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D.R. Malhotra Vs. P.R. Chopra - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 60 of 1974
Judge
Reported inILR1975Delhi203; 1975RLR309
ActsDelhi Rent Control Act, 1958 - Sections 14 and 39
AppellantD.R. Malhotra
RespondentP.R. Chopra
Advocates: S.K. Luthra and; S.K. Tandon, Advs
Cases Referred and Vas Dcv v. Milkhi Ram
Excerpt:
tenancy - rate of rent - sections 14 and 39 of delhi rent control act, 1958 - controller after considering all materials passed order without consent of parties fixing rate of interim rent - in appeal rent control tribunal entitled to vary rate and period of arrears - parties mutually agreed to reduce rate and increase period of arrears - no illegality in order of rent control tribunal in accepting statement of parties and to give directions accordingly - order satisfies all requirements of law - impugned order of tribunal does not call for any interference. - - jaspal singh, controller, by his order dated 5th january, 1973 held that the aforesaid order of the tribunal was legal and valid and that the tenant had willfully and contumaciously failed to deposit the rent in accordance.....b.c. misra, j. (1) d. r. malhotra, the tenant ha.s filed this second appeal under section 39 of the delhi rent control act, 59 of 1958 (hereinafter referred as 'the act'), against the appellate orderof mr. n. c. kochar, rent control tribunal, dated 7th february, 1974, by which he has dismissed the appeal and affirmed the order of mr.jaspal singh, controller, dated 5th january, 1973, finally striking off the defense of the appellant herein under section 15(7) of the act.(2) the material facts of the case are that the respondent landlord instituted a petition for eviction of the appellant on 19th august, 1970 on the ground of non-payment of arrears of rent inspire of a prescribed notice of demand, being the ground specified in clause (a) of the proviso to sub-section (1) of section 14 of.....
Judgment:

B.C. Misra, J.

(1) D. R. Malhotra, the tenant ha.s filed this second appeal under section 39 of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 59 of 1958 (hereinafter referred as 'the Act'), against the appellate orderof Mr. N. C. Kochar, Rent Control Tribunal, dated 7th February, 1974, by which he has dismissed the appeal and affirmed the order of Mr.Jaspal Singh, Controller, dated 5th January, 1973, finally striking off the defense of the appellant herein under Section 15(7) of the Act.

(2) The material facts of the case are that the respondent landlord instituted a petition for eviction of the appellant on 19th August, 1970 on the ground of non-payment of arrears of rent inspire of a prescribed notice of demand, being the ground specified in clause (a) of the proviso to sub-section (1) of section 14 of the Act. The arrears claimed were from 1st February, 1966 at the agreed rate of R.s. 120.00 per month. The eviction petition was contested by the tenant, appellant, herein and one of the objections raised by the tenant was that the landlord had tortuously deprived him of a part of the tenated premises and as such was not entitled to recovery of any rent. It was also contended that a suit for recovery of the arrears of rent claimed in the petition had been instituted in a civil court, where the question of suspension or apportionment of rent would be decided- Mrs, Duggal,, then Controller, after taking the entire matter into consideration and examining the rival contentions of the parties, passed an order dated 2nd December, 1970 under Section 15(3) of the Act, directing the tenant to pay lo the landlord or deposit in the court arrears of rent at the rate of Rs. 90.00 per month as interim rent with effect from 1st July, 1966 within a period of one month and continue to deposit future montilly rent by the 15th of each succeeding month at the same rate. This order had been expressed to be without prejudice to the respective contentions of the parties raised in the petition. It is significant lo notice that the Controller by this order directed payment of rcnt at the rate of Rs. 90.00 per month, instead of contract rate of Rs. !20.00 pcr month and directed the payment with effect from 1st July, 1966 instead of 1st February', 1966, which had been claimed by the landlord to be the date from which the arrears were due. By this order, both the parties felt aggrieved and filed appeals under Section 38 of the Act. The said appeals came up for hearing before the Rent Control Tribunal, then presided over by Mr. G. C. Jain. The parties made statements before the Tribunal and the appeals were disposed of on compromise by order dated 1st March, .1971. A detailed reference to the said order will be made herein after. Suffice it to say, that by the said order, the Rent Control Tribunal modified the impugned order of Mrs. Duggal dated 2nd December, 1970 and reduced the rate of interim rent from Rs. 90.00 to Rs. 75.00 per month but directed the payment of arrears of rent with effect from 1st February, 1966 in place of 1st July, 1966, which had been ordered by the Controller. He also allowed one month's lime to pay the arrears and directed the payment of future rent within 15 days of its becoming due. A further provision was made for staying the eviction proceedings before the Controller till the disposal of the civil suit pending between the partics, subject to the condition that the tenant must deposit the arrears of rent and future rent in accordance with the directions. Both the appeals were accordingly disposed of without prejudice to the rights of the partics.

(3) It appears that the tenant appellant before me deposited the arrears of rent in accordance with the directions of the Tribunal within the period allowed. It also appears that the tenant paid future monthly rent for some time but default occurred in the payment of rent for the months of August and November, 1971. Under these circumstances, the landlord filed an application on 18th March, 1972 complaining of the default by the tenant in compliance with the order of the Rent Control Tribunal and praying th,a,t the defense of the tenant be struck off under Section 15(7) of the Act. A notice of the application was issued to the tenant who filed a reply dated 23rd September. 1972, supported by an affidavit. In this reply, he took up the pica that the above mentioned order of Mr. G. C. Jain then. Rent Control Tribunal dated 1st March, 1971 was not legally correct and binding and that he had deposited the rent up to date and was not at all in default. He also submitted that the amount of rent .at Rs. 75.00 per month was only a concessional rent, which could not be ordered under section 15 of the Act.

INan affidavit filed later on 1st November, 1972 he submitted that for about a year, he had been entrusting the job of depositing the rent to one Surrinder Khanna Lawyer's Clerk (who was distantly related to him) and that he might have forgotten to deposit the rent for the month of August, and that the same had later been deposited in April, 1972. Again he reiterated his pica about the invalidity of the above mentioned order. Mr. Jaspal Singh, controller, by his order dated 5th January, 1973 held that the aforesaid order of the Tribunal was legal and valid and that the tenant had willfully and contumaciously failed to deposit the rent in accordance with the order and that he had committed default for the aforesaid two months and so he ordered striking off the defense of the tenant, in particular he disbelieved the story of the tenant about the entrusting of the work of depositing rent to S. Khanna.

(4) Feeling aggrieved, the tenant filed an appeal before the Rent Control Tribunal, and Mr. N. C. Kochar the present presiding officer has by the impugned order repelled the contentions of the tenant and has affirmed the order of the Controller striking off the defense of the tenant. He has held that the default on the part of the tenant was willful and contumacious and the Explanationn given by him about S. Khanna was an afterthought and was false.

(5) Mr. Luthra, counsel for the appellant tenant, appearing to support the second appeal, has contended that the previous order of Mr. G. C. Jain, Rent Control Tribunal, dated 1st March, 1971 was not a legal or valid order under section 15 of the Act and, thereforee did not attract the penalty provided by section 15(7) of the Act. He has further submitted that the default on the part of the tenant was not willful or contumacious and at all events, the Tribunal below has erred in failing to condone the delay.

(6) In support of the first contention, Mr. Luthra has relied upon the decisions of the Supreme Court in Bahadur Singh V. Mani Subrat Das : [1969]2SCR432 (1) Kaushalya Devi V. K. L. Bannal : [1969]2SCR1048 , Ferozt Lal v. Man Mal, : AIR1970SC794 , and a judgment delivered by me in Rsa 335 of 1966, decided on 22nd Jan., 1973 reported in 1973 RLR 442. The authorities of the Supreme Court related to the provisions of the Delhi Rent Control Act 38 of 1952 and in the last mentioned case i-e. Ferozi Lal's case, the court observed that a decree for recovery of possession could be passed by a court only if it was satisfied with regard to establishment of one or more of the grounds of eviction in the statute and without such satisfaction, the court was incompetent to pass a decree for possession ; in other words the jurisdiction of the court to pass a decree depended on its satisfaction that one or more of the grounds had been proved. The court also observed that at no stage the court was called upon to apply its mind to the question whether the ground for eviction alleged was or was not true and the order made by the court did not show that it was satisfied about it nor was there any other material on record to show that it was satisfied ; since the court had proceeded solely on the basis of a compromise arrived at between the parties there was no doubt that the court was not competent to pass the impugned decree and the same was nullified and could not be enforced iii execution.

(7) In my decision cited above, I had discussed all the aforesaid authorities of the Supreme Court and had applied them to the case of fixation of standard rent under the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 and in particular I had referred to the authority of the Punjab High Court reported in 1955 Plr 188 and had held that the standard rent could not be fixed by consent of the parties.

(8) These authorities do not help the appellant. In Delhi &. AjmcRent Control Act 38 of 1952. section 13 had provided that not withstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law or contract, no decree or order for the recovery of possession of any premises shall be made by any court in favor of the landlord against any tenant: provided that nothing in this sub-section shall apply to any suit or other proceeding for such recovery or possession if the court is satisfied,-(thereafter follow the grounds of eviction). The aforesaid provision of law received the attention of the Supreme Court in the above mentioned cases and it is this provision on the construction of which the court observed that the parties could not arrive at a compromise in respect of eviction and that the existence of the grounds mentioned in the statute was a condition precedent for order of eviction and that the .court must be satisfied about existence of statutory ground of eviction. The Supreme Court has also held that the satisfaction (of the court could be had from any material available on the record including admission of the parties. The language of section 14 of the Rent Act of 1958 is slightly different. It reads as follows:

'NOTWITHSTANDINGanything to the contrary contained in any other law or contract no order or decree for the recovery of possession of any premises shall be made by any court or Controller in favor of the landlord against a tenant provided that the Controller may, on an application made to him in the prescribed manner, make an order for the recovery of the premises on one or more of the following grounds only.'

(THEREAFTERfollow grounds of eviction). It would appear that the expression 'If the court is satisfied' have been omitted from the proviso in Section 14 of the present Act. At the moment, it is not necessary to speculate the reasons that led the Parliament to omit the said phrase and whether its omission has made any material change and whether it is still necessary for the Controller to be satisfied with regard to the grounds or the Controller can act merely upon a compromise made between the parties. Whatever be the view in this respect, there is, however- no doubt that the grounds of eviction remain substantially the same and the purview of sub-section I lays down that no order or decree for recovery of possession shall be passed except on the grounds specified in the section notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law or contract. This would show that the order of eviction can be only passed if any grounds of eviction mentioned in Section 14 is admitted or established. But a contract between the parties to vacate the premises and obtain an order for eviction on the grounds other than these specified in the statute will, in the nature of things, not be binding and validly. Similarly, Section 6 of the Act defines standard rent and Section 4 prescribes that no tenant shall notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, be liable to pay to his landlord...... any amount in excess of the standard rent. Sub-section 2 of Section 4 provides that any agreement for the payment of rent in excess of the standard rent shall be construed as if it were an agreement for the payment of the standard rent only. Section 5 prohibits the landlord for claiming any amount in excess of the standard rent of the premises and the Act also provides a penalty for receiving such an illegal payment. It is, thereforee, evident that the standard rent must be fixed by reference to Section 6 of the Act. in accordance with the provisions the Act and the contract between the parties to the contrary cannot determine the standard rent and in fact, any contract to charge, more than the standard rent according to law, is illegal and stands modified so as to apply to standard rent only.

(9) There have been two recent judgments of the Supreme Court on the subject. In Nagiadas Ramdas V. Dalpatam Icilharam, Brijram and others, 1974 scr 148, where Bench consisting of D. G. Palekar. V. R. Krishna lyer and R. S. Sarkaria JJ. held, construing the provisions of Bombay Rents, Hotel and Lodging House Rates Control Act (57 of 1947) in sections 12, 13. and 28 and referring to the decisions of the Supreme Court mentioned above, that the principle that emerged was that if at the time of the passing of the decree, there was some material before the court, on the basis of which the court could prinio fade be satisfied, about the existence of a statutory ground for eviction, it would be presumed that the court was satisfied that the decree for eviction though apparently passed on the basis of a compromise. would be valid and that such material might take the shape either of evidence recorded or produced in the case or it might partly or wholly be in the shape of an express or implied admission made in the compromise agreement itself. Admissions, if true and clear, were by fur the best proof of the facts admitted and admissions in pleading or judicial admissions, admissible under section 58 of the Evidence Act made by the parties or their agents at or before the hearing of the case stood on a higher footing than evidentiary admissions and that they constituted a waiver of proof and by themselves could be made the foundation of the rights of the parties. In the facts of the case the court came to the conclusion that he admission in the compromise was thus an admission of the material facts which constituted a ground for eviction and so the decree had correctly been passed.

(10) In another decision of the court. K. K. Chari v. R. M. Seshadra, : [1973]3SCR691 , a Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of 1. D. Diia, C. A. Vaidalingam and A. Alagirisvvami Jj, laid down the principles thus. An order of eviction based on the consent of parties was not necessarily void if the jurisdictional fact. viz. the existence of one or more of the conditions were shown to have existed when the court made the consent order; satisfaction of the court need not be by the manifestation borne out by a judicial finding and if at some stage the court was called upon to apply, its mind to the question and there was sufficient material before it before the parties invited it to pass an order in terms of their agreement, it was possible to postulate that the court was satisfied about the grounds on which the order of eviction was based; moreover before making an order for possession the court was under a duty to satisfy itself as to the truth of the landlord's claim, if there was a dispute between the landlord and tenant and if the tenant in fact admitted that the landlord was entitled to possession on one or the other of the statutory grounds mentioned in the Act, it was open to the court to act on that admission and make an order for possession in favor of the landlord without further enquiry, in this case also the previous cases of the Supreme Court ha.vc been considered. Alagiriswami J. concurring with the leading judegement of Vaidialingam J. referred to the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and observed that the court will not pa.ss a decree unless it was satisfied that the promissory note was executed that consideration passed and that it had been discharged but it. did not prevent the defendant at any stage of the suit either submitted to a decree or entering into a compromise consenting to a decree and that an application under Order 23 Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure was not excluded in proceedings beforc the Rent Controller and it was not clear why the tenant should be treated as a minor or as an imbecile. His Lordship observed that the time had come when a hard lock must be taken on the point and it should be held that there was no objection to a compromise consenting to an order of eviction in rent control proceedings. Lastly his lordship referred to two decisions of the High Court of Punjab in Babu Ram Shama v. Pal Singh (1959) 61 Plr 33, and Vas Dcv v. Milkhi Ram, , and observed that an eviction order passed on a compromise where the landlord had asked for possession on any one of the grounds on the basis of which he could ask for possession would be valid.

(11) As a result of the aforesaid decisions, my conclusion, that in view of Section 14 of the Rent Act, it is open to the Controller or the Rent Control Tribunal to pa.ss as order of eviction on the basis of the material on the record and or admission of the parties or a compromise between thein. so long as the eviction is sought and granted only one/one or more ol' the grounds of eviction permitted by the Act and not on any ground outside the Act. The same principle applies to fixation of standard rent under section of the Acl. But the bar against acting on compromise cannot be extended by analogy to any other case or situation, where the provisions of law do not impose such a bar either expressly or by necessary implication

(12) So much about the jurisdiction of the Controller and the Tribunal to decide the petition for eviction or for Fixation of standard rent. However, the questions raised before me arc much narrower. Section 10 of the Rent Act of 1958 provides that if an application for fixing the standard rent or for determining the lawful increase of such rent is made under Section 9 of the Act. the Controller shall as expeditiously as possible, make an order specifying the amount of the rent or the lawful increase to be paid by the tenant to the landlord pending final decision on the application and shall appoint the dale from which the rent or lawful increase so specified shall be deemed to have effect. It is, thereforee, clear that rent fixed under Section 10 is not the standard rent and that the interim rent is fixed, pending the fixalion of standard rent and there are no guidelines or restrictions imposed by terms of the statute on fixation of interim rent. It must be fixed as expeditiously us possible while the application remains pending. There is no iegal bar to any order being passed by consent or any compromise being made between the par'..ies in respect of matters pending before the Rent Controller except in so far as the intention to the contrary law appears from the statute for instance in proviso to Section 14 and in Sections 4 and 5 of the Act us mentioned above. So this interim rent can legally be fixed by the Controller by the consent or on admission of the partics. There can be no objection to the same on the grounds of the public party either. It is evident that in view of the decision of the Supreme Court reported as M. M. Cliawta v. .Jaswanl Singh. there is no illegality attached to the recovery of contract rent unless and until the standard rent is fixed and it is only when and after the said standard rent has been fixed that it becomes illegal to charge any rent in excess of the same. But if in an appropriate case, no party has applied for determination of standard rent or the limitation has expired, there is no doubt that the legal duty of the tenant remains to pay the contract rent. thereforee, for the purposes of fixation of interim rent, the parties who know and are aware of their respective cases and take part in the proceedings before the Controller can find it mutually advantageous to suggest a figure to the Controller to fix. as an interim rent and if the Controller accepts the same, no illcgalily can be attached to an order passed under Section 10 of the Act upon consent of the partics.

(13) Coming now to the provision of Section 15 of the Act, subsection (1) prescribes that where the landlord institute proceeding for recovery of possession on the ground of non-payment of rent specified in clause(a) of the proviso of Section 14. the Controller shall after giving the parties an opportunity of being heard, make an order directing the tenant to pay to the landlord or deposit with the Controller within, one month of the date of the order, an amount calculated at the rate of rent at which it was last paid for the period for which the arrears of the rent were legally recoverable from the

I)tenant. Sub-section 3 of Section 15 which is material section applicable to the case, reads as follows:-

INsub-section I or 2 there is any dispule as to the amount of rent payable by the tenant, the Controller shall within fifteen days of tile dale of the first hearing of the proceeding, lix an interim rent in relation to the premises tobe paid or deposited in accordance with the provisions of sub-section 1 or sub section 2 as the case may be, until the standard rent in relation thereto is fixed having regard to the provisions of this Act. and the amount of arrears, if any, calculated on the basis of the standard rent shall be paid or deposited by the tenant within one month of the date on which the standard rent is fixed or such further time as the Controller may allow in this behalf. The combined effect of sub-section I and subsection 3 of Section 15 is that the Controller is required to pass an. order for payment of rent. This must be done at the rate on which the rent was last paid and the parties can very well mutually agree and jointly submit to the Controller the said rate as well as the period for which the arrears of rent arc due and payable according to law. (In case there is a dispute about the amount of rent payable by the tenant either on account or rate or the period the Controller is required to fix an interim rent in relation to the premises and direct its payment). If an order under Section 15 is to be passed within 15 days of hearing, then it is obvious that it cannot be intended to be a result of full-fledged trial of the proceed ings on the point since the trial of the proceedings should conclude within 15 days of the date of first hearing which is practically impossible. This has got to be done on the prima facie material available before the Controller and it will definitely include the admissions or statements of the parties or a compromise or joint statement by them and if a tenant and landlord both agree as to what is the last paid rent or the period for which it is due and what should be the interim rent which should guide the parlies during the pendency of the proceedings, there is nothing illegal or beyond the jurisdiction of the Controller to give effect to such statement of the parties and pass an order accordingly. It is obvious that an order under Section 15(3) is only an interim order and the matter is still to be finally determined according to law both in respect of rate of standard rent and any other disputes arising between the parties. 1 have no doubt that the admission, or statement by the parties arc a very relevant material on the basis of which the Controller is entitled to act and pass an order according to law. No infirmity can, thereforee, be attached to an order passed by the Rent Control Tribunal which was based on the consent of the parlies in the matter relating to the proceedings under subsection 3 of Section 15 of the Act.

(14) In the instant case, the Rent Control Tribunal on 1st March, 1971 passed an order which is reproduced below:-

'INthe application filet! by the landlord Parkash Raj Chopra for the eviction of Dev Raj Malhotra under proviso (a) to Section 14(1) of the Delhi Rent Control Act of 1968 (hercinafter referred l.o as the Acl). Smt, Santosh Duggal. Controller. Delhi, passed an order under Section 15(3) of the Acl directing ihe lenant to deposit the arrears of rent at the rate o!' Rs. 90 p.m. with effect from 1st July, 1966 up to date within one month of the order and also lo deposit future rent month by month by the 15th of each following month.

2.Peeling aggrieved both the partias have filed appeals. the present appeal by the tenant and appeal No. 105 of 1971 by the landlord.

3.The parties have compromised. In accordance with the compromise I accept the appeal of the tenant and set aside the impugned order and stay the proceedings till the disposal of the civil suit pending in the court of Shri Harmahinder Singh Bakshi, Subordinate Judge. 1st Class. Delhi, provided the appellant tenant deposits the arrears of rent at the rate of Rs. 75 p.m. with effect from 1st February, 1966, up to 31st March, 1971. on or before 3rd April, 1971, and future rent by the 15th of each following month at the same rate. In case the amount was not deposited then the appeal of the tenant shall stand dismissed.

4.As the order under section 15(3) of the Act has been set aside the appeal of the landlord also fails. However, in ease the tenant fails to deposit the arrears of rent as agreed it would be deemed to have been accepted. This order is without prejudice to the rights of the parties. No order as to costs.'

IT is obvious that Smt. Santosh Duggal. the Controller had. after considcriiig the entire material placed before her and without prejudice to the rights of the parties passed an order of her own without the consent of the parlies fixing the interim rent at Rs. 90 p.m. and directing to deposit of the arrears from 1st July, 1966. In the appeal the Rent Control Tribunal was legally entitled to vary the rate and the period of arrears. However, before it the parties compromised and mutually agreed to reduce the rate of interim rent to Rs. 75 and to increase the period for which the arrears were payable from 1st February, 1966 onwards for which period the landlords had claimed the arrears of rent in another suit which had been instituted. I do not find any illegality of any kind in the order of the Rent Control Tribunal in accepting the statement of the parties on the point and lo give directions accordingly. Even. otherwise both the terms of' this order are in accordance with law. The rent from 1st Fabruary. 1966 was legally recoverable if a suit for recovery of the same had been instituted and the limitation for its recovery had not expired. the. agreed rate of rent was Rs. 120 and there was no dispute about the same. The interim rent, in the circumstances could well be fixed at any figure in accordance with law as he though fit and the Controller thought it fit to fix it at Rs. 90 while the Rent Control Tribunal fixed it at Rs. 75 surely without prejudice to the rights of the partics. Later on should the standard rent of the premises be found to be in excess of or less than Rs. 75 p.m., the parties would be bound lo make adjustments and claim a refund or arrears in accordance with the provisions of law. The order, thereforee, satisfies all the requirements of the law and cannot be said to be illegal, invalid or without jurisdiction on any ground whatsoever. This disposes of the main contention of Mr. Luthra who had challenge the legality and validity of the order of Mr. Gian Chand Jain, Rent Control Tribunal It, thereforee, follows that the appellant was bound to deposit ail arrears of rent and future rent in accordance with the aforesaid order of the Rent Control Tribunal and he ought not to have committed any default in its deposit. In an statement recorded before the Rent Control Tribunal on 27th February, 1971 both the tenant and his counsel had stated that if the amount mentioned in the compromise (which has been reproduced in the order) were not deposited then the appeal would stand dismissed. This shows that the parties had realised the importance of the deposit and it was understood that if there was failure to deposit the amount, the stay of eviction proceedings was likely to be vacated as the stay had been granted conditional upon the aforesaid deposit. Consequently the said order was a legal and valid order passed in accordance with Section 15(3) of the Rent Act and, thereforee, it did attract the provision of sub-section 7 of Section 15 of the Act and the contention of Mr. Luthra has no merit and is rejected.

(15) Mr. Luthra has lastly argued with force that the default had not been committed willfully and contumaciously. I have examined the matter and find that the Controller and on appeal the Rent Control Tribunal have both concurred in the finding that the default committed by the tenant was willful and contumacious. These are findings of fact which are binding in second appeal. I do not find any legal infirmity in the reasoning or conclusion of the Rent Control Tribunal and nothing has been shown to persuade me to disturb the said findings. It is unfortunate that the tenant appellant not only committed default but took up a defiant attitude in his reply to the application filed under Section 15(7) of the Act and he followed it with a story which has been found to be false. For these the tenant has to thank himself.

(16) The impugned order of the Rent Control Tribunal does not call for any interference. As a result, I find no merit in the appeal and dismiss the same. But in the circumstances of the case, I leave the parties to bear their respective costs.


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