1. A question of significant importance which arises for consideration in this case is whether a tenant inducted by an allottee of evacuee/rehabilitation property before conveyance deed is granted in favour of the allottee can be evicted by a civil court without a ground of ejectment or can be evicted only under the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, on one of the grounds specified therein.
2. Evacuee property No. 453/54 situated in the town of Jullundur was allotted to Ram Lal by the Custodian/Rehabilitation Department. He came in possession of the same. On the death of Ram Lal, Smt. Parwati alias Bharawan Bai came into possession of the said property as his heir under a Will. Smt. Parwati inducted Tarlok Singh as a tenant and delivered vacant possession of the premises to him. Thereafter vide document Ex. P1, dated 17th Sept. 1966, Smt. Parwati transferred her rights to Sewa Singh for a consideration of Rs.6,000 and received the full consideration. Since Tarlok Singh tenant did not pay rent, Sewa Singh filed the present suit for ejectment of Tarlok Singh and also for recovery of arrears of rent amounting to Rs.270. The suit was filed in Civil Court instead of before the Rent Controller under the East Punjab Urban Rent restriction Act, 1949 (hereinafter called the Rent Act) on the plea that the property in dispute was still Government property as proprietary rights had not so far been conferred and, therefore, the notification exempting the applicability of the Rent Act applied to the property in dispute. Tarlok Singh tenant pleaded that the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to try the suit, he admitted that Smt. Parwati Devi had inducted him as a tenant and, therefore, she was a necessary party; that Smt. Parwati Devi could not legally sell the property in dispute as proprietary rights had not been conferred on her and, therefore, there was no relationship of landlord and tenant between the parties. On the issues framed, evidence was led and the trial court by a judgment and decree dated 18th April 1970, held that the Civil Court did have the jurisdiction to entertain the suit since the property in dispute still belonged to the Government and the Government properties were exempt from the operation of the Rent Act. Smt. Parwati Devi had appeared as a witness and she proved that she had sold her rights to Sewa Singh plaintiff and, therefore, it was held that there was relationship of landlord and tenant between the parties. In the result, the suit for ejectment as also for recovery of Rs. 270 as arrears of rent was decreed. The tenant felt aggrieved and filed an appeal which came up for hearing before Additional District Judge Jullundur. The lower appellate Court upheld the findings of the trial Court and dismissed the appeal. The defendant has now come up in this second appeal.
3. The found facts on which this appeal has to be decided are these. Admittedly, the property in dispute belonged to the Custodian/Rehabilitation Department and was allotted to Ram Lal and on his death Smt. Parwati Devi came in possession as his heir under the Will. She gave vacant possession of the property in dispute to Tarlok Singh under a contract of tenancy and while Tarlok Singh was still in occupation of the same as a tenant, she transferred her rights in favour of Sewa Singh on receipt of full consideration although the sale certificate or conveyance deed had not been issued by the Rehabilitation Department either in the name of Ram Lal or in her own name, with the result that the Rehabilitation Department continued to be the owner of the property and Ram Lal, thereafter Parwati Devi and them Sewa Singh, continued to possess the rights of an allottee without ownership rights. On these facts, the first question to be decided would be whether there is relationship of landlord and tenant between the parties. On the facts enumerated above, there is no escape from the conclusion that there is relationship of landlord and tenant between the parties. Once Smt. Parwati Devi gave vacant possession of the property in dispute to the appellant as a tenant, the relationship of landlord and tenant came into being between them and a similar relationship came into being between the parties after Smt. Parwati Devi sold her rights to Sewa Singh, plaintiff-respondent. Hence, the finding recorded by the courts below in this regard is upheld.
4. The next and the most crucial point that has been hotly contested between the parties is whether the Civil Court will have the jurisdiction to pass a decree for ejectment of a tenant or it is the Rent Controller alone, who is competent to order ejectment on one of the grounds specified in the Rent Act. The learned counsel for the parties have not been able to cite and direct decision one way or the other wherein the tenancy may have been created by the allottee and this question may have cropped up. Some cases have been cited on behalf of the landlord which are on different facts and, therefore, would be considered in the later part of this judgment and the question involved on the facts of the present case, therefore, has to be decided on first principles.
5. Once the Custodian/Rehabilitation Department gave possession of the property in dispute to Ram Lal allottee and after his death Smt. Parwati Devi came in possession thereof and delivered vacant possession to Tarlok Singh tenant, not only the relationship of landlord and tenant came into being between the parties but by virtue of S. 116 of the Evidence Act, the tenant was estopped from disputing the title of the landlord. S. 116 of the Evidence Act is as follows :--
'No tenant of immovable property, or person claiming through such tenant, shall, during the continuance of the tenancy, be permitted to deny that the landlord of such tenant had, at the beginning of the tenancy, a title to such immovable property; and no person who came upon any immovable property by the licence of the person in possession thereof shall be permitted to deny that such person had a title to such possession at the time when such licence was given.' Therefore, so far as Tarlok Singh tenant is concerned, Smt. 'Parwati Devi and thereafter Sewa Singh would be not only the landlord but also the owner of the property in dispute and Tarlok Singh would be estopped from setting up title in somebody else, i.e., the Custodian/Rehabilitation Department. Therefore, so far as the present parties are concerned it will have to be assumed by fiction of law that the property now belongs to Sewa Singh and if that is so, Sewa Singh can eject his tenant only under the Rent Act because his property has not been exempted from the operation thereof. The matter may be tested with some examples. Suppose the property in dispute had not been allotted to Ram Lal and Sewa Singh plaintiff-respondent had illegaly occupied the same while it belonged to the Custodian/Rehabilitation Department and, in that case it would be Government property. After Sewa Singh was in established possession for some time, if Tarlok Singh defendant-appellant was to take the same on rent from him, the relationship of landlord and tenant would come into being between the parties and by virtue of Section 116 of the Evidence Act, the tenant would be estopped from denying the title of Sewa Singh as owner and Sewa Singh would also not be able to set up the claim that since the property belongs to the Government it would be exempt from the operation of the Rent Act. The rights of the parties would be governed as landlord and tenant on the assumption that the landlord is owner of the property. If the aforesaid rank trespasser of Government will have to resort to ejectment of the tenant under the Rent Act, similarly an allottee who himself inducted a tenant would also be able to eject the tenant only under the Rent Act. Taking a converse example, suppose a private person's property is taken over wrongly by the Government and after the Government is in established possession thereof it inducts a tenant, in that situation the relationship of landlord and tenant would come into being between the parties and the property will be deemed to be owner by the Government and if the Government will have to take proceedings for ejectment of the tenant, then it will have a right to file suit in a Civil court because exemption from the applicability of the Rent Act is applicable to the Government properties. In that case, the tenant will not be entitled to say that the property does not belong to the Government and belongs to a private individual and, therefore, the property is not exempt from the operation of Rent Act. On this reasoning also, the rights of the parties have to be seen treating the landlord to be the owner and then to proceed to decide whether the landlord is the Government or a private individual. Wherever the landlord would be Government, the Rent Act would not apply and where the landlord would be a private individual, the Rent Act would apply.
6. This brings me to the consideration of cases cited at the Bar. The courts below followed Sadhu Singh v. District Board, Gurdaspur, AIR 1960 Punj 172 and considering the facts of the case that and conveyance deed had been executed in favour of Ram Lal or his heir or Sewa Singh and the property was still mentioned to be Government property as was proved from the statement of the Clerk of the Office of the Deputy Commissioner held that the property being Government property the Rent Act was not applicable as the Government properties had been exempt from the provision of that Act by Notification No. 4630--C--48/764, dated 5-1-1949. Sadhu Singh's case (supra) has got no applicability to the facts of the present case because the District Board had leased out the property and the suit for ejectment was filed by the District Board. The District Board is a wing of the State Government and the property owned by it belongs to the State Government and hence the Rent Act rightly did not apply in that case. The main point argued was that the notification and the provision providing for exempting certain buildings or class of buildings were ultra vires which argument was turned down on reasonable classification.
7. The next case cited is Roshan Lal Goswami v. Gobind Ram (1963) 65 Pun LR 852: (AIR 1963 Punj 532). A reading of the facts of this case shows that the tenants were already in occupation of the property belonging to the Rehabilitation Department and while the tenants were in occupation, the same was put to sale by auction and the Rehabilitation Department asked the tenant to pay rent to auction-purchaser but by the time the suit for ejection was filed by the auction-purchaser, the sale certificate had not been issued in his favour, nor till the matter was being decided by the High Court. Since the tenancy was created by the Government through Rehabilitation Department, the tenant would continue to be the tenant of the Government even on being informed that henceforth he should pay rent to the auction-purchaser and would cease to be tenant of the Government only after the property would stand completely transferred to the auction-purchaser by grant of sale certificate and thereafter alone he would be tenant only of the auction-purchaser and would cease to be tenant of the Government. Until the sale certificate is issued to the auction-purchaser he would continue to be the tenant of the Government and, therefore, could be ejected only through Civil Court and not under the Rent Act. If in the present case Tarlok Singh appellant had been inducted as a tenant by the Custodian/Rehabilitation Department and thereafter allotment had been made to Ram Lal, then, of course the aforesaid case would have been applicable. There is one more fact in the aforesaid case. After the sale certificate had been granted to the auction-purchaser, even then for a period of two years the tenant would have had special protection under S. 29 of the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act 1954, notwithstanding anything contained in any other law and he could be ejected during that period on the grounds mentioned in that section. After the expiry of two years of the grant of sale certificate, the Rent Restriction Act would have become applicable to the tenant. Hence that case is clearly distinguishable from the facts of the present case.
8. Reliance was then placed on Sunder Dass v. Ram Prakash, AIR 1977 SC 1201. A reading of this judgment again shows that the tenancy was created by the Rehabilitation Department because after the property was put to auction, the tenant was asked by the Rehabilitation Department to pay rent to the auction-purchaser. In that case also the sale certificate had not been issued in favour of the auction-purchaser and before the issue of the same he successfully obtained a decree for ejectment against the tenant from the Civil Court at Delhi. When the auction-purchaser wanted to execute that decree, an amendment was made in S. 3 of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958, applying that Act with retrospective effecte to all buildings belonging to the Rehabilitation Department which had been put to auction but in respect of which sale certificates had not been issued. In view of the amendment made it was ruled by the Supreme Court that since the amendment was retrospective, the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to pass a decree for ejectment of the tenant was taken away and, therefore, the ejectment decree was a nullity and could not be executed. Ultimately, the matter was decided in favour of the tenant that he could not be evicted except under the provisions of the Rent Act. Hence that case is on different facts but the ultimate conclusion in that case is the same which is being taken in this case, namely, that the tenant has to be evicted by a private landlord only under the Rent Act. Hence this case is also of no help to the landlord.
9. For the reasons recorded above it is held that between the parties to this suit while there is relationship of landlord and tenant, the property is dispute would be deemed to be owned by the plaintiff-respondent so far as Tarlok Singh tenant is concerned and in view thereof, the tenant can be ejected only under the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, and not by a civil suit. Accordingly, the Civil Court will have no jurisdiction to entertain the suit for ejectment and the finding to the contrary recorded by the courts below is set aside.
10. However, the suit for recovery of arrears of rent was competent and the decree passed by the courts below in that regard deserves to be maintained.
11. For the above reasons, this appeal is allowed partly to the extent that the decree for ejectment of the appellant passed by the courts below is set aside and the suit for ejectment is dismissed relegating the plaintiff-respondent to seek ejectment of the tenant-appellant under the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949. However, the decree for the recovery of Rs. 270/- towards arrears of rent passed by the courts below is maintained. Since difficult question of law was involved, the parties are left to bear their own costs of this appeal.
12. Appeal partly allowed.