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Geoffrey Manners and Co. Ltd. Vs. Harbhajan Singh Munjral and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revision Appeal No. 320 of 1984
Judge
Reported in26(1984)DLT404; 1985(8)DRJ97
ActsDelhi Rent Control Act, 1958 - Sections 14A(1)
AppellantGeoffrey Manners and Co. Ltd.
RespondentHarbhajan Singh Munjral and anr.
Advocates: Kapil Sibal,; A.C. Jain,; P.P. Rao,;
Cases ReferredRam Chander v. Gokul Chand Gupta and
Excerpt:
.....1975 and 9th december, 1975, and, thereforee, the landlord was required by the government to vacate the accommodation and on his failure to pay the rent at the market rate. according to the learned rent controller, all the conditions of section 14-a of the act were satisfied and accordingly, passed the impugned order. that is the prescription of section 25b(1). in order expressly to exclude the operation of all provisions inconsistent with chapter iii a whether such provision are contained elsewhere in the delhi rent act or in any other law like the slum clearance act, section 25a was put on. it is with a view to making that right truly effective that the legislature gave it precedence over anything inconsistent therewith contained in the delhi rent act itself or in any other act..........under : 'the landlord has made a choice between the right to incur the liability of paying penal rent or right to have the tenant evicted and take immediate possession. once he makes this election of his choice, there is no further right under the statute, and the right to get eviction gets exhausted.' (16) for appreciating this submission and facility of understanding, i may price relevant part of section 14a(1) of the act :- 'where a landlord who, being a person in occupation of any residential premises allotted to him by the central government............ is required, by, or in pursuance of, any general or special order made by that government...........to vacate such residential accommodation, or in default, to incur certain obligations, on the ground that he owns, in the union.....
Judgment:

Yogeshwar Dayal, J.

(1) This is a petition for revision under the proviso to Sub-section 80 of Section 25-B of Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') on behalf of M/s. Geoffrey Manners & Co. Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as 'the tenant') against the order of Rent Controller, Delhi, dated 4th February, 1984 whereby learned Rent Controller accepted an eviction petition filed by Shri Harbhajan Singh Munjral, (hereinafter referred to as the landlord') under Section 14-A(1) of the Act and...... ordered eviction of the petitioner from premises No. B-1/3, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.

(2) The landlord had in the ejectment application also imp leaded Sh. S. Singh Munjral, his son, as respondent No. 2. The ground for eviction was pleaded as under : -

'THAT the petitioner is a Govt. employee and is working as Deputy Registrar in the Supreme Court of India, New Delhi. He is occupying along with his family members Govt. accommodation at B-IOB, Pandara Road, New Delhi. The petitioner has. however, been called upon to pay penal rent or to vacate the property ' in his occupation belonging to the Govt. for owning property in Delhi i.e. the property which has been let out to the respondent. In case the petitioner does not vacate the property in his occupation which is owned by the Govt., he is to incur extra penal rent and as such respondent is liable to vacate the premises let out to him. The respondent was requested a number of times to vacate the same but the property has not been vacated so far. The petitioner is the owner of the property rented to the respondent.'

(3) There was other allegation also to bring the case within the ambit of Clause (e) to the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Act. But it is not necessary to refer the same as the same was not pressed in the trial court.

(4) In the eviction petition, it Was also pleaded that the property had been let out with effect from 1st April, 1975 and the premises were rented out at a rent of Rs. 1700.00 per month and Rs. 300.00 per month were agreed to be paid for fittings and fixtures by separate agreement.

(5) It was also pleaded that the landlord had earlier filed a eviction petition on the ground of bona fide requirement but the same was dismissed and the present petition is being filed on a different cause of action and respondent No. 2 is a co-owner on account of gift of his share but no other relief is sought against him.

(6) The tenant obtained leave to contest the petition for eviction and filed written statement contending, inter alia, that the premises in question had been let out for residential-cum-office purposes and that by a latest lease deed between the parties the premises in question had been let out for further period of three years in which the rate of rent was agreed to be Rs. 1700.00 per month and charges for fitting and fixtures at Rs. 300.00 per month ; that the landlord subsequently approached the tenant for increase in the rate of rent on account of which the rate of rent was increased to Rs. 2,000.00 and hire charges from Rs. 300.00 to Rs. 350.00 per month vide a letter dated 30th March, 1976 ; that in the year 1979 the landlord filed a petition for eviction on the ground of bona fide personal requirement under Clause (e) to the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Act, which was dismissed vide the judgment dated 8th April, 1982; that the landlord also took up the plea of eviction under Section 14(a) of the Act in that petition which was also turned down, that the present petition is barred by the principles of rest judicate ; that the landlord has not pleaded all the ingredients of Section 14A of the Act; that the landlord cannot invoke the provision of Section 14A of the Act as the landlord is only required to pay extra rent for the premises occupied by him and not to vacate the same ; that the landlord was not entitled to the relief under Section 14A of the Act because the respondent No. 2 is owner of part of the house ; that rent of the premises in question was increased by the aforementioned letter on account of the landlord's obligation to pay the rent at higher rate for the accommodation provided to him by the Government ; that the landlord, is, thereforee, not entitled to evict the tenant and that the landlord is not the owner of the premises in question.

(7) During the trial, the landlord examined himself as Public Witness -1. The landlord also examined Mr. N.K.. Jain, Senior Clerk, Supreme Court of India as AW-2. On the other hand, the tenant examined only one witness Sh. P.C. Shah as RW-1.

(8) The landlord as Public Witness -1, inter alia, stated that the premises was originally let out in 1972. He proved the original lease deed and also proved the subsequent lease deed. The first lease deed was for the period 1972 to 1975 and the subsequent lease deed was from 1st April, 1975 to 31st March, 1978. He also deposed that he was owner of the house. He also stated that the premises were let out for residential purposes and that tenant's officer Mr. K..G.G. Krishnan told him subsequently that there was difficulty for income tax purposes as they would not be able to give more than Rs. 1700.00 per month for an officer's residence and requested him to give consent to show the premises as residence with office of an officer of the company only for accounting purpose, although they would not be using it for office purposes, thereforee, in the subsequent lease deed the premises had been mentioned as residence office. He also stated that at present he is residing in Government accommodation and he had received a letter dated 2nd January, 1976 to vacate the premises and, he accordingly, requested the tenant to vacate the house and they said that on the expiry of the lease they would vacate ; that they also offered to increase the rent till the lease expires which they did. He stated that he believed the assurance. He also stated that initially the rent was Rs. 2000.00 per month while renewing in 1975, there was no increase in the rent. In 1976, the rent was increased by Rs. 350.00 per month. He admitted the letter which was filed by the respondent dated 30th March, 1976 about the increase in the rent. He also stated that he never asked them to increase the rent thereafter and that for the Govt. accommodation rent payable was Rs. 521- per month although now the normal rent for all similar accommodation is Rs. 79.00 and that he was paying Rs. 259.00 being the penal rent. He also stated that since June, 1983 he was paying Rs. 259.00 being the penal rent and earlier he was paying Rs. 340.00 and Rs. 320.00 and Rs. 180.00 per month as penal rent. He also stated that he has been provided with two very small bed room with a sitting room of 10'xl4' and he wanted to shift to the premises in question. He admitted that earlier he had filed a petition under Clause (e) to the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Act but the same was dismissed and Ex.A-2 was filed copy of the judgment of Sh. Dinesh Dayal.

(9) In cross-examination, he stated that the plot of land was given to him as sole lessee and he also stated that he executed the lease deed as sole owner of the property ; that half of the house was gifted to his son in 1979 ; that the gift is for un-specified half share in this house and his son was not a government servant. In cross-examination, he further stated that it is incorrect to suggest that in 1976, he had requested the tenant to increase the rent. He had, however, explained that he had asked the tenant to vacate the premises on which the tenant wanted to increase the rent and to vacate later at the end of the lease.

(10) Mr. N.K. Jain, who appeared as AW-2 produced on record Government of India notifications dated 9th September, 1975 and 9th December, 1975 and also proved on record the order oF the Assistant Director of Estate which was addressed to the landlord date 2nd January, 1976 (Ex. Aw 2/3) which requires the landlord to vacate the premises in his occupation by 31st December, 1975 failing which he will be charged market rent with effect from 1st January, 1976 at the rates fixed by the Government from time to time. By the notification dated 9th September, 1975, there was general order that Government from time to servants are required to vacate the premises allotted to them within three months from 1st October, 1975 and if they do not vacate the government accommodation, they would be charged license fee at the market rate. This notification of 9th September, 1975 was modified by other office memorandum dated 9th December, 1975 which clarifies the earlier notification dated 9th September, 1973.

(11) The respondent as stated earfier, examined only Mr. P.L. Shah, who deposed that the premises in dispute were taken for the residence of their Executives who was initially Mr. T.G.G. K.rishnan but he retired in 1982 and the premises Wars taken for office and residence of the Resident Executive'. He also deposed that rent was increased at the request of the landlord. He, however, stated that the landlord approached Mr. Krishnan and made oral request. He further stated that the basis of the demand was that the landlord was forced to pay market rent for the premises provided to him by the Government and the tenant increased Rs. 300.00 in the rent and Rs. 50.00 for the fixtures and the landlord was also relieved with the burden of white washing painting etc. and he had written a letter dated 30th March, 1976. He admitted that when the lease deed was again executed in 1975, there was no increase in rent. He admitted that Mr. Krishnan was in Delhi and he had met him in October, 1982. He, however, admitted that Mr. Munjral is the landlord and owner of the premises in question.

(12) After the final arguments in the case were heard and the case was adjourned for pronouncement of judgment by the Rent Controller, the tenant moved an application for amendment of the written statement with a prayer lo include a plea that the landlord has waived the right to evict the tenant Under Section 14-A of the Act by agreeing to pay higher rent for the Government accommodation and taking compensation for the higher rent from the tenant by way of increase in the rent. Learned counsel for the parties, however, submitted that this plea of the tenant can be decided without further evidence being led in the case. And, in these circumstances, though the application for amendment was not disposed of, the plea of the tenant for waiver was considered.

(13) There was no dispute that the landlord was a Government servant and he was occupying a house which was provided to him by the Government on account of his employment with the Government. There was again no dispute that the landlord was governed by both the aforesaid notifications dated 9th September, 1975 and 9th December, 1975 and that he had been served with the letter dated 2nd January, 1976 (Ex. Aw 2/3) whereby he was personally required to vacate the premises failing which he will be charged with market rent with effect from 1st January, 1976 at the rates fixed by the Government from time to time. The landlord also proved his ownership which was not challenged before me, except to the extent that in view of the gift of a portion of the property in favor of his son, the petition was not maintainable. There was no dispute before the Rent Controller that the premises were residential.

(14) Learned Rent Controller found that inc letter dated 2nd January, 1976 was issued in pursuance to the office memorandums dated 9th Septemher, 1975 and 9th December, 1975, and, thereforee, the landlord Was required by the Government to vacate the accommodation and on his failure to pay the rent at the market rate. On a consideration of entire evidence, learned Rent Controller found that in the written statement no plea Was taken originally nor was any suggestion put to the landlord but he has a right to evict the tenant. Learned Rent Controller also found that the plea of waiver was not available in the petition under Section 14(e) of the Act. Learned Rent Controller also analysed the object of the various provisions of the grounds of ejectment as contained in Section 14 arid 14A of the Act. Learned Rent Controller also found that the landlord earlier sired the tenant for eviction Under Section 14(l)(e) of the Acts which was dismissed on the ground that premises in question was let for residence-cum-commercial purposes and the petition as framed earlier cannot be sustained under Section 14A. and, thereforee, the present petition is not barred by rest judicata as there was no finding in that decision of the earlier petition that the landlord had no right under Section 14-A of the Act. According to the learned Rent Controller, all the conditions of Section 14-A of the Act were satisfied and accordingly, passed the impugned order.

(15) Mr. Kapil Sibal, learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that he is not relying on waiver or estoppel of the landlord. His submission in his own words was as under :

'THE landlord has made a choice between the right to incur the liability of paying penal rent or right to have the tenant evicted and take immediate possession. Once he makes this election of his choice, there is no further right under the statute, and the right to get eviction gets exhausted.'

(16) For appreciating this submission and facility of understanding, I may price relevant part of Section 14A(1) of the Act :-

'WHERE a landlord who, being a person in occupation of any residential premises allotted to him by the Central Government............ is required, by, or in pursuance of, any general or special order made by that Government...........to vacate such residential accommodation, or in default, to incur certain obligations, on the ground that he owns, in the Union Territory of Delhi, a residential accommodation either in his own name........there shall accrue, on and from the date of such order, to such landlord, notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in this Act or in any other law for the time being in force or in any contract (whether express or implied) custom or usage to the contrary, a right to recover immediately possession of any premises let out by him............'

(17) The object and purpose of his newly added section has been the subject matter of two decisions of the Supreme Court, reported as Sarwan Singh and another v. Kasturi Lal 1977(1) R.C.R. 348 and Bushing Schmitz Private Ltd. v. P..T. Menqhani and another 1977(2) R.C.R. 233.

(18) In the case of Sarwan Singh and another, (supra) Chandrachud, J. while speaking for the Supreme Court observed at page 356 as under :

'THE object of Section 14A, as shown by its marginal note, as to confer a right on certain landlords to recover 'Immediate possession of premises' belonging to them and which are in the possession of their tenants. In the significant language of the marginal note, such a right is 'to accrue' to a class or persons. The same concept is pursued and clarified in the body of Section 14A by providing that in the continuances mentioned in the section, a right will accrue to the landlord 'to recover immediately possession of any premises let out by him'. The argument which was presented to us on the use of the word 'immediately' in the body of Section 14A has thus no substance'.

(19) The right conferred by Section 14A has to be enforced in accordance with the procedure prescribed by Chapter Iii A. That is the prescription of Section 25B(1). In order expressly to exclude the operation of all provisions inconsistent with Chapter Iii A whether such provision are contained elsewhere in the Delhi Rent Act or in any other law like the Slum Clearance Act, Section 25A was put on. the statutes book. That section gives an overriding effect to the provisions of Chapter Iii A. But the legislature did not rest content by providing merely that procedural provisions contained in Chapter Iii A would have such over-riding effect. It took the precaution of making an additional provision in Section 14A itself that on and from the date of the order passed by the Central Government or any local authority calling upon a person to vacate the residential accommodation allotted to him, there shall accrue to such person a right to recover immediately the possession of any premises let out by him, notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in this Act or in any other law for the time being in force or in any contract (whether express or implied), custom or usage to the contrary .. . ..' The provisions of Section 14A must, thereforee, prevail over anything contained elsewhere in the Delhi Rent Act or in the Slum Clearance Act.

(20) Learned Judge again observed :

'IN December 1975 when ordinance 24 of 1975 was promulgated and later when the ordinance was replaced by Act 18 of 1976 the legislature was cognizant that by reason of the provisions contained in Section 54 of the Delhi Rent Act and further by reason of those contained in Sections 19 and 39 of the Slum Clearance Act this latter Act would prevail over all other laws. As a result no proceeding could be instituted for obtaining any decree or order for the eviction of a tenant from any building or land in a slum area nor could any decree or order be executed against the tenant of any such building or land without the previous permission in writing of the competent authority. The object of the legislature in incorporating the non obstinate clause both in Section 14A and 25A of the Delhi Act was to free the proceedings arising out of the right newly conferred by Section 14A and falling within Chapter IIIA, from the restraint imposed by Section 19 of the Slum Clearance Act and from the operation of Section 39 thereof. The reason for releasing such proceedings from the precondition imposed by the Slum Clearance Act is that if the Government or the local authority asks a person to vacate the premises allotted to him by it on the ground that he owns a residential accommodation in his own name or in the name of his wife or dependent child, a provision ought to be made to enable such a person to obtain immediately the possession of his own. house if it be in the occupation of a tenant. To subject this facility to the provisions of the Slum Clearance Act, under which the competent authority can grant the requisite permission only by applying the tests prescribed in Section 19(4) would be to take illusory the right conferred by Section 14A on the allottee to obtain 'immediate possession of the premises let out by him to his tenant. It is with a view to making that right truly effective that the legislature gave it precedence over anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Delhi Rent Act itself or in any other act like the Slum Clearance Act. It is noteworthy that where as Section 25A gives an overriding effect to the provisions of Chapter IIIA over anything 'inconsistent' therewith contained elsewhere in the Delhi Rent Act or in any other law for the time being in force. Section 14A does not qualify the overriding effect of which is contained therein that is in Section 14A, in reference to anything 'inconsistent' therewith contained either in the Delhi Rent Act itself or in any other law. Section 14A provides that there shall accrue a right to the landlord to recover immediately possession of any premises let out by him notwithstanding 'anything' contained elsewhere in the Delhi Rent Act or in any other law for the time being in force. In the context, the word 'anything' would ordinarily mean 'anything to the contrary', but the point of the matter is that the legislature has expressed its intention clearly and unequivocally in more than one way, that the provision of Section 14A and Chapter IIIA of the Delhi Rent Act would have precedence over anything else contained in that Act itself or in any other law.'

(21) Learned Judge again observed :

'WHATEVER be the merits of that philosophy, the theory is that an allottee from the Central Government or a local authority should not be at the mercy of laws delays while being faced with instant eviction by his landlord save on payment of what in practice is penal rent. Faced with a Hobson's choice, to quite the official residence or pay the market rent for it, the allottee had in turn to be afforded a quick and expeditious remedy against his own tenant. With that end in view it was provided that nothing not even the Slum Clearance Act, shall stand in the way of the allottee from evicting his tenant by resorting to the summary procedure prescribed by Chapter IIIA. The tenant is even deprived of the elementary right of a defendant to defend a proceeding brought against him, save on obtaining leave of the Rent Controller. If the leave is refused, by Section 25B(4) the statement made by the landlord in the application for eviction shall be deemed to be admitted by the tenant and the landlord is entitled to an order for eviction. No appeal or second appeal lies against the order. Section 25B(8) denies that right and provides instead for a revision to the High Court, whose jurisdiction is limited to finding out whether the order complained of is according to law.'

(22) Again Krishna Iyer, J., in the case of Busching Schmitz Private Ltd. (supra), has analysed the object and purpose of the Act in paragraphs 1 to 8 thereof and has noticed the aforesaid judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Sarwan Singh and another.

(23) Further analyze of Section 14A(1) of the Act would show that the right contemplated by this section shall accrue notwithstanding anything contained......in any contract (whether express or implied to the contrary, right to recover immediate possession of premises let out by him. The section itself confers the right without any choice between the right to recover possession and/or merely to incur the liability of paying penal rent. The section confers a right on the person, if any general or special order has been made by the Government to a vacate residential accommodation or in default to incur certain obligations. In the present case, there is a specific special order against the landlord. He is also incurring certain obligations for his default in vacating the premises allotted to him by the Government. There is no question of his choice as submitted by Mr. Sibal. The provision itself is in public interest so that long queue of Government servants who are without any accommodation being allotted to them by the Government on their being vacated by the Government servants who own houses in Delhi. The provision for such a right accruing is not for the benefit of the landlord concerned. There is, thus, no question of the right being conferred by this section being lost by the so-called choice as submitted by Mr. Sibal.

(24) It will be noticed that even the letter dated 30th March, 1976 does not create any new lease after coming into force the Section 14A of the Act and it appears that the landlord postponed his taking action in court under this provision of Section 14A of the Act in view of the assurance of the tenant that he would in any case vacate the premises by the expiry of the terms of the lease. May be that the landlord expected more increase in the rent so that he could pay off the extra penal rent that he is being forced to pay by insistence of the tenant to the landlord to postpone his desire for tenant to vacate. Even if there was such a contract it will be contrary to the right which has accrued to him under Section 14A(1) of the Act and would not stand in his way of seeking eviction under Section 14A(1). The right which has accrued, provided the conditions of the section are satisfied is indefeasible. In fact, no defense has been given to a tenant if the conditions of Section 14A of the Act are satisfied. Even this argument of Mr. Sibal that landlord has to make a choice between the right to incur liability of paying penal rent or the right to have recourse to section, is barred, once the conditions of the section are satisfied by the landlord, under the section, there is no defense available except to the extent provided by the proviso. An argument was made by learned counsel for the tenant that the section provides, 'a right to recover immediate possession of any premises let out by him' and thereforee, once he agreed to pay penal rent to the Government, he has lost his right under the section. I am not impressed by this argument. The expression, 'a right to recover immediate possession' is to be read with the expression, 'there shall accrue' in the context in which the aforesaid expression appears. It really means that an effective order of possession will be passed in favor of the landlord. I would, thus, agree with the controller that the petition was maintainable.

(25) An argument was feebly made that the eviction petition was not maintainable because, respondent No. 2 has share in the property in dispute. This objection is also contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Smt. Kanta Goel v. B.P. Pathak & others 1979(1) R.C.R. 485 and admittedly in the present case the Government servant who filed the petition is the owner of the property as well as sole landlord. thereforee there is no merit in this submission either and it must be held the petition was maintainable even if the landlord had made a gift of part of his interest in favor of his son respondent No. 2.

(26) Mr. Sibal, learned counsel has brought to my notice a decision of H.L. Anand, J. reported as Ram Chander v. Gokul Chand Gupta and others. 1977 (1) R.C.R. 781., H.L. Anand, J. had observed :

'IN terms of Section 14A(1) a person in occupation of any residential accommodation allotted to him by the Central Government or any local authority gets the right to evict his tenant from any residential accommodation owned by him only if such person is required to vacate such accommodation 'on the ground that he owns in the Union Territory of Delhi a residential accommodation.' Prima facie he would not be entitled to evict the tenant under the aforesaid provision if, even independently of such ownership, he was bound to or was liable to vacate the Government accommodation for other reasons such as retirement from service or transfer from Delhi.'

(27) I am in respectful agreement with the observations of H.L. Anand, J., but they do not help the petitioner in any manner whatsoever as the landlord herein is not required to vacate the Government accommodation on account of either impending retirement or transfer.

(28) The revision petition, accordingly, fails and is dismissed. The petitioner is, however, allowed two months' time from today to vacate the premises.


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