1. In this petition, the petitioner has prayed for restraining the respondents from demanding road tax on the bus owned and used by the Haryana College of Technology and Management, Ambala Road, Kaithal (hereinafter referred to as 'the College') for carrying students and employees to and from the College. He has further prayed for issuance of a direction to the respondents to grant permit for plying the bus for the purpose specified in application dated 31.7.2004.
2. The College is one of the educational institutions established by Dr. Puran Chand Dharmarth Trust which is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. On 31.7.2004, the petitioner submitted application Annexure P2 to the State Transport Commissioner, Haryana for registration of the new bus purchased for the purpose of, carrying the students and the employees to and from the College. He also applied for grant of exemption from payment of the road tax in terms of Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Rules, 1925 (for short, 'the rules'), as applicable to the State of Haryana. The application of the petitioner was forwarded by District Transport Officer, Kaithal (respondent No. 2). The latter sanctioned registration of the vehicle as an educational vehicle subject to the conditions specified in letter dated 13.10.2004 (Annexure P4) sent to respondent No. 3. The relevant extracts of that letter are reproduced below:-
"The matter has been examined and it has been decided to allow registration of this vehicle as an education vehicle subject to payment of usual taxes to be charged as a contract carriage permit i.e. Rs. 200/- per seat per annum and other taxes if any leviable.
Further as provided in Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 the vehicles in question may also be issued a contract carriage permit.
The vehicle may please be inspected physically and declared technically fit if it is fit as per provisions of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. All legal formalities be got completed at your end. However, the following conditions shall have to be observed by the Heads of the Institutions.
(i) That the vehicle shall be used solely for the carriage of students and staff to and from the college.
(ii) That the bonafide students of the college and staff while travelling in the bus shall hold identity cards and the seal/signature of the Head of the institution.
(iii) The vehicle shall be painted in yellow colour as per amendment issued vide notification No. S.O.212/C.A. 59/88/Sections 28, 38, 65, 93, 95, 96, 107, 111 & 213/99 dated 12th October, 1999 under Section 131(2)(i) of Haryana Motor Vehicles Rules, 1993.
(iv) That the directions of Hon'ble Punjab and Haryana High Court in C.W.P. 7639/95 Nimit Kumar v. Chandigarh Administration and Ors. with regard to the college buses will be complied with in letter and spirit.
(v) All legal formalities be completed under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 and Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1924 & Rules, 1925 at your end. Road tax may be charged @ 200/- per seat per year.
(vi) It should be clearly stipulated that such buses will not operate during summer vacations. Please keep a watch in this regard.
Road tax may be charged w.e.f. 1.7.2004."
3. The petitioner has challenged the conditions embodied in Annexure P4 for registration of the bus as a contract carriage and for charging of road tax at the rate of Rs. 200/- per seat per annum on the ground that the same are violative of Section 13 of the Punjab Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1924 (for short, 'the Act') read with Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Rules.
4. In the written statement filed on behalf of the respondents, an objection has been raised to the maintainability of the writ petition on the ground that the petitioner has failed to avail alternative remedy of appeal under Section 12 of the Act. On merits, it has been averred that the motor vehicle owned by the College cannot be granted exemption in terms of Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Rules because the same is to be used for carrying the students and staff of professional college which is being run on commercial lines. According to the respondents, the students of the college are in the age group of 16 to 17 years and they do not fall within the ambit of the term "pupil" which is referable only to the school children.
5. We have heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record. Section 13 of the Act, which provides for exemption and deductions, reads as under:-
"13. Exemption and deductions.- (1) The State Government may by rule or order exempt a person or class of persons from liability to pay the whole or part of the tax in respect of any motor-vehicle or class of motor-vehicles, and may in the like manner exclude any motor-vehicle or class of motor-vehicles from the operation of this Act.
(2) Whoever becomes liable to pay a quarterly installment of tax, but proves to the satisfaction of the licensing officer that he has not used or permitted the use of the motor-vehicle throughout the quarterly period preceding shall be entitled to receive an order in writing from the licensing officer exempting him from liability to pay such first mentioned quarterly installment, and licensing officer shall make an endorsement to that effect upon the license.
(3) Whoever becomes liable to pay a quarterly installment of tax in respect of motor-vehicle, but proves to the satisfaction of the licensing officer that he has paid a tax imposed by a municipality or cantonment authority in respect of the same motor-vehicle and for the whole or part of the quarter for which the installment of tax is due, then half the amount of the municipal tax paid for the said period shall be deducted from the quarterly installment of tax, and the licensing officer shall make an endorsement to that effect upon the license.
(4) A person who keeps more than ten motor-vehicles for use solely in the course of trade and industry shall be entitled to a deduction of ten per cent, on the aggregate amount of tax to which he is liable.
Explanation.- The expression "trade and industry" includes transport for hire.
(6) A person who pays tax in respect of a motor-vehicle for whole of the financial year, that is four quarterly periods referred to in Sub-section (1) of Section 3 in advance shall be entitled to a deduction of five per centum on the amount of annual tax payable by him."
6. Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Rules, which will be deemed to have been framed by the State Government in the context of Section 13(1) of the Act, reads as under:-
"8. Under Sub-section (1) of Section 13 of the Act, persons who keep for use motor vehicles of the following classes are exempt from liability to pay tax in respect of such motor vehicles to the extent specified below:
(i) xx xx xx xx xx xx xx xx
(ii) xx xx xx xx xx xx xx xx
(iii) Motor Vehicles owned by the educational institutions and used solely for the purpose of carrying pupils to and from the educational institutions or for purposes directly related to or incidental to the functions of the educational institutions. -
(iv) to (xiii) xx xx xx xx xx xx xx"
7. A conjoint reading of the provisions reproduced above shows that the motor vehicles owned by the educational institutions are entitled to total exemption from tax provided that the same are used solely for the purposes of carrying pupils to and from the institution or for the purpose directly related to or incidental to the functions of the institution. The language of Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Rules is very wide and takes within its fold the vehicles owned by the educational institutions which are used for carrying the students to and from the institution or for a purpose which is directly related to or is incidental to the functioning of the institution. In our opinion, this rule is applicable to the petitioner's case because the vehicle owned by the College is to be used for the purpose of carrying its students and staff to and from the institution. The use of the vehicle for the staff is directly related to the functioning of the institution because without the staff, the College cannot run. Therefore, the condition incorporated in letter Annexure P4 for levy of road tax at the rate of Rs. 200/- per seat per annum will have to be treated as ultra vires to Section 13(1) of the Act read with Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Rules.
8. The plea of the respondents that the students of the College cannot be treated as covered by the word 'pupil' as is commonly understood cannot, but be treated as frivolous and vexatious. There is nothing in the language of Rule 8(1)(iii) of the Rules from which it can be inferred that expression 'educational institution' appearing therein is restricted to schools and it does not apply to other educational institutions, like the College and the word 'pupil' is referable only to the school children and not to the students of the College. Rather, by adopting the rule of purposive interpretation, it must be held that expression "educational institution" takes within its fold the schools, colleges, universities etc. and the word 'pupil' comprehends within itself all categories of students.
9. In the result, the writ petition is allowed. The condition embodied in Annexure P4 dated 13.10.2004 for levy of road tax on the vehicle of the College is quashed. The competent authority of the Transport Department shall issue permit to the petitioner within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt/submission of certified copy of this order.
10. The Registry is directed to issue certified copy on payment of fee prescribed for urgent application.