(1) This second appeal from order under section 39 of the Delhi Rent Control Act of 1958 is directed against the order of the Rent Control Tribunal dated 8-5-1968 allowing Smt. Gulab Devi's appeal from the order of the Additional Rent Controller dated 13-12-1966 dismissing her ejectment applications.
(2) Two ejectment applications had been filed by Smt. Gulab Devi against Smt. D. P. Sinha and her children as legal representatives of the deceased tenant Shri D. P. Sinha and against Shri Ram Lal. The plea in ejectment application No. 1018 of 1964 was based on the averments that the premises had been sublet, assigned or that the premises were otherwise parted with to another person without obtaining the consent of the owner in writing. The premises were alleged to have been let out for residential purposes and required bonafide by the petitioner-landlady who was the owner and also as residence for herself and for other members of her family upon whom she depended. Her son Arjan Saxena, according to the application, had been transferred to Delhi and he had no other suitable residence. Default and failure in payment of rent was also averred.
(3) Both the tenants contested the proceedings, even challenging the ownership of the landlady and of course questioning the bona fide of her requirement. At the conclusion of the trial, an amendment was also sought in the written statement to the effect that the landlady had already failed in her ejectment application previously based on the grounds urged on the present occasion.
(4) The ground of subletting was nto pressed later before the Controller. In regard to the purpose of letting also, it was nto disputed later that it was residential in both the cases. The only point which thus required determination by the Controller was the genuineness of the landlady's requirement. According to the Additional Rent Controller, the landlady's son was an independent earning hand and had been living separately by having a rented house of his own. He also considered it difficult to believe that the landlady had been living with her son in Delhi or elsewhere. The argument that her son had been divorced by his wife and that there was no one to take charge of his household was repelled on the ground that this was nto the landlady's case and that her case was that she resided with her son which was nto accepted by the Rent Controller. On this ground, the ejectment applications were disallowed.
(5) On appeal, before the learned Rent Control Tribunal, it was conceded that the landlady's son was nto alleged as a dependent member of the appellant's family, but this was stated to be a case of had drafting of the suit. The application for the amendment of the petition for eviction, it may be pointed out, had been made before the Rent Controller, but the same was nto allowed on the ground that the case had become very old and that the amendment of the ejectment petition at that stage would involve reopening of the whole case. The Tribunal after considering the position observed that it was undoubtedly a case of had drafting and has, in the petition, to reproduce the exact words of the learned Tribunal, 'instead of writing that the appellant's son depended on her for his residence, he stated that the appellant depended on him.' According to the Tribunal, the appellant- landlady depended on her son for her maintenance and the son depended on him for his residence and as such one depended on the other for some purpose and the requirements were co-related. In an event, the Tribunal observed that the landlady could claim eviction of the tenants for her own residence as expressly found stated by her in paragraph 18(a) of the ejectment application if she was able to make out a case that she intended to stay in Delhi. The Tribunal then proceeded to consider the evidence and observed that there was absolutely no rebuttal to the evidence and the conclusion was that Arjan Saxena being employed at Delhi, required a house for his residence and that he also needed the assistance of his mother for cooking his meals and looking after him in the absence of his wife who had indisputably divorced him. One Shri D. N. Chopra had also deposed that he had let his house in favor of Arjan Saxena temporarily and that her mother lived with him. The Tribunal also felt no doubt in holding that the landlady had been residing at Kanpur before her son was transferred to Delhi in 1964, but with his transfer to Delhi, she came with him to this place, and even otherwise it was natural to suppose that she could nto afford to leave her divorced son uncared for and she wanted to look after him. Shri D. N. Chopra's statement was believed that the one-roomed accommodation presently in occupation of Arjan Saxena had been let out to him temporarily on his request and it was obvious that that was hardly sufficient for the landlady's requirement and for those of her son who was living with him. On this view, the lower Appellate Court granted the application for eviction of Ram Lal who lived on the first floor.
(6) On second appeal in this Court, the learned counsel for the tenant has very strongly argued that the learned Tribunal below has nto considered all the evidence on the record and that on considering the entire evidence, the landlady could nto be held to have accompanied her son to all places where he was transferred and that the premises in dispute were required only for her son and nto for herself. According to Shri S. L. Sethi, the appellant's learned counsel, the amendment sought was nto specifically allowed, with the result that the amended plea could nto be taken into account. The Local Commissioner's report, according to which the landlady did nto live with her son, was nto given proper consideration.
(7) The respondent's learned counsel Shri L. R. Gupta has resisted this appeal with the submission that the pleadings of the parties had been correctly construed and that this Court is nto A entitled to go into the evidence and appraise it for itself on second appeal under section 39 of the Delhi Rent Control Act. In regard to the report of the Local Commissioner, the learned counsel has very strongly submitted that reliance on this report was nto pressed in the appeal before the Tribunal and that it cannto now be relied upon because the order of the learned Tribunal does nto on this account involve any substantial question of law. He has also submitted that no notice was given to his client of the inspection of the spto and that for this reason also the Local Commissioner's report deserves to be excluded from consideration. He has referred to the statement of Mr. M. L. Chibber, R.W. 12, who was appointed a Local Commissioner in the case. His statement, according to the counsel, is otherwise also highly unsatisfactory and does nto inspire confidence. Particular attention has been drawn to that portion of his testimony where he states that the respondent before the Controller bore the expanses of the taxi and that he went to the spto of his own accord and located the premises himself. The learned counsel has referred me to a decision of the Supreme Court in Kedar Lal Seal v. Hari Lal Seal(1) where it is observed that the Court would be slow in throwing out a claim on a mere technicality of pleading when the substance of the thing is there and no prejudice is caused to the other party, however clumsily or inartistically the plaint may be worded. This decision has been cited for the purpose of supporting the construction placed by the learned Tribunal on paragraph 18 of the application for eviction.
(8) At the outset, I consider it proper to point out that section 39 of the Delhi Rent Act of 1958 does nto permit an appeal to the High Court unless it involves some substantial question of law. I am emphasising this restriction because it is liable at times to be lost sight of. The word 'substantial', in my opinion, goes a step further than section 100, civil P.C., in restricting the scope of second appeal under this provision. Preference of one of the two permissible constructions of pleadings and appraisal of evidence for itself is accordingly nto open to this Court and the opinion of the learned Tribunal on these matters must be considered final unless, in forming that opinion, some substantial error of law is pointed out. Very recently, in an unreported decision in Vinod Kumar vs. Ajit Singh, C.A. No. 866 of 1966 decided on 3-9-1968, the Supreme Court has had occasion to consider the scope of the appeal under section 39(2) and Hegde, J., speaking for the Bench, said :
'SUB-SECTION(2) of S. 39 provides that no appeal shall lie under sub-section(l) unless the appeal involves some substantial question of law. In view of this provision the High Court was incompetent to enter into the merits of the case. The learned Judge who decided the appeal was aware of that position in law. But all the same he interfered with the findings of fact reached by the Tribunal on the ground that there was no evidence whatsoever to support that finding.The conclusion of the High Court that the finding of the Tribunal is nto supported by any evidence on record is wholly wrong. We fail to see how such a conclusion could have been arrived at. There is plenty of evidence on record to support that finding. The appellant had clearly sworn to the fact that the first respondent had sublet two portions of the suit premises. His evidence is corroborated by the evidence of Public Witness s. Pyare Lal, Sonehri Lal and Sita Ram Goel an Advocate. The first respondent in his evidence admitted the fact that portions of the suit premises was in the occupation of two ladies but according to him they were temporarily there. Mr. S. V. Gupte the learned counsel appearing for the first respondent fairly conceded that there is evidence to support the finding of the Tribunal as regards subletting. On the other hand his contention was that that evidence should nto be relied on. The High Court was incompetent to reassess the evidence afresh. On questions of fact it was bound by the decision of the Tribunal.'
(9) A little lower down the judgment continued :-
'WE are clearly of the opinion that the High Court completely misdirected itself in considering the appeal before it. It was nto competent for that Court to reassess the evidence adduced in the case. Though the learned Judge purported to go into the question whether the finding of the Tribunal that the first respondent had sublet a part of premises leased is supported by any evidence, it is clear from his judgment that he reassessed the evidence in the case. Even his appreciation of the evidence does nto appear to have proceeded on proper lines.'
(10) The argument that there is no evidence in support of a finding of fact often tends to get mixed up with the argument that the evidence relied upon being untrustworthy in the view of the Court of second appeal, should nto be believed and, thereforee, cannto support the conclusion as to facts. It is this error into which it is easy to slip, perhaps unconsciously, while examining the record for the purpose of seeing whether or nto there exists on the record evidence to support the finding of fact, against which this Court has carefully to guard itself. It is in the background of the legal position and the caution just stated that the arguments addressed at the bar have to be appreciated and the decision come to.
(11) Paragraph 18 of the application for eviction clearly pleads that the premises in question were let out for residential purposes and are required bona fide by the landlady-owner, as residence for herself and for the members of her family. The mere fact that in this plea, it is added that she depends upon the members of her family and that her son Mr. Arjan Saxena has been transferred to Delhi and has no other suitable residence, would nto take the case out of section 14(1) proviso(e) of the Delhi Rent Act. If she really intends to reside in Delhi and her son has to reside with her, whatever be the reason prompting them to live together, provided the reason is genuine and bona fide, then I do nto think there is any such serious legal infirmity in the pleas contained in the application for eviction as would compel the Court to no suit her. My attention has nto been drawn by Shri Sethi to any principle or precedent which would induce me to take a different view. The sole object of pleadings, it may be remembered, is to give fair notice to each party of what his opponent's case is and Courts for this purpose attach more importance to substance rather than to form.
(12) The argument that the learned Tribunal did nto expressly allow amendment is also of little consequence because in substance, the learned Tribunal accepted the reason for the initial mis- take in drafting the original application for eviction, and in any event, the learned Tribunal has noted that the pleas in the original application were good enough to sustain the claim for eviction if the landlady could make out a case of her bona fide requirement to reside in her own house in Delhi. I am inclined, as at present advised, to agree with the view adopted by the learned Tribunal and do nto find any substantial error of law in this approach. A faint attempt has been made to contend that the learned Tribunal has nto considered the whole of the evidence on the record and on a proper appraisal of the entire evidence, it should be held that the landlady does nto genuinely want to live in Delhi with her son. Here again, I am unable to accept the argument. It is nto competent for this Court to reassess the evidence for itself in the case. The fact that the entire evidence is nto actually disected, reproduced and discussed in the order at great length in every conceivable particular, does nto necessarily by iteself, raise a substantial question of law. The judgment of the learned Tribunal, in my opinion, considers substantially the material evidence on the record and my attention has nto been drawn to any part of the record from which any substantial question of law can be discerned. The learned counsel has, while developing this argument, merely attempted to induce me to re-evaluate the entire evidence for myself which, as observed earlier, is nto open to this Court on second appeal under section 39 of the Delhi Rent Act.
(13) The chief argument on which the appellant's learned counsel has seriously concentrated his challenge to the learned Tribunal's order is that it is the landlady who depends on her son and nto that the son depends on her, with the result that section 14(1) proviso(e) cannto be held to cover the present case as the needs A of the son are irrelevant. Except for the bold assertion from the bar, my attention has nto been drawn to any precedent for holding that the landlady's bona fide requirement for occupation as residence would nto include requirements of those members of her family who have, by force of circumstances, to live with her. The fact that her son has to support her and that he has to depend on his mother for running his household are, in my opinion, sufficiently cogent reasons to show that the landlady-owner requires the premises bona fide for occupation as a residence for herself including the residence of her son. Her requirement cannto be confined to the bare physical needs of her sole individual self, considered only from the point of view of space or accommodation. The question calls for a broad practical approach, keeping in view all relevant factors.
(14) Shri Sethi's attempt to show that previously she had nto been living with her son or she had been living at Kanpur for some time, and his effort to persuade me to reassess the evidence on the record, ignoring the conclusion of the learned Tribunal, seems to me to be misconceived and the Tribunal has observed in the impugned order that with the transfer of her son to Delhi, she came down with him to this place and that even otherwise, it is natural to suppose that she could nto afford to leave her divorced son uncared for and she genuinely wanted to look after him.
(15) No other challenge having been directed to the impugned order, I have no hesitation in dismissing the appeal which I hereby do. Parties will, however, bear their own costs in this Court.