Sree Gajanana Motor Transport Co. Ltd.
Vs. The State of Karnataka & Ors  INSC 233 (22 September 1976)
BEG, M. HAMEEDULLAH BEG, M. HAMEEDULLAH RAY,
A.N. (CJ) SHINGAL, P.N.
CITATION: 1977 AIR 418 1977 SCR (1) 665 1977
SCC (1) 37
Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, s. 43(1)---State
Government can direct imposition of fixed rates on stage-carriage operators for
carrying mails as condition permit Ss.
48(3) and 59(3)(c), such directions do not
interfere with quasi judicial functions of Regional Transport
Authority--Special provisions of s. 48 (3)(XV) do not override general
provisions of s. 43(1)(d)(1).
The State Government issued a notification
u/s 43(1) Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, directing the State Transport Authority to
impose the charge of certain uniform rates of freight upon the operators of
stage-carriages other than State Transport undertakings, carrying mails or
postal goods. The S.T.A. then directed the Regional Transport Authority, u/s
44(1) of the Act, to impose the duty of carrying the postal goods upon rates
fixed by the Government as a condition annexed u/s 48(3)(XV) to permits.
The appellant contended that the power of the
Government u/s 43(1) to issue directions relating to "freights", does
not include imposition of charges for carrying postal goods as conditions of
permits granted by the Regional Transport Authority. in exercise of its quasi judicial
powers. Dismissing the appeal the Court,
HELD: The State Government has the data and
the legal power under Section 43(1) of the Act to fix freights for carriage of
postal goods in various types of carriages mentioned there, including stage
carriages. Such charges are merely a species of freight on postal goods about
which the State Government can issue appropriate directions. [668 E] (2)
Section 48(3) deals with what lies past the quasi judicial stage of decision to
grant the permit. At that stage, the decision to grant the permit is already
there and only conditions have to be attached to the permit. The Regional
Transport Authority has, at this stage to act mainly mechanically after
considering matters on which it has, acting quasi-judicially, formed an opinion
and taken a decision. There is no interference with the quasi-judicial
functions as the annexation of a condition like. This is a part of the purely executive
duties of the Regional Transport Authority. [668 D-E, 669 A] S. Srikantiah
& Ors. v. The Regional Transport Authority, Anantapur & Ors 
Suppl. SCR 816 followed.
(3) There is no question of any special
provision overriding the general. The provisions are complementary.
Section 48(3)(XV) is really meant to carry
out the directions which can legally be given under section 43( 1 )(d)(i) of
the Act. [669 B--C]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 366 of 1976 (From the Judgment and Order dated 2.12.1974 of the Karnataka
High Court in Civil Writ Appeal No. 171/73).
K.N. Bhatta and M. Rangaswamy for the
Appellant Mrs. Shyamla Pappu and Girish Chandra for Respondent No. 3 B.R.G.K.
Achar for Respondents Nos. 1 and 2.
666 The Judgment of the Court was delivered
by BEG J.--This appeal by special leave raises the question whether the State
Government could, by a general direction given under Section 43(1) of the Motor
Vehicles Act, 1939 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') fix the charges to be
imposed upon operators of stage carriages for carrying mails as conditions of
Section 48 of the Act lays down the power of
the Regional Transport Authority to grant stage carriage permits with
conditions annexed thereto. The first stage of exercise of this power is
preceded by' the quasi-judicial enquiry, under Section 47 of the Act, into the
matters affecting the interests of public in general. Section 48, sub.. s. (1),
subjecting the power to grant stage carriage permits to provisions of section
47 of the. Act, includes what may be' correctly characterised as the
"quasi-judicial" power either to grant or refuse to grant a permit
after consideration of matters stated in Section 47 of the Act. After that, we
come to the power to attach conditions laid down in Section 48(3), and we find:
"49(3) The Regional Transport Authority,
if it decides to grant a stage carriage permit, may grant the permit for a
service of stage carriages of a specified description or for one or more
particular stage carriages, and may, subject to any rules that may be made
under this Act, attach to the permit any one or more of the following
conditions, namely: ......... " Out of a number of kinds of conditions
which may be imposed, the xvth given below, is relevant:
"(xv) that mails shall be carried on any
of the vehicles authorised by the permit subject to such conditions (including
conditions as to the time in which mails are to be carried and the charges
which may be levied) as may be specified".
Now, it is contended on behalf of the
appellants, that the power to attach conditions under. Section 48(3) is also
quasi-judicial with which the State Government neither has nor ought to have
any concern. The conditions of permits are prescribed by statute. It is for the
authority, exercising the power quasi-judicially to grant or not to grant
permits, to decide what conditions to attach or not to attach to each permit.
It is. not, it is submitted, for the State Government to dictate any conditions
to be attached.
Hence, the challenge to the Government
notification dated 30th May, 1968, which directed the State Transport Authority,
to impose the charge of certain uniform rates of freight upon operators
carrying mails or postal goods in stage carriages owned by operators other than
State Transport Undertakings throughout the State. The State Transport
Authority had, in its turn, issued a direction to the Regional Transport
Authorities all over the State under Section 44 (1 ) of the Act to impose, 667
duty of carrying the postal goods upon rates fixed by the Government as a
condition annexed under Section 48(3) (xv) to permits.
The relevant part of Section 43 (1) of the
Act enacts: "43 (1) A State Government having regard to(a) the advantage's
offered to the public, trade and industry by the above development of motor
transport, and (b) the desirability of co-ordinating road and rail transport,
and (c) the desirability of preventing the deterioration of the road system,
and (d) the desirability of preventing uneconomic competition among motor
vehicles, may, from time to time, by notification in the Official Gazette,
issue directions to the State Transport Authority-(i) regarding the fixing of
fares and freights for stage carriages, contract carriages and public
carriers;" Learned Counsel for the appellant contends that the power of the
Government to issue directions relating to "freights" does not
include imposition of charges for carrying postal goods as conditions permits
which the Regional Transport Authority grants in exercise of its quasi-judicial
powers. The attack on the validity of the Government direction is thus two fold:
firstly, that it falls outside the scope of Section 43(1) of the Act as charges
for carrying mail are not "freight" on goods carried; and, secondly,
that no directions could be given to a quasi-judicial authority as to how it
should perform its functions.
So far as the first argument is concerned, we
do not find much substance in it. The term "charge" is a broad one.
As used here, it is not a technical term and
has not been defined by the Act. It has, therefore, its ordinary dictionary
meaning. It means any amount which may be demanded as a price for the rendering
of some service or as price of some goods. The argument of the learned Counsel
for the appellant that the Act uses the term "freight" to. indicate
the charge made on carriage of goods, whereas the term "fare" is used
for the charge made for carrying passengers, itself rests on the assumption
that the term charge is a wide one. It includes both freights and fares. It is
true that the term "fare" is used in relation to charges made for
carriage of passengers and the term freight is used for charges made for the
carriage of goods. Nevertheless, both are charges. It may be that stage
carriages are meant for the carriage of passengers. But, as is a matter of
common knowledge, they also carry the luggage of passengers. In other words,
they also carry some goods incidentally. The mail bags in which the postal
goods are sent are only a type of goods which are not so bulky as to require
trucks 11--l234SCI/76 668 Or special vans. It is possible to carry them in
stage carriages together with the luggage of the passengers. In any case, this
is a condition which is probably imposed only in those areas where mail vans of
the State are not found to be necessary or economical to run. In the villages
in the interior of some rural areas, there may not be so much mail to carry as
to justify sending a mail van.
Therefore, power is given to the Regional
Transport Authority to attach the condition that postal goods should be carried
in stage carriages at rates fixed by the Government. The real grievance of the
operators is not that they have to carry postal goods as a condition of their
permits but that the rates fixed are too low. The proper remedy for such a grievance
is, as the High Court rightly pointed out, to apply to the Government for
revision of rates fixed.
Coming to the second submission, we may
observe that, although, there is ample authority for the proposition that the
grant of stage carriage permits is a quasi-judicial function, with which the
State Government cannot interfere by giving directions which may impede the due
performance of such functions, yet, when Section 48(3) speaks of the power to
attach conditions after the decision to grant the permit, it really deals with
what lies past the quasi judicial stage of decision to grant the permit. At
that stage, the decision to grant the permit is already there and only
conditions have to be attached to the permit, such as the necessity to carry
postal goods on certain routes at rates fixed by the Government. On the face of
it, these rates cannot be properly determined by the Regional Transport
Authority. They have to be uniform throughout the State. A decision on what
they should be must rest on considerations of policy and on facts which are not
quite relevant to the grant of stage carriage permits In any case, it is the
State Government which has the data and the legal power, under Section 43(1).of
the Act, to fix freights for carriage of postal goods in various types of
carriages, mentioned there, including stage carriages. We 'think that such
charges are merely a species of freight on postal goods about which the State
Government can issue appropriate directions to the State Transport Authority.
The Regional Transport Authority has only to. annex the condition automatically
in areas where such a condition may be required to be annexed to the permits
A reference to Section 59, sub. s. (3)(c)
would show that acceptance of the fixed rates of fares and freights, after
their notification under Section 43, becomes a condition which has to be
automatically attached to a permit.
The Regional Transport Authority has no
option on this matter. This is what this Court held in S. Srikantiah & Ors.
v. The Regional Transport Authority, Anantapur & Ors.(1) In other words,
the Regional Transport Authority has to act mainly mechanically after
considering matters on which it has to form an opinion and take a decision
quasijudicially. We think that there is no scope for argument that there is any
interference here with the quasi-judicial functions of the Regional Transport
Authority. The (1)  Supp. S.C.R. 816.
669 annexation of a condition like this is a
part of the purely executive Activities of the Regional Transport Authority.
By Civil Miscellaneous Petition No. 4023 of
1976, learned Counsel for the appellant sought to add two further grounds of
appeal. These were: that, the special provisions of Section 49(3)(xv) over-ride
the general provisions of Section 43(I)(d) (i) on the principle of
interpretation 'generalia specialibus non derogant' : and, that, in view of the
special provision of Section 48(3)(xv), the impugned notification of the State
Government was ultra vires. The second ground is what follows if the first is
good. But as we have already explained above, the first ground itself is not
sound. There is no question of any special provision over-riding the general.
The provisions are complementary.
Section 48(3)(xv) is really meant to carry
out the direction which can legally be given under section 43(1)(d)(i) of the
Act. Therefore, although we allow the miscellaneous application and have
permitted the grounds to be argued, we reject them as untenable.
For the reasons given above, we agree with
the views contained in the judgment of the Karnataka High Court against which
this appeal has been filed. We hold that the impugned direction and
notification by the Government was not invalid and that the Regional Transport
Authority had not acted illegally in attaching the required condition to the
permit. Consequently, we dismiss this appeal with M.R. Appeal dismissed.