1. This is a civil revision petition against the order passed by the appellate authority under the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act 1960 (Tamil Nadu Act 18 of 1960) (hereinafter referred to as the Act), taken by the tenant complaining against the order of eviction passes by the appellate authority under S. 14(1)(b) of the said Act.
2. The petition for eviction was dismissed by the first authority on the ground that the requirement of the building for demolishing and erecting a new building on the same site has not been established.
3. S. 14(1)(a) and (b) and S. 14(1)(2)(a) and (b) which are necessary for our purpose run as follows-
S. 14. Recovery of possession by landlord for reconstruction-
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, but subject to the provisions of Ss. 12 and 13, on an application made by a landlord, the Controller shall, if he is satisfied-
(a) that the building is bona fide required by the landlord for carrying out repairs which cannot be carried out without the building being vacated; or
(b) that the building is bona fide required by the landlord for the immediate purpose of demolishing it and such demolition is to be made for the purpose of erecting a new building on the site of the building sought to be demolished, pass an order directing the tenant to deliver possession of the building to the landlord before a specified date.
(2) No order directing the tenant to deliver possession of the building under this section shall be passed-
(a) on the ground specified in cl. (a) of sub-sec. (1) unless the landlord gives an undertaking that the building shall, on completion of the repairs, be offered to the tenant, who delivered possession in pursuance of an order under sub-sec. (1) for his re-occupation before the expiry of three months from the date of recovery of possession by the landlord, or before the expiry of such further period as the Controller may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, allow; or
(b) on the ground specified in cl. (b) of sub-sec.(1) unless the landlord gives an undertaking that the work of demolishing any material portion of the building shall be substantially commenced by him not later than one month and shall be completed before the expiry of three months from the date he recovers possession of the entire building or before the expiry of such further period as the Controller may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, allow."
The word 'repairs' referred to in S. 14(1)(b) of the Act has been defined in S. 2(7) thus-
"'repairs' means the restoration of a building to a sound or good state after decay or injury, but does not include additions, improvements or alternations except in so far as they are necessary to carry out such restoration."
4. 'Demolition' mentioned in Section 14(1)(b) has not been defined under the Act nor is there any definition as to what is meant by a 'new building'. But turning to the scheme of the Act, it is clear that a freedom is given to the landlord when the requirements of S. 14(1)(b) are made out, to ask for possession of the building let out, site on which the building let out, and demolish that building and on the site on which the building stood, erect a new building. Apart from the requirement of S. 14(1)(b) there is the requirement under S. 14(2)(b) that the landlord should undertake to commence demolishing material portion of the building not later than one month and complete the demolition before the expiry of three months from the date he recovers possession of the entire building. On failure to comply with the requirement in S. 14(2)(b), the tenant can ask for recovery of possession of the building from the landlord under S. 16. These provisions in S. 14(1)(a) and (b) provide that the Rent Controller shall be satisfied that the requirements of the landlord are bona fide, namely for the purpose of demolishing and erecting a new building, on the site of the building. S. 14(2)(b) insists that the work of demolishing a material portion of the building should be commenced not later than one month and completed before the expiry of three months from the date the landlord recovers possession of the entire building. If he does not comply with those requirements, his bona fide requirement would be belied and in such circumstances, the tenant will be restored to the building and the eviction ordered would thus become ineffective (S. 16)
5. Building has been defined in Section 2(2) of the Act and it is clear therefrom that a part of a building would also be a building for the purpose of the Act. This is as it should be. in modern days, there is the need for more and more accommodation and consequently parts of buildings have to be rented out, whether it is a single floor or even part of a floor in a storeyed building and at times even a single room. As far as the tenant is concerned that part of the building which is let out to him will be the building in reality and that reality has been recognised by the statute and specifically provided for in the definition referred to above. As far as such a tenant of a part of the building is concerned, when the statute talks of demolition of a building, it means the building that is let out to him or in other words that part of the building which formed the transaction of tenancy. We are adverting to this aspect only to make it clear that the entire structure of the building need not be demolished and a new building erected in its place in order to attract S. 14(1)(b). When a part of a building is to be demolished which was under the tenancy of a person it will be sufficient if that part is demolished and a new building is erected on the site.
6. The appellate authority differed from the Rent Controller's view though the appellate authority also noticed that the plan produced by the landlord indicated that he intended only to change the tiled roofing of the building into what is called 'Madras terrace'. He did not purport to touch the walls, nor do the facts of the case indicate that he intended to make to any other change in the building. Incidentally, the building is a very small one measuring only 10' x 10' in fact just a room by the side of a well known road-where a small business-a tea shop is being conducted.
7. The question that we have to consider is whether in these circumstances, the Rent Controller was correct in his view that there was no intention on the part of the landlord to demolish the building and to construct a new building on the site of the building, on the materials placed before authority. This aspect would depend on the question, whether the change of a roof would be sufficient to spell out 'demolition and erection of a new building on the site of the old building'. If we conceive the ordinary meaning of the word 'demolition', it would mean a destruction so total as to result in the ruins of the building. In Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary, the word 'demolish' in its verb form is given the meaning as 'to destroy', 'lay in ruins', 'to ruin'. The noun form 'demolition' is given the meaning as 'act of pulling down' and 'ruin'. Ordinarily we must give the natural meaning to the word when it is used in a statute, unless the statute is of a particular nature which would oblige the court or compel it to give some special meaning to that word. No argument was advanced before us that the nature of the Statute and the context in which the word appears are such that the word 'demolition' appearing in S. 14(1)(b) should be given a special meaning. We therefore consider that the old building which was let out, by the act of demolition must come to an end so totally as to amount to substantially ceasing to exist. In fact S. 16(1) of the Act in referring to the word 'demolition' uses the expression 'totally demolished'. This is what the section says-
"S. 16(2) : where in pursuance of an order passes by the Controller under cl. (b) of sub-sec. (1) of S. 14, any building is totally demolished and a new building is erected in its place, all the provisions of this Act shall cease to apply to such new building for a period of five years from the date on which the construction of such new building is completed and notified to the local authority concerned."
The word 'totally' no doubt is not used in S. 14(1)(b). Even then we cannot ignore this expression in S. 16(2) for understanding the scope and ambit of the word 'demolition' occurring in Section 14(1)(b). The purpose and intent of the statute appears to be that whenever an old building has to be demolished and a new building has to be demolished and a new building has to be erected on the site of the old building, the Act is not to apply so far as the new building is concerned for a period of a five years from the completion of the new building. We have already adverted to the fact that the only requirement of enable a landlord to ask for possession is that he bona fide required the building for the purpose of demolition and for erecting a new building on the same site and that his failure to do so will visit upon the tenant the right to move the court to take possession of the building from the landlord. Apart from this, the only requirement of the statute is that his petition on the basis of demolition and reconstruction must be bona fide. When once these factors are established, a complete freedom is given to the landlord to get possession and to construct a building of his choice. Then there is no obligation to hand the building back to the tenant as in the case mentioned in S. 14(1)(b) and the very application of the Act to the new building is postponed for a period of five years. These provisions in the Act spell an intention on the part of the Legislature which appears to be very clear that the construction of new buildings must not be hampered by the provisions of the Act and on the other hand, encouragement must be given to the landlord to construct new buildings. When there are more constructions there will be more accommodation available and the congestion not only in the cities, but also in other areas would be relived. That could be the only reason why the Act is S. 16(2) of the Act specifically exempts new buildings that are constructed from the provision of the Act for a period of five years. This is something like what is called a tax holiday to a newly established industry under the Income-tax Act. We think the intention of the Legislature in providing S. 16(2) is also similar-an encouragement for construction of new building houses. We have to bear these in mind when we interpret S. 14(1)(b) of the Act. We have dealt with this aspect of the question at some length because we are confronted with a few decisions of this court particularly the one which has taken the view that the alteration of the roof of a building will amount to demolition of a building. The decision is in Ramachandra v. Kasim Khaleeli (1965) 1 Mad LJ 78. Therein, Kailasam J. (as he then was) observed as follows-
"S. 14(1)(b) confers the right on the landlord to get the tenant evicted if he bona fide requires the building for the immediate purpose of demolishing it and if such demolition is to be made for the purpose of erecting a new building on the site of the building sought to be demolished. It is not necessary that the building should be very old and decrepit to enable the landlord to claim that his immediate purpose was for demolition of the building. All that the sub-section requires is that the building should be bona fide required for the immediate purpose of demolishing it, with a view to erecting a new satisfied, the landlord is entitled to ask for eviction. The contention of the learned counsel that the demolition intended should be total is not supported by any authority. In this case, the roof of the premises that is in the occupation of the petitioner is to be demolished and a staircase put, retaining only the walls. This, in my opinion, would amount to demolition".
We are in respectful agreement with the earlier part of this statement of law. But we are unable to agree with the learned Judge that if the roof of a building is to be changed, it would amount to 'demolition' within the meaning of Section 14(1)(b). There are various types of roofs and it may be that it may become necessary to change the roof. Certain people for coolness might prefer a thatched roof instead of a tiled roof. Others may prefer a roof with asbestos sheets because it is cheap, and a third person may like to have a concrete cement roof for greater stability or because that is more commonly used. A change from one type to another may perhaps be a change of a substantial nature so far as the roof is concerned. But when one talks of demolition of a building as contemplated in Section 14(1)(b), it is difficult to assume that the change of a roof will amount to demolition of the building. The learned Judge considered the decision of the English Court in P. E. Cadle and Co. v. Jacmarch Properties (1957) 1 All ER 148, wherein the view was taken that the work intended by the landlord of making the three floors into one self contained unit and to put inner staircases from the ground floor shop down to the basement, and from the ground floor shop up to the first floor and to construct lavatories on the first floor with all the necessary plumbing and to make the basement a much better place by putting in a proper floor and doing away with the damp would not amount to 'reconstruction' a word that came up for consideration in that case. The principle of the decision was not applied because the word used in the statute concerned was 'reconstruction' and not 'demolition'. Certainly reconstruction is of a lesser import than demolition, and with respect, we think that the decision is helpful in construing the word 'demolition' in S. 14(1)(b). Since if the vast changes sought to be effect to the building there would not amount to demolition whether the charges that have been adverted to in the English decision will amount to reconstruction or not, it is difficult to hold that similar changes or a change in the roofing will amount to 'demolition' as contemplated in S. 14(1)(b) and the erection of a new building on the same site. The expression 'erecting a new building on the same site' adds to the effect of the word 'demolition' because the very words 'new building' would indicate that some thing different from what was in existence on the property or on the site to be more accurate, must be brought into being after demolition. Demolition must therefore obliterate substantially the old building and the erecting must bring into being a new building. Apart from this decision reported in Ramachandra v. Kasim Khaleeli (1965) 1 Mad LJ 78, no other decision holding that the change of roof would amount to demolition, has been brought to out notice.
8. The decision of Ramaprasada Rao J. in Pattabiraman v. Accommodation Controller was then brought to our notice. If we may say so with great respect on the facts found by the learned Judge, the decision is unassailable. The learned Judge found on the facts of the case, that the operations contemplated by the landlord satisfied the requirements of S. 14(1)(b) of the Act. We shall extract the relevant passage as under-(at p. 104 of AIR)
"As already stated the plan produced clearly makes out the situation that the first floor is sought to be interfered with materially and in many respects by the petitioner when he reconstructs the building in accordance with the sanctioned plan. The cubical content of enclosed space is increased or altered, the walls are changed and above all the roof of the premises is removed and substituted by another. In a case where the roof of a premises is removed and is substituted and this is followed up by a variation of the space content of the quondam building, then undoubtedly the entire process involves not only demolition, but also reconstruction."
The learned Judge adverting to this view, later on at p. 329 (of Mad L. J.) 1 (at p. 104 of AIR) observed as follows-
"I have already expressed the view that the work to be undertaken by the petitioner is effectively to change the entire face of the building, its cubical content and its size. More than anything else the roof is sought to be removed and substituted, by another of a different variety altogether".
9. The learned Judge then referred to the decision in Ramachandra v. Kasim Khaleeli (1965) 1 LJ 78 and quoted the following judgment-
"The contention of the learned counsel that the demolition intended should be total, is not supported by any authority. In this case, the roof of the premises that is in the occupation of the petitioner is to be demolished and a staircase put, retaining only the walls. This, in my opinion, would amount to demolition".
The learned Judge then proceeded to observe as follows-
"A fortiori in a case like the one before me where a material change is being effected in the structure and the identity and contents of the building, the work undertaken by the petitioner as disclosed in the sanctioned plan would certainly amount to demolition and reconstruction of the building".
All that we wish to say on this aspect of the matter regarding the decision in Pattabiraman v. Accommodation Controller, is that there appears to be somewhat an over-emphasis on the change of the roof by using the expressions 'above all' in one place and 'more than anything else' in another place. But as we said, we may repeat with respect that on the facts found by the learned Judge and by the authorities, there was demolition and construction of a new building because the building let was only a particular floor where vast changes had to be made which completely destroyed the old structure on the first floor and brought into being an entirely new building. So S. 14(1)(b) was clearly applicable.
10. Our attention was brought to the decision of Natesan J. in Sundaram v. Peter (1966) 1 Mad LJ 342. The headnote brings out the ratio of the decision very clearly. It reads thus-
"The word 'site' can have an extended as well as a restricted meaning. The dictionary meaning of 'site' includes the place or position occupied by some specified thing. If a shed is a building under the Act then the terrace on which it stands will be the 'site' as used in S. 14(1)(b) of the Act. The word 'site' does not necessarily mean only the ground, but could also include in certain circumstances an artificial base on which a new erection is to be superimposed."
The facts in that case are that the petitioner therein owned a building with an open terrace. The ground floor was let out to a tenant, who was not a party to the proceedings. On the terrace, there was a thatched shed in respect of which the respondent therein was stated to be the tenant. The landlord applied for possession of the terrace with the thatched shed under S. 14(1)(b) of the Act submitting that he intends to put up a pucca structure thereon. Clearly there was an intention on the part of the landlord to erect a new building after demolishing the old shed in the first floor. But the question that was argued was whether the terrace could be considered to be a site, and we have already said that it was held that the terrace could be considered to be a 'site' in the circumstances of the case.
11. Our attention was then drawn to the decision of Ramamurti J. in S. A. Henry v. J. V. K. Rao . The learned Judge after
dealing with the various aspects held that there is a lacuna in the Act since S. 14(1)(b) would be attracted only in case of repairs as defined in the Act to which we have already made a reference, and the provisions in S. 14(1)(b) provided for demolition and erection of a new building on the same site, and in between 'repairs' as defined in the Act, and 'demolition and erection of a new building', there could be many changes which could be made to a building and for which there is no provision made in the Act. In other words, when changes much more substantial than mere 'repairs' fall for consideration, the learned Judge felt that if too technical meaning is to be given for the words 'demolishing and erecting a new building on the site' appearing in S. 14(1)(b) many cases where substantial changes which have to be made would not fall within the scope of the Act and therefore, the words appearing in S. 14(1)(b) must be given a larger import than what they appear to convey by reading them in the ordinary manner. With great respect, we are unable to agree with this view of the learned Judge. We have to interpret the statute and gather the intention of the Legislature according to the words used applying the well-known principle that normally we must attach to those words a grammatical and literal meaning attributable to those words. Only in exceptional circumstances where absurdities would result by such interpretation, a court in interpreting the words in a statute can add to the words or attribute a meaning different from the meaning that is ordinarily applicable. It is perhaps true that some changes in a building which would not fall under the expression 'repairs' as defined in the Act, would not amount to demolishing and erecting a new building on the site and if they fall our of the ambit of S. 14(1)(b) of the Act, eviction for those purposes may not be possible. We cannot rectify any lacuna, even if that be. With respect, we are unable to agree with the above principle as stated in paras 24 and 25 of the judgment.
12. The only other decision brought to out notice is that of Gokulakrishnan J. in C. R. P. No. 2365 of 1970-Balakrishnan v. Kuppamma, dated 23-12-1971 (Mad). On the facts found in that case, we may say so with respect, the case is clearly one which will not attract S. 14(1)(b) and that is what has been held in that case.
13. In the light of the above discussion, with great respect, we have to disagree with the view expressed by Kailasam J (as he then was) in Ramachandran v. Kasim Khaleeli (1965) 1 Mad LJ 78. A change of the roof of a building will not by itself amount to demolishing a building and putting up a new building on the site of the old building and to such a case, S. 14(1)(b) will not be attracted. The appellate authority found that the plan produced by the landlord did not envisage a demolition of the building. On the other hand, it only contemplated a change of the roof of the building. Having adverted to this fact, the appellate authority observed that if the landlord violates the rules of the Corporation and proceeds to make changes deviating from the plan, it is not the concern of the tenant and it would be for the Corporation to take action against the landlord. We are not concerned with any violation of the Corporation rules in this case. We are strictly concerned with the requirement of S. 14(1)(b) and unless the requirement of the section is satisfied, no landlord will be entitled to ask for eviction under that section. He must establish that he was going to demolish the building and erect a new building on the site. That has not been done in this case. Our revisional powers under S. 25 of the Act are wide enough to correct not only illegality, but also improprieties. We therefore reverse the decision of the appellate authority.
14. In the result, this civil revision petition is allowed; the order of the appellate authority is set aside, and that of the Rent Controller restored. The petitioner will be entitled to his costs in this petition from the respondent. Counsel's fee Rs. 200/-.
15. Revision allowed.