1. Mohan J. before whom this revision came up for hearing, was of the view that the revision raises a question of law of importance, which needed determination by a Division Bench and consequently, the revision came t6 be posted before this Bench.
2. The question referred for consideration is whether it is open to a sub-tenant to deny the title of the landlord in proceedings for eviction taken under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960, (hereinafter referred to as the Act).
3. The facts, which are not in controversy, are, as under: The first respondent herein claimed to be the landlord of premises bearing door No. 50A in Udumalai Road, Pollachi and filed R. C. 0. P. No. 48. of 1979 on the file of the Rent Controller, Coimbatore, under Ss. 10(2)(i) and 10(2)(ii)(a) of the Act. He sought eviction of the second respondent herein and the revision petitioner, who were impleaded as respondents 1 and 2 in the petition. The landlord alleged that the second respondent was the tenant and the petitioner herein was the sub-tenant of the premises in question and the tenant had committed wilful default in payment of rent as well as sub-let the building unauthorisedly to the sub-tenant. The tenant did not contest the proceedings and remained ex parte. The sub-tenant did not deny the fact of the second respondent herein being the tenant of the building, but contended that one Gowhar Begum was the landlady of the building and it was to her he was paying the rent and as such, the landlord in the petition had no competence to file the petition for eviction.
4. The Rent Controller rejected the contentions of the sub-tenant and held that a sub-tenant had no locus standi to dispute the title of the landlord and consequently he ordered eviction. This was in addition to the acceptance of the landlord's case that there had been wilful default in payment of rent and also sub-letting of the premises.
5. The sub-tenant preferred an appeal to the Appellate Authority but the Appellate Authority too confirmed the findings of the Rent Controller and confirmed the order of eviction. Against the concurrent findings, rendered by the two authorities, the sub-tenant has preferred this revision to canvass the correctness of the finding of the authorities below that as a sub-tenant, he is entitled to deny the title of the landlord.
6. M. K. Ganapathi, learned counsel for the sub-tenant (petitioner herein) would urge before us that notwithstanding the finding of the authorities below that the petitioner is a sub-tenant, he is entitled to raise a defence that the landlord is not the owner of the building and hence, the petition for eviction filed by him is not maintainable in law. One of the factors relied on by Mr. Ganapathi, in support of this argument is that the landlord had filed the petition for eviction on 13-12,1979, but he had actually purchased the building only under Ex. A. 7 on 10-8-1981. This document Ex. A-7 has been filed by the landlord, when he was examined as P. W. I in the case. The further contention of Mr. Ganapathi is that once a sub-tenant is made a party to the petition filed by the landlord, he is entitled to raise the defence that the landlord has no competence to file a petition for eviction.
7. Before we refer to the relevant provisions of the Act and deal with the contentions of Mr. Ganapathi on their merits, we may pertinently refer to the state of evidence in the case. Though the petitioner herein raised a defence that one Gowhar Begum was the owner of the building and not the person, who had filed the petition, he did not ent6r the witness box and substantiate his case that Gowhar Begum was the owner of the property and it was to her he was paying the rent. He also did not produce any documentary evidence to show that Gowhar Begum is the owner of the building. Therefore, the alleged plea of the petitioner that the title to the property vested with some one else and not with the landlord, has not been substantiated and remains nothing more than a contention.
8. Now, we will refer to the relevant provisions of the Act, which have a bearing on the question. The term 'landlord' has been defined in S. 2(6) of the Act and is in the following terms -
''Landlord' includes the person who is receiving or is entitled to receive the rent of a building, whether on his own account or on behalf of another or on behalf of himself and others or as an agent, trustee, executor, administrator, receiver or guardian or who would so receive the rent or be entitled to receive the rent, if the building were let to a tenant;
Explanation: - A tenant who sub-lets shall be deemed to be a landlord within the meaning of this Act in relation to the subtenant.'
It may be seen from the definition that it is an inclusive definition and one need not necessarily be the owner of a property to be termed as 'landlord' and that any one entitled to receive the rent would also fall within the definition of 'landlord'. The explanation makes it clear that even a tenant, who sub-lets the building will constitute a landlord so far as the subtenant is concerned.
9. We then come to the definition of the term 'tenant' found in S. 2(8) of the Act, which is as under -
''Tenant' means any person by whom, or on whose account rent is payable for a building and includes the surviving spouse, or any son or daughter, or the legal representative of a deceased tenant, who -
(iii) a person continuing in possession after the termination of the tenancy in his favour, but does not include a person placed in occupation of a building by its tenant or a person to whom the collection of rents or fees in a public market, cart stand or slaughter house or of rents for shops has been farmed out or leased by a municipal council or a panchayat union council or the Municipal Corporation of Madras or the Municipal Corporation of Madurai '.
10. The definition makes it obvious that a sub-tenant will not constitute a tenant within the meaning of the Act.
11. The next section, which requires notice is S. 10, which lays down that a tenant shall not be evicted in accordance with the provisions of that S. or of Ss. 14 to 16. The second proviso to S. 10(l) is of importance and needs extraction. It reads as follows -
'Provided further that where the tenant denies the title of the landlord or claims right of permanent tenancy, the Controller shall decide whether the denial or claim is bona fide and if he records a finding to the effect, the landlord shall be entitled to sue for eviction of the tenant in a civil Court and the Court may pass a decree for eviction on any of the grounds mentioned in the said sections, notwithstanding that the Court finds that such denial does not involve forfeiture of the lease or that the claim is unfounded.'
This provision indicates that if in any particular case, a tenant denies the title of the landlord or claims right of permanent tenancy, the Controller shall decide the question whether tile denial or the claim is bona fide and if he records a finding to that effect in favour of the tenant, then the landlord must have recourse to the civil Court to file an action for ejectment and he cannot pursue his petition under the provisions of the Act for recovering possession of the leased premises.
12. The last section which needs reference is S. 26 and that is as under: -
'26. Order under the Act to be binding on sub-tenants: - Any order for the eviction of a tenant passed under this Act shall be binding on all sub-tenants who were made parties in the application for eviction but any person who become a sub-tenant after the date of the application for eviction shall be bound by the order of eviction and be evicted as if he were a party to the proceedings, provided that such order was not obtained by fraud or collusion'.
This section provides that if an order of eviction is passed on a tenant, it will be binding on all the sub-tenants as well, provided they were made parties to the application for eviction. The second limb of the section provides that if any person became a sub-tenant after the petition for eviction has been filed, he will also be bound by the order of eviction, notwithstanding the fact that he was not made a party. However, one exception is made in the case of such sub-tenants, viz, that if the landlord had obtained the order of eviction by means of fraud or collusion, then the order of eviction would not be binding on the sub-tenant.
13. 1 n so far as the rules are concerned, a reference may be made to sub-r. (2) of R. 12, which merely states that the Controller or the Authorised officer shall give to the parties a reasonable opportunity to state their case.
14. Mr. Ganapathi concedes the position and in fact he has no other alternative, that the term 'tenant' has as defined in the Act, would not include a sub-tenant and that the second proviso to Sec. 10(l) contemplates a denial of title by the tenant alone and not by a sub-tenant. Even so, he would say that since S. 26 of the Act gives a right to a sub-tenant inducted into possession after a petition for eviction had been filed, to assail the order of eviction on the, ground that it suffers from the vice of fraud or collusion, a sub-tenant who is made a party to the petition for eviction, will also be entitled to question the maintainability of a petition for eviction on the ground that the landlord does not have the locus standi to file the petition. He would further submit that since sub-r. (2) of R. 12 of the Rules framed under the Act enjoins the Controller to give an opportunity to all the parties including a sub-tenant to put forth his case, the sub-tenant is statutorily entitled to raise a defence of lack of title in the landlord in order to, retain his possession of the property. We are afraid that the contention of Mr. Ganapathi is not only devoid of merits, but it is being made without reference to the specific provisions of the Act. The scheme of the Act is such that a sub-tenant has no status or right of his own against the landlord except to the limited extent that is provided under the Act. The exception to the Rule has been provided only in those cases where the sub-tenancy has been created with the knowledge and written consent of the landlord. In all other cases, the, sub-tenant has no status of his own as against the landlord except to stand in the shadow of, the tenant. Therefore, it follows that if a tenant does not choose to put forth a defence against the landlord, the sub-tenant has to be bound by the stand taken by the tenant and he cannot independently put forth any contention of his own. In the case of denial of title of the landlord, the -tenant himself is conferred a limited right, provided the denial of title is of a bona fide nature. In such circumstances, instead of the landlord seeking an order of possession in his favour under the summary proceedings contemplated under the Act he had to file a suit for recovery of possession against the tenant and seek a decree for eviction. When such is the limited right of the Tenant himself, it will be preposterous for a sub-tenant to say that he has an independent right to deny the title of the landlord and that such a right will be available to him even in those cases where the tenant himself does not choose to deny the title of the landlord. Therefore, it follows that the contention put forth by Mr. Ganapathi is completely in violation of the terms of Act. The interpretation to be given to Sec. 26 is that where a subtenant is made a party to the proceedings, he can only raise a defence, which is available to him under law or in other words, permissible under the Act. When he does not dispute-his status as a subtenant under the tenant, the only defence available to him is to show that the sub-tenancy was not an unauthorised one, but had been created with the knowledge and written consent of the landlord. No other defence can be raised by sub-tenant.
15. In so far as the second limb of S. 26 is concerned, it confers a right on a sub-tenant to attack an order of eviction on the ground that it is vitiated by fraud or collusion, because, he was not a party to the proceedings. That would however not mean that a sub-tenant who is made a party to the proceedings, can also raise a plea of fraud and collusion, because he is bound by the stand taken by the tenant who was as much a party to the proceedings, as the sub-tenant hi self.
16. In support of his contention, Mr. Ganapathi invited our attention to a few reported cases. He cited Karan Singh v. Pratapchand, : 4SCR647 , to contend that a sub-tenant can file an appeal against the order of eviction, even if the tenant fails to prefer an appeal. From this he tried to build up an argument that the sub-tenant has parallel and coextensive right as those of a tenant. We cannot accept this argument, because the right of a sub-tenant to file an appeal, springs from the fact that he had been made a party to the proceedings for eviction taken by the landlord. Therefore, as a party, he is entitled to file an appeal, even if the tenant fails to do so. But that would not mean that the sub-tenant gets an enlarged right of defence than what is conferred on him under the Act. It is one thing to say that a sub-tenant has a right of appeal; but it is an entirely different thing to say that by, virtue of the right of appeal, the rights of a sub-tenant becomes enlarged Under the Act. Therefore, the ratio laid down in the said case cannot advance the case of the petitioner in any manner.
17. The learned counsel then cited S. Asia Industries Ltd. v. Sarup Singh, : 3SCR829 . Even this decision does not lend support to the case put forth by the petitioner. All that the decision says is that an assignee or a sub-tenant is entitled to raise a defence to the limited extent, it is conferred on him by enactments similar to the one in question to resist an action for eviction. The decision certainly does not lay down any proposition of law, that the right conferred upon a sub-tenant will entitle him to raise all the defences that a tenant can raise under the Act including the right of denial of title of the landlord.
18. As regards the argument that the, landlord had purchased the property subsequent to the filing of the petition, we have to point out that the authorities below have concurrently held that the landlord did have the requisite competence to file the petition. This is a finding of fact and as such, the revision petitioner is precluded from questioning the correctness of that finding in this petition. Even otherwise, we have to point out that when the landlord sent a notice under the original of Ex. A. 1, to the tenant and the sub-tenant, and the notice had been duly served on them, they had not cared to refute that notice and take the stand that the landlord was not the owner of the building or a person entitled to collect the rent and as such, he cannot terminate the tenancy and seek their dispossession. Therefore it is too late in the day for the revision petitioner to raise the plea that the landlord did not have the requisite competence to file the petition for eviction:
19. Lastly, Mr. G. Ganapathi submitted that during the pendency of the proceedings, there was a dispute between the vendor of the landlord and other members of her family and a civil suit had been filed and a receiver has been appointed to take charge of all the properties that were in dispute and collect the rents and in view of the appointment of a receiver, the present landlord had lost his right to continue the proceedings for eviction. There is no merit or force in this contention, because the receiver had been appointed only to collect the rents on behalf of the disputing claimants to title. The owners of the properties were not prevented from seeking recovery of possession from the tenants, on account of the appointment of a receiver. There was therefore no impediment in the landlord continuing the proceedings for eviction in spite of the appointment of a receiver in a suit filed by one of the members of the family.
20. In the result, we find that there are no merits whatever in the revision petition and the question that has been referred for our consideration has to be answered in the negative. Consequently, we hold that it is not open to sub-tenant to deny the title of the landlord in proceedings taken under Sec. 10 of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act of 1960. For the aforesaid reasons, the revision fails and will stand dismissed. The sub-tenant (petitioner herein) is given time till 30-4-1984, to vacate the premises. There will be no order as to costs.
21. Revision dismissed.