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Sha Manumal Misrimal Vs. Natha Rukmani Ammal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy;Civil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1964)1MLJ312
AppellantSha Manumal Misrimal
RespondentNatha Rukmani Ammal
Cases ReferredCourt (Original Side) Varadaraja Pillai v. New Globe Theatres Ltd.
Excerpt:
.....classes of tenants are not by force of circumstances placed on an equal footing and the tenants of the government or local authority or the board cannot, therefore, complain of any denial of equality before the law or of equal protection of the law. it is well-known that buildings let out for residential purposes are quite different in character from those let out for non-residential purposes. that appears to me to be a very good reason for the classification adopted by the legislature and i, therefore, reject mr......and non-residential purposes, that the building has not been exempted from the provisions of the madras buildings (lease and rent control) act, 1960, and that, in any event, the exemption provided in the act offends article 14 of the constitution, which provides for equality before law and that therefore he was not liable to be evicted. the learned fifth assistant judge of the city civil court found that the building in question was substantially residential in character, that the suit building was exempted from the provisions of the act, and that the provision exempting the building from the purview of the act did not offend article 14 of the constitution. in the result he decreed the suit and ordered eviction. it is against this decree, that the tenant has preferred this appeal.2......
Judgment:

T. Venkatadri, J.

1. This appeal arises out of a suit filed by the respondent herein for recovery of vacant possession of the suit property from the possession of the appellant herein, who is a tenant in respect of premises No. 20, Kasi Chetty Street, George Town, Madras, on a rent of Rs. 550 per month. The appellant is occupying the entire premises of the aforesaid suit property except for three shops on the front side in the ground floor and two rooms and one bathroom on the northern side in the first floor. The respondent-landlord terminated the tenancy by giving a notice, dated 10th October, 1960, to the appellant-tenant, and called upon him to vacate and deliver vacant possession of the premises by the end of October, 1960. The appellant, however, failed and neglected to comply with the demand. Thereupon, the landlord filed the suit aforesaid in the City Civil Court, Madras (O.S. No. 2915 of 1960) for recovery of vacant possession of the suit property from the appellant-tenant. The suit was resisted by the appellant herein stating that he has been in occupation of the house both for residential and non-residential purposes, that the building has not been exempted from the provisions of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960, and that, in any event, the exemption provided in the Act offends Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality before law and that therefore he was not liable to be evicted. The learned Fifth Assistant Judge of the City Civil Court found that the building in question was substantially residential in character, that the suit building was exempted from the provisions of the Act, and that the provision exempting the building from the purview of the Act did not offend Article 14 of the Constitution. In the result he decreed the suit and ordered eviction. It is against this decree, that the tenant has preferred this appeal.

2. Learned Counsel for the appellant has seriously contended that the building is not purely residential in character but residential and non-residential and there-fore the finding arrived at by the lower Court cannot be supported. He also con-tended that Section 30 of the Rent Control Act offended the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution.

3. I was taken through the evidence given by the son of the plaintiff. He deposes that the entire first floor is used for residential purposes and that in the ground floor, the tenant uses half the portion as a godown and the remaining portion is used for cooking purposes. The main purposes of letting of the premises seems to be only for residential purposes. The learned Judge of the trial Court followed the test laid down in Dakshinamurthi v. Thulja Bai (1952) 1 M.L.J. 390 : I.L.R. (1952) Mad. 651 , for finding out whether the building is residential or non-residential in character. After considering the evidence on record, he came to the conclusion, and rightly, in my opinion, that the suit premises is residential in character. Now Section 30 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960, is in the following terms:

Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to--

(i) any building the construction of which, was, after the date of the commencement of this Act, completed and notified to the local authority concerned, or

(ii) any residential building the rental value of which, on the date of the commencement of this Act, as entered in the property tax assessment book of.... Corporation of Madras.... exceeds two hundred and fifty rupees per mensum, or

(iii) any non-residential building the rental value of which on the date of the commencement of this Act, as entered in the property tax assessment book of the.... Corporation of Madras.... exceeds four hundred rupees per memsum.

4. Now, the main question for consideration is whether this provision in the Act really violates Article 14 of the Constitution, thereby infringing the clause relating to equality before law. It is now well-established that, while Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purpose of legislation. In the words of the Supreme Court:

A Legislature which has to deal with diverse problems arising out of an infinite variety of human relations must, of necessity, have the power of making special laws to attain particular objects ; and for that purpose it must have large powers of selection or classification of persons and things upon which laws are to operate. Ameeroonissa Begum v. Mahboob Begam : [1953]4SCR404

In State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali : 1952CriLJ510 , Mahajan, J., has observed as follows:

Classification means segregation in classes which have a systematic relation, usually found in common properties and characteristics. It postulates a rational basis and does not mean holding together of certain persons and classes arbitrarily.

The classification may be founded on different bases, namely, geographical, or according to objects or occupations or the like. What is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under consideration. It is also well-established by the decisions of the Supreme Court that Article 14 condemns discrimination not only by substantive law but also by a law or procedure. The decisions further establish,

(a) that a law may be constitutional even though it relates to a single individual if, on account of some special circumstances or reasons applicable to him and not applicable to others, that single individual may be treated as a class by himself;

(b) that there is always a presumption in favour of the constitutionality of an enactment and the burden is upon him who attacks it to show that there has been a clear transgression of the constitutional principles ;

(c) that it must be presumed that the Legislature understands and correctly appreciates the need of its own people, that its laws are directed to problems made manifest by experience and that its discrimination are based on adequate grounds; and

(d) that the Legislature is free to recognise degrees of harm and may confine its restrictions to those cases where the need is deemed to be the clearest.

5. I will now refer to some of the cases arising under the Buildings Lease and Rent Control Act in the various States of the Indian Union. In Raman Das v. State of Uttar Pradesh : AIR1952All703 , it was contended that Section 7 of U.P. Temporary Control of Rent and Eviction Act, 1947, made a discrimination between the owners of houses built prior to and after 1st July, 1946. The object of the classification was to encourage persons to build more houses, when they were willing to invest money, and the houses that were built by them would be at their complete disposal and no restrictions were to be placed on the same. As this privilege was abused, the Act was amended giving the owners a right of occupation of premises built by them after 1st July, 1946, but otherwise allowing the District Magistrate to have control over the allotment of these premises. In this connection, the Bench of the Allahabad High Court observed that they did not think that there was no just basis for that discrimination between houses built before 1st July, 1946, and those built after 1st July, 1946. They further did not think that the Proviso in any way affected the validity of the Act. In Baburao Santaram More v. Bombay Housing Board (1954) S.C.J. 210 : : [1954]1SCR842 , it was contended that Section 3-A of the Bombay Housing Board Act as amended which exempted lands or buildings belonging to or vested in the Board from the operation of the Bombay Rent Act, offended the equal protection clause of the Constitution. It was held:

It is the business of the Government to solve the accommodation problem and satisfy the public need of housing accommodation. It was for the purpose of achieving this object that the Board was incorporated and established. It is not to be expected that the Government or local authority or the Board would be actuated by any profit making motive so as to unduly enhance the rents or eject the tenants from their respective properties as private landlords are and this circumstance is a cogent basis for differentiation. The two classes of tenants are not by force of circumstances placed on an equal footing and the tenants of the Government or local authority or the Board cannot, therefore, complain of any denial of equality before the law or of equal protection of the law. There is here no real discrimination for the two classes are not similarly situated.

In Venkatadri v. Thenali Municipality (1955) An. W.R. 899 : A.I.R. 1956 Andh. 61, the main question for consideration was whether the notification issued by the Government of Madras in G.O. Ms. No. 3741, dated 30th September, 1946, exempting all buildings owned by Municipal Councils under Section 13 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1946, violated the principles of equality before law and equal protection of the law laid down by Article 14 of the Constitution. Following the, principles laid down in Baburao Santaram More v. Bombay Housing Board : [1954]1SCR842 , it was held that the exemption of the buildings belonging to the Municipal Councils and Local Boards was based on a reasonable classification and that the discretion could not be said to have been exercised arbitrarily or mala fide. In Roshan Lal v. Ishwar Dass : [1962]2SCR947 , a classification was made, in the Delhi and Ajmer-Merwara Rent Control Act, 1947 between the premises the construction of which was completed before 24th March, 1947, and those the construction of which was completed after that date. The question was whether that classification was based on intellgible differentia having a rational nexus with the objects of the statute. After discussing the various relevant points, their Lordships came to the conclusion that the criteria for fixation of standard rent for both new and old buildings were not substantially different and that the classification did not violate guarantee of equal protection guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution. In S.M. Transports (P) Ltd. v. Sankaraswamigal Mutt : AIR1963SC864 , the question that arose for consideration was whether amended Act (XII of 1960) withdrawing the protection given to the tenants of non-residential buildings in the municipal town of Tanjore and certain other towns infringed the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. Originally, the Madras City Tenants' Protection Act, 1921 was amended by Madras Act XIX of 1955. In exercise of the powers conferred by that Act, the Government made an order notifying the town of Tanjore to have come within the purview of the principal Act. By a subsequent amendment, the protection given to tenants of non-residential buildings in the municipal towns of Tanjore and certain other towns was withdrawn. The contention of the tenants of the non-residential buildings in Tanjore was that the subsequent amendment (Madras Act XIII of 1960) infringed their fundamental right under Article 14 of the Constitution for two reasons, namely, (i) while the object of enacting the 1960 Act was for safeguarding tenants from eviction from residential buildings, its provisions introduced a classification between non-residential buildings in different municipal areas and gave relief to tenants of non-residential buildings in some towns and refused to give the same relief to similar tenants of such buildings in other towns in the State and such a classification had absolutely no relevancy to the object sought to be achieved by the Act; and (ii) the 1960 Act made a distinction between non-residential buildings in Madras, Salem, Madurai, Coimbatore and Tiruchirapalli on the one hand and those in other towns including Tanjore on the other, and gave protection to the tenants of such buildings in the former group and denied the same to tenants of similar buildings in the latter group, though the alleged differences between the two sets of localities had no reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved, namely, the protection of tenants who had built substantial structures from eviction. Subba Rao, J., who delivered the Judgment of the Bench, observed as follows:

The object of the said Act was to protect the tenants not only of dwelling houses in the City of Madras but also of other buildings in that City. The provisions of the principal Act also, it is not disputed, apply both to residential and non-residential buildings. So too the 1955 Act. Therefore when in the 'Objects and Reasons' attached to Act XIII of 1960 the authors of that Act stated that it was enacted with the main object of safeguarding the tenants from eviction from residential quarters, they were only emphasizing upon the main object but were not excluding the operation of that Act to non-residential buildings. So it is not correct to state that the object of the Act is only to protect the tenants of residential buildings.

6. The last case which I want to refer is a direct case arising under the very Act. In C.S. No. 112 of 1960 on the file of this Court (Original Side) Varadaraja Pillai v. New Globe Theatres Ltd., it was contended that the provisions of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960, exempting from its operation non-residential buildings of the rental value of Rs. 400 and over per month were un-constitutional, on the ground that they offended Article 14 of the Constitution. Ganapatia Pillai, J., in the Course of his judgment, observed as follows:

He (Mr. Rajah Iyer) criticised the provisions in Clauses (ii) and (iii) of Section 30 of the Act as not based upon any rational classification. He said that classification of buildings on the basis of their capacity to yield rent had nothing to do with the purpose for which a particular building was put. He suggested that the Legislature could have classified the buildings as buildings used for industrial purposes, for residential purposes, buildings for educational purposes and so on and according to him such a classification would be rational as it took into account the use for which a building is put to. This criticism is not justified because the Legislature has classified the buildings on the basis of the use to which they are put as those used for residential purposes and those used for non-residential purposes. Even accepting that Mr. Rajah Iyer's criticism has any justification I consider that the classification made in the Act is quite legitimate having regard to the object which the Legislature wanted to carry out in regulating the letting out of buildings. It is well-known that buildings let out for residential purposes are quite different in character from those let out for non-residential purposes. Even in structure these two classes of buildings differ. The requirements of tenants in the case of those two classes are entirely different and considerations which should weigh with the Legislature in dealing with the two classes of buildings are different and therefore, I find nothing strange or opposed to any principle in the classification of buildings into residential and non-residential. The next step in picking out buildings for exemption is to select buildings on the basis of the rental income. That according to Mr. Rajah Iyer, is not based upon any rational connection between the object to be achieved and the classification made. Obviously the rental income has been chosen as the dividing line between exempted buildings and non-exempted buildings having regard to the need o f the poorer sections of the society for protection and the comparative freedom which the richer classes have in contracting for premises which they want for their own purposes. In the cae of a businessman who wants premises for carrying on his business and who would pay rent at more than Rs. 400 per mensem the Legislature thought that he did not need protection of any special law. Similarly a person who wants a building for his residence and who is willing to pay rent at more than Rs. 250 per mensem, the Legislature thought he was capable of coming to terms with his landlord without any assistance of the special law. That appears to me to be a very good reason for the classification adopted by the Legislature and I, therefore, reject Mr. Rajah Iyer's argument that the classification which the Legislature had adopted offends Article 14 of the Constitution.

7. On a review of the entire case law on the subject, I am of opinion that Section 36 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960, does not infringe upon the right of equality before the law guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution and therefore the argument that Section 3 is ultra vires of the Constitution is without substance. In the result, the appeal is dismissed. No costs.

8. It is representaed to me by the advocate for the appellant that his client is in occupation of the suit premises for more than 20 years, and it is not possible for him to vacate the premises immediately. Therefore in the interest of justice I think four months' time may be given to him to vacate the premises and surrender vacant possession to the respondent here in.


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