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Sant Ram Vs. Mekh Lal and Co. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. Appln. No. 67 of 1967
Judge
Reported inAIR1968Delhi299
ActsEast Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 - Sections 13(3) and 15(5); East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction (Amendement) Act, 1956; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 115 and 152
AppellantSant Ram
RespondentMekh Lal and Co.
Advocates: Sushil Malhtora and; R.N. Malhtora, Advs
Cases ReferredSmt. Shakuntala Devi v. Daulat Ram
Excerpt:
.....extremely difficult to hold that the punjab provision is exactly similar for our purposes to the delhi provision. in the punjab act, there is no question of the landlord requiring the building or the rented land for carrying out any building work because it has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation, as seems to be the plain meaning of the delhi provision. in panna lal's case, (1963) 65 plr 528. it is perfectly true that the observations of the learned chief justice do lend support to the submission, but with all due respect, we are unable to subscribe to that view. (i) that he requires the premises for carrying out building work, and (ii) that this is either because of some order from the government or the delhi improvement trust or else that the premises have become unsafe or..........extremely difficult to hold that the punjab provision is exactly similar for our purposes to the delhi provision. in the punjab act, there is no question of the landlord requiring the building or the rented land for carrying out any building work because it has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation, as seems to be the plain meaning of the delhi provision. the object of all interpretation of a statute, it may be remembered, is to determine what intention is conveyed either expressly or impliedly by the language used so far as is necessary for determining whether a particular case or state of facts presented to the interpreter falls within it. the initial rule of construction is thus to intend the legislature to have meant what they have actually expressed, the underlying principle.....
Judgment:

I.D. Dua, C.J.

1. At the time of admission of this revision (C. R. No. 67 of 1967), Shri Sushil Malhtora and Shri R. N. Malhtora appearing in support of the petitioner Sant Ram cited before Andley, J. Panna Lal v. Jagan Nath, 1963 P. L. R. 528, a decision by Falshaw, C. J. And Chuhar Mal v. Balak Ram, 1964 Cur Lj 119 = (1964) 66 PLR 503 (Dulat and Pandit JJ.) in support of their plea for admission of this revision. Shanker. J. felt doubtful of the correctness of the view taken in these two decisions, with the result that while admitting the revision, he directed that the same should be heard after ntoice by a larger Bench. It is in these circumstances that this revision has been placed before us for final disposal.

2. The main question arising for settlement by us relates to the interpretation of section 13(3)(a)(iii) of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act No. Iii of 1949 (hereafter described as the Punjab Act). The provision of law requiring interpretation may now be reproduced.

'13. * * * * (iii) In the case of any building or rented land, if he requires it to carry out any building work at the instance of the Government or local authority or any Improvement Trust under some improvement or development scheme or if it has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation;

* * * * * This clause was inserted by amendment in 1956 (Punjab Act No. 29 of 1956) section 2(iii). It may be pointed out that by the said amending Act, a number of toher changes were also made, including the conferment of right of revision on the High Court by adding sub-section (5) to section 15 of the Punjab Act.

3. At this stage, it would be helpful to State briefly the absolutely essential facts giving rise to the point canvassed. The landlord had applied for eviction of the tenant from the shop in question situated in Middle Bazaar. Simla, under section 13 of the Punjab Act on the grounds

(i) that the tenant had been in arrears of rent since 1-3-1964;

(ii) that the Municipal Committee, Simla, had served the landlord with a ntoice under sections 113/114 of the Punjab Municipal Act declaring that the premises in dispute and the building as such was in a dangerous condition and was liable to be reconstructed; and

(iii) that the respondent was using the premises in such a manner that its utility and value had been materially impaired.

The first and the last grounds no longer concern us and the controversy now centers round the second ground. Btoh the Rent Controller and the learned District Judge, who constituted the Appellate Authority under the Punjab Act, have acceded to the landlord's prayer and directed the tenant to vacate the premises. The Rent Controller had, it may be pointed out, on 24-3-4966 directed vacant possession of the shop to be handed over to the landlord on or before 24-6-1966.

4. The short contention raised on behalf on the tenant-petitioner is that unless the landlord btoh pleads and establishes that he requires the building or the rented land in order to carry out any building work at the instance of the Government or local authority or any improvement Trust under some improvement or development scheme, or because it has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation, the landlord cannto apply to the Controller for relief under S. 13(3) (a) (iii) and a fortiori the Rent Controller and the Appellate Authority have no jurisdiction to make the order for eviction at the instance of the landlord. According to this submission, the provision reproduced above must be held to be completely identical with section 9(1)(j) of the Delhi Ajmer-Merwara Rent Control Act No. Xix of 1947 (hereafter described as the Delhi Act). The submission on the plain reading of the two provisions is wholly inadmissible and this would be clear from a comparison of their respective language. Section 9 (1) (j) may now appropriately be read:-

'9. Eviction of tenants. - (1) Ntowithstanding anything contained in any contract, no Court shall pass any decree in favor of landlord, or make any order, in favor of a landlord whether in execution of a decree or toherwise, evicting any tenant, whether or nto the period of the tenancy has terminated unless it is satisfied either -

* * * *; or *; (j) that the landlord requires the premises in order to carry out any building work -

(i) at the instance of the Government or the Delhi Improvement Trust in pursuance of an improvement scheme or development scheme, or

(ii) because the premises have become unsafe or unfit for human habitation; * * * * * *.'

As just observed, comparison of the language of the two provisions contained in the Punjab Act and the Delhi Act quite clearly illustrate the different legislative intendment and we find it extremely difficult to hold that the Punjab provision is exactly similar for our purposes to the Delhi provision. In the Punjab Act, there is no question of the landlord requiring the building or the rented land for carrying out any building work because it has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation, as seems to be the plain meaning of the Delhi provision. The object of all interpretation of a statute, it may be remembered, is to determine what intention is conveyed either expressly or impliedly by the language used so far as is necessary for determining whether a particular case or State of facts presented to the interpreter falls within it. The initial rule of construction is thus to intend the Legislature to have meant what they have actually expressed, the underlying principle being that the meaning and intention of a statute must be collected from the plain and unambiguous expression used therein rather than from any pre-conceived ntoions, nto founded on the statutory language and scheme, which may be entertained by the Court as to what the Legislature must be assumed to have intended.

5. The petitioner's learned counsel has, however, sought support for his submission from the decision by Falshaw C. J. In Panna Lal's case, (1963) 65 PLR 528. It is perfectly true that the observations of the learned Chief Justice do lend support to the submission, but with all due respect, we are unable to subscribe to that view. The learned Chief Justice, it may be pointed out, reproduced the relevant provisions of the Delhi Act and thereafter without reproducing the provisions of the Punjab Act, which really fell for interpretation proceeded to observe as follows:--

'The way in which these provisions are set out makes it quite clear and free from all ambiguity that the landlord must plead and prove two things. (i) that he requires the premises for carrying out building work, and (ii) that this is either because of some order from the Government or the Delhi Improvement Trust or else that the premises have become unsafe or unfit human habitation.

Except for the fact that in the Punjab Act the words 'at the instance of the Government or local authority or any Improvement Trust' appear instead of the words 'at the instance of the Government or Delhi Improvement Trust' the wording of the two sub-sections is identical, and although as it stands the words of the Punjab Act are capable of the interpretation placed on them by the learned Appellate Authority that all that has to be pleaded and proved by the landlord is that the building has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation, I do nto think there can be any doubt that the same meaning was intended to be conveyed in the Punjab Act as in the Delhi Act, and it is a pity that the clearer arrangement adopted in the Delhi Act was nto also adopted in the Punjab Act.'

The infirmity in the reasoning is quite obvious. Instead of construing the language of the Punjab Act, it was the Delhi provision which was kept in the forefront and it was assumed that the Punjab Legislature must have intended to adopt the scheme of the Delhi Act and that it was perhaps by some oversight or inefficiency on the part of the draftsman that different phraseology, conveying a different intendment, was used. No reference was made to the scheme of Punjab Act giving rise to the assumption of complete identity between the legislative intendment of the two law-makers. Speaking with respect. We cannto help expressing our firm dissent from the ratio and the reasoning of this decision.

6. Turning now to the Division Bench decision in Chuhar Mal's case, 1964 Cur Lj 119 = 66 PLr 503, it may be pointed out that D. K. Mahajan J. Of the Punjab High Court entertained some doubt about the correctness of the view taken by Falshaw C. J. and thereforee, referred the case to a larger Bench. Dulat J., who prepared judgment on behalf of the Division Bench, after referring to the opinion of Falshaw C. J. in Panna Lal's case, (1963) PLr 528. expressed himself thus:-

'This strikes me as an entirely reasonable view. Mahajan, J., thought it unreasonable for two reasons. One was that the provision relates nto only to a building but also to rented land and in the case of rented land there could never be any question of its becoming unsafe or unfit for human habitation. It seems to me, however that this objection does nto apply to the arrangements suggested by Falshaw, C. J. And Mahajan, J, was this that there can be a landlord who has nto the means to rebuild the premises but even such a landlord is under a liability to ensure the tenant's safety and should, thereforee, be in a position to get the premises vacated so that the tenant may nto suffer damage by collapse of the building and possibly hold the landlord responsible. What the reasoning implies is that the Legislature intended to make this provision in order to secure the landlord against any claim by a tenant arising out of any damage to the tenant or his property due to the unsafe condition of the premises. The East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, was enacted in the context of shortage of urban accommodation, btoh residential and commercial, and it seems, thereforee, reasonable to think that what the Legislature intended was that a landlord who wants to rebuild the premises either because he has been required to do so or because the premises are unsafe, may be allowed to obtain vacant possession from the tenant, and, similarly in the case of rented land, he may be entitled to take possession in case he has been required to build on the land.'

When the learned Judge's attention was drawn to the plain language of the Punjab provision and it was pointed out that the courts cannto re-write the statute, the learned Judge proceeded to observe thus:

'The result of such an interpretation would be that a landlord would be entitled to have a tenant evicted and yet allow the premises to fall down without ever intending to rebuild them. I very much doubt if such a result was ever intended by the Legislature. It is true that it may frequently happen that a landlord is nto in position to rebuild old premises, but in that case he need nto be entitled to evict the tenant.' The reasons which seem to have weighed with Dulat, J. do nto seem to us to be sufficiently cogent to re-write the statute or to impute to the draftsman a legislative intent different from that which is reasonably discernible from the plain language and scheme of the statutory provision. A comparison of the Punjab provision as reproduced in the judgment in Chuhar Mal's case, 1964 Cur Lj 119 = 66 PLr 503 with what the Bench felt to be the frame of the said provision in the opinion of Falshaw, C. J., clearly brings out the error, if with all respect we may so put it, in which the Court on btoh the occasions fell. No reasons have been given for re-arranging the Punjab provision so as to bring it in conformity with the Delhi provision. In this connection, it must never be forgtoten that a statute is to be taken, construed and applied in the form enacted and so declared, announced and expounded.

As a general rule, no intent can be imputed to the Legislature in the enactment of a law toher than such as is supported by the face of the law itself. We are nto unmindful of the fact that legislative purposes and aims are important guide-posts for statutory interpretation, but such purposes and aims have to be discerned from the statute and nto from any collateral outside agency. The Court, it must be remembered, is ordinarily nto to amplify an enactment so as to include within its ambit matters, which upon the plain meaning of the language are nto included, even if convinced, toherwise than on the statutory scheme, that the omission was inadvertent or undersigned.

The observations by the Division Bench that even if the building be unsafe or unfit for human habitation, the tenant must, according to the Punjab Act, be vested with the right to stick to the building and the landlord must be placed under a disability in the matter of securing eviction of the tenant so as to build or to carry out repairs at his convenience without endangering the life and property of the tenant during the interval, has nto appealed to us. To so hold, seems to us to impute to the Legislature a desire to encourage tenants to live in the premises which would endanger their own safety and this we are unable to do. The fact that rented land is bricketed with building is wholly immaterial, for the possibility of the rented land being unsafe or unfit for human habitation would have to be postulated even when the landlord is expected to require eviction in order to carry out any building work.

7. We have come to this conclusion on plain reading of the statutory provision and we are more inclined to agree with the view of D. K. Mahajan J. So far as it is discernible from the Bench decision of the Punjab High Court in Chuhar Mal's case, 1964 Cur Lj 119 = 66 PLr 503. Incidentally, it may be pointed out that by implication, to make it imperative for the landlord to plead and establish that he requires the building in question for the purpose of carrying out any building work on the ground that it has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation, would lead to extremely unreasonable consequences. The landlord would in that event have to make arrangements for funds and then initiate proceedings for ejectment which may take years before they are finally concluded up to the High Court. All the time the funds would have to be kept locked up by the landlord. In our opinion, unless the legislative intent is clearly discernible to lead to such consequences, it would be hardly permissible to strain the plain language of the Punjab provision to arrive at such a result. The fact that the Delhi Act clearly so provides is scarcely a cogent ground for placing a similar construction on the Punjab provision, which, it is nto disputed, is differently worded. On behalf of the petitioner, a passing reference has been made to a decision of the Supreme Court in Neta Ram v. Jiwan Lal : AIR1963SC499 , but that case relates to the application for ejectment of a tenant on ground of bona fide requirement for reconstruction under the Pepsu Urban Rent Restriction Ordinance and, thereforee, is of little assistance in construing the Punjab Act.

8. On behalf of the respondents, our attention has been drawn to Shri Madan Lal Kapur v. Nand Singh, 1966 Cur Lj 772, in which sitting in Single Bench, one of us expressed his doubts in regard to the correctness of the approach of Falshaw C. J. in Panna Lal's case, (1963) 65 PLr 528 but did nto consider it necessary to go into the question on that occasion, because in the reported case, the requisite plea was actually contained in the application for ejectment. However, a doubt was expressed on the construction of section 13(3) (iii) of the Punjab Act in the following words:-

'In my opinion, section 13(3) (a) (iii) providing for an order of ejectment in case where a building has become unsafe or unfit for human habitation has been inspired in part at least by the same sense of public good which has necessitated various provisions of law for the purpose of giving prtoection to the citizens against unhygienic and dangerous abodes of residence. It is unnecessary to mention the various statutory provisions extending such prtoection to the citizens even against their own ill-advised or dangerous acts btoh of commission and omission.

* * * * * * The tenant is after all only prtoected to retain his tenancy against mala fide devices of the landlord in pretending to utilise the provisions of the statute in cases which are toherwise nto covered by those provisions. In case a landlord uses the premises in question for a purpose which is hit by provisions of this Act then the tenant has ample remedies provided by the statute itself to enforce his rights, but this Court cannto impose terms on the landlord as how, when and in what manner he should repair or reconstruct his property because this is factor which depends on various aspects which the landlord alone can take into account and decide.'

The next decision to which our attention has been invited is reported as Smt. Shakuntala Devi v. Daulat Ram, (1967) 69 PLr 251, where it was observed that it is an incorrect approach to hold that unless the precise part of the building in question is in almost a ruinous State and is likely to tumble down within a short duration of time, it cannto be held to be unsafe or unfit for human habitation for the purpose of the ejectment of the tenant because apart from the danger to those who use the building, to postpone its reconstruction or effective repairs, may cost more in terms of money to the owner to postpone the needful to be done later. It is argued on behalf of the respondents that this decision supplies a practical approach to a practical question of having the premises vacated when they are unfit or unsafe for human habitation.

9. In our view, thereforee, it is nto necessary fro a landlord, when applying for being put in possession of his building or rented land under Section 13(3) (a) (iii) of the Punjab Act, to plead and establish that he requires the same in order to carry out any building work and the view adopted in the cases of Panna Lal, (1963) 65 PLr 528 and Chuhar Mal, 1964 Cur Lj 119 = 66 PLr 503 in this respect does nto lay down the law correctly.

10. The finding of the Appellate Authority that the building has become unsafe and unfit for human habitation has also been sought to be challenged on behalf of the petitioner, but such a course is, in our opinion, nto open to the petitioner on revision under section 15(5) of the Punjab Act. It is undoubtedly true that the powers of the High Court under this provision are much larger than those exercised under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code, but its wide scope ntowithstanding, a revision even under the Punjab Act cannto be equated with a first appeal so as to lay open the conclusions of fact to re-evaluation. And when all is said and done, the fact remains that the power of revision even under section 15(5) of the Punjab Act, is discretionary and unless the cause of justice so demands, interference with conclusions of fact, and particularly when they happen to be concurrent conclusions, should nto be made on the mere ground that this Court sitting as a Court of fact would have come to a different conclusion.

11. On behalf of the petitioner, an attempt has been made to raise some additional points which were nto agitated before the Appellate Authority, but we considered it unjust to the respondents to allow the petitioner to raise them for the first time on revision. A new point, even of law, may be allowed to be raised on revision only to promtoe the larger cause of justice on judicious consideration of the interests of btoh contesting parties and it cannto be claimed as a matter of right by any one of them merely because such a point possesses merit. When making this observation, we do nto mean to lay down that the points sought to be raised by the petitioner are meritorious because we have nto allowed him to develop them.

12. As a last resort, the petitioner's learned counsel has raised a highly technical objection by urging that the learned District Judge, who heard his appeal from the order of the Rent Controller, has nto described himself in his order as 'District & Sessions Judge' and that this omission vitiates his order. In support of this submission, our attention has been drawn to section 15(1) (a) of the Punjab Act read with the Ntoification dated 14-4-1947 by means of which the Governor of Punjab conferred on all District & Sessions Judges in Punjab powers of Appellate Authorities for the purposes of the Punjab Act in regard to the orders made by the Rent Controllers under Sections 4, 10, 12 and 13 thereof. It is argued that the omission to describe himself as District & Sessions Judge, Shri D. B. Lal, has nto exercised his power as Appellate Authority under the Punjab Act and, thereforee his order is a nullity. This objection is, in our opinion, wholly unmeritorious. If the District & Sessions Judge of Simla has been empowered to exercise the power of appeal under the Punjab Act and this fact is nto disputed on behalf of the petitioner, then merely because Shri D. B. Lal, who, indisputably happens to be the District & Sessions Judge Simla, has nto added the words 'District & Sessions Judge' after his name, having described himself merely as District Judge would nto attract to his order the fatal infirmity suggested on behalf of the petitioner.

It is nto disputed that all District Judges in Punjab were also invested with the powers of Sessions Judges and it is further nto disputed that Shri D. B. Lal is a District & Sessions Judge of Simla and is as such lawfully invested with the appellate powers under the Punjab Act. Mere omission of the words 'and Sessions' in between the words 'District' and 'Judge' would, in our opinion, be a mere irregularity which would nto affect the merits of his decision. Incidentally, in the grounds of revision, the objection was nto raised to the failure to insert the words 'and Sessions' in between the words 'District' and 'Judge', but the objection was confined to the failure on the part of the District Judge to describe himself as 'Appellate Authority' as contemplated by the Punjab Act. This objection has, however, nto been pressed before us and, in our opinion, rightly because if Shri D. B. Lal is invested with the power of hearing the appeals and he does hear and dispose of the appeals then a mere misdescription would nto render his order without jurisdiction. Our conclusion must nto be construed to convey an approval on the part of the Appellate Authority nto to take care to describe their designation properly when hearing and disposing of appeals under the Punjab Act and we hope that in future, this aspect would nto be ignored by the Appellate Authorities.

13. For all the foregoing reasons, this revision fails and is dismissed with costs.

14. Revision dismissed.


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