1. The tenant is the petitioner in this Civil Revision Petition, which arises out of R.C.O.P. No. 177 of 1980, Rent Controller's Court (District Munsif), Madurai Town filed by the first respondent herein under S. 4 of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act (Act XVIII of 1960) as amended by Act XXIII of 1973, (hereinafter referred to as the Act) praying for fixation of the fair rent in respect of the building under the tenancy occupation of the petitioner and the second respondent. The building in question was initially let out to the father of the petitioner and the second respondent for the purpose of running a typewriting institute on a monthly rent of Rs. 50/- and after their father's death, they attorned the tenancy to the first respondent herein, who had, by then became the landlord of the building. Claiming that the building in the occupation of the petitioner and the second respondent would fall within Class I type having been built with cement mortar and brick and lime mortar employing teakwood and stating that the building which is about 30 years old is situate in a good locality commanding several facilities where the market value of the site is about Rs. 100/- per sq. ft. the first respondent prayed that the fair rent in respect of the building should be fixed at Rs. 500/- per month. The petitioner and the second respondent resisted this application contending that at the inception of the tenancy, the rent was Rs. 20/- per month, which was subsequently gradually increased to Rs. 50/- p.m. and that was fair and reasonable rent. The building, according to them, was class III building as the door and the door frames were stated to be made of country wood and the roofing was of Calicuttiles. The occupied area was stated to be only 467 sq. ft. in an eighty year old building. According to the petitioner and the second respondent, the staircase portion could not be treated as a portion leased out to them and should be excluded and they also contended that the site value was only Rs. 25/- per. sq. ft. and not Rs. 100/- per sq. ft. as claimed by the first respondent and that calculating fair rent on the aforesaid basis, no case was made out for increasing the rent paid by the petitioner and the second respondent. In an additional statement of objections filed by the petitioner and the second respondent, they put forth the objection that the rules framed under the Act are applicable and the method of calculation of fair rent adopted by the first respondent was also incorrect.
2. Before the Rent Controller (Additional District Munsif), Madurai town, on behalf of the first respondent, Exs. A.1 to A.4 were marked and he was examined as P.W.1 in addition to another P.W.2, while, on behalf of the petitioner and the second respondent, Exs. B.1.to B.5 were filed and the petitioner alone was examined as R.W. 1. A Commissioner was also appointed to make local inspection and he submitted his reports marked as Exs. C. 1 and C. 2. On a consideration of the oral as well as documentary evidence, the learned Rent Controller found that the guidelines provided under S. 4(4) and (5) of the Act would suffice to fix the fair rent in respect of the building, though the rules had been declared to be invalid earlier and that the depreciated cost of construction of the building inclusive of the staircase portion together with the market value of the site worked out to Rs. 33,762.45. Taking into account the purpose of the lease viz., the running of a typewriting institute, the return was worked out at 12% and the fair rent was fixed at Rs. 340/- p.m. Aggrieved by this, the first respondent as well as the petitioner and the second respondent preferred R.C.A. Nos. 112 of 1983 and 124 of 1983 respectively and both the appeals were heard together and disposed of by a common judgment. Before the appellate authority also, on behalf of the petitioner, it was contended that the staircase portion has to be excluded in computing the, fair rent of the building, as it would only be in the nature of amenity. After negativing this objection, the appellate authority, on the materials, concluded that the fixation of the fair rent in respect of the building at Rs. 340/per month was just and proper and in that view, the appeals preferred by the first respondent in R. C. A. No. 112 of 1983 and the petitioner and the second respondent in R.C.A. No. 124 of 1983 were dismissed. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner alone has preferred this Civil revision petition against the order in R. C. A. No. 124 of 1983.
3. In support of this revision petition, the principal contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the authorities below ought to have excluded the staircase portion of the building though in the use and occupation of the petitioner and the second respondent, for purposes of computing the fair rent of the building under S. 4 of the Act. Reliance in this connection was also placed by the learned counsel on the decisions in C. Ramchandran v. M. Kasim Khaleeli, (1965) 1 Mad 12 78, S. Motilal v. E.A.Azeem (1974) 87 MLW 106 and Murugavel. v. S. Ramalingam (C.R.P. No. 1006 of 1975, dated 23-4-1976).
4. It would be necessary at this stage to refer to a few undisputed facts. The petitioner and the second respondent are in occupation of the first floor of the building as tenants, for purposes of running a typewriting institute. There is no dispute that in order to have access to the first floor so let out to the petitioner and the second respondent and to use it for the purpose for which it was let out, they have necessarily to use the staircase in question provided for that purpose. There is equally no dispute that excepting the petitioner and the second respondent herein and other visiting the institute, nobody else is using the staircase to have access to the first floor portion. It is in the background of these undisputed facts that the point urged by the learned counsel for the petitioner has to be considered.
5. Section 2(2) of the Act defines a building and there is no indication therein that a staircase such as we have here and forming part of the building and included in the letting and used for purposes of exercising rights as tenant in the premises let out, is outside the definition of a building. A staircase, as ordinarily and normally understood, is a structure consisting of a series or succession of steps constructed or put up with a view to secure access to the upper part or the higher floors of a building. It may be a straight flight staircase or a dog leg one or geometrical one or a quarter turn one with or without winders. It may an open well one or a spiral one at that. Irrespective, therefore, of the type or variety of staircase, the predominant object in putting up or constructing a flight of stairs is to provide access to the other portions of the building like the first floor or even the other higher or upper floors. But for such provision, it is not possible ordinarily to reach or have access to the first floor or the other upper floors. It may be that access to the first or other higher floors may be had by some unorthodox means other than the use of a staircase e.g., drain pipes, pole vaulting etc., but that is not the normal or ordinary or usual method of having access to the first or the other higher floors in a building. The difficulties to which a tenant in occupation of a first floor or the other higher floors in a building will be put to without a staircase, can easily be imagined. Without it, he cannot reach his building or effectively occupy it as a tenant, whatever be the purpose of the tenancy. The difficulty would be all the more greater in the present day when multi-storeyed buildings have come to stay. There are many multi-stored buildings where the staircase is still the one and the only effective method of securing access to the different floors of the building and the apartments therein. In other words, a staircase, is an essential as well as a very vital part of the building itself, as otherwise, effective use and occupation of the building rented out, cannot at all be had. Looked at from this point of view, it is at once clear that the staircase should also be treated as an integral part of the building and it is not possible to exclude the staircase and not to treat it as part of the building.
6. Besides, the very basis for the fixation of fair rent is a fair return on the cost of construction of the building arrived at in the manner provided under the Act. A staircase has also got to be built by expending money. In computing the fair rent of the building under S. 4 of the Act, the cost of construction of the building, besides the market value of the site and the cost of provision of any one or more of the amenities in Schedule I, as on the date of the application, will have to be taken into account. Inasmuch as a staircase is part of the building in respect of the construction of which, amounts have necessarily to be spent, that has also to be taken into account in arriving at the cost of construction of the building as provided under S. 4(4) of the Act. There is also an indication in the Act itself to show that the staircase in a building was thought of as part of the building itself, the cost of construction of which should also enter the fair rent fixation. A reference to schedule I of the Act shows that while compound walls and other features of special architectural interest have been treated as amenities falling there under the staircase is not shown as such an amenity. This is indicative that it is not treated as an amenity, but as part of the building itself and therefore the cost of construction of the building provided for under S. 4(4) of the Act should include this as well. Considered from the common sense point of view in the light of the provisions of the Act as well, the conclusion is irresistible that the staircase, as we have in this case, which is admittedly let out and exclusively used by the petitioner and the second respondent herein, to have access to the first floor building where they are running a typewriting institute, would be part of the building let out to them and in computing the fair rent of that building, the cost of construction of the staircase has also necessarily to be taken into account in accordance with the provisions of S. 4(4) of the Act.
7. That leaves for consideration, the decisions upon which reliance has been placed by the learned counsel for the petitioner. In C. Ramachandran v. M. Kasim Khaleele, (1965) 1 MLJ 78, Kailasam J., (as he then was) had to consider the correctness of an order of eviction against the tenant obtained by the landlord under S. 14(l)(b) of the Act. The principal argument raised was that a consideration of some of the material circumstances pointed out to the conclusion that the requirement of the landlord was not bona fide. Indeed, it was also pointed out that the proposal to demolish a roof retaining two walls would not amount to demolition under S. 14(l)(b) of the Act. Besides, a contention was also raised that the intended demolition should be total. Repelling all these contentions, it was held that as the proposal was to demolish the roof of the premises in the occupation of the petitioner for the purpose of putting up a staircase retaining the walls, it would amount to demolition. This decision, far from being of any assistance to the petitioner, appears to support the view that the putting up of a staircase would amount to the erection of a new building. The decision in S. Motilal v. E.A.Azeem, (1974) 87 MLW 106 dealt with a case of a change of staircase from one place to another and whether on that ground an order under S. 14(l)(b) of the Act could be passed. It was in that context it was pointed out that a mere change of staircase from one place to another and the putting up of such a staircase in the room in the occupation of the tenant, would not amount to 'demolition' for purposes of erecting a new building within the meaning of S. 14(l)(b) of the Act. This case thus considered the question whether an order of eviction for demolition and reconstruction could be passed under S. 14(l)(b) of the Act to facilitate a mere change or removal of staircase from one place to another and for the purpose of putting it up in the room in the occupation of the tenant. That decision has therefore no application at all to the case on hand, where the cost of construction of the staircase, as part of the building, has to be taken into account, under S. 4(4) of the Act. In C.R.P. No. 1006 of 1975 also, the correctness of an order of eviction passed under S. 14(l)(b) of the Act on the ground that the room in the occupation of the tenant was required for the purpose of demolition and putting up of a staircase therein, was' questioned. In dealing with that, Ramaprasada Rao J., (as he then was) applied the decision in Ramachandran v. Kasim Khaleeli (1965) 1 MLJ 78 and S. Motilal v. E. A. Azeem (1974) 87 MLW 106 and held that the intention of the landlord was not to demolish and reconstruct a new building on the site; but only to demolish a room in the occupation of the tenant and to put up a staircase, which could at best be considered only as a means of approach to a building and not a 'building' by itself. This decision also cannot be pressed into service by the petitioner in support of his contention that a staircase is not a building. While considering whether the requirements of S. 14(l)(b) of the Act were satisfied, the learned Judge made those observations to the effect that the proposal was to demolish a room and to put up instead only a staircase, which would not be a 'building' As normally understood and, therefore, the order of eviction was not in conformity with S. 14(l)(b) of the Act. Such is not the position in this case, where the question is whether the staircase should be considered to be part of the building and its cost of construction should also be reckoned for purposes of fixing the fair rent of the building. Thus, all the decisions relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioner do not in any manner advance the case of the petitioner and the contention that the staircase has to be left out of consideration for the purpose of fixing the fair rent, cannot be accepted.
8. A faint attempt was made by the learned counsel for the petitioner to contend that the market value of the property had been fixed on the basis of the guidelines produced from the office of the Sub-Registrar and that does not reflect the true market value. The guidelines Ex.A.4 were produced by the first respondent. No material contra was furnished by the petitioner. The premises in question is situate in Palace Road, Madurai and Ex. A.4. relates to the very same survey No. 1269-1, 2 and 3, and the value given is Rs. 60/- per sq ft. The property is in the heart of Madurai City. There is a super-market nearby. There are number of banks and clinics. Arulmigu. Meenakshi Amman Temple is very close by. There is also a church near the premises in question. There are number of Schools around the area. Buses are frequently available from the area in which the building is situated to other parts of Madurai City. Taking into account all these aspects and considering the guideline value of Rs. 60/- per sq. ft. as found in Ex.A.4, the authorities below fixed the market value of the site at Rs. 60/- per sq. ft. and the contention that it is excessive cannot be accepted. ' The civil revision petition is devoid of merits and consequently, it is dismissed.
9. Petition dismissed.