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Gurcharan Singh Vs. Hans Raj - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 15 of 1969
Judge
Reported in5(1969)DLT539
ActsDelhi Rent Control Act, 1958 - Sections 12
AppellantGurcharan Singh
RespondentHans Raj
Advocates: G.S. Vohra,; S.L. Sethi,; Vijay Kishan and;
Excerpt:
.....of two years for application for fixation of standard rent--terminus a qua of--discretion of rent controller to entertain the application, after expiry of two years under the proviso--interferred with by the rent controller on a ground nto warranted by law--high court entitled to interfere in such a case in appeal under section 39. ; that the terminus a quo of the period of limitation for an application by a tenant for fixation of rent is from the date on which the premises were let out to that tenant, and that the said terminus a quo has nto been deferred in respect of premises constructed on or after 9th day of june 1955. ; that the proviso to section 12, however, confers a discretion on the controller to entertain an application after the expiry of two years, if he is satisfied..........of five years from the date of the occupation of the premises. (2) the learned additional rent controller by his order dated 13th june, 1968, decided that- (1) he 'was nto in such a sorry state of affairs that he would nto file the petition for fixation of standard rent' and, thereforee, the alleged had state of health did nto constitute a sufficient ground for presentation of the petition after the period of limitation; and (2) since under section 6 of the said act the rent payable by a tenant when the premises constructed on or after the 9th day of june, 1955, were first let out was deemed to be the standard rent for a period of five years from the date of such letting out, the tenant was right in saying that he was under a bona fide impression that he could file a petition.....
Judgment:

S.K. Kapur, J.

(1) The question in this appeal turns mainly on the interpretation of section 12 of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958. The tenant filed a petition for the fixation of standard rent of the premises in question. The premises were let out to the tenant on 2nd March, 1963, and the petition was filed on 19th July, 1966, that is, after the expiry of more than two years from the date of letting. The landlord objected to the maintainability of the petition on the ground that it had been beyond the time prescribed by section 12 of the said Act. The tenant then made an application for condensation of delay under the proviso to section 12. Two grounds were set up in the said application-

(1) The tenant met with an accident on 31-8-1964 and he was advised complete physical and mental rest for two years : and

(2) he was under a bona fide impression that application for the fixation of standard rent could be filed within two years after the completion of five years from the date of the occupation of the premises.

(2) The learned Additional Rent Controller by his order dated 13th June, 1968, decided that-

(1) he 'was nto in such a sorry state of affairs that he would nto file the petition for fixation of standard rent' and, thereforee, the alleged had state of health did nto constitute a sufficient ground for presentation of the petition after the period of limitation; and

(2) since under section 6 of the said Act the rent payable by a tenant when the premises constructed on or after the 9th day of June, 1955, were first let out was deemed to be the standard rent for a period of five years from the date of such letting out, the tenant was right in saying that he was under a bona fide impression that he could file a petition for fixation of the standard rent within two years after the expiry of five years.

(3) In coming to this conclusion the Additional Rent Controller repelled the argument of the landlord that the tenant's plea was nto plausible because he had applied even before the expiry of five years on the ground that the tenant was never asked to explain why he had filed the petition before the expiry of the said five years. If he had been asked he may have come out with a legitimate Explanationn, such as legal advice before the expiry of five years that the impression of the tenant was nto correct.

(4) In the result, the Additional Rent Controller condoned the delay in filing the petition. The landlord appealed to the Rent Control Tribunal which appeal was allowed by order dated 2nd November, 1968. The Tribunal took the view that 'ignorance of provisions of law can by no means be an excuse for condoning the delay' and the discretion exercised by the Additional Rent Controller in favor of the tenant was nto proper. The tenant has appealed to this Court and Mr. Vohra, the learned counsel for the appellant, raised two contentions-

(1) The period of two years prescribed under section 12(b)(ii) commenced after the expiry of five years' rent holiday; and

(2) the Additional Rent Controller having, in exercise of his discretion, condoned the delay, the Tribunal upset the decision on a completely erroneous view of law that ignorance of law could nto constitute a ground for condensation of delay.

(5) I will deal with these contentions in their order. Section 6 of the said Act defines 'Standard rent' and in case of premises constructed on or after the 9th day of June, 1955, 'the rent agreed upon between the landlord and the tenant when such premises were first let out shall be deemed to be the standard rent for a period of five years, from the date of such letting out'. For the period after the expiry of the said five years, the standard rent in case of premises let out at any time on or after the 2nd day of June, 1944, is inter alias based on percentage of the cost of construction and the market value of the land comprised in the premises on the date of the commencement of the construction. Section 7 deals with cases of lawful increase of standard rent in certain cases and recovery of other charges. Section 9 provides that 'the Controller shall, on an application made to him in this behalf, either by the landlord or by the tenant, in the prescribed manner, fix in respect of any premises-

'(I) the standard rent referred to in section 6; or . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .'

Sub-section (4) of section 9 deals with a situation where for any reason it is nto possible to determine the standard rent of any premises on the principles set forth under section 6. Section 5 forbids, subject to the provisions of the Act, any person from claiming or receiving 'any rent in excess of the standard rent,. notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary'. Contravention of the provisions of section 5 is made punishable by section 48 of the said Act.

(6) I will now read the relevant provisions of section 12. It provides -

'ANY landlord or tenant may file an application to the Controller for fixing the standard rent of the premises or for determining the lawful increase of such rent,

(A)..........................................

(B) In case of any premises let after the commencement of this Act-

(I) where the application is made by the landlord within two years from the date on Which the premises were let to the tenant against whom the application is made ;

(II) where the application is made by the tenant, within two years from the date on which the premises were let to that tenant ; and

(C)..........................................

'PROVIDED that the Controller may entertain the application after the expiry of the said period of two years, if he is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the application in time.'

(7) Mr. Vohra, argued that during the said period of five years the agreed rent has to be the standard rent and there could be no point in the tenant applying before its expiry. He took recourse to various decisions that the entire statute must be read together. According to him, the commencement of limitation must be linked with accrual of the cause of action and the cause of action accrues to a tenant after the expiry of the said five years. He further contended that non-acceptance of his interpretation will bring about two different dates for the accrual of cause of action and the commencement of the period of limitation-a result which must in all cases be avoided. It is unnecessary to refer to the decisions as Mr. Vohra did nto dispute that if the language of a section be unambiguous, effect must be given to it and the consequences ignored. True that normally a statute must for its interpretation be taken by its four corners and no provisions should be read in isolation, but whichever way it is read my conclusion, to which I have arrived, remains unaltered. The statute under consideration does nto provide for exemption from fixation of standard rent for the period of five years. It merely fixes the agreed rent as the standard rent for a certain period. There may arise a controversy between the parties that the premises were nto first let to the tenant in occupation. It would in that situation be open to the tenant to apply for fixation of the standard rent even before the expiry of the said period of five years. If Mr. Vohra's interpretation were to be accepted, the second tenant, for instance within the said period of five years A will be precluded from applying till at least that period expires and I cannto accept that the Legislature could have been guilty of that confusion. Section 12(b)(ii) clearly prescribed a period of two years for application by a tenant from the date on which the premises were let to the tenant applying. Very little reflection is necessary for saying that the terminus a quo of the B period of limitation has nto been deferred. I am nto inclined to agree with Mr. Vohra that merely because a different measure for determining standard rent has been adopted for a period of five years from the date of letting, namely, the rent agreed upon .between the landlord and the tenant when such premises were first let out, section 12(b)(ii) would nto come into operation for the said period. In my opinion, the petition of the tenant was, C in the circumstances, clearly barred by time.

(8) There is however force in the second contention of Mr. Vohra. The proviso confers a discretion on the Controller to entertain an application after the expiry of two years if he is satisfied that the applicant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the application in time. The proviso, thereforee, applies where an applicant is prevented by either physical or mental reasons. The discretion has, no doubt, to be exercised according to sound judicial principles and nor arbitrarily. It is for the applicant to make out a sufficient cause. The bona fide belief in the mind of the applicant that he could nto make the application within five years was accepted by the Additional Rent Controller as constituting a sufficient cause for the delay. Though each case has to be determined on its own peculiar facts and circumstances yet it cannto be said that a mistaken view of law can in no circumstances be adduced as a valid plea for condensation of delay. The Tribunal set aside that decision on an erroneous view that ignorance of law could by no means constitute a valid ground. I am nto unmindful of the limitation of this Court's power while hearing an appeal against the order of the Tribunal imposed by section 39, namely, that no appeal shall lie unless it involves some substantial question of law. Having regard to the position that obtains in this case I am of the opinion that the matter falls within section 39 of the said Act entitling me to interfere. As I have said earlier, the Tribunal upset the exercise of discretion by the Additional Rent Controller on a ground nto warranted by law. If the Tribunal had decided that either there was no ignorance of law or notwithstanding ignorance of law there was no sufficient ground for the condensation of delay, I would have been extremely reluctant to interfere. I may add that though the interpretation of section 12 to an expert may look obvious yet a layman could have been under an impression from which the tenant suffered.

(9) In the result, I will allow this appeal, set aside the order of the Tribunal and restore that of the Additional Rent Controller with no order as to costs. Parties to appear before the Addition- al Rent Controller on June 2, 1969.

Inder Dev Dua, J.

(10) I agree.


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