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Hans Raj Mehta Vs. Asha Rani Vasudeva - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revision Appeal No. 130 of 1980
Judge
Reported inAIR1981Delhi140; 19(1981)DLT52b; 1981(2)DRJ92; 1981RLR325
ActsDelhi Rent Control Act, 1958 - Sections 14(1)
AppellantHans Raj Mehta
RespondentAsha Rani Vasudeva
Advocates: L.C. Vats and; K.C. Mittal, Advs
Cases ReferredIn Peter James v. Dewan Chand
Excerpt:
.....filed eviction petition on ground of bonafide residential use. petition dismissed by additional rent controller on an application of the facts and a cumulative effect of a number of circumstances.; the payment of higher rent by the landlord is an important factor but that consideration alone is not conclusive. the statute does not require that the suitable alternative accommodation in the possession of the landlord should also be owned by him. there is reason to interfere with the controller's finding. - - khan, additional rent controller, on the preliminary ground that no valid notice of termination of the tenancy under section 106 of the transfer of property act had been given by the petitioner to the respondent as well as on merits holding that the landlord's application was..........rent control act (hereinafter called 'the act'). he seeks revision of the order of the additional rent controller dated 22nd october, 1979 dismissing the petition filed by him under section 14(l)(e) of the act for the eviction of the respondent-tenant. (2) the tenanted premises consists of one room and kitchen with a small balcony. the respondent has been residing in the premises paying a rent of rs.110.00 per month from december, 1972. at the time when the eviction petition was filed (i.e., on 1st march, 1978) the petitioner was residing at 2372, raja park, shakurbasti, which consisted of one room, a kitchen and bathroom, and was paying a rent of rs. 160.00 per month. according to the petitioner, the said accommodation was not reasonably suitable for him and the landlady was also.....
Judgment:

S. Ranganathan, J.

(1) The landlord of the premises No. D/136, West Patel Nagar, New Delhi, has filed this revision petition under Section 25B(B) of the Delhi Rent Control Act (hereinafter called 'the Act'). He seeks revision of the order of the Additional Rent Controller dated 22nd October, 1979 dismissing the petition filed by him under Section 14(l)(e) of the Act for the eviction of the respondent-tenant.

(2) The tenanted premises consists of one room and kitchen with a small balcony. The respondent has been residing in the premises paying a rent of RS.110.00 per month from December, 1972. At the time when the eviction petition was filed (i.e., on 1st March, 1978) the petitioner was residing at 2372, Raja Park, Shakurbasti, which consisted of one room, a kitchen and bathroom, and was paying a rent of Rs. 160.00 per month. According to the petitioner, the said accommodation was not reasonably suitable for him and the landlady was also harassing him to vacate the same. He, thereforee, prayed for an order for the eviction of the respondent from the house owned by him and rented out to her under Section 14(l)(e) of the Act.

(3) Earlier, in 1976, the petitioner had filed a petition for the eviction of the respondent on the same ground and this had been dismissed by Sri M. A. Khan, Additional Rent Controller, on the preliminary ground that no valid notice of termination of the tenancy under Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act had been given by the petitioner to the respondent as well as on merits holding that the landlord's application was not bona fide. The landlord preferred an appeal to the Rent Control Tribunal but, before the Tribunal, his counsel conceded the preliminary objection raised by the tenant and sought for permission from the Tribunal to withdraw the eviction petition with permission to file a fresh petition on the same cause of action after serving a valid notice of termination of the tenancy. The Tribunal accepted this request and by its order dated 19th December, 1977 dismissed the eviction petition as withdrawn with liberty to file a fresh petition as sought for. Thereafter, the petitioner issued a notice of termination of tenancy on 30th December, 1977 and brought the fresh eviction petition on 1st March, 1978 as stated already.

(4) In the course of his deposition as AW-1 on 1st February, 1979, the petitioner stated that, during the pendency of the petition, he had had to vacate the Raja Park house and had shifted to No. 355, Wz, Sri Nagar Colony, Shakurbasti, Delhi on 15th November 1978. It was stated that this was because the landlady of the Raja Park house was harassing him. In fact, he alleged, she had cut off his water-supply and electricity and he had had to file a petition under Section 45 of the Act for the restoration of the amenities. He stated that the house in Sri Nagar Colony was unsuitable because he had to pay a rent of Rs. 200.00 per month and it was very difficult for his son, who was studying in the Central School in Tagore Garden, to travel to the school from Sri Nagar Colony. These were the grounds on which he claimed that his present residential accommodation was not reasonably suitable for him and that he should be allowed to resume possession of his own house. The respondent however, contended, inter alia, that the claim of the landlord was not bona fide. She stated that the petitioner had never resided in the premises but had let it out since the day he purchased it. She was a widow with a number of children to look after and the eviction petition was intended to harass her and compel her to vacate the house. The petitioner had been demanding higher rent from her. He had also offered to sell the house to her which showed that he did not need it bona fide for his residence. The eviction petition was filed only to pressurize her into paying a higher rent or purchasing the property for the exorbitant price asked for by the petitioner. The landlord's petition on the same grounds had been dismissed by Sri M. A. Khan holding that the petition had been filed for extraneous considerations. The petitioner had been living comfortably for the past 12 years in his present accommodadon which was as suitable as, if not more suitable than, that in his own house.

(5) The learned Additional Rent Controller first dealt with certain prelimiuely objections. She then observed that it was the admitted case of the parties that the accommodation at present available with the petitioner is the same as in the 'suit property and that it was not the case of either party that the petitioner owned any other house. The former of these statements is not challenged before me. In regard to the latter, however, the respondent made an application (CM 3403/80) before me for permission to place on record additional evidence to show that the petitioner owned another house but this application has been dismissed, and this ground no longer survives. On the merits of the case, the learned Rent Controller found that, after purchasing the house in 1965, the petitioner had not stayed in it except for a short time after purchase and again for a short spell in 1970 ; that there was no evidence to show that the petitioner had let out the premises to the tenant because he had been transferred out of Delhi in October, 1972. Though he had returned to Delhi in July, 1973 he had not taken any steps for getting possession of the house till he filed the first eviction petition. The petitioner did not, in his replication, contradict the allegation of the respondent in her written statement that the petitioner was residing in the present premises for the past 12 years without any difficulty and inconvenience. In the course of his deposition the petitioner stated that he had changed rented premises three times between July 1973 and November 1978 but there was no evidence to show that he had been compelled by the landlord's conduct to vacate any of these premises. There was the oral evidence of RW-1 and RW-3 and a parcha (Ext. R-2) to show that the petitioner had urged the respondent to purchase the house and had made concrete proposals in this regard. The reason given for wanting to shift from Sri Nagar Colony because it was very inconvenient for his son was not convincing because his daughter was studying in Shakurbasti school and she would be put to the same inconvenience if he shifted to his own house. The fact that the petitioner was residing in a rented house and paying a higher rent than what he was recovering from the tenant was no doubt a circumstance that could not be lightly ignored but would not be conclusive when there is contrary evidence on recond which furnishes cogent reasons for doubting the bona fides of the petitioner. The learned Additional Rent Controller was impressed by the conduct and truthfulness of the respondent and was of the opinion that the petitioner bad tried to suppress the facts of the previous letting of the premises. She concluded that the petitioner had failed to establish the bona fides of his applications. On the contrary his mala fides stood proved and, thereforee, she dismissed the petition.

(6) Though the counsel for the petitioner argued the petition at some length and cited some decisions, it seems to me that what the petitioner really seeks is the reappraisal of a conclusion of fact arrived at by the Additional Rent Controller. Under Section 14(l)(e) of the Act, a landlord will be entitled to an order of eviction against the tenant only if he can show that two requirements are fulfillled:

(1)That he bona fide requires the premises for the residential use of himself or the members of his family ; and (2) that he has no other reasonably suitable residential accommodation.

(7) On the findings of the Additional Rent Controller, neither of these conditions have been fulfillled and I am unable to see any grounds for interfering with her conclusion.

(8) The conclusion of the Rent Controller that the application was not because of his bona fide requirement is based on an application of the cumulative effect of a number of circumstances. She has found that practically ever since the petitioner purchased the house he had let it out to tenants. Her finding that the petitioner did not stay in the house except for 2 or 3 months after the purchase and a short spell in 1970 is supported by evidence and is substantially correct, except that the second short spell of stay seems to have been in 1971 and not 1970. For, despite Ext. A-9, the electoral roll for 1970 which shows the petitioner and his wife as occupants, the evidence of RW-3 (the previous tenant) and Ext. R-1 (the electoral roll of 1971) clearly shows that RW-3 was in the premises from 1969 to 1971. The petitioner could thereforee have st ayed in the premises, if at all, only after RW-3 left and before it was let out to the respondent. It is not clear from the evidence when exactly RW-3 vacated and whether there was any interval between his tenancy and that of the respondent but assuming there was and that the petitioner was in the premises for some time in 1972, it does not alter the basic finding of the Controller. The petitioner did not show that he had to rent out the house to the respondent in December, 1972 because of his having been transferred out of Delhi. Moreover, he was transferred to Delhi, even according to him, in July 1973. Helleged that he had stayed in a rented house in Rishi Nagar till 1974, then shifted to a house in Raja Park at a higher rent and was again compelled to shift to an even costlier house in Sri Nagar Colony during the pendency of the eviction petition and thus tried to build up a case, in his oral evidence, that he had been suffering for want of a suitable residence and was being harassed by the successive landlords constringain him, as it were, to seek eviction of the respondent. But the Controller has disbelieved this case on good grounds. This plea was clearly after-thought for if the petitioner was really experiencing any difficulty, he would have sought for an eviction of the respondent much earlier and he would have also stoutly refuted the allegation in the written statement that he was experiencing no inconvenience and difficulty in regard to residential accommodation. It was not the case of the petitioner that the rent at Rishi Nagar was high or that he was asked by the landlord to vacate. He no doubt alleged that the landlady at Raja Park cut off some amenities and he was forced to file a petition under Section 45 of the Act. He did not lead any evidence on this before the Controller but, before me, he was permitted to place on record a certified copy of the order on the application under Section 45 that he had filed. It only shows that the application had been presented on 14th August, 1978 (long after the presentation of the present eviction petition, and was allowed to be dismissed as withdrawn on 20th November, 1978 as the petitioner-applicant had vacated the premises. There is no evidence of any notice or request from the landlady requiring him to vacate the house or of any eviction petition by her and if really some compulsion had been there, one would have expected the petitioner at least to have pleaded with her that he should be allowed to stay on for some more time as he expected to get back possession of his own house or at least a prominent and specific, even if brief, allegation in this regard in the eviction petition itself. One is, thereforee, inclined to conclude that the petitioner shifted from the Raja Park residence to that in Sri Nagar Colony for some reasons of his own though it involved the payment of a higher rent. Thus the fact that the petitioner changed rented premises three times between July 1973 and November 1978 does not, in the circumstances, indicate that he was experiencing any difficulties as a tenant and so needed to get back his own house for his occupation. Again in the course of his evidence, the petitioner sought to urge that the Shakurbasti residence was inconvenient from the point of view of his son's schooling but he did not explain how this could be a valid reason when shifting to West Patel Nagar would seriously inconvenience his daughter. The Controller also placed reliance on the evidence of the respondent and RW-3 and a parcha identified by them as given by the petitioner on 21st January, 1979 showing that the petitioner was along negotiating for the purchase of the house by the respondent and inferred all that, if the petitioner was willing to sell the house, he could not have bona fide needed it for his residence. The Controller has thus arrived at his conclusion after a consideration of all the surrounding facts and circumstances and I am unable to say that she could not have drawn the above conclusion on the evidence before her.

(9) Sri L. C. Vats, appearing for the petitioner, contended that the mere facts that a landlord had been letting out the house earlier or that be did not file an eviction petition earlier or that, when faced with a recalcitrant tenant, he aho explored the possibility of selling the house to the tenant at a reasonable price so as to be rid of an encumbrance could not lead to an inference of lack of bona fides on his part I agree that, by themselves lack of these facts cannot support the above inference. But, if one considers the cumulative effect of these facts in their true setting in a particular case, the inference may well bejustified, as in the present case. The conclusion of the Controller is really one based on an appreciation of the facts and though it may be possible to say at best that another tribunal may have reached a different conclusion, I am unable to accept counsel's contention that the eviction order in this case cannot stand the test of legal scrutiny.

(10) The only feature of the landlord's case that has caused some hesitation in my mind is the fact that he is occupying a tenanted premises having the same accommodation, paying for it a much higher rent than he is receiving for his house. The question is whether this consideration alone should be sufficient to entitle him to an eviction order. There is one snag about this claim of the landlord which seems to have gone unnoticed. The evidence shows that the petitioner is a Government servant and judicial notice can be taken that a Government servant is entitled to a house-rent allowance'. Though this matter has not been touched upon in the evidence, this perhaps explains how the I' landlord was moving from house to house agreeing to pay higher rents and if that be so, the consideration that the rent paid for such accommodation is higher will not be of any assistance to the petitioner. However, even if this aspect is to be ignored because it is not in evidence I am inclined to agree with the Controller that while this would certainly be a relevant circumstance, not to be lightly ignored, it cannot be treated as conclusive and cannot prevail if there is other evidence which leads one to the conclusion that the application is not bona fide.

(11) On this aspect, Sri Vats cited certain decisions which may now be noticed. In Saroj Kumari v. Lain Kumar 1969 R.C.R. 221 and Shiv Lal Kalra v. Dewan Ram 1978 1 R.C.R. 568, this court has pointed out that merely because the eviction of a tenant is sought for after the standard rent for a premises is fixed at a lower rate, it cannot be termed mala fide and that a landlord may bona fide decide to live in the premises himself because of the lower income which he might be getting from the tenants because of such fixation. In Ajit Singh v. lnder Saran 1979 1 R.C.R. 601 the premises occupied by the landlord were not found to be reasonably suitable on a number of grounds and one of them was that the landlord was living in a tenanted premises and desired to move into his own premises. Anand J. observed:-

'THEaccommodation is a tenanted one and although the desire of the owner to live in his own property may not by itself justify eviction and an accommodation may not be necessarily unsuitable merely because it is held on rent, nevertheless, it is not possible to ignore the preference that the owner would have to reside in his own property rather than be compelled to live in a tenanted accommodation even though there was no immediate threat of eviction.'

(12) In Peter James v. Dewan Chand 1979 R.L.R. 192, this court affirmed a conclusion of the two courts below in favor of the landlord. There the landlord had decided to shift to Delhi and had to stay with his sister for some time. After the petition was filed he took certain premises on rent for Rs. 105 as against Rs. 35.00 he was receiving from the tenant, apparently suspecting that it would take some time before he could obtain an order of eviction. These decisions show that/ the fact that the landlord is staying in tenanted premises and has to pay a ligher rent is a very important factor to be taken into account both in judging whether his requirement of his own house for his residential use is bonafide and also in determining whether the accommodation it which he is having is a suitable residential accommodation. But that consideration alone has not been held to be conclusive. The relevant clause in the statutory provision does not qualify that the suitable alternative residential accommodation in his possession should also be owned by him. In the present case, the Rent Controller has, after taking , account all relevant circumstances including this one, arrived at the conclusion that the application is not bona fide and I see no reason to interfere with her finding.'?

(13) In the view I have taken it is unnecessary to deal with the other grounds raised by the learned counsel for the respondent.

(14) The revision petition fails and is dismissed but I make no order as to costs.


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