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T.S.A. Hamid and anr. Vs. Sri Alanduraiapparswami Temple and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 1566 of 1970
Judge
Reported inAIR1972Mad372
ActsMadras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960; Madras City Tenants Protection Act; Indian Easements Act, 1882 - Sections 52 and 62
AppellantT.S.A. Hamid and anr.
RespondentSri Alanduraiapparswami Temple and ors.
Cases ReferredKonchada Ramamurthi Subudhi v. Gopinath Naik
Excerpt:
.....proof of lease - intention of parties also important for deciding whether particular right is lease or licence right - mere collection of fees from certain areas does not amount to existence of lease right. - - there are certain pucca structures on the shandy tope as well as certain thatched sheds put up by the first respondent temple. though it passes one's comprehension as to how with respect to the identical property a person would be entitled to the protection of the madras buildings (lease and rent control) act, 18 of 1960, as well as the madras city tenants protection act, still that was the conclusion of the learned subordinate judge came to. these duties could not be effectively carried out by the landlord by parting with possession in favour of the stall-holders by..........entering into the property or interfering with the appellants' possession and enjoyment of the suit shandy tope together with the buildings, sheds, etc. there are certain pucca structures on the shandy tope as well as certain thatched sheds put up by the first respondent temple. the suit came to be instituted only because the period of five years stipulated under ex. a-1 came to an end on 31-3-1967, and thereafter the first defendant temple sold the right to collect the charges on the shandy tope from the various persons who sold their articles there by means of an auction, and the second defendant in the suit became the highest bidder at the auction thereby entitled to make the collection. it is only because of these events the appellants came before the court with the present suit.....
Judgment:

1. The plaintiffs in O. S. No. 19 of 1967 on the file of the court of the Subordinate Judge of Mayuram, who succeeded before the trial court, but lost before the first appellate court, are the appellants before this court. The controversy in the second appeal lies within a narrow compass and the facts necessary for the purpose of appreciating that controversy may be briefly states as follows. The first respondent temple conducts a private market on a land which is the subject-matter of the suit. It is the common case of the parties that the first respondent temple had obtained a licence from the Municipality for the conduct of the said market, and the market is being conducted in accordance with the stipulations laid down by the Municipality and on payment of licence fee to the Municipality. The various fees or charges from the persons who come into the shandy for the purpose of exposing and selling their articles or wares are collected as laid down by the municipality itself. It is also stated that originally the temple itself was conducting the market, but subsequently the right to collect the charges from the various persons who come to the market was being leased out periodically by the public auction. As far as the present case is concerned, the first appellant herein obtained the right to collect the charges from the persons who came to the shandy under an agreement, marked as Ex. A-1 in the present case, dated 1-5-1962. The said document is a registration copy of what was described to be a kutnagai pathram. The whole controversy between the parties is whether the transaction evidenced by Ex. A-1 is a lease in favour of the appellants herein or only a licence granted by the temple to the appellants herein. The appellants instituted the suit putting forward the contention that they were lessees of the premises in question and as such they were entitled to the protection of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960, and that, so long as they continued to pay rent as stipulated, they should not be evicted. They also claimed the protection under the Madras City Tenants Protection Act. It is only because of this claim that they instituted the suit for a permanent injunction restraining the respondent herein and their men from in any manner entering into the property or interfering with the appellants' possession and enjoyment of the suit shandy tope together with the buildings, sheds, etc. There are certain pucca structures on the shandy tope as well as certain thatched sheds put up by the first respondent temple. The suit came to be instituted only because the period of five years stipulated under Ex. A-1 came to an end on 31-3-1967, and thereafter the first defendant temple sold the right to collect the charges on the shandy tope from the various persons who sold their articles there by means of an auction, and the second defendant in the suit became the highest bidder at the auction thereby entitled to make the collection. It is only because of these events the appellants came before the court with the present suit for the reliefs referred to above. Respondents 1 and 2, namely, defendants 1 and 2 in the suit, contended that the appellants were not lessees, that they were merely licencees and that, therefore, they were not entitled to the protection of either the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act or the Madras City Tenants Protection Act.

2. The learned Subordinate Judge, who tried the suit, came to the conclusion that the appellants were lessees under Ex. A-1 and that, therefore, they were entitled to the protection of both the Acts, and in that view granted the injunction prayed for by the appellants. Though it passes one's comprehension as to how with respect to the identical property a person would be entitled to the protection of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 18 of 1960, as well as the Madras City Tenants Protection Act, still that was the conclusion of the learned Subordinate Judge came to. As against this judgment and decree of the learned Subordinate Judge, dated 3-9-1968, the respondents herein preferred an appeal to the District Court, East Tanjore at Nagapattinam, and on 21-7-1970, in A. S. No. 124 of 1968, the learned Additional District Judge allowed the appeal. The learned Additional District Judge came to the conclusion that the transaction evidenced by Ex. A-1 was only a licence and that in that view the appellants herein were not entitled to the protection of the Acts referred to above and consequently to the relief to above and consequently to the relief of injunction. It is against this dismissal of their suit by the learned Additional District Judge the present second appeal has been filed.

3. Mr. Sivaramakrishnayya, the learned counsel for the appellants, did not advance any argument with regard to the claim of the appellants for the protection of the Madras City Tenants Protection Act, and he confined himself only to the question whether the transaction evidenced by Ex. A-1 constituted a lease or a licence. According to him to constituted a lease and in that event the appellants would be entitled to the protection of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act.

4. Before I refer to the terms of the particular document, it is necessary to refer to the law as laid down by the highest court of the land. Mr. Sivaramakrishnayya relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in Associated Hotels of India Ltd. v. R. N. Kapoor, : [1960]1SCR368 . The learned counsel drew my attention to the following passage occurring in the judgment of Subba Rao, J. (as he then was). The learned Judge, after extracting Section 52 of the Indian Easements Act, defining a licence, proceeded to state as follows:

'Under the aforesaid section if a document gives only a right to use the property in a particular way or under certain terms, while it remains in possession and control of the owner thereof, it will be a licence. The legal possession, therefore, continues to be with the owner of the property, but the licensee is permitted to make use of the premises for a particular purpose. But for the permission his occupation would be unlawful. It does not create in his favour any estate or interest in the property. There is, therefore, clear distinction between the two concepts. The dividing line is clear, though sometimes it becomes very thin or even blurred. At one time it was thought that the test of exclusive possession was infallible and if a person was given exclusive possession of a premises, it would conclusively establish that he was a lessee. But there was a change and the recent trend of judicial opinion is reflected in Errington v. Errington. 1952 1 All ER 149, wherein Lord Denning reviewing the case law on the subject summarises the result of his discussion thus at page 155:

'The result of all these cases is that, although a person who is let into exclusive possession is, prima facie, to be considered to be tenant, nevertheless he will not be held to be so if the circumstances negative any intention to create a tenancy.'

5. There are two decisions of the Supreme Court subsequent to this decision. The first of them is Mrs. M. N. Clubwala v. Fida Hussain Sahib. : [1964]6SCR642 . That decision is very near to the present case, and what the Supreme Court had to consider in that case was what exactly was the relationship that existed between the owner of a private market and the stall holders in the private market. Concerning that relationship with reference to the contract entered into between the parties, the Supreme Court pointed out that the fact that what was collected from the stall-holders was termed as 'rent' and not as 'fee' was not decisive of the transaction being a lease. Equally, the fact that exclusive possession was given to the stall-holders was not conclusive of the transaction being a lease. In that case the High Court, which had held that the transaction was a lease, greatly relied upon the fact that notice was required to be given to the stall holder before he could be asked to vacate even on the ground of non-payment and even on the ground of the landlord requiring the stalls for his own purpose; the landlord could obtain possession, not immediately, but only after giving thirty days notice to the stall-holder. The Supreme Court, with reference to this reasoning, pointed out:

'While it is true that the essence of a licence is that it is revocable at the will of the grantor, the provision in the licence that the licence would be entitled to a notice before being required to vacate is not inconsistent with a licence. In England it has been held that a contractual licence may be revocable or irrevocable according to the express or implied terms of the contract between the parties. It has further been held that if the licence under a revocable licence has brought property on to the land, he is entitled to notice of revocation and to a reasonable time for removing his property, and in which to make arrangements to carry on his business elsewhere (See Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd Edn. Vol. 23 page 431). Thus the mere necessity of giving a notice to a licencee requiring him to vacate the licenced premises would not indicate that the transaction was a lease. Indeed S. 62(c) of the Indian Easements Act, 1882, itself provides that a licence is deemed to be revoked where it has been either granted for a limited period, or acquired on condition that it shall become void on the performance or non-performance of a specified act, and the period expires or the condition is fulfilled. In the agreements in question the requirement of a notice is a condition and if that condition is fulfilled the licence will be deemed to be revoked under S. 62.'

6. After referring to the judgment in 1952 1 All ER 149, already referred to the Supreme Court further pointed out:

'The fact, therefore, that a stall-holder has exclusive possession of the stall is not conclusive evidence of his being a lessee. If, however, exclusive possession to which a person is entitled under an agreement with a landlord is coupled with an interest in the property, the agreement would be construed not as a mere licence, but as a lease.'

For this proposition the Supreme Court referred to their earlier decision in : [1960]1SCR368 already cited. Having made these observations, the Supreme Court laid down the following proposition for general guidance:

'Whether an agreement creates between the parties the relationship of landlord and tenant or merely that of licensor and licensee, the decisive consideration is the intention of the parties. This intention has to be ascertained on a consideration of all the relevant provisions in the agreement. In the absence, however, of a formal document, the intention of the parties must be inferred from the circumstances and conduct of the parties. Here the terms of the document evidencing the agreement, between the parties are not clear and so the surrounding circumstances and the conduct of the parties have also to be borne in mind for ascertaining the real relationship between the parties. Again, as already stated the documents relied upon being merely agreements executed unilaterally by the stall holders in favour of the landlords they cannot be said to be formal agreements between the parties. We must, therefore, look at the surrounding circumstances. One of those circumstances is whether actual possession of the stalls can be said to have continued with the landlords or whether it had passed on to the stall-holders. Even if it had passed to a person, his right to exclusive possession would not be conclusive evidence of the existence of the tenancy though that would be a consideration of first importance.'

7. Just as in the present case, in that case also, the landlord was conducting a private market and he had to take out a licence from the Madras City Municipal Corporation and had to conform to the conditions laid down by the Corporation. With reference to these obligations which the landlord had to perform under the terms of the licence granted to the landlord by the Corporation, the Supreme Court pointed out:

'These duties could not be effectively carried out by the landlord by parting with possession in favour of the stall-holders by reason of which the performance by the landlords of their duties and obligations could easily be rendered impossible if the stall holders adopted an unreasonable attitude. If the landlords failed to perform their obligations, they would be exposed to penalties under the Act and also stood in danger of having their licence revoked. Could, in such circumstances, the landlord have ever intended to part with possession in favour of the stall-holders and thus place themselves at the mercy of these people? We are, therefore, of the opinion that the intention of the parties was to bring into existence merely a licence and not a lease and the word 'rent' was used loosely for 'fee'.'

8. The Supreme Court had to reiterate the same principle in a subsequent decision, namely, Konchada Ramamurthi Subudhi v. Gopinath Naik, : [1967]2SCR559 . After referring to the observations of Subba Rao, J. in : [1960]1SCR368 the Supreme Court also referred to its earlier decision just cited above. In this case the Supreme Court was considering the question whether the compromise entered into between the parties to a suit after a decree had been passed created a relationship of landlord and tenant between them or one of merely licensor and licensee. After affirming the test laid down in the earlier case, the Supreme Court held that the compromise decree did not create the relationship of landlord and tenant. One of the considerations that was stressed before the Supreme Court in support of the contention that the transaction was a lease was that a long period of five years had been granted to the judgment debtor for continuation of possession. The Supreme Court pointed out that the length of the period did not militate against the construction that the compromise only created a licence, for the decree-holder apparently had lost in the trial court and it was only in the court of appeal that this compromise was arrived at. One further feature which the Supreme Court took into account for deciding what would have been the intention of the parties, can be expressed in their own words:

'It seems to us that the fact that the decree-holder had brought a suit for ejectment of the judgment debtor and that a compromise was entered into a that suit is important. It is difficult to impute to him an intention to create a fresh tenancy while the fact that he brought the suit shows that his intention was to eject the judgment debtor after having purported to terminate the tenancy.'

9. It is against the background of law as laid down by the Supreme Court in the above decisions, I shall now have to proceed to consider whether the transaction in question as evidenced by Ex. A-1 constituted a lease in favour of the first appellant herein or only a licence granted to him by the first defendant. One point which I may immediately mention is that Ex. A-1 is not a formal agreement in the sense that it is executed by the trustees of the temple on the one hand and the appellants on the other. It is a unilateral agreement executed by the appellants alone, as pointed out by the Supreme Court in : [1964]6SCR642 . The features on which great stress was laid by the learned counsel for the appellants in support of his contention that the transaction evidenced by Ex. A-1 constituted only a lease were the following--(i) the document has been registered as if it were a lease; (ii) the lease was for a period of five years, and it had fixed an annual rent of Rupees 12,600, even though the sum was payable at the rate of Rs. 250 per week every Tuesday; (iii) the lease provided that on the expiry of the period of five years the appellants should put back the first defendant in possession of the same; (iv) the lease deed made provision for re-entry into the demised premises by the first respondent herein in the event of the appellants committing certain default; (v) the appellants had exclusive possession of the shandy tope and one of the keys for both the gates was with the appellants; (vi) the appellants were given liberty to put to temporary thatched sheds as they might consider to be necessary; (vii) the appellants were entitled to the cowdung dropped on the site; (viii) the first defendant could repair only the permanent buildings, whereas repairs to the temporary thatched sheds had to be effected only by the appellants themselves, and (ix) the document describes in the schedule the shandy tope with all its boundaries.

10. As against these features on which reliance was placed by the learned counsel for the appellants. Mr. O. V. Baluswami, the learned counsel for respondents, relied on the following features: (1) the document indiscriminately uses the expression 'Sarthai.' 'santhai tope, 'santhai pettai' and 'santhai compound' but when it deals with the lease, it mentions only 'santhai' not even 'santhai tope', as is shown by the nomenclature of the document itself, as 'shandy kuthagaipathram' as distinct from shandy tope kuthagai pathram', (ii) the document in its operative portion states that the appellants had merely obtained a right to conduct the shandy on the site in question, but had not obtained any interest in the shandy; (iii) the first respondent had retained its right to the trees on the land as well as the usufruct thereof to which the appellants had no interest whatever; (iv) the appellants had to pay the licence fee due to the Municipality and produce the receipt before the first respondent; (v) the appellants had to show their accounts for the collection from the various stall-holders or the persons who come to the shandy, to the first respondent herein; (vi) the appellants had undertaken to conduct the shandy in accordance with the terms stipulated by the Municipality and the stipulations contained in the licence and any instructions that may be given by the Municipality from time to time; (vii) if the appellants did not make the weekly payment of Rs. 250 consecutively for a period of two weeks, the first respondent, without any notice whatever, could take back the shandy.

11. On a consideration of the entire transaction as evidenced by Ex. A.1, and the surrounding circumstances which are relevant in the context, I am clearly of the opinion that there was no relationship of landlord and tenant between the first respondent and the appellants. I have referred to the various clauses in Ex. A.1 and Mr. Sivaramakrishnayya himself has conceded that the nomenclature given by the parties is not decisive of the question. Consequently, it is the intention of the parties that has to be gathered as evidenced by Ex. A.1 itself and the surrounding circumstances. In the present context, the surrounding circumstances assume very great importance in view of the considerations. The first consideration is that the document itself is not a formal agreement signed by both the parties, but it is an agreement unilaterally executed only by the appellants, and secondly the first respondent was the owner of the private market and the licence for conducting the private market stood in its name, and it was the first respondent who was under an obligation to the municipality to confirm to the stipulations and conditions of the licence and in the event of any failure on the part of the appellants to conform to the stipulations imposed by the Municipality the first respondent was liable to action at the hands of the municipality and it also stood in danger of the licence being cancelled or suspended. Hence, applying the reasoning of the judgment of the Supreme Court in : [1964]6SCR642 , could it be the intention of the parties at that stage that the appellants should have exclusive possession of the shandy tope itself without being subject to the control of the first respondent herein? I am clearly of the view that the first respondent had retained completely control over the conduct of the shandy on the suit site, because it was the first respondent who had obtained licence from the Municipality and it was the first respondent who had obtained licence from the Municipality and it was the first respondent who was responsible to the Municipality for carrying out its obligations under the licence. It is admitted before me that, though the appellants had a key for both the gates of the shandy tope, a duplicate key was always with the first respondent herein and that again is a factor from which simultaneous retention of control by the first respondent could be inferred.

12. Apart from these features, there are four pieces of evidence in this case which clearly show that what was sought to be created under Ex. A-1 was only a relationship of licensor and licencee and not that of landlord and tenant. The first piece of evidence is Ex. B.3 dated 21-3-1962 a notice addressed by the Executive Officer of the temple to the Assistant Commissioner of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments. Nagapattinam. In that communication and Executive Officer informs the Assistant Commissioner that the right to conduct the shandy belonging to the temple would be sold in public auction on 28-3-1962 for a period of five years from 1-4-1962 to 31-3-1967, and he requests the Assistant Commissioner to depute the Inspector to be present at the time of the auction. The importance of this document is that it does not auctioning of the right to conduct the shandy.

13. The second piece of evidence is an order passed by the Deputy Commissioner of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Thanjavur, dated 24-3-1963, marked as Ex. B-4 in the present case. In this document, the Deputy Commissioner gives permission to enter into an arrangement by the temple with the first appellants herein for an annual lease amount of Rs. 12600 and imposes two conditions, namely, that the first appellant must pay back the sum of Rs. 3000 due to the temple within a period of one week and that there must be appropriate security for the annual lease amount of Rs. 12600. The importance of this document is that it directs the right to collect fees from the market alone to be given to the first appellant. This document assumes further importance because Ex. A.1 itself refers to this document and the appellants themselves concede that they obtained the right only pursuant to the order of the Deputy Commissioner in Ex. B.4.

14. The next piece of evidence is Ex. B.15 dated 27-3-1962 a letter written by the Executive Officer of the temple to the first appellant himself subsequent to the order of the Deputy Commissioner. In this letter the Executive Officer informs the first appellant that under Ex. B.4 the Deputy Commissioner had directed the grant of the right to collect fees in the market to the first appellant for a period of five years from 1-4-1962 to 31-3-1967, subject to the conditions referred to already.

15. The last piece of evidence is Ex. B.6 dated 1-4-1962 addressed by the first appellant himself to the Executive Officer of the temple in reply to Ex. B.5. Here again in addition to undertaking to comply with the directions contained in the order of the Deputy Commissioner he expressly recognises that what he had obtained and what he was taking possession of was the right to collect the fees in the shandy in question.

16. Therefore, these four pieces of evidence conclusively and indisputably establish that the intention of the parties was only to grant to the first appellant herein the right to collect the fees of the market and not to grant a lease of the site itself along with the buildings. This conclusion of mine is fully in accordance with the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the decisions referred to already.

17. Mr. Sivaramakrishnayya concentrated his attention on finding fault with the several reasonings of the learned Additional District Judge. In view of the conclusions I have come to on the basis of the terms of Ex. A.1 as well as the surrounding circumstances, it is unnecessary to deal with any of them, except to point out that the observation of the learned Additional District Judge that with the provisions of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act being in force, the first respondent would not have entered into a lease with the first appellant herein and that was the reason why he granted only a licence, cannot be said to be erroneous or unreasonable, with reference to the observations of the Supreme Court in both the decisions referred to above, namely, : [1964]6SCR642 in the context of the landlord being the licence placed under an obligation to comply with the stipulations of the licence and : [1967]2SCR559 , where the Supreme Court pointed out that, where the landlord had filed a suit for ejectment, he would not have contemplated the grant of a fresh lease in favour of the judgment-debtor.

18. Under these circumstances, the conclusion of the learned Additional District Judge is correct. The second appeal, therefore, fails and is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs. No leave.

19. Appeal dismissed.


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