1. The following question has been referred to a Full Bench by a Division Bench particularly for reconsideration of the decision in Dr. A. C. Dass v. T.R.O. and D.S.O. Lucknow, 1962 All LJ 553:--
'When a tenant-in-chief vacates an accommodation by subletting it to another person can the District Magistrate pass an order under Section 7(2) of the Act to him to sublet it to another person or to his landlord, e.g. the owner of the accommodation, to let it to another person. In other words, who is the landlord of the accommodation that falls vacant--the tenant-in-chief or the owner--who can be ordered to let?'
2. Since an abstract question is referred to us we are not concerned with the facts and I do not consider it necessary to reproduce them. The question is an abstract question of law, the answer to which does not depend upon the facts at all.
3. 'Accommodation' is defined in section2 (a) of the Temporary Control of Rent and Eviction Act to mean residential or non-residential accommodation in any building or part of a building. Really this is not a definition but only an explanation because in defining a word one cannot use that word itself. Accommodation is not a concept like a right but is a tangible property, meaning a building or a part of a building used for residential or non-residential purpose. Whether in respect of a building the whole of it is an accommodation or part of it is an accommodation or whether it consists of more than one accommodation depends upon circumstances such as tenancy contract. See 1962 All LJ 553 (supra) to which I was party. In N. C. Agarwal v. Krishan Lal Mehra, 1960 All LJ 755: (AIR 1961 All 104 FB), Dayal, J. said at p. 757 (of All LJ): (at p. 106 of AIR) that 'the definitions of 'landlord' and 'tenant' fix the accommodation to be the accommodation for which rent is payable by the tenant to the landlord' and that 'the power of determining the unit of tenancy vests in the landlord', it being 'his right to let accommodation to a tenant.' In these observations landlord means the owner and tenant, his tenant and do not include a tenant-in-chief as against his subtenant. If the whole building is let the whole of it is an accommodation. If it is let in two parts each part is an accommodation. Though a building in occupation of its owner is an accommodation the Act does not apply to it so long as it remains in his occupation, provided that it had not applied any time in the past also. In respect of a building which was always in occupation of the owner and never let it becomes governed by the Act when he ceases to occupy it or a part of it. If he ceases to occupy the whole Section 7 applies to the whole and the whole becomes one accommodation. If he ceases to occupy a portion only that portion becomes an accommodation governed by Section 7 and the remaining portion, though constituting another accommodation, is not governed by it. When an owner lets a building or a part of it to a tenant there comes into existence one and only one accommodation governed by the Act. When the tenant sublets the whole of it or a portion of it another accommodation does not come into existence on the subletting, not even when it is of a portion.
Consequently accommodation in the case of a building let to a tenant-in-chief who has sublet, whether the whole of it or a portion of it means the whole building; in other words, the subletting does not bring into existence another accommodation, accommodation being a tangible property. On reconsideration, J think that a statement to the contrary made by me in Dr. A. C. Dass, 1962 All LJ 553, at p. 555 is not correct. A building, which has become an accommodation governed by the Act, remains one accommodation and cannot become two accommodations merely on its being sublet in whole. If another accommodation does not come into existence when the whole is sublet another should not come into existence also when a portion is sublet. A portion of an accommodation remains an accommodation.
4. 'Landlord' is defined in Clause (c) of Section 2 to mean a person to whom rent is payable by tenant In respect of an accommodation and tenant' Is defined in Clause (g) to mean a person by whom rent is, or but for a contract, would be payable. When a person is liable to pay rent (or is excused from the liability by a contract) he is a tenant and the other person, a landlord. When an owner lets an accommodation to another person he becomes the landlord and the other person, a tenant and when the tenant sublets it, the tenant becomes a landlord and the sub-tenant, a tenant. Thus a tenant-in-chief is the landlord of his sub-tenant and the sub-tenant is a tenant as against the tenant-in-chief: See Dr. A. C. Dass, 1962 All LJ 553, (supra) and Ram Bharose v. Ajeet Kumar, 1952 All LJ 280: (AIR 1952 All 806).
5. The law regarding landlord and tenants is contained in the Transfer of Property Act and continues to be in force except to the extent it is altered by the (Temp.) Control of Rent and Eviction Act. Dayal J. said in N. C. Agarwal's case, 1960 All LJ 755 at p. 757: (AIR 1961 All 104 at p. 106 (FB)) that 'the Rent Control and Eviction Act.... has to be strictly construed' and that 'the power of control is clearly defined and cannot extend to matters not included In the Act. An accommodation governed by the Rent Control and Eviction Act in certain matters remains governed by the Transfer of Property Act in other matters. Under Section 111 of it a lease is determined in several ways including express surrender, i.e., the tenants yielding up his interest under the lease to the landlord by mutual agreement between them and implied surrender. There is no determination of a lease by abandonment; even if a tenant abandons the accommodation or ceases to occupy it he remains a tenant subject to all liabilities of a tenant. In the absence of a contract a tenant is entitled to transfer absolutely or by way of mortgage or sub-lease the whole or any part of his interest in the property while remaining liable under the lease vide Section 108(j). The Rent Control and Eviction Act contains no provision laying down when a lease of an accommodation is determined; therefore, Section 111 of the Transfer of Property Act applies to an accommodation in respect of this matter. As regards subletting, there is Section 7 (3) in the Act laying down that no tenant can sublet any portion of the accommodation except with the permission in writing of the landlord and of the District Magistrate previously obtained, if the accommodation is governed by the Act and this provision prevails over that contained in Clause (j) of Section 108.
Under the Transfer of Property Act a tenant loses the right to remain in possession when his lease is determined and If he continues to be in possession he oan be at once used for ejectment by the landlord. Section 8 of the Control of Rent and Eviction Act Imposes a restriction on this right of the landlord to sue for his ejectment; he cannot sue unless he has obtained the District Magistrate's permission or the tenant has done one of the specified wrongs Including that of subletting the whole or any portion of the accommodation without his permission. It is to be noted that the restriction is on the landlord's right to use for ejectment and not on his right to determine the tenancy by a notice to quit, forfeiture etc. conferred by Section 108 of the Transfer of Property Act. The right to determine the tenancy Is not affected and only the right to sue for ejectment after the determination is affected by the Control of Rent and Eviction Act. See Dr. A. C. Dass, 1982 All LJ 553, at p. 556. If the District Magistrate does not grant permission or the tenant has not done any of the wrongs mentioned in Section 3 (1), he cannot be sued for ejectment even though his tenancy has been determined. It may sound anomalous but that is the position.
6. Section 7 (1) of the Control of Rent and Eviction Act reads as follows:--
'(1) (a) Every landlord shall, within seven days after an accommodation becomes vacant by his ceasing to occupy It or by the tenant vacating it or otherwise ceasing to occupy it or by termination of tenancy...... or in any other manner whatsoever, give notice of the vacancy. .... .to the District Magistrate.
(b) Every tenant occupying accommodation shall within seven days of vacation of such accommodation or ceasing to occupy It give notice thereof . . . ..to the District Magistrate.'
The notice required by Sub-section (1) of Section 7 is of ah accommodation becoming vacant; the only condition required is that it has become vacant. What amounts to an accommodation becoming vacant or how or when it becomes vacant is not explained anywhere in the Act. This provision does not purport to create a vacancy artificially or by resort to legal fiction if there is no vacancy as understood in common parlance. By using the words 'in any other manner whatsoever' the legislature has made it clear that the provision applies in all possible cases of vacancy. By using the words by....ceasing to occupy' and 'by termination of tenancy' it has made it clear that ceasing to occupy and termination of tenancy are some of the ways in which a vacancy arises but has not made it clear whether anything more than these two facts is required. Had it intended that mere ceasing to occupy or mere termination of a tenancy amounts to an accommodation falling vacant and that the provision applies whenever there is mere ceasing to occupy or termination of a tenancy one would have expected it to lay down that
'every landlord shall...... after a landlord or his tenant ceases to occupy it or the tenancy is terminated or it falls vacant by the tenants vacating it or in any other manner, give notice of the vacancy etc.'
That would have made it clear that mere easing to occupy or mere termination of a tenancy is enough. for the applicability of the provision and that it is not, further necessary in the former case that the tenancy is terminated or in the latter case that the tenant ceases to occupy or vacates it.
On the other hand, the facts that the tenant's vacating, his ceasing to occupy and termination of his tenancy are mentioned as three alternate ways in which a vacancy arises suggests that each one is enough, No difficulty arises when a tenant ceases to occupy or vacates; holding that this amounts to causing a vacancy within the meaning of Section 7 does not produce a clash with any other provision of the Act or even with any provision of the Transfer of Property Act. Though the tenancy has not been terminated there is in fact a vacancy and no anomaly is likely to arise from an order under Section 7 (2) being passed requiring the owner to let to another person. After the letting to another person the tenancy rights of the tenant would automatically come to an end and he will cease to be liable to the owner as a tenant. He should have no grievance against the owners being required to let to another person because he himself has ceased to occupy and the very object behind his becoming a tenant was to be in occupation. In Mahabir Prasad v. Kewal Krishna, 1953 All LJ 34: (AIR 1953 All 441) Brij Mohan Lall J. said that in addition to cessation of occupation there must exist in the mind of the tenant an intention of not coming back to the accommodation again, Actually there was such an intention and a vacancy was held to exist; what would have happened if there had been no such intention did not arise before the learned Judge and any statement made by him regarding it is nothing but a dictum. He has not given any reason for the view that cessation of occupation must be accompanied by an intention of no return. I agree with another statement of his, however that the word 'Vacant' does not mean that the tenancy should determine' (p. 35 (of All LJ): (p. 441 of AIR)). In Sangam Lal Jaiswal v. Commr. Varanasi Division 1961 All LJ 36 Kailash Prasad J. simply referred to, the above dictum of Brij Mohan Lall J. In Firm Sheo Kumar Krishna Kumar v. Iqbal Ahmad, S. A. No. 2775 of 1959 dated 27-7-1960 (All) it is held that mere withdrawal from an accommodation not accompanied by any intention of not returning does not amount to vacat ing it and that 'the idea of determination of the interest in which he held in his occupation the accommodation is implicit in the expression Vacant' '. With great respect I disagree. Vacating does not presuppose determination of tenancy and in the contest in which the word is used in the provision it cannot be said to include the idea of determination of tenancy. It was further observed that if a tenant leaves an accommodation and puts in his place a subtenant, a licencee or any other nominee he cannot be said to have vacated it because
'in the eye of law it continues to be in his occupation though the actual occupation at the moment is that of his representative or nominee only.'
It is to be noted in this connection that the legislature has used the word 'occupy' and not the word 'possess' and that occupation means actual or physical possession by residence or actual use by storage of goods, carrying on business etc. A house is not occupied when it is lying vacant, nobody residing in it or using it for storage, business etc. If a tenant removes his occupation it becomes vacant regardless of what he docs subsequently, whether he puts in occupation a licensee or a sub-tenant.
To say that a tenant continues to be in occupation though the actual occupation is with another person is contradiction in terms. Occupation depends upon a fact and is nor a matter of legal fiction at all. As regards a vacancy arising by termination of the tenancy the matter is not so clear and it cannot be said that mere termination is sufficient to bring about a vacancy. At first sight it may appear that just as ceasing to occupy or vacating is enough without anything more so also determination of the tenancy should be enough without anything more. But determination of a tenancy cannot be placed on the same footing as cessation of occupation of vacating; in the latter case there is vacancy in fact but not in the former because the tenant may continue in occupation in spite of the determination. Under the Transfer of Property Act itself determination of a tenancy does not mean loss of posses sion or occupation. Section 3 or the (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act confirms this and by imposing restrictions upon a suit for ejectment makes clear its intention that he remains in occupation in spite o the determination. To hold that a vacancy arises merely by the determination and that consequently an order can be issued under Section 7 (2) requiring the owner to let the accommodation to another person would nullify the effect of the restrictions imposed by Section 3,
If another can be let in as a tenant immediately on determination of his tenancy it would be useless to restrict the institution of a suit for his ejectment; all that the owner has to do is to give notice of the vacancy by the determination and he will in due course get an order under Section 7 (2) requiring him to let the accommodation to another person. He may not get a tenant of his choice but he will certainly get rid of the tenant whose tenancy has been terminated by him.
It must, therefore, be held that an accommodation does not fall vacant merely on the determination of the tenancy; the tenant must cease to occupy or vacate the accommodation. This would certainly render superfluous the words 'or by termination of tenancy' in the provision under discussion but this is preferable to rendering the provisions of Section 3 (1) ineffective. This was the view taken by me in Dr. A. C. Dass at p. 557 and in Lachmi Narain v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer, 1962 All LJ 213. In Mahesh Prasad v. Section K. Sinha. Writ' Petn. No. 1433 of 1958 dated 9-8-1960 (All.) it was laid down that a vacancy does arise on termination of a tenancy so long as the tenant does not withdraw his interest as tenant from the accommodation; probably what is meant by withdrawal of interest is cessation of occupation.
7. Under the provision the duty to notify a vacancy attaches to the owner as soon as the accommodation becomes vacant; nothing more than the arising of the vacancy is required and in particular it is not required to last for some time. It is immaterial that the owner after ceasing to occupy lets it or the tenant after ceasing to occupy sublets it or puts in somebody else in his place; these facts do not absolve the owner from the duty of notifying the vacancy and he must give the notice. 'Ceasing to occupy' means that the owner or the tenant ceases to occupy and not that nobody else occupies it subsequently. The provision speaks of an accommodation 'becoming' vacant and not of remaining vacant and it becomes vacant the moment one or the other ceases to occupy it. Any other interpretation would render the provision meaningless. If an owner were relieved of the duty of reporting the vacancy by his act of letting the accommodation to another person he will always let it and thereby prevent himself from being ordered to let it to a person of the District Magistrate's choice. Similarly a tenant-in-chief would defeat the provision of Section 7 (2) by subletting or putting in a licensee in occupation. If a tenant-in-chief sublets, it means that he ceases to occupy because without his doing so he cannot put the sub-tenant in occupation. When he does so the duty would be of the owner to report the vacancy and not his because he acquires the status of a landlord within the meaning of the provision only after the subletting and the subletting is done after his ceasing to be in occupation. I adhere to what I said in Dr. A. C. Dass, 1962 All LJ 553 at p, 556 viz.:--
'Every act of letting (or subletting) ......amounts to the landlord's (or the tenants) vacating the accommodation by ceasing to occupy it. It is as much an act of vacating it as it would be when he simply abandons it leaving it vacant.'
8. Subletting by a tenant without permission of his landlord and the District Magistrate is strictly forbidden by Section 7 (3):
'No tenant shall sublet any portion of the accommodation in his tenancy except with the permission etc.'
The language is emphatic and unambiguous; no exceptions are provided and subletting without the permission is not to be tolerated. When a tenant sublets with the required permission a vacancy does arise within the meaning of Subsection (1) and must be reported by the owner because it is a case of the tenant-in-chief's ceasing to occupy. I shall come to the question what the District Magistrate can or cannot do on receipt of this intimation. If a tenant sublets a portion of the accommodation with the required permission there is in fact vacancy of the portion sublet and no vacancy of the remaining portion which remains in the tenant's occupation. The provision deals with vacancy of an accommodation and does not expressly deal with vacancy of a portion of an accommodation and the question arises whether vacancy of a portion is vacancy of the whole or not. The Act does not contain any provision dealing with vacancy of a portion; there is no provision in it in respect of a portion of an accommodation at all, all its provisions dealing with the accommodation, meaning the whole of it. (In the Rules, vide Rule 7, there is a provision regarding a portion of an accommodation but it does not deal with the subject-matter on Section 7). There are only two possibilities, either there is a vacancy or none and there is no third possibility. Consequently a vacancy of a portion has to be treated as a vacancy or as a non-vacancy. There is no greater justification for saying that there is no vacancy than for saying there is and the solution must He in holding that there is a vacancy or there is none according as whether the portion sublet is a substantial portion or is not. If it is substantial it is reasonable to hold that there is a vacancy whereas if it is negligible it is reasonable to hold that there is no vacancy. Ordinarily if a portion is sublet it means that it is fit to be sublet and if it is fit to be sublet it must be substantial. Consequently ordinarily when there is a subletting of a portion it amounts to the tenant-in-chiefs vacating the (whole) accommodation.
There is another way of looking at the matter and it is to treat what is done to a portion as done to the whole. Just as when a portion of an accommodation is damaged one can say that the accommodation is damaged so also one can say that an accommodation is vacated when a portion of it is vacated. Brij Kishore v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer, 1954 All LJ 172: (AIR 1954 All 428), does not rule out cessation of occupation over a portion. What was decided there was that the mere non-use of a portion does not amount to cessation of occupation of it. What amounts to cessation of occupation of a portion is a question entirely different from the questions whether such cessation is possible or not and whether it amounts to cessation of occupation of the whole. The tenant after the subletting of a portion is not in occupation of that portion; prior to the subletting he was in occupation or the whole accommodation. There is thus a change from the position in which he was when he was in occupation of the whole and the change cannot be anything but that he is not in occupation. It is, therefore, reasonable to say that an accommodation falls vacant even when a tenant ceases to occupy a portion of it as when he sublets the portion. This is also consistent with the law that it is not for him unilaterally to vacate a portion of the accommodation; he cannot without the owner's consent split up the accommodation and that accommodation continues to exist notwithstanding the subletting as I have explained earlier; the subletting does not bring into existence another accommodation. It is not for the tenant to bring into existence an accommodation (and that too by an illegal act, if the subletting is without permission). Therefore, ordinarily when a tenant sublets a vacancy arises within the meaning of the provision and must be reported. When a tenant sublets an accommodation or a portion without the required permission a vacancy arises all the more. Here the subletting itself is illegal and the so-called subtenant acquires no right under the law.
9. When a sub-tenant ceases to occupy a vacancy arises again. We are concerned with occupation and not possession and it is irrelevant to consider the reversionary right of the tenant-in-chief. The right to occupation may revert to the tenant-in-chief but the vacancy cannot be denied; the right of entering into occupation presupposes the existence of a vacancy. That is the case even when a tenant-in-chief vacates; the owner gets the right to enter into occupation but it does not mean that there is no vacancy. It is also irrelevant or unnecessary to consider what had happened when the vacancy arose earlier on the subletting. If the sub-tenant entered into occupation it must have been because no order was passed under Section 7 (2) on the vacancy being reported. It is not obligatory upon a District Magistrate to pass an order under Section 7 (2) on receiving the intimation of a vacancy; Sub-section (2) confers upon him a power and not a duty. If he desires to exercise the power he must do so within thirty days, vide Rule 3 of the Rules but it is discretionary with him not to exercise it. For instance when he wants the owner to occupy the accommodation himself he may refrain from ordering him to let it to another person (instead of ordering him 'do not let to any one'). One may take the view that when on the vacancy arising earlier on the subletting no order was passed under Section 7 (2) within the prescribed time the vacancy camp to an end and the sub-tenant's entering into occupation was not in contravention of any order. Regardless of whether the subletting was with or without the required permission the vacancy came to an end and a fresh vacancy arose on the sub-tenant's vacating the accommodation, Whatever order could have been passed under Section 7 (2) can now be passed; the tenant-in-chief got no additional right from the fact that on the subletting no order under Section 7 (2) had been passed or no Section had been taken against him for the subletting. I respectfully disagree with the following observations of G. C. Mathur J, in Ram Autar Agarwal v. State of U. P. 1964 All LJ 491 at p. 493:--
'Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 7 do not contemplate a vacancy occurring on a sub-tenant vacating any accommodation in his occupation. To a vacancy occurring on the vacation of an accommodation by a sub-tenant Sub-section (3) of Section 7 applies. If such a vacancy were covered by Sub-sections (1) and (2) then there was no necessity to enact Sub-section (3) also.'
He conceded that a vacancy does arise on the sub-tenant's vacating the accommodation but I find it difficult to understand how it is governed not by Sub-sections (1) and (2) but by Sub-section (3), which does not deal with vacancies at all. Sub-section (1) expressly deals with a vacancy and Sub-section (2), impliedly. Sub-section (3) simply prohibits subletting and is necessary if it is to be prohibited; Sub-sections (1) and (2) do not deal at all with subletting and do not serve the purpose of prohibiting subletting. The proper way to harmonize the provisions of the three Sub-sections is to hold that though a vacancy arises an order under Sub-section (2) can be passed in such a manner as to avoid infringement of the provision of Sub-section (3). Sub-section (2) leaves it at the discretion of the District Magistrate to decide whether to issue an order for letting or not. He has no power to issue an order to let if the letting is prohibited by law or if the order cannot be complied with by the landlord without infringing law. The alternative of holding that Sub-section (1) is not intended to apply to a vacancy arising on a sub-tenant's vacating an accommodation is not a better way.
10. Now I come to Section 7 (2) which reads as follows:--
'The District Magistrate may by general or special order require a landlord to let or not to let to any person any accommodation which is or has fallen vacant or is about to fall vacant.'
It is difficult to understand why a District Magistrate has been empowered to give a general or special order not to let but this need not worry us at present. As I said earlier this provision is an empowering provision and not a mandatory provision and does not impose a duty upon a District Magistrate to issue an order. Another fact to notice is that the only condition required for exercise of the power is that the accommodation is, or has fallen, or is about to fall, vacant; it is not made dependent upon the receipt of an intimation of the vacancy under Sub-section (1). The power can be exercised even in advance of a vacancy arising. An order can be issued under Sub-section (2) even though no intimation has been received under Sub-section (1). As, however, no order under Sub-section (2) can be passed unless there is a vacancy and Sub-section (1) exhaustively deals with all vacancies it must be held that 'becomes or falls vacant' has some meaning in the two provisions, i. e. that the power is to be exercised in any case in which an intimation of vacancy could have been received under Sub-section (1). Another fact to notice is that the power is to be exercised with respect to the accommodation that has fallen vacant and not with respect to a portion of it. The whole of the accommodation that has fallen vacant can be ordered to let and not its portions. A District Magistrate cannot split an accommodation and order the letting of one portion to one person and of another portion to another person. This is the settled law; vide 1954 All LT 1.72: (AIR 1954 All 428), and the cases of N. C. Agarwal, 1960 All LJ 755: (AIR 1961 All 104 (FB) ), Ram Autar Agarwal, 1964 All LI 491, and Dr. A. C. Dass, 1962 All LJ 553. An owner can split an accommodation as pointed out in N. C. Agarwal, 1960 All LT 755: (AIR 1961 All 104 (FB) ). Another fact to -notice is that the words used in the provision are 'to let or not to let' and not 'to let or sublet or not to let or sublet.' The word 'landlord' includes a tenant-in-chief as against his sub-tenant and the word tenant includes a sub-tenant as against his tenant-in-chief but it does not necessarily follow that the word 'let' includes 'sublet'.
In view of the ban imposed by Sub-section (3) it must be held that the word 'let' does not include 'sublet' and that District Magistrate cannot order a landlord, i.. e. a tenant-in-chief to sublet. Even if ordered under Section 7 (2) a tenant-in-chief cannot sublet without the permission of the owner and of the District Magistrate, It might be argued that the District Magistrate's ordering him implies permitting him but the necessity for the owner's permission remains and the permission is not within his control. He has no right to the permission and the District Magistrate has no jurisdiction to order the owner to grant it and an order under Section 7 (2) contains no implied order to him to grant it. Actually the order being addressed to the tenant-in-chief and not to the owner does not require any compliance from the latter at all. Compliance with an order under Section 7 (2) by the tenant-in-chief is thus not within his absolute control and depends upon the sweet will of the owner The legislature obviously intended that an order under Section 7 (2) is capable of being complied with by the person ordered; it has made him liable to be punished if he does not comply with it. If his disobedience of an order cannot be made an offence (because he cannot comply with the order without the owner's permission and is helpless if the permission is, as it can be, withheld by him) it only means that he cannot be ordered, i. e. that no order under Section 7 (2) can be addressed to him. The provision in Sub-section (3) is mandatory while that in Sub-section (2) is only empowering. Then the provision in Sub-section (2) is of a general nature and that in Sub-section (3) of a special nature being connected only with subletting. Therefore, the provision in Sub-section (3) prevails over that contained in Sub-section (2). A sub-tenant can be imposed upon a tenant-in-chief just as a tenant-in-chief is imposed upon an owner but there is this distinction between the two cases that while Sub-section (3) bans subletting by a tenant-in-chief there is no provision banning letting by an owner. Sub- Section (2) is there, but it is there in both cases. The provision assumes that there is only one landlord in respect of an accommodation and I have shown that an accommodation does not undergo a change when a tenant of it sublets it and another accommodation does not come into existence. It is not for the tenant to bring into existence an accommodation (and that too by an illegal act if the subletting is without the permission). So even when a sub-tenant was in occupation and vacates it it is the same accommodation that was let to the tenant-in-chief and the landlord in respect of it is the owner. So when a sub-tenant vacates it is the owner who is to be ordered and not the tenant-in-chief.
11. When a tenant vacates an accommodation the owner is undoubtedly the person who can be ordered to let. As what the tenant does after vacating is irrelevant, when he sublets whether with or without permission there is a vacancy and the owner can be ordered to let the accommodation to another tenant. It makes no difference if the subletting is of a portion of the accommodation. The fact that the tenancy has not been terminated does not stand in the way of an order under the provision being passed. A complication arises when the subletting is of a portion; the tenant-in-chief continues in occupation of the remaining portion and yet the owner may be ordered to let the whole accommodation to another tenant. This may sound somewhat anomalous but is explained on the footing that tenant-in-chief is deemed to have vacated the whole accommodation. This legal fiction removes the apparent anomaly. Even if the subletting was with the required permission the vacancy arises but the District Magistrate would refrain from passing an order under the provision on account of Ms having permitted the subletting. After having permitted the subletting he cannot, and in any case should not, order the owner to let the accommodation to another person. When the sub-tenant, who has entered into occupation, vacates it though the tenant-in-chief may be said to be the landlord he cannot be ordered to sublet as already explained. Further the accommodation is the same as was let to him the owner is the landlord in respect of it. As the accommodation did not undergo a change on account of the subletting the owner remains its landlord as he was before the subletting. Therefore, he is the person to be ordered.
12. In the case of Brij Kishore, 1954 All LJ 172: (AIR 1954 All 428), it was stated at p. 177 (of All LJ): (at p. 432 of AIR), that if a tenant vacates a portion and lets to a third person the third person becomes his sub-tenant and not the owner's tenant and that so far as the owner is concerned the original tenant continues to be his tenant so long as his tenancy does not come to an end in any of the recognized manner. It was further observed that if vacancy contemplated by Section 7 includes vacancy of a portion an anomaly will result inasmuch as the owner may not know of it and cannot give the notice required by subsection (1) and he cannot let the accommodation to another tenant. It is true that the third person becomes a sub-tenant of the tenant and not a tenant of the owner but the question whether a vacancy arises or not is a different question. I must concede that the law contained in the Act is not easy to apply and that difficulties will arise in any interpretation that is placed upon the provisions of Section 7. One has to choose the least objectionable interpretation and that is to treat vacancy of a portion as vacancy of the accommodation within the meaning of Sub-sections (1) and (2). No anomaly results from this. An owner may not know even of the tenant's vacating the accommodation and he would still be responsible for intimating the vacancy. Whether he had knowledge of vacancy or not and deliberately refrained from reporting It or not are questions to be considered by the Court when he is criminally prosecuted for disobedience of the provision of Sub-section (1). Once the accommodation is treated as vacant, even though a part of it is still in occupation of the tenant, an order can be issued to the owner to let it to another person and the tenant's occupation of the part will be deemed to be against that order and he will be liable to be evicted under Section 7-A. Termination of the contract of tenancy is not essential for a vacancy, as already explained. In Dr. A. C. Dass the Bench said at p. 557 of 1962 All LJ 553, that when a sub-tenant ceases to occupy an order under Section 7 (2) is to be addressed to the tenant-in-chief and not to the owner. That view, I find now, is erroneous. We took it without considering the provision of Sub-section (3), which escaped our attention.
13. My answer to the question, therefore, Is that when a tenant-in-chief vacates an accommodation by subletting it an order under Section 7 (2) is to be issued to the owner of the accommodation to let it and not to the tenant-in-chief to sublet it.
14. Counsel tried to argue certain matters but this Full Bench is not concerned with them and they should be argued before the Bench which has referred the question to a Full Bench.
15. This answer should be laid before the Bench concerned.
16. The following abstract: Question of law has been referred to the Full Bench for decision as the Bench hearing the case doubted some of the observations made in 1962 All LJ 553,
'When a tenant-in-chief vacates an accommodation by subletting ft to another person, can the District Magistrate pass an order under Section 7 (2) of the Act to him to sublet it to another person or to his landlord, e,g the owner of the accommodation, to let it to another person In other words, who is the landlord of the accommodation that falls vacant--the tenant-in-chief or the owner---who can be ordered to let ?'
17. In order to decide this question, in view of the manner in which the question referred to the Full Bench is framed, certain presumptions have to be made, namely, (1) that the accommodation, has been vacated by the tenant-in-chief, and (2) that it has been vacated by his subletting it to another person.
18. This Bench is not to consider as to whether in the circumstances of the case by subletting a portion of the premises in his possession, the tenant-in-chief should be deemed to have vacated the accommodation. It is presumed for the sake of the question that has been referred to the Bench that the tenant-in-chief as a result of his subletting has vacated the accommodation. It is, therefore, the tenant-in-chief who has vacated the accommodation and the process by which the vacation has come into being consists in his subletting it to another person. It is in these circumstances that an answer has to be found to the question as to whether under Section 7 (2) of the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act, Act III of 1947, (hereinafter referred to as the Act) the District Magistrate has to address the order of allotment to the landlord i. e. the owner of the accommodation or to the tenant-in-chief.
19. In order to find an answer to this question certain provisions of the Act have to be referred to.
20. Under clause (a) of Section 2 of the Act 'accommodation' means residential and non-residential accommodation in any building or part of a building and includes,
(i) gardens, grounds and out-houses, if any, appurtenant to such building or part at a building;
(ii) any furniture supplied by the landlord for use in such building or part of a building;
(iii) any fitting affixed to such building or part of a building for the more beneficial enjoyment thereof,
but does not include any accommodation used as a factory for an industrial purpose where the business carried on in or upon the building is also leased out to the lessee by the same transaction.
21. Under clause (c) of the same Section 'Landlord' means a person to whom rent is payable by a tenant in respect of any accommodation and includes the agent, attorney, heir or assignee of such person.
22. Under clause (g) 'tenant' means the person by whom rent is, or but for a contract express or implied would be payable for any accommodation.
23. Sub-section (1) of Section 7, clauses (a) and (b) provide as follows:--
'7 (1) (a) Every landlord shall, within seven days after an accommodation becomes vacant by his ceasing to occupy it or by the tenant vacating it or otherwise ceasing to occupy it or by termination of tenancy or by release from requisition or in any other manner, whatsoever, give notice of the vacancy in writing to the District Magistrate.
(b) Every tenant occupying accommodation shall within seven days of vacation of such accommodation or ceasing to occupy it give notice thereof in writing to the District Magistrate.'
Sub-sections (2) and (3) of the same section read as follows:--
'7 (2) The District Magistrate may by general or special order require a landlord to let or not to let to any person any accommodation which is or has fallen vacant or is vacant or is about to fall vacant.
3. No tenant shall sub-let any portion of the accommodation in his tenancy except with the permission in writing of the landlord and of the District Magistrate previously obtained.'
24. The definition of the term 'accommodation' is much too wide. It means an accommodation, the word 'accommodation' being used in the definition also, whether residential or non-residential in building or part of a building. The whole of the building may be an accommodation or a part of the building may be an accommodation. The whole building may constitute one accommodation or it may consist of several accommodations being in the occupation of several persons for residential or non-residential purpose. An accommodation is vacated by the landlord by his ceasing to occupy it. When a landlord who was occupying an accommodation stops occupying it and leaves it unoccupied or vacant or lets it out to a tenant, it is a case of its falling vacant. When he ceases to occupy only a portion of it and lets it out to a tenant, there is again a case of an accommodation coining into existence though it will be a portion of the previous accommodation. Thus a portion of the building in the occupation of an owner becomes vacant by his ceasing to occupy it and his letting it out to a tenant and that portion then becomes an accommodation. The building which constituted only one accommodation in the beginning will now consist of two accommodations, one portion being in the occupation of the owner and the other in the occupation of the tenant. When a building has several accommodations, each in the occupation of different persons, and one of them ceases to occupy the one in his possession, it is only that accommodation that has fallen vacant. Thus when a tenant in the occupation of any of these accommodations ceases to occupy it, it is a case of an accommodation falling vacant.
25. Now looking to the definition of the terms 'landlord' and 'tenant' an accommodation is an accommodation for which rent is payable by the tenant to the landlord and, as has been remarked in the Full Bench case of 1960 All LJ 755: (AIR 1961 All 104 (FB)) the unit of accommodation becomes the accommodation or the part of the building let to a tenant. Under Section 3 of the Act also a tenant can be sued for eviction from any accommodation in the circumstances mentioned therein. Sections 5 and 6 of the Act deal with the control of rent and the procedure in suits filed for the enhance ment or reduction of rent.
26. Under the definitions of the terms 'landlord' and 'tenant' even a tenant may be landlord of sub-tenant if the accommodation is let out by him to sub-tenant. A tenant qua his sub-tenant is the landlord, because rent is payable to him. If a portion of an accommodation in the occupation of a tenant is under Sub-section (3) of Section 7 let out by the tenant to a sub-tenant with the permission in writing of the landlord and the District Magistrate then qua that portion of the accommodation the tenant becomes the landlord and his sub-tenant the tenant and the portion of the accommodation an accommodation between the tenant and the sub-tenant who are its landlord and tenant. It will not be case of the splitting of an accommodation by the District Magistrate by allowing to sub-let a portion of an accommodation in the possession of a tenant to a subtenant. It will be splitting up of the accommodation with the consent of all concerned, namely, the owner, the tenant and the District Magistrate. No doubt, as has been laid down in the Full Bench case of 1960 All LJ 755: (AIR 1961 All 104) (FB) (supra), a District Magistrate cannot under Section 7 (2) of the Act order the proprietor landlord to let a portion of the accommodation to one person and the remaining portion of that accommodation to another person. The District Magistrate has to consider the entire accommodation as one unit just as it had been a unit of tenancy from before. He cannot create several accommodations out of one unit of accommodation, and then order the landlord to let these divided portions to different persons. But when the sub letting has been made under provision of subsection (3) of Section 7 of the Act and a portion of the accommodation in the occupation of a tenant has been sublet to a sub-tenant by the tenant with the permission in writing of the landlord and the District Magistrate, it will not be a case of the District Magistrate exceeding his jurisdiction under Section 7 (2) of the Act. Thus in such a case there will be two accommodations one which has been let out by the owner to the tenant and the other, a portion of it which has been let out by the tenant to the sub-tenant. The latter accommodation will be a part of the former accommodation. As to the latter accommodation the tenant would be the landlord and the sub-tenant the tenant. So far as the owner and the tenant are concerned, the whole accommodation will be an accommodation, but as between the tenant and the sub-tenant the portion sublet actually will be an accommodation.
In the case of' the accommodation which is in the occupation of the tenant let by the owner, the accommodation can be vacated only by the tenant vacating it as a whole. If the tenant vacates only a portion of it, then it will not be an act of the vacating of the accommodation, but only will be an act of the vacating of a portion of the accommodation. The tenant may even sublet that portion in contravention of the provisions of Sub-section (3) of Section 7, but for doing so he will be liable under Section 8 of the Act and may be prosecuted for violating that provision of law and convicted with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine upto Rs. 5,000 or with both. The law does not provide that there would be no relationship of landlord and tenant between the tenant and the sub-tenant and as it would, not be a case of the tenant-in-chief vacating the accommodation, but of only vacating a portion of the accommodation, the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 7 will not be attracted. It may give a right to the landlord to file a suit under Section 3 of the Act to evict his tenant-in-chief along with whom the sub-tenant also will go if the suit is decreed, but it will not be a case to attract the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 7. The whole of the accommodation, therefore, has to be vacated by tenant-in-chief before the District Magistrate may pass an order under Sub-section (2) of Section 7. It may be that the tenant-in-chief lets out a portion only of his accommodation to a sub-tenant and later ou after an interval vacates the other portion also. Then at that stage the tenant must be held to have vacated the accommodation, though in two instalments. It will be then that the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 7 will be attracted, There may be a case of camouflage also being practiced by the tenant-in-chief by his vacating most of his accommodation leaving only an insignificant portion in his possession which may not be of any use. In that case he will be deemed to have vacated the whole of the accommodation for his act in keeping only an insignificant portion in his possession will only be a cloak to protect his act of vacating.
I am therefore, in respectful disagreement, with my lord the Chief Justice when he holds that the vacancy of a portion also has to be treated as a vacancy of the accommodation so as to attract the application of Section 7, sub-sec tion (2) of the Act. In a case where a portion of an accommodation has been sub-let by a ten ant-in-chief to a sub-tenant and that portion is vacated by the sub-tenant, then the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 7 are attracted as between the tenant and the sub-tenant so far as that accommodation is concerned; but as to the whole accommodation, the provisions will be attracted as between the owner and the tenant-in-chief only when the whole accommodation is vacated either at once or in instalments as has been pointed out above.
27. In the instant case the question thathas been referred to the Full Bench for determination presumes that the accommodation hasbeen vacated as a whole by the tenant-in-chiefsub-letting it to another person. In such a casethe accommodation in the occupation of thetenant-in-chief has fallen vacant and the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 7 are attractedand as the landlord of that portion was theowner himself, the order of the District Magistrate under Sub-section (2) of Section 7 has tobe addressed to the owner and not to thetenant-in-chief.
28. It was pointed out that such a course would create an anomaly for, even though the tenant-in-chief may be deemed to have vacated the premises by sub-letting them as the tenancy between him and the owner has not been terminated he will continue to be liable to pay rent and in case the accommodation is let to any other person under Sub-section (2) of Section 7, then even though the relationship of landlord and tenant will continue between the owner and the tenant-in-chief, a new tenancy overlapping the earlier tenancy would come into being between the owner and the new tenant. Under the Transfer of Property Act no doubt a tenancy is not terminated merely by the ceasing of the tenant to occupy the premises. The modes by which a tenancy can be terminated are to be found in Section 111 of the Transfer of Property Act and it is not one of the modes provided therein. What will happen in this case, however, is that on the creation of tenancy in favour of a third person, the earlier tenant who has ceased to occupy the accommodation will, by the order of allotment be deprived of his connection with the accommodation and he would cease to be liable to pay rent to the landlord. It may be that, technically speaking his tenancy may not have terminated, but his liability to pay rent will cease and the new tenant will become liable to pay rent to the landlord. The act of allotment by the District Magistrate under Sub-section (2) of Section 7 will be an act on behalf of the landlord and the original tenant will be deemed to have been dispossessed as a result of that allotment on behalf of the landlord. If that is so the landlord would not be entitled to recover rent from him but would be entitled to recover rent only from the new tenant to whom the accommodation has been allotted by the District Magistrate. The technicality of the original tenant still continuing to be the tenant, his tenancy being not terminated, therefore, will not result in any injustice as he would not be liable to pay rent to the landlord, even though, technically speaking he may still continue to be tenant. This view is supported by Gopalji Mahraj v. Shiam Lal, AIR 1952 All 125, a case of this Court, which, though not on all fours with this case, does support the view by laying down that if the lessee is evicted by the lessor from a portion of the premises the lessee is liable to pay rent for the premises in his possession proportionate to the portion that is still in his possession. Proceeding logically in this case when the whole of the accommodation goes out of the possession of the tenant, he would not be liable for the rent at all to the landlord.
29. Altogether, therefore, in agreement with my lord the Chief Justice my answer to the question is that when a tenant-in-chief vacates an accommodation by sub-letting it to another person, the District Magistrate has to pass an order under Section 7 (2) of the Act to the owner to let it to another person, the owner being the landlord of the accommodation that has fallen vacant and not to the tenant-in-chief.
Lakshml Prasad, J.
30. I have had the advantage of reading the judgments of my Lord the Chief Justice and my brother. Sahgal. I agree with the answer proposed in their judgments to be given to the question referred to the Full Bench. I may, however, add a few words.
31. What is referred to the Full Bench is an abstract question of law and the reply to be given to it dees not at all depend on the facts of the case. The only controversy referred to the Full Bench by the question under Reference is if the District Magistrate in exercise of his powers under Section 7 (2) of U. P. Act III of 1947 has, in a case where vacancy occurs by virtue of the tenant ceasing to occupy the accommodation as a result of subletting it to a third person, to issue an order to the owner landlord requiring him to let it to a person named in the order or to the tenant who ceases to occupy the accommodation by subletting it to another requiring him to sublet it to the person named in the order. The question, as trained, obviously assumes that there has occurred a vacancy. In other words, the question referred to us assumes that an occasion for Hie exercise of the power conferred by Section 7 (2) of the Act exists and what is to be resolved is if the order to be issued thereunder is to be directed against the owner landlord for letting the accommodation or to the tenant ceasing to occupy it for subletting the accommodation. That being the position the controversy raised at the bar and dealt with in the other two judgments pertaining to the question whether or not there arises any occasion for the exercise of the power conferred by Section 7 (2) when the tenant ceases to occupy only a portion of the accommodation let to him by subletting it, appears to be entirely foreign to the question referred to the Full Bench. I would, therefore, confine myself only to the question referred to us and do not propose to deal with the aforesaid controversy,
32. It is true that the definition of the terms 'Landlord' and 'tenant' as given in the Act is too wide so much so that a tenant vis-a-vis his sub-tenant would be landlord within the meaning of that definition and the subtenant would be the tenant. Presumably because of the wide amplitude of the definition of the aforesaid two terms given in the Act certain observations have been made in the case of 1962 All LJ 553 which go to support the contention that where a tenant ceases to occupy an accommodation by subletting it the order to be issued under Section 7 (2) must be directed to the tenant and cannot be directed to the owner landlord. There are two obvious difficulties in accepting this view of the matter. One is created by the use of the word 'Let' in Section 7 (2). The power conferred by Section 7 (2) on the District Magistrate is to direct a landlord to let or not to let to any person any accommodation which is or has fallen vacant or is about to fall vacant. It shall thus be seen that there is no justification for inferring that by virtue of the power conferred by Section 7 (2) the District Magistrate is entitled to pass an order for subletting the accommodation. There can be no basis whatsoever for holding that the expression 'let' as used in Section 7 (2) includes the expression 'sublet' .
33. Another difficulty is created because of the provision in Section 7 (3) to the effect that no tenant shall sublet any portion of the accommodation in his tenancy except with the permission in writing of the landlord and of the District Magistrate previously obtained. If it be held that where a tenant ceases to occupy an accommodation by subletting it the District Magistrate gets power under Section 7 (2) to issue an order to the tenant to sublet the accommodation to a person named in the order that interpretation would obviously run counter to the rule of prohibition contained in Section 7 (3).
34. It shall thus be seen that both the difficulties indicated above are insurmountable and hence the inevitable conclusion is that the observations made in the case of Dr. A. C. Dass 1962 All LJ 553 to the contrary do not lay down correct law, and the power conferred on a District Magistrate under Section 7 (2) must be taken to refer to the power to issue a direction only to the owner landlord to let or not to let any portion of any accommodation which is or has fallen vacant or is about to fall vacant.
35. It is argued that the view indicated above is likely to result in anomalies. The argument is that notwithstanding the tenant ceasing to occupy an accommodation by subletting it the relationship of landlord and tenant under the contract under which he came to occupy the accommodation does not come to an end, which, it is pointed out, can be terminated only by one or the modes recognised in this behalf by the relevant provisions of the Transfer of Property Act. It is thus pointed out that the result of the view indicated above would be that the relationship of landlord and tenant would come into existence between the owner landlord and the person named in the order under Section 7 (2) along with the continuance of such relationship between the landlord and the tenant ceasing to occupy the accommodation by subletting it, It is urged on the basis of the aforesaid anomaly that the view indicated above is erroneous. I fail to appreciate the contention. Where a tenant ceases to occupy an accommodation by subletting it he provides an occasion for the exercise of the power conferred by Section 7 (2) and once that power has been exercised with the result that the tenancy is created in favour of a third person and the tenant is deprived of all his connection with the accommodation, the tenant ceases to be liable to pay any rent to the landlord for the simple reason that he is deprived of the possession of the accommodation by an act of the landlord himself because whatever is done by the District Magistrate under Section 7 (2) he does it on behalf of the landlord. That being so there arises no question of any anomaly resulting from the view indicated above.
36. An argument was raised by the learned counsel appearing for respondent No. 6 with regard to the following observations made in the order of reference:--
'It may here be mentioned that the Division Bench decision in AIR 1954 All 428 is based on an interpretation of Section 7 of the Act as it then stood. The present Sub-sections (1) to (3) of Section 7 came to be introduced by Section 6 of the amending Act XXIV of 1952. That being the position neither the decision in the 1954 case nor the decision in any subsequent ease which simply follows it can be a correct guide for interpreting Section 7 as it now stands or as it stood when the impugned order was passed.'
The argument of the learned counsel is that on the date of the order impugned in Brij Kishore's case, AIR 1954 All 428 the amending Act XXIV of 1952 had come into force and as such the decision in that case proceeded on the amended Section 7 and hence the observations made above in the order of reference are erroneous, It may be that on the date of the order impugned in Brij Krishor's case, AIR 1954 All 428, the amendment Act XXIV of 1952 had come into force still a perusal of the report would show that the decision in that case proceeded on the basis of Section 7- as it stood prior to that amendment Act. In fact Section 7 is reproduced on page 432 of the report. It is the unamended Section 7 which is reproduced. So it is obvious that the Hon'ble Judges who decided the case applied themselves to the interpretation or section 7 as reproduced on page. 482 and came to the conclusion mentioned in the decision.
Moreover, me relevant decision given in that case appears from the following observation made on page 432 soon after reproducing Section 7:--
The vacancy of an accommodation referred to in this Section means the vacancy of the entire accommodation in the tenancy of any person and cannot refer to the tenants not using, for the time being, part or the accommodation which had been let out to him as a result of the transaction of contract of tenancy between him and the landlord.'
It shall appear therefrom that it was not at all a case of the tenant ceasing to occupy the accommodation by subletting it. The facts of that case are enumerated in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the report, (AIR 1954 All 428). Towards the middle of paragraph 4 it is said on page 429, column 1:--
'However, one Madho Prasad, brother-in-law of Mool Narain, met the Additional District Magistrate (City), Kanpur and informed him that the portion, occupied by Messrs. Section Vanna, was still in their possession that they had not vacated It, nor had they any intention to vacate the same and that, therefore, 'No question of allotting it to someone else arose.'
So apart from the question of the change brought about by the amendment of Section 7 by U. P. Act XXIV of 1952 it shall appear that the facts on which proceeds the decision in Brij Kishore's case, AIR 1954 All 428. are materially different, Section 7 (1) (a) as it now stands since after the amendment made by U. P. Act XXTV of 1952 specifically indicates various modes by which vacancy may be brought about. One such mode is by the tenant ceasing to occupy the accommodation Obviously there can be no more certain way of the tenant ceasing to occupy an accommodation than when he does so by subletting it. So there is no escape from the conclusion that where a tenant ceases to occupy an accommodation by subletting it he brings about a vacancy and hence there arises an occasion for the exercise of the power conferred on a Distinct Magistrate by Section 7(2).
37. I have accordingly no hesitation inanswering the question referred to the FullBench in the manner suggested by my Lordthe Chief Justice.