S.K. Bhatia & Ors Vs. State of
U.P. & Ors  INSC 96 (12 August 1983)
REDDY, O. CHINNAPPA (J) REDDY, O. CHINNAPPA
(J) DESAI, D.A.
CITATION: 1983 AIR 988 1983 SCR (3) 595 1983
SCC (4) 194 1983 SCALE (2)95
Motor Vehicles Act, 1939-condition fn a permit
as to age of mini buses-whether infringes Article 14 of the Constitution.
U. P. Motor Vehicles (Special Provisions) Act
1976' section 4-scope of.
A condition that the motor vehicle covered by
the permit shall not be more than four years old, counted from the date of
registration to any time during the validity of the permit is attached to every
permit for plying a mini bus. The petitioners contended (i) that this condition
amounted to an infringement of Article 14 of the Constitution in that no such
condition was attached in the case of omnibuses and (ii) that the authority
competent to impose the condition was the authority constituted under the U. P.
Act and not the Regional Transport Authority.
Dismissing the petitions.
HELD: It is not correct to say that a
condition similar to the one attached to permits issued in the case of mini
buses was not attached to the permits issued in the case of omnibuses. In their
case too, there is a condition that the vehicle should be replaced on the
expiry of five years from the date of registration. Secondly, omnibuses and
mini buses constitute different classes and are not comparable. [598 D] The
source of power for imposing condition 18 is section 51(2) (x) of the Motor
Vehicles Act under which the authority empowered to impose the condition is the
Regional Transport Authority. Section 4 of the U. P. Motor Vehicles (Special
Provisions) Act, 1976 has nothing whatever to do with the imposition of
conditions on mini buses plying as contract carriages. That Act deals with
authorization of and use of private mini buses as stage carriage within
specified limits covered by an approved scheme. [598 G]
ORIGINAL JURBDICTION : Writ Petition Nos.
1124,4908, 9069-70,18-21, 4817,9445-48 of 1981, 1336, 2117-20, 6808 and 7219 of
1982, 2928 of 1980,1698/80 and 663 of 1981.
(Under Article 32 of the Constitution of
India) S. Markandey, Mrs. C. Markandey, U.S. Prasad, R.K Jain, R.B. Mehrotra,
Ravi Prakash Gupta and K.K Gupta for the Petitioners.
596 Kapil Sibal and Mrs. Shobha Dixit for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
CHINNAPPA REDDY, J. In these writ petitions, the vires of condition No. 18
attached to the permits issued by the respective Regional Transport Authorities
of the State of Uttar Pradesh :o the petitioners for plying contract carriages
known as 'mini' buses is in question. 'Mini bus' is defined by sec. 2 (d) of
the U.P. Motor Vehicles (Special Provisions) Act, 1976 as meaning "an
omnibus which is constructed or adapted to carry not more than 35 persons
excluding the driver". Section 51 (2) of the Motor Vehicles Act enables
the Regional Transport Authority granting a contract carriage permit to attach
in the permit any one or more of the conditions enumerated in that provision. Item
(x) of Section 51 (2) reads "any other condition which may be
prescribed". Condition No. 18 is a condition which is prescribed and
attached in every permit for plying a mini bus. The condition in its original
form stood thus: "The motor vehicle covered by the permit shall not be
more than four years old counted from the date of registration to any time
during the validity of the permit." The period of four years originally
stipulated was increased to "seven" on September 28, 1978 and again
raised to "nine" on December 21, 1981. The vires of the condition was
questioned earlier by some owners of mini buses on the ground that it was ultra
vires the power under sec. 51 (2) of the Motor Vehicles Act.
But, in Subhash Chandra And ors v. State of
U.P. and ors.(1) this Court held that the condition was within the limits of
the power conferred by sec. 51 (2) tracing its source to Item (X) of sec. 51
(2). The Court observed:
Section 51 (2) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939
is geared to public safety, not private profit and casts a solemn duty not to
be deterred by any pressure except the pressure of social justice to Indian
lives moving in buses, walking on roads or even standing on margins ..........
.........." "Section 51 (2) (x)
authorises the impost of any condition, of course, having a nexus with the
statutory 597 purpose. It is undeniable that human safety is one such purpose.
The State's neglect in this area of policing public transport is deplorable but
when it does act by prescribing a condition the court cannot be persuaded into
little legalism and harmful negativism. The short question is whether the
prescription that the bus shall be at a seven- year old model one is relevant
to the condition of the vehicle and its passengers' comparative safety and
comfort on our chaotic highways. Obviously, it is. The older the model the less
the chances of the latest safety measures being built into the vehicle. Every
new model incorporates new devices to reduce danger and promote comfort Every
new model assures its age to be young, fresh and strong, less likely to suffer
sudden failures and breakages, less susceptible to wear and tear and moral
fatigue leading to unexpected collapse. When we buy a car or any other machine
why do we look for the latest model ? Vintage vehicles are good for centenarian
display of curios and cannot but be mobile menaces on our notoriously neglected
highways. We have no hesitation to hold, from the point of view of the human
rights of road users, that the condition regarding the model of the permitted
bus is within jurisdiction and not to prescribe such safety clauses is
abdication of statutory duty".
"We are clear that a later model is a
better safeguard and, more relevantly to the point, the year of the make and
the particulars of the model are part of the description".
An argument appears to have been advanced
that sec. 38 of the Motor Vehicles Act obliged every transport vehicle, which
expression included contract carriages like mini buses, to carry a certificate
of fitness and therefore, Condition No. 18 was superfluous and derogated from
the requirement of sec. 38. This argument was not accepted by the court, who
"The unreported ruling in Civil Writ No.
7317 of 1975 interprets s. 38 of the Act and the non- issuance of 598 the
fitness certificate because the model was not recent enough. May be the
vehicle, regardless of the year of its make, may be fit and the refusal to
certify fitness merely because it is old may not always be right. But we see no
conflict between a vehicle being fit to ride and the condition, as an
additional requirement and safety factor, in the shape of the year of the
This is an extra measure, a further insurance
against machine failure and cannot contradict the 'fitness' provision".
The vires of Condition No. 18 is once again
challenged in these writ petitions. The grounds of challenge, however, are most
insubstantial. It was said that there was no such condition in the case of
omnibuses and therefore, there was an infringement of Art. 14 of the
Constitution. It is incorrect to say that there is no such condition in the
case of omnibuses. In paragraph 5 of the counter-affidavit filed in a Writ
Petition Nos. 18-21 of 1981, it is stated that in the case of omnibuses, there
is a condition that the vehicle should be replaced on the expiry of five years
from the date of registration. Further omnibuses and mini buses constitute
different classes and are not comparable. Another submission was that condition
No. 18 is impossible of fulfillment since one of the manufacturers of chassis
of mini buses (Telco) is no longer manufacturing such chassis. This is denied
in the counter-affidavit and we presume there are other manufacturers in the
country, who make or produce the required chassis. In any case, that is a
situation which can be remedied by the transport authorities. The petitioners
can always pursue the remedies given to them under the Motor Vehicles Act by
way of appeal and revision. We fail to see any infringement of any
constitutional right. Another submission was that the authority competent to
impose the condition, was not the Regional Transport Authority, but the
competent authority under sec 4 of the Utter Pradesh Motor Vehicles (Special
Provisions) Act. Vie have already referred to Subhash Chander's case where it
has been held that the source of a power for imposing condition No 18 is sec.
51 (2) (x) of the Motor Vehicles Act. Under sec. 51 (2) (x), the authority
empowered to impose the condition is the Regional Transport Authority. Section
4 of the Uttar Pradesh Motor Vehicles (Special Provisions) Act deals with the
authorisation of use of private mini buses as stage carriages within specified
limits covered by an approved scheme and has nothing whatever to do with the
imposition of conditions on mini buses playing as contract carriages. It was
suggested that the real 599 object of Condition No. 13 is not the safety of the
passengers as thought in Subhash Chander's case, but to eliminate mini buses
from the field. There is no basis at all for this submission. As we said, there
is no substance in any one of these submissions advanced by the petitioners.
All the writ petitions are, therefore,
dismissed with costs.
P.B.R. Petitions dismissed.