1. In their written statement dated November 2. 1965, filed in reply to an eviction petition of Raj Dulari respondent landlady, the appellant tenants made a prayer for fixation of standard rent under the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958, herein called 'the Act', for the premises in dispute, which had been taken on rent in 1958. An application under Section 15(2) of the Act was filed by the landlady for directions to the appellants for deposit of arrears of rent due from February 1. 1962 at the rate of Rs. 175/- per month. On March 15. 1963 the Additional Controller fixed Rs. 125/- per month as the interim rent, under Section 15(3) of the Act and directed the arrears and future rent to be, paid at that rate, the eviction petition however, was dismissed in default on February 6, 1965. In the meantime, the appellant tenants had deposited with the Additional Controller from time to time a sum of Rs.4, 500/- in all. The appellants filed an application before the Additional Controller on June 4. 1966 for determination of their plea for fixation of standard rent, but the same was dismissed. The appeal against the said order was also dismissed and a second appeal to the High Court, S. A. O. I have, also dismissed 265 of 1968, today, by a separate order.
2. In the meantime, the respondent-landlady filed a suit on October 16, 1965 against the appellants for recovery, of Rs.3, 200/- towards the balance of arrears of rent, out of which this second appeal has arisen. A sum of Rs. 7,700/ was claimed as arrears from February 1. 1962 up to September 30, 1965 at Rs. 175/- per month. Against this, a sum of Rs.4, 500/- was adjusted as amount received in account from the Additional Controller, out of which Rs.4, 375/- were said to be towards rent due from February 1. 1962 to February 29, 1964 at Rs.175/- per month and the remaining Rs.125/- were said to be part payment of rent for the month of March 1964. The balance of Rs.3, 200/- was thus, claimed to be due from t he appellants to the respondent landlady. The appellants resisted the suit and claimed, inter alias that the respondent-landlady was not entitled to claim anything unless their plea of fixation of standard rent was decided. The learned Sub-Judge. How ever, came to the conclusion that the appellants were liable to pay rent at the rate of Rs. 175/- per month, that the rent from February 1. 1962 onwards had been paid at toe rate of Rs.125/- per month, that that balance of the arrears at the rate of Rs.50/- per month for the period from February 1, 1962 to September 30, 1962 amounting in all to Rs.400/- had become barred by time and that for the remaining period the plaintiff could claim at the rate of Rs.175/- per month and adjust against it the proportionate amount deposited for. that period. The balance thus left worked out of Rs.2, 800/- which sum was decreed against the appellants. Both the respondent landlady and the appellants filed cross-appeals against the said Judgment, which. however were dismissed by the Additional District Judge. The appellant tenants in their second appeal to this Court have again claimed that standard rent not having been fixed, decree for arrears of rent could not be Passed and in any case decree could not be passed for rent at a rate more than the said Rs. 125/- per month which had been fixed as the interim rent.
3. The respondent-landlady also filed cross-objections claiming that the order, of the learned Additional District Judge disallowing Rs.400/- towards arrears of rent on the ground that it was barred by time was erroneous and praying that the said amount Rs.400/-should be decreed in her favor.
4. The interim rent at the rate of Rs.125/- per month, as already stated was fixed by the Additional Controller on March 15, 1963, in accordance with the then prevailing view of the law and practice followed by the Controller, according to which the tenant's prayer for fixation of standard rent made in the written statement was taken into consideration, regardless of the limitation provided in Section 12 of the Act. Interim rent also used to be fixed in an almost arbitrary manner, not necessarily at the rate at which it was last Paid The Supreme Court in M. M. Chawla v J. S. Sethi, 1969 Ren Cj 913 (SC) (pars 1). observed:
''Sub-section (3) provides that interim rent is to be paid at the rate at which it was last paid till the standard rent is determined but thereby it is not implied that standard rent is determined as an issue arising in the action for ejectment; the clause only means that when there is a dispute relating to the rate of contractual rent payable. The Controller shall within fifteen days of the date of the first hearing of the proceeding fix the interim rent and the amount so fixed shall be paid by the tenant until the standard rent in relation to the premises is fixed in an appropriate proceeding under the Act. The expression having regard to the provisions of this Act has reference to Sections 9 and 10.'
5. The Additional Controller should hive fixed the interim rent at the rate at which it was last paid and should have proceeded to fix the standard rent only if it could be fixed under Sections 9 and 12 of the Act. The order fixing the interim rent at a rate lower, than the rent at which it was last paid was an order passed under an erroneous view of the law, but it was not an order without the Additional Controller having Jurisdiction to pass it. The order, so long as it stood, had to be complied with and could not be ignored. So far as the appellant's plea for fixation of standard rent was concerned I have already overruled the same following the aforesaid Supreme Court authority in M. M. Chawla's case in S. A. O. 265 of 1968, between the same parties decided separately today holding that it could not be fixed in this case, being barred by time.
6. The order fixing the interim rent however, was in the nature of an Interlocutory order passed during the pendency of the eviction proceedings, which were then pending before the Additional Controller. It limited the liability of the appellant-tenants to pay rent at the interim rent rate during the pendency of the eviction proceedings, subject to such adjustments as may be required on the final outcome of those proceedings at their termination. The said interlocutory order expired on February 6, 1965 when the eviction petition was dismissed in default. There was no question of the appellant's liability being limited any more to the Payment of interim rent. If the standard rent ultimately fixed, in case it bad been fixed, was more than the interim rent the, tenant was liable to pay the excess; end if it was less then the tenant could claim the excess Paid from the land lord. The contractual rent in any case was not in force and stood modified and reduced to the rate, which was fixed as the interim rent. Once proceedings in the instant case were dismissed and standard rent could not be fixed. The rate of contractual rent of Rs.175/- per month revived with retrospective effect and the landlady acquired a right to claim the outstanding balance amount, which she could not claim so long as the eviction proceedings lasted and the interim rent was in force. The appellant tenants thereforee, are liable to pay the contractual rent at the rate of Rs.175/per month. The contention of that they cannot be called upon to Pay more than Rs. 125/- per month, the interim rent fixed by the Additional Controller is thus without any basis and is rejected.
7. Dealing with the cross-objections filed on behalf of the respondent landlady, it is noticed that the cause of action for recovery of arrears at the contractual rate of rent in excess of the interim rent accrued on February 6, 965 when the eviction Petition wag dismissed. Before that date the landlady, as noticed already, could not ask for payment of the arrears at the contractual rate in view of the Provisions of Section 15(3) of the Act. A contention was raised that there is no legal bar to demand rent at a rate higher than tile rate of interim rent as is provided by Section 5 of the Act in the case of standard rent. This contention cannot be accepted. Under Section 15(3) of the Act, the tenant's obligation is limited to his paying rent at the rate of interim rent fixed by the Controller. This automatically renders nugatory the rights of the landlord to ask for rent at a rate higher than the interim rent. For if the landlord's right to claim rent in excess of the interim rent still remained intact and he could file, a suit for recovery thereof the whole object of the provisions of Section 15(3) would be defeated; and the protection to the tenant provided by Section 15(3) would become illusory. The only construction that can be placed on Section 15(3) is that the, interim rent is no less in effect than the standard rent the only difference being that it is fixed on a provisional basis and subject to subsequent adjustments if necessary. But the landlord cannot claim or receive rent in excess of the said interim rent during the period it remains in force and effective. On the termination of the proceedings in which the interim rent was fixed the landlord can claim the entire arrears at the rate of standard rent if it is fixed and at the contractual rate it if cannot be fixed.
8. The question then arises, whether the landlord can recover arrears of rent for the period -prior to three years from the date of the filing of the suit for its recovery; or do such arrears become irrecoverable as having become barred by time the order fixing the interim rent in the instant case was passed on March 15. 1962, directing the tenants to pay the arrears at Rs.125/-per month, thereby modifying the contractual rent. The landlord could not claim or recover the arrears in excess of a sum calculated at the rate of Rs.125/- per month. As there was no obligation on the appellants to pay the excess. The sum of Rs.50/- out of the contractual rent became irrecoverable under the law. The retrospective operation of the order fixing the interim rent affected the entire arrears from February 1, 1962 and the contractual rent stopped falling due from month to month, with the result the rent for the month of February 1962 and for all subsequent months was deemed to accrue due at the rate of Rs.125/- per month, the interim rate of rent only. On payment of arrears at this rate, there remained no outstanding arrears. If the standard rent had ultimately been fixed with retrospective effect and under the law it could be fixed from one year Prior to the date of the application for fixation of standard rent then the demand by the landlord for rent in excess of the standard rent so fixed may have subjected him to the penalties Provided in Section 48 of the Act. The rent at the contractual rate thereforee had become irrecoverable on the fixation of the interim rent. On the dismissal of the proceedings in which the interim rent was fixed and standard rent as already held, not being capable of being fixed the obligation of the appellants to pay the admitted contractual rent retrospectively, which had lapsed on the fixation of interim rent came into existence and the landlady acquired the right to it. Before this date there was no legally recoverable rent, which was in arrears. The excess rent for the past period also became due only on the termination of the said proceedings. In Mussumat Ranee Surno Moyyee v Mokhee Burmonia, (1867-69) 12 Moo Ind App 244 (PC), an auction sale of the rights of putnidars in a putni taluk by the landlord for arrears of rent was set aside and the putnidars, who had been dispossessed, restored with mesne profits to be paid by the purchaser during the time they were out of possession. The landlord then brought a suit against the putnidars to recover the arrears of rent, which had accrued before and during, the time they were out of possession. The suit was instituted after a period of more than three years from the date of the sale. The Privy Council dealing with the question of limitation held:
'That, upon the setting aside of this sale, the restoration of the parties to possession they took back the estate, subject to the obligation to Pay the rent and that the particular arrears of rent claimed in this action must be taken to have become due in the year in which that restoration to possession took place.''
9. The appellants obligation to pay the difference in the rate of rent calculated at the contractual rate and that calculated at the rate of the interim rent thus came into existence on February 6. 1965, when the eviction Petition was dismissed. The excess amount became due only on that date the cause of action to enforce the appellants' obligation arose on that date.
10. The statute of limitation had not started running until the cause of action accrued and the cause of action accrued only when the said difference in the arrears become due and recoverable. (See also Hem Chunder v. Kali Prosunno, (1903) 30 Ind App 177. In this view of the matter, Rs. 50/- per month being the difference in the contractual rate of rent and the rate of interim rent for the period from February 1, 1962 to September .10, 1962 accrued due, on February 6 1965 when the eviction petition was dismissed. The suit for its recovery was filed on October 16,1 1965. The claim of the landlady thereforee, cannot be said to be barred by time. Her entire claim accordingly is within limitation.
11. The appeal of the appellants, accordingly, is dismissed, while the cross -objections of the respondent landlady are allowed. The judgments and Decrees of the courts below are accord- modified and the suit of the respondent-landlady is decreed for Rupees 3,200/- against the appellants. In the peculiar circumstances of the case, however, there is no order as to costs.
12. Order accordingly.