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Shri Bhagwan and anr. Vs. Ram Chand and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1965SC1767; [1965]3SCR218
ActsUttar Pradesh (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act, 1947 - Sections 3, 3(1) and 7-F; Transfer of Property Act - Sections 106
AppellantShri Bhagwan and anr.
RespondentRam Chand and anr.
Cases ReferredMurlidhar v. State of U.P.
Excerpt:
.....granted - respondent moved commissioner for revision and application allowed - appellants pursued state government under section 7-f - government directed commissioner to revise his order on ground that appellant's need is genuine - commissioner in pursuance of direction cancelled previous order - suit for ejectment filed in civil court and decree passed in favour of appellants - respondent challenged decree and appealed in court of first additional civil judge - appeal rejected - second appeal filed by respondent before high court - validity of direction of government questioned - no reasonable opportunity given to respondent before passing of direction - direction invalid - appeal before supreme court - reasonable opportunity to be given to both parties while government acting under..........aside the appellate ordergranting permission to the appellants. that took the appellants to the stategovernment under s. 7-f of the act. on may 7, 1953, the state governmentdirected the commissioner to revise his order on the ground that it thoughtthat the need of the appellants was genuine. acting in pursuance of thisdirection, the commissioner passed an order on july 28, 1953, by which hecancelled his previous order and confirmed the order passed by the appellateauthority, granting permission to the appellants to sue the respondents inejectment. this order was clearly the result of the direction issued by thestate government under s. 7-f of the act. after this order was passed, theappellants sued the respondents in ejectment in the court of the civil judge,agra. 2. the claim made by.....
Judgment:

Gajendragadkar, C.J.

1. The short question of law which arises in this appeal by special leave iswhether the revisional order passed by the State Government of Uttar Pradeshunder s. 7-F of the Uttar Pradesh (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act,1947 (hereinafter called the Act), is rendered invalid by reason of the factthat before passing the said order, the State Government did not hear the tworespondents, Ram Chand and Kailash Chand, who were affected by it. Thisquestion arises in this way. The respondents are the present tenants of the premisesbearing municipal No. 863, situated at Jumna Kinara Road, Agra, commonly knownas Putaria Mahal. Their predecessors were let into possession as tenants by theappellants, Lala Shri Bhagwan and Shrimati Gopal Devi, on an agreement thatthey would pay a monthly rent of Rs. 58-4-0 and that the tenancy would commencefrom the Sudi 1 of each Hindi month and end on Badi 15 of the next month. Thetwo appellants applied to the Rent Controller and Eviction Officer (hereaftercalled the Officer), under s. 3 of the Act for permission to file a suit inejectment against the predecessors-in-interest of the respondents. The Officergranted permission by his order passed on September 1, 1951. The respondentsthen moved the Additional District Magistrate, who had been authorised by theDistrict Magistrate to hear appeals against the decision of the Officer. Theappellate authority declined to confirm the permission granted to theappellants and remanded the case to the Officer for a fresh hearing. Onre-hearing the matter, the Officer changed his view and rejected theappellant's application for permission on August 9, 1952. The appellants thenmoved the appellate authority again and prayed that the original order grantingpermission to them to sue the respondents should be restored. On December 9,1952, the appellate authority ordered that permission should be granted to theappellants for suing the respondents in ejectment. The respondents then movedthe Commissioner of Agra in revision. On February 4, 1953, the revisionalauthority allowed the revisional application and set aside the appellate ordergranting permission to the appellants. That took the appellants to the StateGovernment under s. 7-F of the Act. On May 7, 1953, the State Governmentdirected the Commissioner to revise his order on the ground that it thoughtthat the need of the appellants was genuine. Acting in pursuance of thisdirection, the Commissioner passed an order on July 28, 1953, by which hecancelled his previous order and confirmed the order passed by the appellateauthority, granting permission to the appellants to sue the respondents inejectment. This order was clearly the result of the direction issued by theState Government under s. 7-F of the Act. After this order was passed, theappellants sued the respondents in ejectment in the court of the Civil Judge,Agra.

2. The claim made by the appellants for ejectment of the respondents wasresisted by them on several grounds, and on the contentions raised by therespondents, the trial court framed six issues. One of the issues was whetherthe permission granted to the appellants to sue the respondents was valid. Itis with this issue that we are concerned in the present appeal. The trial Judgefound in favour of the appellants on this issue and recorded his conclusion intheir favour even on the other issues which had been framed by him. In theresult, the trial court passed a decree in favour of the appellants on August31, 1957. The respondents challenged this decree by preferring an appeal in thecourt of the First Additional Civil Judge, Agra. In their appeal, they disputedthe correctness of the findings recorded by the trial court on all the issues,including the issue about the validity of the sanction obtained by theappellants before filing the present suit. The appeal court confirmed all thefindings recorded by the trial Judge, with the result that the respondents'appeal was dismissed, on the 30th May, 1959.

3. The respondents then went to the Allahabad High Court by way of secondappeal. The learned single Judge of the said High Court, who heard the saidappeal, was called upon to consider the question as to whether the permissiongranted to the appellants was valid. That, in fact, was the only issue whichwas raised before him. The other issues which had been found in favour of theappellants were not raised before the learned Judge. On the issue as to thevalidity of the sanction obtained by the appellants, the learned Judge came tothe conclusion that the said sanction was invalid inasmuch as the StateGovernment in exercising its authority under s. 7-F of the Act, had not givenan opportunity to the respondents to be heard. He took the view that inexercising its authority under s. 7-F, the State Government was required todecide the matter in revision in a quasi-judicial manner and it was absolutelyessential that the principles of natural justice should have been followed bythe State Government before reaching its decision and an opportunity shouldhave been given by it to the respondent to place their case before it.

4. It appears that this question had been considered by Division Benches ofthe Allahabad High Court in the past and the consensus of judicial opinionappears to have been in favour of the view that the revisional order which theState Government is authorised to pass under s. 7-F, is not a quasi-judicialorder but is a purely administrative order, and so, it is not necessary thatthe State Government should hear the parties before exercising its jurisdictionunder the said section. The learned single Judge was persuaded by therespondents to consider whether the said decisions were right and he came tothe conclusion that the view taken in the said decisions was not right. Thejudgment delivered by the learned single Judge shows that he had reached thisconclusion on re-examining the question in the light of some decisions of thisCourt to which his attention was invited. After he had reached this conclusionand had dictated a substantial part of his judgment, his attention was drawn toa decision of this Court in Laxman Purshottam Pimputkar v. State of Bombay andothers : [1964]1SCR200 , which was then not reported. The learned Judgeconsidered the blue print of the judgment to which his attention was invited andthought that the said judgment confirmed the view he had already taken aboutthe nature of the proceedings and the character of the jurisdictioncontemplated by s. 7-F. Having held that the State Government was bound to givean opportunity to the respondents to place their version before it, before itexercised its authority under s. 7-F, the learned Judge naturally came to theconclusion that the impugned order passed by the State Government under s. 7-Fwas invalid, and that inevitably meant that under s. 3 of the Act, the suit wasincompetent. In the result, the second appeal preferred by the respondents wasallowed and theappellants' suit ordered to be dismissed. In the circumstancesof the case, the learned Judge directed that the parties should bear their owncosts throughout. It is against this decision that the appellants have come tothis Court by special leave; and so, the only point which falls for ourdecision is whether the revisional order passed by the State Government unders. 7-`F, without giving an opportunity to the respondents to place their casebefore it, is rendered invalid.

5. When a legislative enactment confers jurisdiction and power on anyauthority or body to deal with the rights of citizens, it often becomesnecessary to enquire whether the said authority or body is required to actjudicially or quasi-judicially in deciding questions entrusted to it by thestatute. It sometimes also becomes necessary to consider whether such anauthority or body is a tribunal or not. It is well-known that evenadministrative bodies or authorities which are authorised to deal with matterswithin their jurisdiction in an administrative manner, are required to reachtheir decisions fairly and objectively; but in reaching their decisions, theywould be justified in taking into account considerations of policy. Even so,administrative bodies may, in acting fairly and objectively, follow theprinciples of natural justice; but that does not make the administrative bodiestribunals and does not impose on them an obligation to follow the principles ofnatural justice. On the other hand, authorities or bodies which are givenjurisdiction by statutory provisions to deal with the rights of citizens, maybe required by the relevant statute to act judicially in dealing with mattersentrusted to them. An obligation to act judicially may, in some cases, beinferred from the scheme of the relevant statute and its material provisions.In such a case, it is easy to hold that the authority or body must act inaccordance with the principles of natural justice before exercising itsjurisdiction and its powers; but it is not necessary that the obligation tofollow the principles of natural justice must be expressly imposed on such anauthority or body. If it appears that the authority or body had been givenpower to determine questions affecting the rights of citizens, the very natureof the power would inevitably impose the limitation that the power should beexercised in conformity with the principles of natural justice. Whether or notsuch an authority or body is a tribunal, would depend upon the nature of thepower conferred on the authority or body, the nature of the rights of citizens,the decision of which falls within the jurisdiction of the said authority orbody, and other relevant circumstances. This question has been considered bythis Court on several occasions. In the Associated Cement Companies Ltd.,Bhupendra Cement Works, Surajpur v. P. N. Sharma and another : (1965)ILLJ433SC , both aspects of this matter have been elaborately examined, and it hasbeen held, adopting the view expressed by the House of Lords - in Ridge v.Baldwin and others L.R. [1964] A.C. 40 that the extent of the area where theprinciples of natural justice have to be followed and judicial approach had tobe adopted, must depend primarily on the nature of the jurisdiction and thepower conferred on any authority or body by statutory provisions to deal withthe questions affecting the rights of citizens. In other words, in thatdecision this Court has held that the test prescribed by Lord Reid in hisjudgment in the case of Ridge L.R. [1964] A.C. 40 affords valuable assistancein dealing with the vexed question with which we are concerned in the presentappeal.

6. Let us, therefore, examine the scheme of the Act and the nature of thepower and jurisdiction conferred on the State Government by s. 7-F. The Act waspassed in 1947 and its main object obviously was, in the words of the preamble,to continue during a limited period powers to control the letting and the rentof residential and non-residential accommodation and to prevent the eviction oftenants therefrom. The preamble further provides that whereas due to shortageof accommodation in Uttar Pradesh it is expedient to provide for thecontinuance during a limited period of powers to control the letting and therent of such accommodation and to prevent the eviction of tenants therefrom,the Act was enacted. Indeed, it is a matter of common knowledge that similarActs have been passed in all the States in India.

7. Section 3 of the Act provides that 'subject to any order passedunder sub-s. (3), no suit shall, without the permission of the DistrictMagistrate, be filed in any civil court against a tenant for his eviction fromany accommodation, except on one or more of the following grounds'. Thenfollow seven clauses (a) to (g) which set out the grounds on which a landlordcan seek to evict his tenant even without the permission of the DistrictMagistrate. The scheme of s. 3, therefore, is that in order to protect thetenants from eviction, the legislature has provided that the landlords couldevict their tenants only if there was proof of the existence of one or theother of the seven grounds specified by clauses (a) to (g) in s. 3(1). Havingmade this general provision, s. 3(1) makes an exception and enables thelandlord to seek to evict his tenant even though his case may not fall underany of the seven clauses of s. 3(1), provided he has obtained the permission ofthe District Magistrate. In other words, if the District Magistrate grantspermission to the landlord, he can sue to evict the tenant under the generalprovisions of the Transfer of Property Act, as for instance, s. 106. Thisclearly means that the District Magistrate is empowered to grant exception tothe landlord from complying with the requirements of clauses (a) to (g) of s.3(1) and take the case of the tenancy in question outside the provisions of thesaid clauses. That is the nature and effect of the power conferred on theDistrict Magistrate to grant permission to the landlord to sue his tenant ineviction.

8. Section 3, as it was originally enacted, provided that no suit shall,without the permission of the District Magistrate, be filed in any civil courtagainst a tenant for his eviction from any accommodation except on one or moreof the grounds specified by clauses (a) to (f). Clause (g) has beensubsequently added.

9. In 1952, clauses (2), (3) and (4) were added to s. 3 by the Amending Act24 of 1952. It is as a result of these amendments that s. 3(1) now providesthat subject to any order passed under sub-s. (3), the permission granted bythe District Magistrate would enable the landlord to sue his tenant inejectment. It is now necessary to read sub-ss. (2), (3) and (4), which are asfollows :

'(2) Where any applicationhas been made to the District Magistrate for permission to sue a tenant foreviction from any accommodation and the District Magistrate grants or refusesto grant the permission, the party aggrieved by his order may, within 20 daysfrom the date on which the order is communicated to him, apply to theCommissioner to revise the order.'

'(3) The Commissioner shallhear the application made under sub-section (2), as far as may be, within sixweeks from the date of making it, and he may, if he is not satisfied as to thecorrectness, legality or propriety of the order passed by the DistrictMagistrate or as to the regularity of proceedings held before him, alter orreverse his order, or make such other order as may be just and proper.'

'(4) The order of theCommissioner under sub-section (3) shall, subject to any order passed by theState Government under s. 7-F, be final.'

10. The scheme of these three sub-sections is that the District Magistrateshould first consider whether the landlord should be allowed to sue withoutcomplying with clauses (a) to (g) of s. 3(1). When he decides the question oneway or the other, the party aggrieved by the decision has been given a right toapply to the Commissioner to revise the said order within the limitationprescribed by sub-s. (2). That takes the proceedings before the Commissioner,and he exercises his revisional jurisdiction and reaches his own decision inthe matter. Sub-section (4) provides that the revisional order passed by theCommissioner shall, subject to the order passed by the State Government unders. 7-F, be final. That takes us to s. 7-F. Section 7-F reads thus :

'The State Government may call for the record ofany case granting or refusing to grant permission for the filing of a suit foreviction referred to in s. 3 or requiring any accommodation to be let or not tobe let to any person under s. 7 or directing a person to vacate anyaccommodation under s. 7-A and may make such order as appears to in necessaryfor the ends of justice.'

11. As we have already indicated, the question we have to decide in thepresent appeal is : what is the nature of the proceedings taken before theState Government under s. 7-F and what is the character of the jurisdiction andpower conferred on the State Government by it; are the proceedings purelyadministrative, and can the State Government decide the question and exerciseits jurisdiction without complying with the principles of natural justice

12. In dealing with this question, we have first to examine the nature ofthe power conferred on the District Magistrate himself. There is no doubt thatwhat the District Magistrate is authorised to do is to permit the landlord toclaim eviction of his tenant, though he may not comply with s. 3(1), clause (a)to (g) and that clearly means that the order which the District Magistrate maypass while granting sanction to the landlord has the effect of taking away fromthe tenants the statutory protection given to them by the scheme of s. 3(1). Alandlord can normally evict his tenant by complying with the relevantprovisions of the Transfer of Property Act. Section 3(1) imposes a statutorylimitation on the said power by requiring the proof of one or the other of theseven grounds stated in clauses (a) to (g) of s. 3(1), before he can seek toevict his tenant. That limitation is removed by the sanction which the DistrictMagistrate may grant; and so, it is plain that the order which the DistrictMagistrate passes under s. 3(2) affects the statutory rights of the tenants.That is one aspect of the matter which cannot be ignored.

13. The second aspect of the matter is that the party who may feel aggrievedby the order passed by the District Magistrate, is given the right to move theCommissioner in revision within the prescribed period of limitation, and thisprovision necessarily implies that the District Magistrate should indicate hisreasons why he makes a particular order under s. 3(2). Unless the District Magistrateindicates, though briefly, the reasons in support of his final order, theCommissioner would not be able to exercise his jurisdiction under s. 3(3). Howcould the Commissioner consider the question as to whether the order passed bythe District Magistrate is correct or is legal or is proper, unless he knowsthe reasons on which the said order is based Thus, the provision for arevisional application to the Commissioner also indicates that the DistrictMagistrate has to weigh the pros and cons of the matter and come to a certainconclusion before he makes the order. The rule naturally imports therequirement that the parties should be allowed to put heir versions before him.The District Magistrate cannot reasonably weigh the pros and cons unless boththe landlord and the tenant are given an opportunity to place their versionsbefore him. Therefore, we are satisfied that the jurisdiction conferred on theDistrict Magistrate to deal with the rights of the parties is of such acharacter that principles of natural justice cannot be excluded from theproceedings before him.

14. This conclusion is very much strengthened when we consider theprovisions of s. 3(3). This clause specifically requires the Commissioner tohear the application made under sub-s. (2) within the specified period. Thisrequirement positively enacts that the proceedings before the Commissioner arequasi-judicial. This clause further provides that the Commissioner has to besatisfied as to the correctness, legality, or propriety of the order underrevision. He can also examine the question as to the regularity of theproceedings held before the District Magistrate. In our opinion, it isimpossible to escape the conclusion that these provisions unambiguously suggestthat the proceedings before the District Magistrate as well as before theCommissioner are quasi-judicial in character. Further, the revisional power hasto be exercised and a revisional order has to be passed by the Commissioner toserve the purpose of justice, because the clause provides that the Commissionermay make such other order as may be just and proper. Thus, we are satisfiedthat when the District Magistrate exercises his authority under s. 3(2) and theCommissioner exercises his revisional power under s. 3(3), they must actaccording to the principles of natural justice. They are dealing with thequestion of the rights of the landlord and the tenant and they are required toadopt a judicial approach.

15. If that be the true position in regard to the proceedings contemplatedby sub-s. 3(2) and sub-s. 3(3), it is not difficult to hold that the revisionalproceedings which go before the State Government under s. 7-F, must partake ofthe same character. It is true that the State Government is authorised to callfor the record suo motu, but that cannot alter the fact that the StateGovernment would not be in a position to decide the matter entrusted to itsjurisdiction under s. 7-F, unless it gives an opportunity to both the partiesto place their respective points of view before it. It is the ends of justicewhich determine the nature of the order which the State Government would passunder s. 7-F, and it seems to us plain that in securing the ends of justice,the State Government cannot but apply principles of natural justice and offer areasonable opportunity to both the parties while it exercises its jurisdictionunder s. 7-F.

16. We have already referred to the general policy of the Act. In thatconnection, we may mention two other sections of the Act. Section 14 providesthat no decree for the eviction of a tenant from any accommodation passedbefore the date of commencement of this Act, shall, in so far as it relates tothe eviction of such tenant, be executed against him so long as this Actremains in force, except on any of the grounds mentioned in s. 3. This sectionemphatically brings out the main object of the Act which is to save the tenantsfrom eviction. That is why it prescribes a bar against the execution of thedecrees which may have been passed for the eviction of tenants before the Actcame into force, unless the landlords are able to show one or the other groundmentioned in s. 3.

17. A similar provision is made by s. 15 in regard to pending suits. It laysdown that in all suits for eviction of tenants from any accommodation pendingon the date of commencement of this Act, no decree for eviction shall be passedexcept on one or more of the grounds mentioned in s. 3. The provision alsoemphasises the importance attached by the Act to the protection of the tenantsfrom eviction. The right conferred on the tenant no to be evicted, except onthe specified grounds enumerated by clauses (a) to (g) of s. 3(1), is astatutory right of great significance, and it is this statutory right of whichthe tenants would be deprived when the landlord obtains the sanction of theDistrict Magistrate. That is why we think the Act must be taken to require thatin exercising their respective powers under s. 3(2) and s. 3(3), theappropriate authorities have to consider the matter in a quasi-judicial manner,and are expected to follow the principles of natural justice before reachingtheir conclusions.

18. We have already indicated that the Allahabad High Court had consistentlytaken the contrary view and held that the functions discharged by theappropriate authorities under s. 3(2) and s. 3(3) are administrative and anobligation to follow the principles of natural justice cannot be imposed on thesaid authorities vide Narettam Saran v. State of U.P. : AIR1954All232 .Indeed, after the learned single Judge had held in the present proceedings thatthe view taken by the earlier decisions of the Allahabad High Court waserroneous, a Division Bench of the said High Court considered the same questiononce again and re-affirmed its earlier view vide : Murlidhar v. State of U.P. 0043/1964 : AIR1964All148 . We have carefully considered the reasons given by thelearned Judges when they re-affirmed the earlier view taken by the High Courtof Allahabad on this point. With respect, we are unable to agree with thedecision in Murlidhar's 0043/1964 : AIR1964All148 , case.

19. In this connection, we may refer to the decisions of this Court inLaxman Purshottam Pimputkar's : [1964]1SCR200 , case on which the learnedsingle Judge partly relied in support of his conclusion. In that case, thisCourt was called upon to consider the question whether the revisionaljurisdiction conferred on the State Government under s. 79 of the Watan Act waspurely administrative, and it came to the conclusion that in exercising thesaid revisional jurisdiction, the State Government is not acting purely as anadministrative authority; its decision is judicial or quasi-judicial, and so,it is essential that the State Government should follow the principles ofnatural justice before reaching its conclusion under that section. The schemeof the relevant provisions of the Watan Act cannot, however, be said to beexactly similar to the scheme of the Act with which we are concerned; whereassection 3 of the Act with which we are concerned in the present appeal dealswith the statutory rights conferred on the tenants, the relevant sections ofthe Watan Act dealt with the right of possession of the Watan property itself.That being so, it cannot be said that the decision in Laxman PurshottamPimputkar's : [1964]1SCR200 , case can be deemed to have overruled bynecessary implication the view taken by the Allahabad High Court in regard tothe nature of the power conferred on the appropriate authorities by Sections 3 and7-F of the Act.

20. Before we part with this appeal, however, we ought to point out that itwould have been appropriate if the learned single Judge had not taken uponhimself to consider the question as to whether the earlier decisions of theDivision Benches of the High Court needed to be re-considered and revised. Itis plain that the said decisions had not been directly or even by necessaryimplication overruled by any decision of this Court; indeed, the judgmentdelivered by the learned single Judge shows that he was persuaded to re-examinethe matter himself and in fact he had substantially recorded his conclusionthat the earlier decisions were erroneous even before his attention was drawnto the decision of this Court in Laxman Purshottam Pimputkar's : [1964]1SCR200 case. It is hardly necessary to emphasise that considerations of judicialpropriety and decorum require that if a learned single Judge hearing a matteris inclined to take the view that the earlier decisions of the High Court,whether of a Division Bench or of a single Judge, need to be reconsidered, heshould not embark upon that enquiry sitting as a single Judge, but should referthe matter to a Division Bench or, in a proper case, place the relevant papersbefore the Chief Justice to enable him to constitute a larger Bench to examinethe question. That is the proper and traditional way to deal with such mattersand it is founded on healthy principles of Judicial decorum and propriety. Itis to be regretted that the learned single Judge departed from this traditionalway in the present case and chose to examine the question himself.

21. The result is, the appeal fails and is dismissed. There will be no orderas to costs.

22. Appeal dismissed.


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