1. The question involved in this appeal depends on the construction of the expression 'the Rent Control Court in Section 11 (2) (b) of the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1959. The facts are not disputed and they may be stated.
2. The 1st respondent, the landlord, filed an application against the appellant-tenant for evicting him from a building under the Travancore-Cochin Buildings (Lease-and Rent Control) Order 1950 on the ground that the tenant kept rent in arrears. The Rent Controller passed an order of eviction on 16th September 1958, which was confirmed in appeal by the appellate authority, the Subordinate Judge, on 20th December 1958. The tenant filed a revision petition before the District Judge, which was also dismissed by order dated 31st March 1959. Pending revision the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Ordinance, III of 1959, came into force and the Ordinance was later on replaced by the Lease and Rent Control Act (Act 16 of 1959). The provisions of the Ordinance and the Act are the same and under Section 11 of the Act some new rights were conferred on the tenants, one of the rights being the right to deposit arrears of rent within one month of the order of eviction passed on the ground of arrears of rent and get the said order vacated.
Within three days of the dismissal of the revision petition by the District Judge the tenant filed an application for vacating the order of eviction making the necessary deposit. The original Rent Control Court allowed the application, but on appeal the appellate authority reversed the order. This order was confirmed by the District Judge in revision and the tenant filed a writ petition before this Court for quashing the orders of the appellate authority and the revisional authority. Our learned brother, Vaidiallngam, J., dismissed the petition and the tenant has filed the appeal. Due to the importance of the question involved, the appeal is referred to a Full Bench.
3. The expression 'the Rent Control Court' as defined by Section 2 (5) means the court constituted under Section 3. Section 3 confers power on the Government to appoint by notification in the gazette a person, who is or is qualified to be appointed, a Munsif, to be the Rent Control Court; and the original Rent Control Court concerned in this case was constituted under this power. The relevant part of Section 11, with which we are mainly concerned in this case, may be noted. Sub-section (2) (2) of the section provides that a landlord, who seeks to evict his tenant, shall apply to the Rent Control Court for direction in that behalf and if the Rent Control Court is satisfied that the tenant has not paid or tendered the rent in respect of the building within 15 days of the expiry of the time fixed in the agreement of tenancy or in the absence of any such agreement by the last day of the month next following that for which the rent Is payable, it shall make an order directing the tenant to put the landlord in possession of the building.
There is a proviso attached to this clause which is not material in the present case. Clause (b) of the subsection with which we are directly concerned may be extracted in full:
'The order directing the tenant to put the landlord in possession of the building shall not be executed be-tore the lapse of one month from the date of the order of the Rent Control Court and if the tenant deposits arrears of rent with interest and cost of proceedings within a month of such order or such other period as may be allowed by the Rent Control Court, it shall vacate that order.'
It is not necessary to refer to the provisions of the other sub-sections of the section.
4. In the case before us the original order of eviction was passed on 16th September 1958, that is, before Act 16 of 1959 came into force. It was only under the new Ordinance and the new Act that the tenant obtained the right to deposit the arrears of rent, cost, etc. and to pray for vacating the order of eviction; and the revision petition filed by him against the order of eviction was pending when this new right was conferred. Within three days of the dismissal of the revision petition confirming the order of eviction the deposit contemplated by Section 11 42) (b) was made.
The question for consideration is whether that deposit was in time and the tenant was entitled to the benefits of that sub-section. If we give a strict construction to Section 11 (2) (b), the deposit should have been made within a month of the order of the original Rent Control Court. In this case when the original order of eviction was passed, the tenant had no right to deposit the arrears and claim to vacate the said order. That right was conferred on the tenant only by the new legislation and therefore, in such a case as the one before us, the tenant cannot get any relief if the section is strictly construed.
5. Mr. T. S. Krishnamoorthy Iyer, on behalf of the appellant, points out, relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Collector of Customs, Calcutta v. East India Commercial Co. Ltd., AIR 1963 SC 1124, that the operative order in the present case is the order of the revisional authority dated 31st March 1959 and thereforethe deposit of the arrears of rent, cost, etc. made within three days of that order was within time. In the cited case the Supreme Court has done away with the distinction between an appellate order of reversal or modification on the one hand and an order of confirmation on the other. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court have held that on principle the appellate order of dismissal is as efficacious as the order of reversal and of modification and in both the cases the appellate order is the operative order, since in both of them the order of the original authority has merged in the order of the appellate authority.
6. Mr. Krishnamoorthy Iyer then draws our attention to the opening words of the definition section. The section opens with the words 'unless the context otherwise requires'. Basing on this the learned counsel contends that strict interpretation of the definitions is not contemplated by the statute; and he also points out several anomaltes, even bordering on absurdity, if such strict interpretation is given to the term 'the Rent Control Court'. One of the anomalies is this, in some cases the original Rent Control Court may hold that no rent is in arrears and dismiss the landlord's application for eviction. The appellate or the revisional Court may reverse the same and order eviction. In such cases the tenants will not get any benefit if 'the Rent Control Court' can mean only the original Court and the deposit has to be made within a month of the order of the original Court
Again, under Section 8 the landlord is debarred from claiming, receiving or stipulating for the payment of any sum in excess of the fair rent determined by the Rent Control Court. In such cases the original Rent Control Court may fix a certain sum as fair rent and the appellate Court or the revisional Court may reduce the same. Then the landlord may still insist on payment of the fair rent fixed by the original Court in spite of the reduction by the appellate or revisional authority. By doing that he will not contravene the provisions of the Act This is another grave anomaly that will result if the term 'the Rent Control Court' is to mean the original Court alone. We do not think it is necessary to multiply instances line this.
7. It is argued by the learned advocate of the appellant that the intention of the legislature to confer relief on tenants, against whom orders of eviction are passed merely on the ground of arrears of rent, is clear; and therefore the statute must be construed to give effect to that intention, unless the language of the statute is impossible of such construction. He points out further that the opening words of the definition clause gives sufficient indication that the definitions should not stand in the way of so giving effect to the intention of the legislature.
8. On the other hand, the landlord's learned counsel argues that if the language of the statute is clear, there is no question of giving effect to the intention of the legislature by doing violence to the language. He proceeds that if the language is capable of two constructions, one in favour of the intention of the legislature and the other against, only then Courts will be justified in accepting that language which will give effect to the intention of the legislature. In other words, his contention is that if the language is ratable of only one construction and that against the legislative intent, Courts are help-less; and they can only point out the anomaly to the legislature and leave the legislature to amend the statute.
9. In Crawford's Statutory Construction, 1940 Edn., page 362, appears:
'But the meaning of the legislature, as revealed by the statute considered in its entirety, if contrary to the expressions of the Interpretation clause or the legislative definitions, will prevail over them. That is, the interpretation clause will control in the absence of anything else in the Act opposing the interpretations fixed by the clause.'
The learned author again says at pages 363-364:
'In other words, the intent of the legislature must control the legislative definition. But the interpretation clause and the statute proper must all be construed together as a part of the same statute. Where this is done, if the definition laid dawn by the legislature does not conflict with the intent of the legislature, then the former may be given effect. If the two can be harmonized, there can be no objection to allowing the interpretation clause to control the language defined. To give the interpretation clause' precedence where the two cannot be harmonized, would operate to make the ancillary portion of the statute superior to the primary portion. The statute's meaning would in all probability be distorted, and the legislative intent defeated.'
In this connection we would also refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in Vanguard Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd., Madras v. Fraser and Ross, AIR 1960 SC 971, where their Lordships observe:
'It is well settled that all statutory definitions or abbreviations must be read subject to the qualification variously expressed in the definition clauses which created them and it may be that even where the definition is exhaustive Inasmuch as the word defined is said to mean a certain thing, it is possible for the word to have a somewhat different meaning in different sections of the Act depending upon the subject or the context. That is why all definitions in statutes generally begin with the qualifying words similar to the words used in the present case, namely, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context.'
10. It cannot be seriously disputed that the intention of the legislature was to confer on tenants, whose only fault was to have kept rent in arrears, a right to deposit all arrears, cost, etc. and claim to vacate the order of eviction passed against them. There is no justification for thinking that the legislative intent was only to confer such rights on tenants against whom eviction orders were passed by the original Rent Control Court and not by the appellant or the revisional authorities. If that legislative intent of the statute is clear, we do not think there is any difficulty In not strictly adhering to the definition of the expression 'the Rent Control Court', especially if the definition conflicts with the context.
11. The learned advocate of the landlord cites two or three decisions of the Supreme Court. The first case is Kanai Lal Sur v. Paramnidhi Sadhukhan, (S) AIR 1957 SC 907. Their Lordships observe that the first and primary rule of construction is that the intention of the legislature must be found in the words used by the legislature itself; and if the words used are capable of one construction only, then it would not be open to courts to adopt any other hypothetical construction on the groundthat such hypothetical construction is more consistent with the alleged object and policy of the Act
Their Lordships observe further that the words used in the material provisions of the statute must be interpreted in their plain grammatical meaning; and it is onlywhen such words are capable of two constructions, the question of giving effect to the policy or object of the Act can legitimately arise. They also lay down that when the material words are capable of two constructions, one of which is likely to defeat or impair the policy of the Act whilst the other construction is likely to assist the achievement of the said policy, then Courts would prefer to adopt the latter construction. It Is clear that their Lordships of the Supreme Court were dealing in this case with the language of the material or substantive provisions of the Act and not with the definition or interpretation clause. If the language of the material provisions is clear and capable of only one construction, Courts are not free to discard that construction on the ground that the construction is against the legislative Intent. Therefore, this decision cannot be of any help in the case before us.
12. The next case cited is N. T. Veluswami Thevar v. G. Raja Nainar, AIR 1959 SC 422. In this cast also the Supreme Court observes that if or a true construction a statute leads to anomalous results, courts have no option but to give effect to it and leave it to the legislature to amend and after the law; but if on a construction of a statute two views are possible, one of which results in an anomaly and the other not, it is the duty of Courts to adopt the latter and not the former. Here also their Lordships were considering a case involving the language of the material or substantive provisions of the statute, as different from the Interpretation or definition clause. Therefore, according to us, this decision also does not support the landlord in the present case.
13. In Interpreting statutes the legislative Intent has to be gathered by reading all the provisions of the statute including the interpretation or the definition clause. By so reading the entire statute if the legislative intent is not clear, Courts have merely to interpret the words used strictly grammatically, without reference to the consequence of the interpretation. But, if it is possible to gather the Intent of the legislature and if it is then found that such legislative intent cannot be given effect because of the legislative definition, the legislative intent must prevail over the legislative definition and the latter should not be allowed to control the former. This must all the more be so in cases where the definition clause opens with the words 'subject to the context to the contrary', or 'unless the context otherwise re- quires', or expressions similar in effect.
If, on the other hand, the impediment in the way of giving effect to the legislative intent is due to the language in the material or substantive provisions of the statute, as distinct from the mere language of the definition, then different considerations should apply. In-such a case, if the language in the material or substantive provisions is capable of two constructions, one helpful in giving effect to the legislative intent and the ether not, then courts must accept the former construction and reject the latter. But if the language of the material provisions yields only to one interpretation and that against the intent of the legislature, courts are helplessand they can only point out the defect or lacuna to the legislature and leave the legislature to make the necessary amendment. Moreover, in a case where courts are dealing with a beneficial legislation intended for the protection of tenants, if there is any doubt about the meaning of a provision, it should be resolved in favour of the tenants (vide, for the last proposition, jivabhai Purshottam v. Chhagan Karson, AIR 1961 SC 1491).
14. It is then argued that the intention of the legislature is not clear to confer any relief on tenants like the one concerned in this case. In support of this contention the Explanation to Section 18(3) is relied on. The Explanation reads:
'The appellate authority may, while confirming theorder of eviction passed be the Rent Control Court, grant an extension of time to the tenant for putting the landlord in possession of the building.'
It is argued on the basis of this Explanation that theexpression 'grant an extension of time' means extending the statutory period of one month contemplated by Section 11 (2) (b) and therefore the period starts from the order of the original Rent Control Court and it cannot start from the order of the appellate court.
15. Prima facie this contention has some force. But on closer scrutiny what we find is that the Explanation to Section 18(3) only falls in line with the view we are taking. Under Section 11 (2) (b) the expression 'the Rent Control Court' includes the original court and the appellate and revisional authorities. Under the same sub-clause there are two 'times' contemplated: (1) the period of one month statutorily fixed during which the order directing the tenant to put the landlord in possession cannot be executed; and (2) the period of one month or such other period as may be allowed by the court during which the tenant may deposit arrears of rent with interest, cost, etc. for getting the order of eviction vacated.
Section 18 deals with the powers of the appellate authority and therefore in that section the expression 'the Rent Control Court' can only mean the original Rent Control Court. Therefore, by virtue of Section 11 (2) (b) a period of one month is statutorily fixed during which the appellate order of eviction cannot be executed. The appellate authority has the additional power under the Explanation to Section 18(3), by virtue of its being the appellate authority, and that power is to be exercised when it confirms the order of eviction passed by the original Rent Control Court. In such a case the appellate authority has the additional power of granting an extension of the statutory time, which the tenant is entitled to under the first part of Section 11 (2) (b).
It may be pointed out in this connection that under Section 11 (2) (b) the Rent Control Court, whether it is the original court, the appellate authority or the revisional authority, has no power to extend the statutory time of one month, such power of extension being confined to the second period of one month contemplated by the latter portion of the sub-section. But by virtue of this explanation, the appellate authority gets an additional power of extending the statutory period of one month.
If we now turn to Section 20 of the Act relating to the revisional powers of the District Court and the High Court, this reasoning will gain support; for, Section 20 (1) appears to confer still wider powers on the revisional authorities. The concluding portion of Section 20 (1) says that the revisional court 'may pass such order in reference thereto as it thinks fit'. From these provisions the scheme of the Act appears to be that the original Rent Control Court has no power to extend the statutory period of one month; but the appellate authority has such power under the Explanation to Section 18(3); and that the revisional courts have still wider powers under Section 20(1). Therefore, we do not think that the Explanation to Section 18(3) is really an impediment in construing the term 'the Rent Control Court' in the wider form in which we are construing it.
16. One more argument is advanced by Mr. T. S. Krishnamoorthy Iyer in support of the appellant's case. He points out that under Section 18 (4) the appellate authority has all the powers of the original Rent Control Court. He develops his argument and contends that these powers conferred on the appellate authority must include the power of vacating its own order of eviction in the same manner as the original Rent Control Court has power to vacate its order of eviction on deposit of arrears of rent by the tenant.
In other words, the learned counsel argues that if the appellate authority passes an order of eviction for the first time, the said authority has the same power, as the original Rent Control Court, to vacate its own order. He amplifies and pleads further that even in a case where the appellate authority has only confirmed the order of eviction passed by the original court, the appellate order being the operative order, the appellate authority must have the power to vacate that order as well.
From this he proceeds to contend that if the appellate authority has such power to vacate its own order, the time for depositing the arrears and cost can only commence from the date of the appellate order and not from the date of the order of the original court. In view of the conclusion we have already reached on the basis of the definition clause, we do not think it is necessary to consider this contention in detail and express any opinion on it.
17. We are of the view that the expression 'the Rent Control Court' does not necessarily mean only the original Rent Control Court in all the provisions where that expression occurs; and the expression will have that meaning only where that restricted meaning will not lead to any anomaly or absurdity. That expression in Section 11(2) (b) will include both the appellate and the revisional authorities as well. Consequently, the deposit made by the appellant in this case was proper and in, time,
18. The result is the order of Vaidlalingam 1., is set aside, the writ petition is allowed and Exs. P-5 and P-6 are quashed. Since this plea based on the interpretation clause is raised for the first time in appeal and was not raised even before our learned brother, we direct both parties to bear their respective costs in the appeal as well as in the writ petition.