1. This is a revision petition by the landlords Bal Kishan and others against the order of the District Judge, Sangrur, and Appellate Authority under the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, (Act No. III of 1949) (hereinafter to be referred to as the Act), whereby the order of the Rent Controller, Sangrur, fixing on the petition of Gopi Chand etc. tenants the fair rent of the premises in suit at Rs. 343.75 nP. per annum, was confirmed.
2. An application by the tenants was made under Section 4 of the Act. The land in suit was situated within the municipal limits of Sangrur. In the year 1952-53 the contractual rent was Rs. 900/- per annum. The tenants moved the Rent Controller, Sangrur, under the provisions of the Patiala and East Punjab States Union Urban Rent Restriction Ordinance, 2006 Bk. (Ordinance No. VIII of 2006 Bk.) (hereinafter to be referred to as the Ordinance) for fixation of fair rent. Under Section 4 of the Ordinance, the Controller while fixing the fair rent was required first to fix the basic rent taking into consideration the rates of rent prevailing in the locality for the same or similar accommodation, in similar circumstances, during the twelve months preceding the first day of Baisakh 2004 Bk. and also the rental value of such building or rented land if entered in property tax assessment register of the municipal, small town or notified area committee, relating to the aforesaid period. This period would correspond to the year 1946-47. By his order dated the 15th March, 1954, the Controller fixed the fair rent at Rs. 62/8/- per mensem. Subsequently on the merger of the erstwhile State constituting thePatiala and East Punjab States Union with the Punjab, the Punjab Laws (Extension No. 4) Act, 1958, (Punjab Act No. 18 of 1958) was passed. By Section 4 of this Act, all the enactments men-tioned in Schedule I as in force immediately be-fore the 1st November, 1956, in the State of Punjab were extended to the transferred territories, that is, the State formerly constituting the Patiala and East Punjab States Union. The East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, was one of the Acts mentioned in Schedule I. It was pointed out in the petition that according to the latter Act fair rent was to be fixed keeping in view the basic rent for the year 1938. It was contended that in 1938 the basic rent of the land in suit was Rs. 250/- per annum. The tenants maintained that the present rate of rent as fixed by the Rent Controller in 1954 was excessive and the fair rent be fixed at Rs. 250/- per annum.
3. One of the pleas taken up by the landlords was that this application was barred by the principle of res judicata and was not maintainable in view of the previous order of the Rent Controller dated the 15th March, 1954. This objection was repelled by both the Courts below and the only question arising for decision in this revision petition is whether the application by the tenants for fixation of fair rent was barred or not in view of the previous order of the year 1954. Mr. Dalip Chand Gupta, on behalf of the petitioners, has not attempted to argue that if this question is decided against the landlords the fair rent should not be as fixed in the order under revision.
4. The first question which arises for determination in this connection is whether, when once the fair rent has been fixed by the Controller under Section 4 of the Act, it is open to the party on whose application that fair rent had been fixed to move the Controller again for refixation of the fair rent. Section 5 of the Act provides that when the fair rent of a building or rented land has been fixed under Section 4, no further increase in such fair rent shall be permissible except in cases where some addition, improvement or alteration has been carried out at the landlord's expense and if the building or rented land is then in the occupation of a tenant, at his request. There are certain provisos in this section which are not material for the decision of this revision petition. Section 5 of the Ordinance is exactly the same as Section 5 of the Act. Under Section 9 of the Act, rent may be increased by the landlord if after the commencement of this Act a fresh rate, cess or tax is levied in respect of the building or rented land by any local authority, and to the same effect is Section 9 of the Ordinance. Neither the Act nor the Ordinance made any provision for reduction of fair rent but it may be presumed that such applications for reduction could be made by the tenant if the area in his occupation came to be reduced or if there was any reduction or abolition of any rate, cess or tax. But if the conditions of the tenancy remain the same it would be not only unjust but contrary to all legal principles to allow the parties to agitate over again the question of fixation of the fair rent of the property after a decision thereon had been made by the Rent Controller.
5. It is not disputed that the order of the Rent Controller dated the 15th March, 1954, between the parties as regards the land in dispute had become final. By virtue of Section 6 of the Punjab Act No. 18 of 1958, the Ordinance which corresponded to the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, was repealed, but according to the further proviso to this section, anything done or any action taken under any law so repealed shall be deemed to have been done or taken nnder the corresponding provision of the enactment extended by Section 4, that is, the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, in this case, to the transferred territories, and shall be continued to be in force accordingly unless and until superseded by anything done or any action taken under the enactment so extended. This means that the fixation of fair rent by the Controller under Section 4 of the Ordinance should be deemed to have been made under Section 4 of the Act and was to continue to be in force accordingly. The result is that the fixation of fair rent by the Controller under the Ordinance was to be construed as fixation of fair rent by the Controller under Section 4 of the Act, and thereafter it could be varied only according to the provisions of the Act, that is, only if there was some change in the circumstances of the tenancy. The principle of res judicata is of universal application and as held in Amar Nath v. Khushi Ram, Civil Revn. No. 532 of 1960, decided on 23-5-1961 by this Court it applies to the fixation of fair rent in proceedings under the East Pnujab Urban Rent Restriction Act also. T.he tenant cannot be allowed to agitate the matter over and over again. The decision of the Rent Controller dated the 15th March, 1954, was by a Court of competent jurisdiction between the parties to the present dispute and had become final and I am of the view that on the principle of res judicata it cannot be allowed to be agitated again without proof of any change of circumstances.
6. The learned counsel for the respondents to this petition was unable to give any good ground why the principle of res judicata should not be applied to these proceedings. He pointed out that under Section 14 of the Act, the Controller shall summarily reject any application under subsection (2) or under Sub-section (3) of Section 13 which raises substantially the issues as have been finally decided in a former proceeding under this Act, and he argued that if the Legislature considered that the fixation of fair rent by the Rent Controller was not liable to be challenged by a subsequent application on the same matter, provisions similar to Section 14 should have been made with regard to orders passed under Section 4 also. I do not consider this argument to be of much weight, as the Legislature has indicated in Section 5 the circumstances under which disputes between, the landlord and the tenant as to any increase claimed on the fair rent are to be decided by the Controller.
7. The Courts below have referred to Abdul Ghani v. Kharaiti Ram, 58 Pun LR 86 for the proposition that the fixation of the standard rent in respect of premises first let after the 2nd June, 1944, under the Delhi and Ajmer-Marwara Rent Control Act, 1947, is no bar to the reopening of the matter for fixation of reasonable standard rentunder Section 8 of the Delhi and Ajmer Rent Control Act, 1952. The reason upon which this view proceeded was that the new Act gave the tenant, who had no remedy under the old Act, the right to have his case considered and a reasonable rent determined. In the instant case, the provisions of the Act and the Ordinance are precisely the same with the exception that a different date has been adopted for determination of the basic rent. Moreover, in the present case there is also the further proviso to Section 6 of the Punjab Laws (Extension No. 4) Act, 1958, the effect of which is that the fixation of fair rent by the Controller under the Ordinance shall be deemed to have been made under Section 4 of the Act and shall continue to be in force despite the substitution of the Act for the Ordinance. The underlying object of this proviso seems to be that the decisions already given in the transferred territories under the Acts which were repealed by virtue of Section 6 of Punjab Act No. 18 of 1958 and substituted by the corresponding laws as in force in the State of the Punjab, should not be liable to be reopened merely because of some difference between the laws formerly in force in the transferred territories and the laws substituted for them by the Punjab Act No. 18 of 1958.
8. The rulings cited by the learned counsel for the respondents, Bahu Lal v. Ganga Saran, AIR 1952 All 48, New Singhal Dal Mill v. Firm Sheo Prasad Jainti Prasad, AIR 1958 All 404 and Waheed Hasan Khan v. State of Hyderabad, AIR 1954 Hyd 204 (FB), do not contain anything helpful to the interpretation of the further proviso to Section 6 of the Punjab Act No. 18 of 1958 on which Mr. Dalip Chand Gupta relied.
9. Accordingly, reversing the judgments ofthe Courts below, I am of the view that the application by the tenants for fixation of fair rent wasnot maintainable. The revision petition is, therefore, allowed and the application by the tenantsbefore the Rent Controller dismissed. But in viewof the difficulty and novelty of the legal questioninvolved, the parties are left to bear their owncosts throughout.