1. This petition arises out of a suit to recover arrears of rent due by the defendant to the plaintiff in respect of a dwelling house in Bezwada. The plaintiff sued for rent payable between 9th July, 1941, and 8th November, 1942. Up to 25th July, 1941, the rent agreed was apparently Rs. 22 per month and there-after Rs. 35. The suit was decreed on 15th October, 1943. In January, 1944, the defendant successfully prayed the Court to be allowed to pay in instalments. He paid three sums which in all amounted to Rs. 347.
2. On 17th March, 1944, an application was made to the Rent Controller, under the Madras House Rent Control Order, 1941, who fixed the fair rent of the property in question, and he fixed the rent at Rs. 21. Despite this, the plaintiff applied to the Court in execution of the balance due under the decree. The Court held that as the Rent Controller had fixed the fair rent his order must be taken as superseding the amount ordered by the decree. On the footing that Rs. 21 was only payable per month, the rent due in accordance with the Controller's order has been fully paid by the instalments referred to, and the decree was therefore satisfied.
3. Against that order the plaintiff appears in revision. He says that the defendant never objected in his written statement to the payment of the rent demanded and accepted the situation because after the decree he asked to be allowed to pay by instalments. Further he contended that the Controller's order fixing the fair rent was not retrospective or, at all events, did not extend beyond 17th March, 1942, when the Madras House Rent Control Order was applied to the mofussil.
4. The Control Order of 1941 came into force on nth August, 1941, with regard to the City of Madras. Sub-clause (3) of Clause (1) of the order says that the order shall extend to such areas within the Province of Madras as are notified by the Provincial Government. By Government Order it was later extended to various districts such as the Nilgiris and Madura and then, on the 17th March, 1942, it was extended to the rest of the Presidency. Clause 6 (c) provides that when the Controller has determined the fair rent of a house any sum in excess of such fair rent paid after the commencement of the order in respect of residence after the commencement of the order shall be refunded to the person by whom it was paid, or at the option of such person, otherwise adjusted. I read that sub-clause as meaning that after the application of the order to the district in which the house is situated, the clause shall apply and excess payments shall be refunded.
5. It has been urged for the defendant that the period during which the fair rent must be assumed to be applicable began on the date when the Control Order came into force in Madras, namely, 11th August, 1941. This contention, however, ignores the well-settled proposition of law that a statute which takes away the substantive rights of parties cannot have retrospective effect unless it is expressly so provided. In 1941 the order was limited to the City of Madras. Its effect was not extended to the mofussil until 17th March, 1942. In my opinion, therefore, the order of the Controller can have effect only from the date on which the order became applicable to the area concerned.
6. In the result, therefore, the plaintiff will be entitled to the agreed rent up to 17th March, 1942, and thereafter to the fair rent as fixed by the Controller on the 17th of March, 1944, with interest at the rate decreed in the suit. The matter is remitted to the lower Court for making the necessary computations and arriving at the correct sum due by the defendant taking into account the sums paid by him as stated. The petition is allowed with costs.