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The State of Tamil Nadu by Collector of Madras Vs. Janaki - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1982)2MLJ82
AppellantThe State of Tamil Nadu by Collector of Madras
RespondentJanaki
Excerpt:
- - the state government instructed the post office to pay the arrears of rent as well as the monthly rent to the present owner. in this situation, therefore, knowing full well that they were bound to pay the arrears to the present landlady and knowing full well that they cannot insist, as of right, on any advance receipt for the rent prior to the payment of rent, the post office had withheld payment......the tenant is the petitioner before me. the building was actually in the occupation of the post office as allottee from the accomodation controller. the state government instructed the post office to pay the arrears of rent as well as the monthly rent to the present owner. the post office, however, insisted on the landlady delivering an advance stamped receipt as a pre-condition to pay the rent arrears. the landlady did not issue a receipt since the rent was not paid. despite a notice of demand sent by the landlady, the stalemate continued. thereafter, the landlady filed an eviction petition. the petition was directed against the state government because it was the statutory tenant. the ground of eviction was wilful default. both the rent controller and, on appeal, the appellate.....
Judgment:

V. Balasubrahmanyan, J.

1. This case arises under the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960. It is an ordinary case of eviction of a tenant for wilful default. The tenant is the petitioner before me. The building was actually in the occupation of the Post Office as allottee from the Accomodation Controller. The State Government instructed the Post Office to pay the arrears of rent as well as the monthly rent to the present owner. The Post Office, however, insisted on the landlady delivering an advance stamped receipt as a pre-condition to pay the rent arrears. The landlady did not issue a receipt since the rent was not paid. Despite a notice of demand sent by the landlady, the stalemate continued. Thereafter, the landlady filed an eviction petition. The petition was directed against the State Government because it was the statutory tenant. The ground of eviction was wilful default. Both the Rent Controller and, on appeal, the Appellate Authority found that there was no justification, whatever, for non-payment of rent. They held that there was wilful default in the matter of payment of rent for the period April, 1980 to July, 1980. They, therefore, ordered eviction.

2. In this revision by the State Government, the learned Government Pleader does not deny that there was default in the payment of rent. But his contention is that there was no wilful default. I do not agree with his contention. The Government Pleader does not and cannot argue that the allottee's default does not reflect against the State Government which has allotted the building to it. What he urges is that when the Post Office asked for advance receipt from the landlady before payment of arrears, it could not be said that withholding the payment for that reason was wilful. This argument is wholly untenable. Let me first clear the ground by saying that there is no statute or rule of law which authorises any Government department insisting on the production of advance receipt as a condition of payment of money which is due by the Department to a subject. It might be that this has been the practice of Government departments, for how long we do not know. But a mere unquestioned practice does not make the law. Government departments have been getting away with this practice only because of their superior authority or bargaining power. Indeed, in this very case the Post Office paid the amount of arrears the moment they knew the landlady had filed the eviction petition and they did so without any advance receipt in their hands. This is an indication which not only shows that there was no legal authority whatever to insist on advance receipt as condition for payment of rent, but it also shows that the post office was very much aware of the untenability of their position. This seems to me to be a classic case of wilful default. It is true that any and every default will not be a ground for eviction under the Act. The default must be wilful. But it is not correct to equate wilful default in payment of rent with wilful refusal to pay. The Post Office in this case did not refuse to pay rent, but they withheld payment on the ground that the landlady must first produce an advance receipt. Since the law does not compel any such thing, default to pay rent must be held in this case as wilful or wanton. I have earlier referred to the fact that the Collector had directed the Post Office to pay the rent to the landlady recognising the conveyance by the previous owner to her. The Post Office, as the allottee bound by the terms of the allotment had to act according to the directions. Under the Act, a landlord has to pass a receipt for rent received by him. He is not under the slightest obligation to pass a receipt for rent not received by him. Even Section 8 which provides that the landlord shall be liable to give receipt for rent only says that the landlord who receives any payment towards rent shall issue a receipt duly signed by him for the actual amount of rent received by him. In this situation, therefore, knowing full well that they were bound to pay the arrears to the present landlady and knowing full well that they cannot insist, as of right, on any advance receipt for the rent prior to the payment of rent, the Post Office had withheld payment. If this is not wilful or wanton default, I do not know what wilful is. This in exactly the conclusion arrived at by the Rent Controller and the Appellate Authority.

3. The learned Government Pleader submitted that the question whether a given default was wilful or not is a mixed question of law and fact and the High Court in revision can and must examine critically the finding of the Rent Controller and the Appellate Authority on this issue. I grant that this question is a mixed one. But it only means that this Court should examine two things : (i) whether the authorities below were properly instructed in the law; and (ii) whether their conclusion is based on a reasonable view of the facts. The learned Government Pleader suggested that the finding in this case was based on a misconception of what wilful default is under the statute. I have earlier shown that withholding of rent for a wrong reason may also be wilful default within the meaning of the Act. As for the factual finding, the learned Government Pleader cannot succeed in upsetting the concurrent conclusion of the Rent Controller and the Appellate Authority unless he is in a position to make out that the one and only reasonable conclusion in this case would be the very opposite of what the authorities below had arrived at. I cannot bring myself to subscribe to any such position.

4. In the result, this revision petition is dismissed, with costs.


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