How to ascertain evidentiary value of Newspaper report?

IN THE HIGH COURT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH, SHIMLA

CWP No. 3231 of 2014

Date of decision: October 27, 2015.

Private Bus Operator Welfare Society
Vs
State of H.P. and others

Coram
The Hon’ble Mr. Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, Judge.

Citation;AIR2016(NOC)138HP

The petitioner claims to be a society registered under the Societies Registration Act and its members are plying their buses on the routes granted to them by the Regional Transport Authority, Hamirpur (respondent No.4). The grievance put forth is that the drivers and conductors of the petitioner-Society are being harassed at the instance of the Regional Manager, Himachal Road Transport Corporation (for short HRTC). It is further mentioned that contrary to all Acts, Rules and norms, the respondent No.6 is deputing its conductors to check the papers of the buses including those of the petitioner-Society. It is further alleged that this highhandedness on the part of the employees of respondent No.6 has been reportedly brought to the notice of respondents No. 2 to 4, but to no avail.

2. In order to support its contention, the petitioner has also annexed various cuttings from the newspaper reports. Lastly, it is contended that even though there is a police post inside the Bus Stand, Hamirpur, but the officials generally turn their eyes or act as a mute spectators and being constrained by this state of affairs, the petitioner is compelled to approach this Court for the grant of following reliefs:

 

“(i) Writ in the nature of mandamus thereby restraining
respondent No.6 from checking the paper of private operators
i.e. petitioner Society and the respondents No. 2 and 3 be
directed to depute the police personnel to regulate the time
table of all buses and further respondent No.3 be directed to
register case against the erring officials who figured in the
newspaper cutting dated 29/30.3.2014 including the
respondent No.6 for causing obstruction to ply buses by the
petitioner-Society.
(ii) Respondent No.4 be directed to take suitable action
against the erring official including the respondent No.6 and
further be directed to collect the arrear of SRT from the
respondent No.6.
(iii) Respondent No.5 be directed to take action against the
respondent No.6 alongwith all the drivers and conductors
who figures in the photographs of the newspaper cuttings
published on 29th and 30th March, 2014 and the respondent
No.6 be further directed to submit the duty rosters of these
drivers and conductors figuring in the news papers for the
months of March to April, 2014.
(iv) The record pertaining to the arrear of SRT of
respondent No.6 may very kindly be summoned from the
office of respondent No.4 and after perusing the same, the
respondent No.4 be directed to treat the respondent No.6 on
similar footing like the private bus operators or any other
order or direction, as the Hon’ble Court may deem just and
proper in the facts and circumstances of the case, in the
interest of justice, equity and fair play.”

3. Respondents No. 1, 2 and 4 i.e. Principal Secretary (Transport), Deputy Commissioner, Hamirpur and Regional Transport Authority, Hamirpur in their joint reply have stated that after going through the various newspaper reports, respondents No. 5 and 6 had been telephonically directed to stop the checking with the further directions that if they have any knowledge of plying of any private bus illegally then the same may be brought to the notice of the respondent No.4 and action will be taken against the offenders /illegal operation as per the provisions of Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act of 1988”) and Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.

4. The respondent No.3, who is the Superintendent of Police, Hamirpur, in his reply, has stated that there is a police assistance room inside the bus stand, Hamirpur and the same has been established for the assistance of the public. In addition to the police assistance room, traffic police is also deployed for the regulation of traffic in the city, who regularly check the vehicles and prompt action is taken against the violators in accordance with law. It is categorically stated that the petitioner have never reported any incident which is within the cognizance of the police.

5. Respondents No. 5 and 6, who are the Managing Director and Regional Manager, Himachal Road Transport Corporation, Hamirpur, respectively, have filed the joint reply wherein it has been averred that insofar as the HRTC, Hamirpur Bus Stand is concerned, the same is the property of the Bus Stand Management and Development Authority (for short BSM&DA) and the Regional Manager is the nodal officer and it is incumbent upon the Department to maintain proper management at Bus Stand so as to prevent any illegal activities and illegal parking there.

I have heard learned counsel for the parties and also gone through the records of the case carefully and meticulously.

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6. The petitioner in support of the allegations made in the petition regarding the highhandedness and illegal activities of the employees of respondents No. 5 and 6 has taken me through the various newspaper reports annexed with the petition. However, the moot question is as to whether these newspaper cutting reports have any evidentiary value or are merely hearsay?

7. The issue is no longer resintegra and came up before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Laxmi Raj Shetty and another vs. State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1988 SC 1274 wherein it was categorically held that the newspaper item being in the nature of hearsay secondary evidence in itself have no evidentiary value, unless proved by evidence aliunde. It is apt to reproduce paras 25 and 26 of the judgment and relevant portion whereof reads thus:

“25. ….. We cannot take judicial notice of the facts stated in
a news item being in the nature of hearsay secondary
evidence, unless proved by evidence aliunde. A report in a
newspaper is only hearsay evidence. A newspaper is not one
of the documents referred to in Section 78 (2) of the Evidence
Act, 1872 by which an allegation of fact can be proved. The
presumption of genuineness attached under Section 81 of the
Evidence Act to a newspaper report cannot be treated as
proof of the facts reported therein.
26. It is now well settled that a statement of fact contained
in a newspaper is merely hearsay and therefore
inadmissible in evidence in the absence of the maker of the
statement appearing in Court and deposing to have
perceived the fact reported….”

8. In view of the aforesaid exposition of law, the petitioner was required to substantiate the averments made in the petition by some contemporaneous material on the record. However, to the benefit of the petitioner, the respondents No. 5 and 6 in their preliminary objection No.3 have themselves admitted that the District Administration i.e. Superintendent of Police, Hamirpur (respondent No.3) had also contacted the respondent No.5 to deploy HRTC staff at Bus Stand for the proper management of HRTC buses and private concern and have also placed on record the copy of letter dated 13.1.2014 (Annexure R-2). It is apt to reproduce para-3 of the preliminary objection as under:

“3. That HRTC Hamipur Bus Stand is property of the BSM
& DA and Regional Manager being Nodal Officer of BSM &
DA, it is incumbent upon the department to maintain proper
management at Bus Stand and do not allow any illegal
activities & illegal parking there. The District
Administration i.e Superintendent of Police Hamirpur
(Respondent No.3) has also contacted respondent No. 5 to
deploy HRTC staff at Bus Stand for the proper
management of HRTC buses and private concern, at the
bus stand which is evident from the letter dt. 13-01-2014
attached herewith as Annexure R-2 for the kind perusal of
this Hon’ble Court. As per letter dated 13-1-2014, the
respondent No.3 has requested Regional Manager HRTC to
deploy HRTC staff at Bus stand Hamirpur to implement the
timing schedule of private and HRTC buses at the earliest
so that proper law and other could be maintain in and
around the bus stand in question. These letters clearly
shows that respondent No.3 came in action only on the
request of replying respondent because the private bus
operator did not show their schedule time and route
permits to the HRTC staff deployed for the said purpose as
the result they use to park the buses for more time as
provided in the joint time table which resulted into
congestion and unauthorized parking. The respondent No.
5 also requested the respondent No.3 as per letter dated
24.10.2013 annexed herein as Annexure R-3. These letter
clearly shows that the HRTC employee are not harassing
any private operator as alleged in the petitioner on the
contrary they are just assisting in removing the traffic
congestion inside the bus stand Hamirpur at the request of
respondent No.3 which is evident from letter dated 13-01-
2014. As such the Writ Petition is totally wrong and
without any merits same is liable to be dismissed as based
on wrong facts.”

9. Here, it is also relevant to take note of the contents of the letter dated 13.1.2014 (Annexure R-2) which has been written by respondent No.3 to respondent No.6 and reads thus:

 

“No. Reader/14-309
From
The Superintendent of Police,
Hamirpur, District Hamirpur.
To
The Regional Manager,
HRTC, Bus Stand, Hamirpur.
Dated: Hamirpur, the 13th January, 2014.
Subject: Regarding deployment of HRTC staff at Bus
Stand, Hamirpur.
Sir,
It has been brought to the notice of undersigned
that HRTC and Private Buses remained parked at Bus Stand
Hamirpur without route permit and time which leads to
traffic jam in and outside the Bus Stand. Private bus drivers
leave the bus stand very late and consume the time of HRTC
buses. Even o HRTC staff has been deployed at bus stand
Hamirpur to check over the timing and route permit of Private
buses, causing problem to maintain proper law and order to
traffic police. Besides, this traffic police has to do the duty of
HRTC staff. I/C traffic Hamirpur have made written
representation to this effect with your office number of times
but no action has been taken so far.
Keeping in view of above, you are requested to deploy
HRTC staff at bus stand Hamirpur to implement the timing
schedule of private and HRTC buses at the earliest so that
proper law and order would be maintain in and around the
bus stand under intimation to this office.
Yours faithfully,
Sd/-
Superintendent of Police,
Hamirpur, District Hamirpur.”

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10. From the aforesaid averments as also the contents of letter dated 13.1.2014 (Annexure R-2), it is evidently clear that the HRTC staff has infact been deployed at the bus stand Hamirpur to check not only the timings of the buses but even the route permits of the private buses. Once this is the admitted position then the next question that arises for consideration is as to whether these officials have been vested with any power or authority under the law to carry out such checking. The answer to this is obviously in the negative.

11. It is not in dispute that the HRTC is a creation of Road Transport Act, 1950, whereas the BSM&DA is a creation of the Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand and Management Development Act, 1999 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act of 1999”) and are, therefore, two separate and distinct legal identities.

12. That apart, after the enforcement of the Act of 1999, all properties and other assets vested in the Government for the purposes of Bus Stand administered earlier by the Himachal Road transport Corporation and other local authorities, immediately before the enactment of the Act, now stand vested in the BSM&DA as is evident from Section 10 (a) of the Act which reads thus:

“Section 10 (a), which relates to the transfer of assets and
liabilities of the Government to the authority i.e. BSM&DA
clearly state that all properties and other assets vested in
the Government for the purposes of Bus Stand administered
by Himachal Road transport Corporation and other local
authorities, immediately before such date shall vest in the
Authority.”

13. In addition to the aforesaid it would be noticed that Chapter VIII of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 deals with ‘Control of Traffic’. Sections 130, 132 and 133 thereof, read as follows:

 

“130. Duty to produce license and certificate of registration.-
(1) The driver of a motor vehicle in any public place shall, on
demand by any police officer in uniform, produce his licence
for examination:
Provided that the driver may, if his licence has been
submitted to, or has been seized by, any officer or authority
under this or any other Act, produce in lieu of the licence a
receipt or other acknowledgement issued by such officer or
authority in respect thereof and thereafter produce the
licence within such period, in such manner as the Central
Government may prescribe to the Police officer making the
demand.
(2) The conductor, if any, of a motor vehicle on any public
place shall on demand by any officer of the Motor Vehicles
Department authorized in this behalf, produce the licence for
examination.
(3) The owner of a motor vehicle (other than a vehicle
registered under Section 60, or in his absence the driver or
other person-in-charge of the vehicle, shall, on demand by a
registering authority or any other officer of the Motor Vehicles
Department duly authorized in this behalf, produce the
certificate of insurance of the vehicle and, where the vehicle
is a transport vehicle, also the certificate of fitness referred to
in Section 56 and the permit; and if any or all of the
certificates or the permit are not in his possession, he shall,
within 15 days from the date of demand, submit photo
copies of the same, duly attested in person or send the same
by registered post to the officer who demanded it.
Explanation.- For the purposes of this sub-section, “certificate
of insurance” means the certificate issued under sub-section
(3) of section 147.
4. If the licence referred to in sub-section (2) or the certificates
or permit referred to in sub-section (3), as the case may be,
are not at the time in the possession of the person to whom
demand is made, it shall be a sufficient compliance with this
section if such person produces the licence or certificates or
permit within such period in such manner as the Central
Government may prescribe, to the police officer or authority
making the demand:
Provided that, except to such extent and with such
modifications as may be prescribed, the provisions of this
sub-section shall not apply to any person required to produce
the certificate of registration or the certificate of fitness of a
transport vehicle.
132. Duty of driver to stop in certain cases.
(1) The driver of a motor vehicle shall cause the vehicle to
stop and remain stationary so long as (may for such
reasonable time as may be necessary, but not exceeding 24
hours)
a) when required to do so by any police officer not below
the rank of a Sub- Inspector in uniform, in the event of the
vehicle being involved in the occurrence of an accident to a
person, animal or vehicle or of damage to property, or;
b) when required to do so by any person-in-charge of an
animal if such person apprehends that the animal is, or
being alarmed by the vehicle will become, unmanageable, or
and he shall give his name and address and the name and
address of the owner of the vehicle to any person affected by
any such accident or damage who demands it provides such
person also furnishes his name and address.
(2) The driver of a motor vehicle shall, on demand by a
person giving its own name and address and alleging that
the driver has committed an offence punishable under
Section 184 give his name and address to that person.
(3) In this section, the expression “animal” means any horse,
cattle, elephant, camel, ass, mule, sheep or goat.
133. Duty of owner of motor vehicle to give information.
The owner of a motor vehicle, the driver or conductor of
which is accused of any offence under this Act shall, on the
demand of any police officer authorized in this behalf by the
State Government, give all information regarding the name
and address of, and the licence held by the driver or
conductor, which is in his possession or could by reasonable
diligence be ascertained by him.”

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14. It would be evident from the perusal of the aforesaid Sections that a complete mechanism has been provided under the Act clearly specifying therein the authorities which can demand the production of the documents. Even if it is assumed that the aforesaid provisions are not applicable inside the bus stand (as is alleged by the respondents) even then, it is absolutely clear that atleast the employees of the HRTC have no jurisdiction or authority to check the documents and at best, it would be the employees of the BSM&DA, who alone, apart from the authorities specified under the Act of 1988 would have the authority to check the documents of these buses.

15. Now, insofar as the claim of the petitioner regarding the collection of arrears of SRT from the respondent No.6 is concerned, suffice it to say that the petitioner has no locus standi to claim such a relief and moreover similar contention has also not found favour before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Special Leave to Appeal (C) Nos. 27504-27505 of 2015 arising out of judgment passed by this Court on 28.5.2015 in CWP No. 1297 of 2015 and other connected matters in case titled Niji Bus Operator Kalyan Sabha etc. vs. State of H.P. and others. 16. The other claim raised with respect to display of time table is rendered infructuous in view of the directions to this effect issued by a learned Division Bench (of which I was a member), in Niji Bus Operator case (supra) wherein it is categorically directed as follows:

“(iii) The respondents are directed to draw up the time
table(s) in such a manner so as to ensure equitable
distribution of passengers between the buses run by the
HRTC and the private operators so that there is no
unnecessary heart burning amongst the private operators.”

17. In view of the aforesaid discussion, this petition partly succeeds and accordingly the respondent No.6 and its employees/officials are restrained from checking the papers of the vehicles of the private bus operators including the petitioner society.

18. However, before parting, it needs to be clarified that merely because respondent No.6 and its employees/officials have been restrained from carrying out the checking of papers of vehicles belonging to the private bus operators including the petitioner, this in no manner shall entitle the petitioner or any private operators to park their buses in such a manner which may cause obstruction to the free flow of traffic. The private bus owners including the petitioner shall maintain proper discipline and decorum at the bus-stand and shall produce before the competent authority the documents as and when so demanded. The petition is disposed of in the aforesaid terms, so also the pending application(s) if any, leaving the parties to bear their costs.

October 27, 2015.
( Tarlok Singh Chauhan),

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