of matters. So also, in an appeal, the RTA itself may be heard. Thus the
consideration going into the judicial verdict are dominated by public interest.
non-parties who have Only to present points germane to public interest are
allowed to represent their point of view. [1038C; 1035B-C]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1985 of 1975.
Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment and
order dated the 28th November 1975 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Writ
Appeal No. 1038 of 1973.
M. N. Phadke and B. Kantarao, for the
V. S. Desai K. R. Chaudhury, S. L. Setia and
Mrs. V. Khanna, for Respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KRISHNA IYER, J. Counsel for the appellant a jolted transport operator has
assertively argued for an untenable position, heedless of the true nature of 'transport
permit' jurisprudence. The sole issue on which limited leave has been granted
to him by this Court under Art. 136 lends itself to straight forward
resolution, once we grasp the.
public character of the litigation and public
purpose of the jurisdiction where per nits regulating the plying of stage
carriages are awarded or refused. The conscience of this branch of public law
is justice to the public, although, in the process of adjudication, private
claims to carry on transport business through permits are comparatively
evaluated. Public interest is the paramount consideration, while private
rights, fundamental though, apparently constitute the quasi-lis for decision.
The touchstone of better merit is solely the ability to serve the public, and the
hierarchy of transport tribunals, bearing true faith and allegiance to s. 47 of
the Motor Vehicles Act, 1948 (for short, the Act) have the duty and, therefore,
the power to consider as factors pertinent to the larger scheme of efficient
public transport. To equate-and thereby hamstring this jurisdiction and
processual law with what governs a civil proceeding under the Civil Procedure
Code, is to miss the policing policy of the law and maim the amplitude of the
power duty complete. In other words, the duplex scheme of the statute is the
holding of a public enquiry to determine who will serve public interest best
but ordinarily activated into that enquiry by private applicants for permits.
The pro bono publico character of the hearing cannot be scuttled in the name of
competitive individual rights and narrow procedural trappings.
The minimal facts. The appellant and the 1st
respondent, among others, applied for permits to ply a stage carriage on a
specified route in the Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh. Although there were
two permits for issuance, one was given to R2 and that has become final. We are
now concerned only with the other permit which had been granted by the Regional
Transport Authority (acronymically, RTA) to the appellant but was switched over
to the 1st respondent by the 1034 State Transport Appellate Tribunal (STAT) or
taking into consideration a fresh ground and supporting evidence to the effect
that the appellant was guilty of a transport tax violation and had compounded
that offence under s. 60(3) of the Act. The power in this behalf was stated to
be based on s. 15 of the Andhra Pradesh State Transports Appellate Tribunal
Rules, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Appellate rules), which reads:
"15. Additional Evidence (i) The parties
to the appeal 9 or application shall not be entitled to produce additional
evidence whether oral or documentary before the Tribunal but,- (a) if the
authority from whose order the appeal or application is preferred has refused
to admit evidence which ought to have been admitted, or (b) if the party
seeking to adduce additional evidence satisfies the Tribunal that such
evidence, notwithstanding the exercise of due diligence was not within his
knowledge or could not be produced by him at or before the time when the order
under appeal was passed;
or (c) if the Tribunal requires any documents
to be produced or any witnesses to be examined to enable it to pass just
orders, or (d) for any other sufficient reason, the Tribunal may allow such
evidence or documents to be produced or witnesses examined:
Provided that where such evidence is received
the other party shall be entitled, to produce rebutting evidence, if any.
(ii) If the Tribunal is of opinion that any
witness should be examined in connection with any case before it, it may
instead of examining him before itself, issue a commission to the concerned
Regional Transport Authorities or the State Transport Authority as. the case
may be, or to an Advocate or such other suitable person as it may deem fit, in
the circumstances of the case." The vires of this rule was challenged
before us and we will examine the contention. But, to continue the
narrative" when the appellate authority deprived the appellant of his
permit he attacked the order without avail, before the High Court at both
tiers. Undaunted he has carried the appeal to this Court where the controversy
is confined to the validity of s. 15, although we have heard arguments on a
wider basis to appreciate the point made by counsel. The argument of ultra
vires urged before us rests on The scope of ss. 57(4) and 64 of the Motor
Vehicles Act and the fitment of s. 15 into the purpose and text of these
Having heard counsel on both sides, we are
disinclined to accede to the submission of Shri Phadke for the appellant. Why ?
We will proceed to answer.
1035 Rulings galore, of this Court and the
High Courts, have focussed A on s. 47 of the Act to emphasize that the quasi-
judicial bodies entrusted with the work of issuing stage- carriage permits must
be conscious of the brooding presence of public interest, in the midst of the
sparring contest of private applicants. A casual perusal of that provision
brings home this juristic under-pinning of the jurisdiction.
Against this background, we may notice the
meaning of the clauses which - broaden the nature of the enquiry and mark it
off from a traditional civil litigation. Passengers' associations, police
officers, local authorities and existing operators who may have nothing
directly to do with the rivalry for a permit have a place in the scheme and may
make representations on a variety of matters. So also, in an appeal, the RTA
itself may be heard. Thus, the considerations going into the judicial verdict
are dominated by public interest; non-parties who have only to present points
germane to public interest are allowed to represent their point of view. Why?
Because the object of thus regulatory statute is to promote smooth public
transport and subject to the weighty factors bearing thereon set down in s.
47(1) of the Act and, indeed, with a view to serve the public the better,
applicants are chosen in recognition of their fundamental right under Art. 19
canalised by reasonable restrictions in public interest. To imprison such an
enquiry into the familiar mould of a civil proceeding in ordinary courts is to
be pathological, if one may say so. A freer, healthier, approach is the
prescription. Of course, Shri Phadke is right in that any representation,
ground or evidence presented by anyone prejudicing the right of an applicant
has to be considered only subject to the canons of natural justice and in the
discretion of quasi-judicial authority. Justice to the public and the parties
can and must be harmonised. Such is the simplistic statement of the law.
A few more facts and some more law are
As stated earlier, the appellant got the
permit from the RTA although both the contestants before us were equally
qualified, having obtained equal marks on the basis of the Andhra Pradesh Motor
Vehicles Rules (for short, the MV rules). The appellate result went against the
appellant because another applicant who had filed an appeal before the STAT
produced, at that stage, a certificate from the concerned authority to prove
that the present appellant had used a contract carriage as a stage-carriage on
a trip to Tirupati and had compounded this offence by payment of a fee of Rs.
2,340/-. This circumstance was regarded by the STAT as a blot on the
history-sheet of the appellant, although inadvertently omitted from the history-sheet
prepared officially for the consideration of the RTA. It is admitted on all
hands that this semi-punishment had not been mentioned in the representations
of any party under s. 57(3) of the MV Act. Therefore, an objection was raised
before the STAT that this ground was new, although the episode which formed its
basis existed prior to the disposal of the applications by the RTA. It was
further urged that such new grounds could not be heard from an objector who had
not included it in his representation made within the time limited by s. 57(4)
of the Act. However, the STAT over-ruled these objections and proceeded on the
footing that this was material information 1036 A relevant to s. 47(1) and used
it, after giving a fair opportunity to the affected appellant to meet it.
Consequentially, he upset the award of the
permit to the appellant since this factor tilted the scales against the
appellant. We cannot, in this Court, and especially on a limited leave, look
into the evaluation.
These foundational facts are common ground,
but the divergence rises on the exercise of the power under s.15 of the
Appellate Rules. Shri Phadke contended that a representationist, under s. 57(3)
& (4), had to abide by the time-limit discipline of the provision and could
not transgress it by making an additional representation at the appellate stage
beyond the time limited by s. 57(4). If s.
15 permitted such a course, it violated the
substantive provision of the Act. Since a stream cannot rise above its source
and rules cannot go beyond the sections of the Act, this Court must hold the
said rule avoid. Any way, if s.
57(3) & (4) had a more spacious
connotation than was attributed to it by Shri Phadke, s. 15 could have full
play and be accommodated within the parent provision in the Act regulating
procedure. This was the counter-contention of Shri V. S. Desai for the
Before proceeding further, it is useful to
extract s. 57(3) and (4) and test whether the rule-making power has exceeded
the ambit of s. 57 or gone counter to it in framing s. 15 (earlier extracted):
"57. Procedure in applying for and
granting permits.- x x x x (3) on receipt of an application for stage carriage
permit or a public carrier's permit, the Regional Trans port Authority shall
make the application available for inspection at the office of the authority
and shall publish the application or the substance thereof in the prescribed
manner together with a notice of the date before which representations in
connection therewith may be submitted and the date, not being less than thirty
days from such publication, on which and the time and place at which, the
application and any representations received, will be considered:
Provided that, if the grant of any permit in
accordance with the application or with modifications would have the effect of
increasing the number of vehicles operating in the region, or in any area or on
any route within the region, under the class of permits to which the
applications relate, beyond the limit filed in that behalf under sub-section
(3) of Section 47 or sub-section (2) of Section 55, as the case may be, the
Regional Transport Authority may summarily refuse the application without
following the procedure laid down in this sub-section.
(4) No representation in connection with an
application referred to in sub-section (3) shall be considered 1037 by the
Regional Transport Authority unless it is made in writing before the appointed
date and unless a copy thereof is furnished simultaneously to the applicant by
the person making such representation." We unhesitatingly agree with Shri
Phadke that natural justice-that J fine facet of judicial ethos-must broadly
inform exercise of power by administrative tribunals. This obligates such
bodies to give an 'a affected party a fair opportunity to meet any evidence
obnoxious to his case if it is to be pressed into service against him. In the
pre sent instance, it is not disputed, as the High Court has noted, that the
canons of natural justice have been conformed to.
The surviving issue therefore is as to
whether there is any soundness in the submission that s. 57(3) & (4) read
47 builds barricades against receiving any
information by the STAT from any representator beyond the time filed in the
above sub-sections of s. 57.
Administrative law-a growing branch of Indian
jurisprudence has a mission. Where the trellis work of technical procedures and
rules of evidence usually applicable to ordinary courts under the Code contains
too many taboos regarding pleadings and too many prescriptions regarding
trials, administrative bodies, manned by lay and legal men, charged with duties
which are wider than decision of individual disputes between specific parties
and operating quasi-judicially at the public-interest level, have to enjoy more
liberal powers and less formal and more flexible processes if they are to fulfill
the statutory behest efficaciously. To over judicialize is to undermine.
In the construction of statutes establishing
administrative agencies and r defining their powers, there is little scope for
the deep-rooted shibboleth that into the statute must be, read, by lawyer's
instinct, the requirements of the trial of a civil suit or the hearing of an
appeal by the ordinary courts of the land. This may result in defeating their
obvious purpose. We will therefore briefly examine the legislative goal of the
statute under construction, the general policy of the legislature in enacting
the relevant sections and the definition of the sources from which information
or evidence may be sought by the tribunal working within the framework of the
Act. Mr Justice Frankfurter has aptly stated that 'the answers to the problem
of an art are in its exercise' and John Chipman had paid that the process of
statutory construction is a practical art (See: Extrinsic Aid in the
Construction of Statutes-by V. S. Deshpande-Journal of Indian Law
Institute-Vol. II, April-June 1969, p. 123, 126). Thus, the true test of the
amplitude and correct interpretation of s.
57(3) & (4) is to be found in a study of
its area and its exercise, as intended by its makers. The oft-quoted saying of
Mr. Justice Holmes that - 'the meaning of a sentence it to be felt rather than
to be proved' also helps us to feel our way through the public law area
sketched by s. 57(3) & (4) understood in the background of s. 47 and the
conspectus of other provisions. We have to shake off from our minds that the
type of litigation contemplated by s. 57 is the thrust and parry in a civil
suit or appeal. With these observations we may take a bird's eye view of the
relevant provisions of the Act to give us a hang of the subject and help us
1038 Section 42 of the Act insists on a
permit being taken by every transport operator. Section 44 lays down how the
RTA is to be constituted. It has a mixed composition of lay aud
judicially-trained me, the reason being that the process of adjudication is not
purely legal pugilis but a broader search taking note of public considerations
which may not be brought to its notice by contenders for permits. The nature of
the enquiry is reflected in the very structure of the body. Section 46 speaks
of applications for stage- carriage permits. When we reach s. 47, we have to
take a close-up of that provision. Properly understood, s. 47 enjoins upon the
RTA to have regard to the presiding idea of public interest generally and in
its ramifications as set out in s. 47(1) (a) to (f). In addition, the RTA shall
also receive representations as mentioned therein and take them into the
reckoning. It is not as if the sole source of decision making materials
consists of the representations made under s. 57(3) within the time stipulated
in s. 57(4).
The primary channel, it , looks, is the
information that the RTA may gather, bearing on matters touched upon in s.
47(1) (a) to (f), supplemented by facts stated in representations referred to
in s. 57(3). Once we grasp this essential truth, the resolution of the conflict
raised in this case is easy. The focus is not on who, as between A and B, has
the title to the permit, but on who, as between A and B, should be preferred to
better sene the public interest.
We may, as a result of the above discussion,
set down the following five propositions:
1. Stage-carriage permits are granted for
providing an F. efficient public transport system.
2. The adjudicatory content has dual
elements-public interest in the best stage-carriage service and private title
to better sene the public.
3. The procedure is flexible, free from-the
rigidly of court trials, and this flexibility flows from the duty of the
tribunal charged with the task of picking out him who has the best plus points
for playing a good bus service, to discharge it properly. A people-conscious
power cannot be pared down in a self-defeating manner.
4. An activist tribunal (RTA, and, in
exceptional case, even the STAT) may even collect useful information bearing on
considerations set out in s. 47 and, after public exposure of such information
at the hearing and reasonable opportunity to meet it, if anyone is adversely
affected, put it into the crucible of judgment.
5. The antithesis is not between the right of
representation within the time limited by s. 57(4) and beyond it but between
representations by statutorily authorised entities under ss. 47 and 57 and receipt
of relevant 1039 evidence or information from any source whatsoever at any
stage whatsoever but subject to the wholesome rules of natural justice.
These fivefold guidelines squarely
accommodate s. 15 within the framework of ss. 47, 57 and 54 of the Act and
there is no spill-over breaching the banks of the provisions. The rule merely
gives effect to what the sections intend and is not therefore ultra vires.
Here the certificate of payment of
compounding fees was filed by one of the appellants before the STAT and was
received not as a representation under s. 57(4) but as some information the
STAT regarded had a bearing on matters falling under s. 47. It is important to
note that s. 15 does not entitle parties to the appeal or application to
produce additional evidence but clothes the tribunal with discretionary power
to allow such evidence. What is received is not qua representation under s.
57(4) but qua evidence with public interest flavor. The rule is good and covers
familiar ground to enable just orders being passed. A reference to order XLI,
rule 27 C.P.C. and s. 540 Crl. P.C.
proves this point. Justice to the public is
the keynote of ss. 47, 57 and s. 15. We are not lobbying for unconventional
procedures of quasi-judicial tribunals but interpreting the relevant provisions
according to well-established canons. We must listen to the signature tune of
quasi-judicial justice to appreciate the note. We may also highlight the basic
principle that subject to statutory regulations, each tribunal has its inherent
power to device its own procedure.
Novelty, if it improves purposeful
efficiency, is not anathema. But caution must be exercised in going against
time tried procedures lest processual law prove a charter for chaos. Like-
wise, it is necessary to mention that while a 'representation' under s. 47,
read with s. 57, has a right to make representations and be heard, subject to
the limitations written into those provisions, those who fall under it or
outside it have no right to bring in evidence or urge grounds as and when they
please or at all unless the tribunal, in its discretion, chooses to accept such
extra information. The first is a right of the 'representation' the second is
the power of the tribunal. F We are strengthened in our general approach and
particular construction by a ruling of this Court in New Prakash Transport(l)
and two rulings of the High Courts, one of a Full Bench of the Madras High
Court (AIR 1965 Madras 79) and the other a Division Bench of the Patna High
Court to which one of us (Untwalia, J.) was a party (AIR 1964 Patna 154).
In United Motor Works(2), the Patna Case, the
"It was also pointed out by the Supreme
Court in that case that the Motor Vehicles Act and the rules framed thereunder
do not contemplate anything like a regular hearing in a Court of Justice and no
elaborate procedure has been prescribed as to how the parties interested have
to be heard either before the Regional Transport Authority or 1040 before the
Appellate Transport Authority. The principle is well established that in the
absence of any such prescribed procedure the appellate authority may adopt any
procedure which it thinks best for hearing the appeal provide always that the
rules of natural justice are observed. The matter has been clearly put by Lord
Loreburn in the course of his speech in Board of Education v. Rice (1911 AC
179) as follows:
"Comparatively recent statutes have
extended, if they have not originated, the practice of imposing upon
departments or officers of State the duty of deciding or determining questions
of various kinds. In the present instance, as in many others, what comes for
determination is sometimes a matter to be settled by discretion, involving no
law. It will, I suppose, usually be of an administrative kind; but sometimes it
will involve a matter of law as well as a matter of fact, or even depend upon
matter of law alone. In such cases the Board of Education will have to
ascertain the law and also to ascertain the facts. I need not add that ill
doing either they must act in good faith and fairly listen to both sides, for
that is a duty lying upon every one who decides anything. But I do not think
they are bound to treat such a question as though it were a trial. They have no
power to administer an oath, and need not examine witnesses. They can obtain
information in any way they think best, always giving a fair opportunity to
those who are parties in the controversy for correcting or contradicting any
relevant statement prejudicial to their view." Ramaswami C. J., (as he
then was) also laid down:
"It is. . . manifest that the power of
the appellate authority is co-extensive with the power of the Regional'
Transport-Authority in this respect, and there is no reason why the appellate
authority should not take these matters into consideration in deciding the
appeal under s. 64 of the Act" It is trite that an appeal is a re-hearing
and ordinarily appellate power is as wide as original power. The facts of the
Patna case (supra) bear a close parallel to our case.
Another point with which we are not concerned
and also decided in the Patna judgment (one of the two writ petitions heard
together) was challenged in the Supreme Court and reversed. That bears upon the
interstate routes which does not arise in the instant appeal before us.
In Cumbum Roadways(1) Kailsam J. (as he then
was), speaking for the Full Bench, stressed the same view. The head note in the
Report is sufficiently explicit and we quote:
"The representator, who makes the
representation otherwise than under s. 57(4) will not have a right to have his
1041 objection heard and considered, but there is no prohibition against the
authority taking the information furnished by the objector and acting on it
after giving an opportunity to the affected party, to prove that the
information is false or that it should not be acted upon. The jurisdiction of
the Regional Transport Authority or the Appellate Tribunal to act upon any
information, whether it was brought to its notice by the objector or by the
Transport Authority cannot be questioned. But it is within the discretion of
the Regional Transport Authority or the Appellate Tribunal to accept the
information taking into account the relevant circumstances under which the
information was brought before it. If the authority decides to accept, it is
bound to ` give a reasonable opportunity to the affected person to show cause
as to why the information should not be acted upon. r When the authority is
acting on the information, but not as a representation by the objector, the person
affected can not object to the authority considering the information on the
ground that it was brought to its notice by one of the objectors without
including the information in the representation made by the objector. The right
of the representer as such is no doubt limited, for, he has no right to insist
that any representation made otherwise than under s. 57(4) should be considered
in the manner prescribed under s. 57(5). But that does not in any way debar the
authority under s. 47(1) of the Act from taking the information into account
for deciding to whom the permit should be given in the interests of the
public." The decision of the Assam High Court (AIR 1959 Assam 183) brought
to our notice by Shri Phadke does not really consider the issue from the
position we have delineated and turns on approach which is not quite correct.
Our conclusion therefore is that s. 15 is
intra vires and, further that the said rule merely makes patent what is
otherwise latent in the statutory provisions. The appeal accordingly, fails and
is dismissed with costs.
P.B.R Appeal dismissed.