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Annavi Moopan and anr. Vs. Munia Moopan - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. Petn. No. 722 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1969Mad437
ActsTenancy Law; Madras Cultivating Tenants (Payment of Fair Rent) Act, 1956 - Sections 6 and 15; Transfer of Property Act, 1882 - Sections 105
AppellantAnnavi Moopan and anr.
RespondentMunia Moopan
Advocates:K. Saravabhauman and ;T.R. Mani, Advs.
Excerpt:
tenancy - rent - sections 6 and 15 of madras cultivating tenants (payment of fair rent) act, 1956 and section 105 of transfer of property act, 1882 - plaintiff (landlord) filed suit for recovery of certain sum due from defendant - respondent-defendant in occupation of suit lands long prior to purchase by plaintiff - court not helpless in adjudicating rights of parties in relation to quasi-tenancies or quasi-contracts - law compels employer to pay employee reasonable wages under doctrine of quantum meruit - it is accepted canon of justice, equity and good conscience that no one can enjoy properties to detriment of owner. - - 1. though this civil revision petition arises under section 25 of the provincial small cause courts act, it raises a very interesting and important question of..........under the predecessor-in-interest of the plaintiffs. it is also common ground that, under ex. b-2, fair rent was fixed for this tenement in the occupation of the defendant, in or about december 1956. the case of the plaintiffs is that after 1963 the defendant began to raise sugarcane crop on the leasehold land without their permission and concurrently did not oblige himself either under a contract or by any arrangement to pay increased rent, for using the lands for purposes of raising sugarcane crop. for the year sobakrithu, the defendant cultivated sugarcane crop but paid only a sum of rs. 487-50, which was the fair rent fixed in ex. b-2. when the landlords protested and demanded 'a fair rent,' which, according to them was at rs. 5, per cent, the defendant refused to comply with the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. Though this civil revision petition arises under Section 25 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, it raises a very interesting and important question of law. It is very unfortunate that the defendant is not represented before me.

2. The plaintiffs as landlords filed a suit for recovery of a sum of Rs. 312-50, said to be due by the defendant towards rent, which, according to them, was payable by the defendant, in respect of the occupation of their lands. It is common ground that the defendant is the tenant of the petitioners. The petitioners purchased the property on 9-6-1963. The respondent-defendant was in occupation of the suit lands, long prior to the purchase by the plaintiffs, and he was also a tenant under the predecessor-in-interest of the plaintiffs. It is also common ground that, under Ex. B-2, fair rent was fixed for this tenement in the occupation of the defendant, in or about December 1956. The case of the plaintiffs is that after 1963 the defendant began to raise sugarcane crop on the leasehold land without their permission and concurrently did not oblige himself either under a contract or by any arrangement to pay increased rent, for using the lands for purposes of raising sugarcane crop. For the year Sobakrithu, the defendant cultivated sugarcane crop but paid only a sum of Rs. 487-50, which was the fair rent fixed in Ex. B-2. When the landlords protested and demanded 'a fair rent,' which, according to them was at Rs. 5, per cent, the defendant refused to comply with the demand, and, therefore, the plaintiffs had to file the suit to recover the sum of Rs. 312-50, being the balance payable by the defendant based on their estimate of rent. No doubt the plaintiffs have characterised this amount as rent. The defendant took up the position that the plaintiffs are not entitled to anything more than the agreed rent, and as such agreed rent has already been paid, no further amount Is payable. The learned District Munsif who went into the question found that the plaintiffs were not entitled to claim anything more than the fair rent. He was of the view that, in the absence of any fresh agreement between the parties, no claim for Increased rent or money equivalent for such unauthorised use and occupation could beclaimed by the plaintiffs, when Ex. B-2 was in force. He found that the rent fixed in Ex. B-2 was for cultivation of any crops, and thus he dismissed the suit of the plaintiffs. The present revision petition is against the said decree and judgment of the learned District Munsif.

2-A. 'Rent', no doubt, is not defined both in the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act 1955 and in the Madras Cultivating Tenants (Payment of Fair Rent) Act 1956, But the latter enactment evolved a procedure to reckon what is known as fair rent under the Act. This is what is provided for in Section 4 of the Act. There is, however, no definition of rent even in this Act. Section 6 of the Act provides that, where in respect of any land fair rent has been determined under the Act, it shall continue in force for five years. One other important provision which has a bearing on the discussion to ensue is Section 15, which reads as follows-

'Nothing in this Act shall apply to any land during the period when such land is used for raising as main crop, sugarcane, plantain or betel vines or any crop which does not give any yield for a continuous period of two years or more from the time of cultivation or to any contract merely for collection or harvesting of produce of any kind.'

3. The main contention of Mr. T.R. Mani, learned counsel for the landlord, is that the lower Court failed to see that, in the circumstances of this case, the plaintiffs are not helpless to call upon the Court, as a Civil Court, to exercise its jurisdiction to fix the fair rent as popularly understood, notwithstanding the fact, there is no subsisting contract as is statutorily understood. He would rely upon several passages in Halsbury's Laws of England, Wood fall on Landlord and Tenant, Hill and Redman's Law of Landlord and Tenant and Anson's Law of Contract. It is necessary to consider the passages cited by him, to find whether the Civil Court, placed in the circumstances as it is, has jurisdiction to fix what can be termed as reasonable compensation that has to be paid by the tenant who is admittedly in occupation of the landlord's property, in the absence of a contract to that effect between the parties. Halsbury (Volume 23) at page 559, paragraph 1229, says-

'Provided there Is no lease under seal the landlord may also bring an action for use and occupation to recover a reasonable satisfaction for the lands held or occupied by the tenant. This remedy is available where a person has been in occupation of land without an agreement fixing the amount of rent............'

The following passages from Woodfall on Landlord and Tenant 26th Edn. Appearing at pages 488, 504 and 506 are apposite. At page 488, the learned author says-

'The action which can in such case be maintained is not to recover rent, but for damages on an implied agreement to pay for the use of the landlord's property, and arises rather out of what may be called a quasi-tenancy than from the strict relation of landlord and tenant.'

At page 504, the following passage occurs-

'He who holds another's premises with his permission, but without an express bargain as to the rent, agrees to pay what a jury may find the occupation to be worth'.

At page 506, the learned author proceeds to say-

'but the jury may give the landlord a larger sum for the continued occupation, if there be circumstances to show that such increased rent was expected by him in the event of the tenant holding over, and that such expectation was known to and not repudiated by the tenant.'

The passage extracted from Halsbury is repeated in Hill and Redman's Law of Landlord and Tenant. It is not necessary for me to repeat the same. The basis on which a jury can assess a claim in the case of a quasi-contract or a quasi-tenancy, as the case may be, has been well laid down by Anson in his Law of Contract. 21st Edn. At page 539, the learned author says that a quasicontract is one under which the right to recover money does not arise from any agreement of the parties concerned, but is imposed by the law, so that in this respect a quasi-contract resembles a 'tort.' The author says at page 540-

'The principle is, then, one of unjust benefit, or unjust enrichment; and this benefit may have been conferred on the defendant by the plaintiff himself, or by some person other than the plaintiff.'

4. In the light of the above principles, it is very clear that Courts are not helpless in adjudicating the rights of parties in relation to quasi-tenancies or quasi-contracts. A common example which could be cited where Courts exorcise such jurisdiction is, when amounts are paid under the doctrine of quantum meruit. Even though no wages are fixed as between an employer and employee, and if the employer takes such services from the employee, and the latter works for him in the expectation of securing reasonable and lawful wages, then the law compels the employer to pay him reasonable wages under the doctrine of quantum meruit. This also is equally based on the principle of quasi-contract and avoidance of unjust enrichment. It is an accepted canon of justice, equity and good conscience that no one can enjoy other's properties to the detriment of that other.

Courts are zealous to checkmate such notorious aggrandisement and improper negation of the normal benefits to which the owner of a property would be entitled from his tenant. We also find illustration of this equitable principle in Section 70 of the Contract Act as well.

5. The question, however, is as to how and in what manner courts can afford reliefs to the affected party in such cases. The Madras Cultivating Tenants (Payment of Fair Rent) Act 1956, whilst providing for the fixation of fair rent in the case of wet land where the normal produce is paddy, it avoids to advert itself to cases where the main crop is sugarcane, plantain or betel vines etc. In the instant case, it is not in dispute that the tenant is raising, as his main crop, sugar-cane. If sugarcane is the main crop raised by the tenant, nothing in Act 24 of 1956 shall apply to such a land, during the period when such land is used for such a crop (Section 15). That being so, the question arises whether Ex. B-2, even if it could be considered as the fair rent fixed under Act 24 of 1956 and within the meaning of Section 4 of that Act, can at all have any effect on the claim projected, as at present, by the landlords, for an increased rent, on the basis that the tenant is raising sugarcane and not the ordinary wet crop of paddy. In my view, the landlords could, and the plaintiffs in the Instant case can project such a claim.

6. My reasons are that, on the principles laid down by the learned authors as above, in a case where the tenancy does not expressly connote the rent payable by the tenant to the landlord, then the Courts have jurisdiction, as in the United Kindgom, a jury has, to fix what is known as reasonable market rent for the property and avoid unjust enrichment to the tenant. I have already stated that it would be the very negation of the rights of the landlord, if the tenant were to continue in occupation of the holding and raise a main crop like sugarcane to the detriment of the landlord and without his authority, and yet would refuse the lawful demand for payment of increased rent by the landlord as prevailing in the locality. Mr. Justice Natesan, in an unreported decision in C. R. P. 1894 of 1962 (Mad), had occasion to consider a very similar question, and was of the view that Courts could in such circumstances consider what can be the fair rent for the land in question. It was, of course, not necessary for the learned Judge to fix the rent in that case, as it proceeded on a different basis altogether.

7. Having thus far upheld the right of the landlords to reasonable compensation, so as to avoid unjust enrichment on the part of the tenant, what is the procedure to be adopted to fix such rent which was not the subject-matter of agreement or arrangement between the landlords and the tenant? The normal basis is the market rent or fair rent that is being obtained for similar land in similar locality in the vicinity. In the instant case, evidence was let in to the effect that a sum of Rs. 5 per cent is the prevailing rent in the locality for such land cultivating sugarcane and plantain. This was not adverted to by the learned District Munsif. He dismissed the suit on the only ground that, in the absence of a contract between the parties or an enforceable arrangement which could be conceived by law, he was unable to interfere and grant the relief. This approach to the problem is obviously incorrect, because the landlords in such circumstances ought not to be left without a remedy. He has a right to collect rent. His suit cannot be summarily dismissed, even though he has such a right, because rights and remedies are correlated, and it is the duty of the Court, in the exercise of its jurisdiction, to find a relief, so that the just rights can be worked out. It is no doubt true that the plaintiffs have claimed an amount as rent But, under Order VII, Rule 7, Civil P. C, the court is entitled to grant such relief as it thinks just and as it is necessary in the circumstances of a case, I am satisfied that this is a case in which, though the nomenclature employed by the plaintiffs is rent, yet they have to be paid reasonable compensation which has to be evaluated and which has not been done by the lower Court. The respondent is not represented and it would not be fair that I should embark upon such an enquiry in this civil revision petition, in this Court. To enable the respondent to have an opportunity to let in evidence regarding the prevailing rent in the locality' and also to enable the petitioners to state their case that Rs. 5 per cent is the reasonable rent payable by the respondent defendant, I feel it is necessary, in the interests of justice, that the case should be remitted to the file of the learned District Munsif.

8. For the above purpose, while, therefore, setting aside the order of the learned District Munsif, the case is remitted to his file to have a fresh enquiry, as to the quantum of rent to which the petitioners-plaintiffs are entitled and which the respondent-defendant has to suffer in the circumstances. Both parties will be permitted to let in evidence. The costs-will abide by the result.


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