K.M. Natarajan, J.
1. The petitioners herein are the tenants. The respondent herein filed H.R.C. Nos. 190, 191 and 193 to 195 of 1977 before the learned Rent Controller of the Nilgiris for eviction of the petitioners in these revisions and two others, who occupied different portions of the petition-mentioned building, on the ground that the building is old and dilapidated and it requires demolition and reconstruction. It is further alleged that the respondent herein is possessed of sufficient funds to undertake the work of demolition and reconstruction and he also obtained necessary permission from the Municipality.
2. The said petitions were resisted by the tenants on the ground that the claim of the respondent herein is not bona fide, that the allegations that the building is in a dilapidated condition and is very old are all false and that the same are alleged in order to secure higher rate of rent and even to dispose of the building.
3. All the petitions were tried jointly. The respondent herein alone was examined as P.W.1 on his side and Exs.A-1 to A-8 were marked. On the side of the petitioners herein, R.Ws.1 to 5 were examined.
4. The learned Rent Controller allowed the petitions. Only three of the respondents in the Eviction Petitions preferred appeals before the learned appellate authority and they met with the same fate. Hence, these revisions.
5. The learned Counsel for the petitioners mainly submitted that it is the positive case of the respondent herein that the building is old and dilapidated and requires immediate demolition and reconstruction; but the same has not been established and both the authorities below failed to follow the principles enunciated by their Lordships of the Supreme Court and of this Court and on that ground alone, the eviction orders passed by the courts below have to be set aside.
6. That the respondent herein is possessed of sufficient means to carry out the demolition and reconstruction work is established by acceptable evidence and there is absolutely nothing to interfere with the said finding. Though it is alleged in the petitions for eviction that the respondent herein already obtained permission from the Municipality to demolish the existing building and to erect a new building, which is evident from Exs.A-6 and A-7, it is seen that the applications for such permission were made by the respondent herein only in the year 1980, before the examination of the landlord/respondent herein and the learned Rent Controller relied on the same even though they were obtained subsequent to the filing of the petition. I do not find any infirmity in the learned Rent Controller relying on the said exhibits also, But now, the main question is whether the respondent herein has established that the building is old and dilapidated and that it requires immediate demolition and reconstruction, so as to warrant grant of an order of eviction under Section 14(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960 as amended by Act 23 of 1073.
7. Even in the notice Ex.A-1 issued by the respondent herein, the only ground alleged is that the building is very old and is in a dilapidated condition and the respondent herein had decided to demolish the entire building in order to erect a new building. The same allegation was made in all the petitions for eviction. It has been emphatically denied by the petitioners herein, who are the tenants, that the allegation that the building is in a dilapidated condition and is very old, is utter falsehood and the same had been deliberately made with a view to create a cause of action.
8. The only witness examined on the side of the respondent herein is the respondent himself and he has stated that the building is 80 years old and it was put up with brick and mud, that the tiled roof is also damaged and hence, he decided to demolish and put up a new construction. On the other hand, R.W.2 had categorically stated that the building is in a sound and good condition and there is no necessity for any demolition. Both the authorities below relied on the answers elicited from this witness in cross-examination and observed that he had admitted that the building is very old and have held that the said admission itself is sufficient to hold, that the building is very old and is in a dilapidated condition. On a perusal of the evidence of this witness, I find that he has stated only that the building looks like old; but he had emphatically denied the suggestion that the building is in a very bad condition. As such, the authorities below have not correctly appreciated the evidence of R.W.2 in this regard. R.W.3 also had denied the suggestion that the building is very old and that in order to demolish the same, the respondent had asked for eviction of the tenants. R.W.5 had categorically stated that the tenant had effected improvements, that the building is in a very sound condition, and that the petitions for eviction have been filed only to secure higher rate of rent. It was elicited in cross-examination of this witness that he is occupying the premises in his possession for the last 25 years. He also denied emphatically that the building is old and that it is in a dilapidated condition. It is seen that these petitions were filed in the year 1977. Subsequently, their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Metal ware and Co., etc. v. Bensilal Sharma and Ors. etc. : 3SCR1107 had occasion to consider the scope of Section 14(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act and also the relevant provisions under Sections 14(2)(b) and 16 of the Act, on the ground that the building is old and is in a dilapidated condition. It was held therein that:
If the Rent Controller has to be satisfied about the bona fide requirement of the landlord which must mean genuineness of his claim in that behalf the Rent Controller will have to take into account all the surrounding circumstances including not merely the factors of the landlord being possessed of sufficient means or funds to undertake the project and steps taken by him in that regard but also the existing condition of the building, its age and situation and possibility or otherwise of its being put to a more profitable use after reconstruction. All these factors being relevant must enter the verdict of the Rent Controller on the question of the bona fide requirement of the landlord, under Section 14(1)(b). In a sense if the building happens to be decrepit or dilapidated it will readily make for the bona fide requirement of the landlord, though that by itself in the absence of any means being possessed by the landlord would not be sufficient. Conversely, a landlord being possessed of sufficient means to undertake the project of demolition and reconstruction by itself may not be sufficient to establish his bona fide requirement if the building happens to be a very recent construction in a perfectly sound condition and its situation may prevent its being put to a more profitable use after reconstruction. In any case, these latter factors may cast a serious doubt on the landlord's bona fide requirement. It is, therefore, clear that the age and condition of the building would certainly be a relevant factor which will have to be taken into account while pronouncing upon the bona fide requirement of the landlord under Section 14(1)(b) of the Act and the same cannot be ignored.
It was further held therein that:
The existing condition of the building far from being totally irrelevant is a vital factor which will have to be considered while pronouncing upon the bona fide requirement of the landlord under that provision which has to be done by having regard to 'all the circumstances' and since in the instant case all the courts have totally ignored this vital factor their conclusion on the question of bona fide requirement of the landlord deserves to be set aside. The court accordingly set aside the said conclusion of the Courts below and remanded the matter back to the Rent Controller to dispose of the landlord's application in light of this judgment.
9. My attention was also drawn to the decision of this Court in Kanakavalli Ammal v. Sundaram : (1984)1MLJ310 wherein Ramanujam, J, also considered the scope of the above Supreme Court decision and held that:
If the landlord alleges that the building is old and dilapidated and therefore it requires demolition and reconstruction and that fact is denied by the tenant, then the landlord has to adduce evidence as to the age and existing condition of the building.
10. Yet another decision of this Court in Sha Manakchand v. Sankarji Moolchand (1965) 2 M.L.J. 12 was also relied on by the learned Counsel for the petitioners wherein Anantanarayanan, O.C.J. held that:
The question of the bona fide requirement of a building for immediate demolition and reconstruction under Section 14(1)(b) of the Madras Buildings Lease and Rent Control Act is some times difficult to adjudge and it is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule. Bona fides will be a matter for decision in each case on its own facts and cannot rest upon a mere averment or claim by landlord. It is not the intention of the Legislature that in every case bona fides should be presumed unless the tenant establishes mala fide....Where there is nothing in evidence except that a plan has been obtained and the interested testimony of the landlord, the Court will be justified in rejecting an application under Section 14(1)(b) of the Act.
11. In this case also, except the interested testimony of the respondent herein as P.W.1, the respondent herein has not let in any evidence by examining a qualified Engineer or Commissioner to show that the building is in a dilapidated condition and that it requires immediate demolition and reconstruction. The mere fact that the building is old itself is not sufficient for invoking the provisions of Section 14(1)(b) of the Act and ordering eviction. The respondent herein had also not examined any other independent witness to support his claim. In the circumstances, the ratio laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Metalware and Co., etc, v. Bensilal Sharma and Ors. etc. : 3SCR1107 quoted above is on all fours, applicable to the facts of this case. Both the authorities below had not given due importance to the necessity of those two conditions, which have to be established by acceptable evidence. The mere fact that the landlord has got sufficient funds and has taken steps by obtaining the sanction of plan for demolition and reconstruction would not be sufficient. Hence, I am of the view that these applications by the landlord will have to go back to the Rent Controller for fresh disposal.
12. In the result, all the revisions are allowed and the orders of eviction passed by the authorities below, viz., the Rent Controller and the appellate authority, are set aside and the matter is remitted back to the Rent Controller, who is directed to restore all these petitions to file, give opportunity to both the parties to adduce necessary evidence on the question of age and existing condition of the building and then dispose of the same afresh according to taw and in the light of the observations made in this order. There will be no order as to costs in all these revisions. However, the Rent Controller is directed to give top priority to these petitions, as they relate to the year 1977, and dispose of the same as expeditiously as possible and in any event, not later than three months of the receipt of the records by the Rent Controller.