1. Govinda Chettiar, the owner of premises No. 79-A, Bazaar Street, Tindivanam, filed an application for eviction of his tenant Pachayappa Pandithar before the District Munsif of Tindivanam under the provisions of Section 7(3)(iii) of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1949. The premises was a non-residential building within the terms of the said Act and the tenant was carrying on the business of a barber shop therein. The tenant had executed a rental deed, dated 8th June, 1953, which was for a period of one year on a rental of Rs. 14 per month. The grounds on which the owner sought to evict the tenant were : (i) the tenant was in arrears of rent for a period of six months and 20 days and that there was wilful default in not paying the rent; (ii) that the tenant committed acts of waste by removing the door and the door-frame; and (iii) that the owner was carrying on business in flour milling and that the premises is required for locating his business;
2. The tenant resisted the application stating that there was no wilful default in the matter of payment of rent though he was admittedly in arrears as stated by the landlord. His case was that the landlord refused the money orders sent by him and therefore there was no wilful default on his part. He deposited the arrears due into Court after the filing of the application for eviction. The tenant further denied that he committed any act of waste on the premises, and that the removal of the door and the door-frame was only for convenient enjoyment of the premises in the course of conducting his business as barber shop. The tenant further stated that the landlord was not carrying on any business of flour mill, but that even if he wanted to do such business he had another site of his own wherein that business can be carried on.
3. The District Munsif of Tindivanam upholding the contentions of the tenant dismissed the application for eviction. The landlord preferred an appeal in the Sub-Court at Cuddalore in C.M.A.S. No. 9 of 1957 but was unsuccessful. He preferred a revision petition before the District Judge of South Arcot in CM.P. No. 185 of 1958 but was again unsuccessful. Hence the above Civil Revision Petition by the aggrieved landlord.
4. The only ground now pressed before me by the learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner is that the finding of the Courts below that the landlord had obtained a licence from the Cuddalore Municipality for the carrying on a flour mill business though in the name of the landlord's son was sufficient to enable the landlord to recover possession of the premises from the tenant under the provisions of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act.
5. Section 7(3)(iii) of the Act provides that a landlord may apply to the Controller for an order directing the tenant to put the landlord in possession of the building in case of a non-residential building other than that used for the purpose of keeping a vehicle for purposes of a business which he is carrying on in a non-residential building not his own. The crucial question for determination is whether it can be said on the facts of the present case that the landlord is not occupying for purposes of a business which he is carrying on a non-residential building within the terms of Section 7(3)(iii) of the Act.
6. The contention on behalf of the petitioner is that the landlord having obtained a licence, the essential requisite for the purpose of carrying on a flour mill business has complied with the provisions of the Act. In this connection reliance is placed upon the decision of this Court in Azhnuddin Sahib v. Rangaswami Pillai : (1958)2MLJ389 . In that case the landlord wanted the premises in order that he might trade in mill cloth in Salem. The landlord had obtained a licence for that purpose from the appropriate authorities. The learned Judge Balakrishna Ayyar, J., referred to the decisions in Kesavan Nair v. Babu Naidu (1954) 2 M.L.J. 149 Nalaraja Asari v. Balasubramaniam : (1957)2MLJ492 , and Venkataswami & Sons v. Virabadraswami (1955) An. W.R. 695 and held that the landlord can be said to be carrying on business under the terms of the Act so as to be able to evict the tenant.
7. In Krishna Iyer v. Karur Vysia Bank (1959) 2 M.L.J. 315 Subrahmanyam, J., referred to the decision of Balakrishna Ayyar, J.,in Azimudeen Sahib v. Rangaswaml Pillai (1955) An.W.R. 695 and observed that that case marks the limit to which the law can go to enable the landlord to evict a tenant on the ground of requiring the premises for carrying on his own business. The facts of the case decided by Subrahmanyam, J., only show that the landlord wanted the premises to start a coffee hotel business he not having any subsisting business on the date of the application, but having previously done business and stopped it for sometime for domestic reasons.
8. It is not possible to deduce any principle from the decisions referred to above which can afford a sure guidance for the proper interpretation of the word 'carrying on business' occurring in Section 7(3)(iii) of the Rent Control Act. As observed by Viswanatha Sastri, J., in Venkataswami & Sons v. Virabadraswami (1955) A.W.R. 695 there is no yardstick by which the Court can measure the range of activities necessary to constitute the carrying on of a business. There are certainly stages in the activities of business and several steps have got to be taken even before a business is actually commenced. In the case decided in Kesavan Nair v. Babu JVaidu (1954) 2 M.L.J. 149 it was found that the landlord had invested large sums of money in purchasing machinery erecting buildings in the course of commencing a business and the only impediment was to obtain licence which could not be got until the tenant in hutment opposite to the factory premises could be evicted. The learned Judge Ramaswami, J., therefore, held rightly if I may say so-with respect, that the landlord had satisfied the requirements of carrying on business when so much had been done by him in furtherance of the activities of the business.
9. What constitutes 'carrying on business' is essentially a question of fact or a mixed question of fact and law. Each case will have to be decided on its own facts and no general propositions of law can be evolvedas to what constitutes 'carrying on business'. I am also of opinion as expressed by Subrahmanyam, J., that the decision in Azimudeen Sahib v. Rangaswami Pillai : (1958)2MLJ389 really goes to the verge of the law.
10. I am of opinion that even construing the words 'carrying on business' most liberally in favour of any landlord it cannot be said that the mere fact that the landlord has obtained a licence to carry on a flour mill business from the Municipality can constitute in law the requisite for evicting the tenant. There is no evidence in this case that the landlord has purchased the requisite machinery or plant for erecting the flour mill or has done any other business activity necessary to start the venture. The mere obtaining of a licence will not entitle the landlord to come within the requirements of law to evict the tenant.
11. I agree with the Courts below that the landlord has failed to prove any ground for eviction. The Civil Revision Petition fails and is dismissed with costs.