madras high court

Madras High Court: In a petition filed praying to declare that the Transport Commissioner has no statutory power or jurisdiction to hear and decide the statutory appeals filed under Rule 154(2) of the Petroleum Rules, 2002 (‘Rules 2002’) and consequently the declare the orders passed by Transport Commissioner to be null and void for want of jurisdiction, the division bench of Sanjay V. Gangapurwala, CJ. and D. Bharatha Chakravarthy, J. while setting aside the Government order appointing Transport Commissioner as the Appellate Authority, directed the State to notify the Appellate Authority in tune with the Rules of 2002 expeditiously within twelve weeks.

The petitioner submitted that the Government Order dated 25-5-1983, has been issued under the Petroleum Rules, 1976. The said Rules of 1976 are repealed with effect from 13-3-2002 by virtue of Rule 202 of the Rules of 2002. Thus, the Transport Commissioner, appointed pursuant to Government Order dated 25-5-1983, would not be the appropriate authority to hear and decide the appeals. The Appellate Authority ought to be the immediate superior authority to any of the District Authorities as defined in Rules 2(x) and 2(xi) of the Rules of 2002. Therefore, as the Petroleum Act, 1934 and the Rules of 2002 are the subject-matter of the Union List and, as such, the State Government has no authority to modify the same by way of a government order.

After perusing Rule 154(2) of the Rules of 2002, the Court said that it is manifested that the Appellate Authority has to be one who is immediately superior to the District Authority. The Transport Commissioner is not superior to the District Authority.

The Court said that the Rules of 2002 is a piece of subordinate legislation. The government orders cannot supplant or override the Rules framed. Moreover, a Government Order dated 25-05-1983, was issued prior to the enforcement of Rules of 2002. At the relevant time, the Rules of 1976 were in vogue. The said government order may be valid under the Rules of 1976. However, it is incumbent upon the State to notify the Appellate Authority in tune with and in consonance with the Rules of 2002.

[VBR Menon v Additional Chief Secretary to Government, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 7893, Order dated 21-12-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioner: Advocate V.B.R.Menon

For the Respondents: Government Advocate Karthik Jagannath

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