HC reiterates Writ petition would be maintainable against a private party if it discharges a public function

By | May 16, 2022

Facts

The petitioner is the Managing Director of the Karnataka Freight Movers Pvt. Ltd and claims to be a lifetime member of the respondent no.4 company, as also a member of its ‘bye-laws committee’. While the respondent no.4 is a private company registered u/s 8 of the Companies Act, 2013 with the object to protect and promote the interests of persons engaged in the business of motor transport in the country, the respondent nos. 1 & 2 are the Election Officers appointed to conduct elections for the Managing Committee of the respondent no.4 for the term 2022-24. The respondent no.4 is a private company, which had been established to cater to the needs and interests of the transporters across India.

An election notice for conducting elections for the post of members of the Managing Committee of the respondent no.4/All India Motor Transport Congress for the term, 2021-2023 was issued by the respondent no.1 who was appointed as the Chief Election Officer by the respondent no.4. The elections were however, deferred for the term 2022-2024.

Procedural History

Upon an election notice being issued by the respondent nos.1 & 2, the petitioner learnt that the respondent no.2 had also been appointed as an Election Officer to conduct the elections for the Management Committee of the respondent no.4 company. It was stipulated in the said election notice that on account of delay in the election process, the term of the Management Committee would stand revised from the year 2021-23 to 2022-24. Aggrieved, the petitioner made representations to the respondent nos.1, 2 and 4, which did not elicit any response. The respondent nos. 1 & 2, issued yet another election notice for the elections to the Management Committee of the respondent no.4. It is in these circumstances that the petitioner approached this Court assailing the election notices and seeks a direction for holding the elections strictly in accordance with the Articles of Association of the respondent no.4.

Contentions Made

Respondent: The petitioner, not being a member of respondent no.4, has no locus to approach the Court. Since the respondent no.4 is a purely private body, no writ petition would be maintainable against it. The respondent no.4 is not involved in discharging any public functions and is therefore, not amenable to the writ jurisdiction of this Court.

Petitioner: The respondent no.4 describes itself as the Apex body of the motor transport fraternity of India, whose primary aim is to facilitate the growth and development of the motor transport sector. So, the respondent no.4, despite being a private party, is indeed discharging important public functions and would therefore, be amenable to the writ jurisdiction of this Court. Reliance was placed on Ramesh Ahluwalia vs. State of Punjab & Ors., Roychan Abraham vs. State of U.P. & Ors. andC. Dhanabal & Ors. vs. The Central Registrar of Co-Operative Societies, Department of Operation & Ors.

Observations of the Court

The Bench, relying on judgments cited, noted that a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, can in certain circumstances lie against a private body as well, the real test, however, in such cases is whether the said private body is discharging any public functions or not. In the present case, merely because respondent no.4 has been established to cater to the needs and interests of the transporters and boost the transport industry, this cannot be a sufficient ground to hold that it is involved in discharging public functions.

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Judgment

As no writ petition was maintainable against the respondent no. 4, it being a private party not discharging any public function, the Bench did not deem it necessary to examine the respondent’s objections that the petitioner has no locus to approach this Court or to assail the election process of respondent no. 4. Hence,  the writ petition was dismissed.