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Rajeshwari Devi Vs. S.M. Rabi and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1982)2MLJ263
AppellantRajeshwari Devi
RespondentS.M. Rabi and ors.
Cases ReferredM.L. Automobiles v. D. Thirumalai Reddy C.R.P. No.
Excerpt:
.....petition and the counter-statement clearly show that the parties intended the transaction as the lease of premises for non-residential purposes. 5. all these circumstances viewed in the light of the principles laid down in the above decision, clearly indicate that the lease of the petition mentioned premises is a lease of a 'building'.the appellate authority without fully comprehending the principles laid down in the above decision, and by taking merely the conclusion arrive^ at on the facts of the said case had come to a different conclusion. it may be a well, it may be a structure not fit for human habitation; we have now premises built in flats one over the other, where the flats are not merely enjoyed separately but acquired, conveyed and owned separately. the learned judge is..........revision.3. the only question for determination in this civil revision petition is whether the premises leased out is a building as defined under section 2(2) of the above said act. before adverting to the provisions of the above said act certain facts may be usefully stated. in the rent control petition in r.c.o.p. no. 25 of 1978 on the file of the court of the rent controller, and the district munsif, madurai, in paragraph 3, it is stated that the property leased out is a building. in, the counter statement filed by the tenant the allegation made in the petition that a building was leased out is not denied. on the other hand, in paragraph 3 of the counter-statement, it is stated that he became a tenant under the landlord on 1st september, 1971, in respect of the premises bearing.....
Judgment:

R. Sengottuvelan, J.

1. An interesting question of law, viz., whether a vacant site with only an asbestos sheet roofed shed in the middle of the premises supported by wooden poles without any enclosure and open on all sides constitutes a building as defined under Section 2(2) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, arises for determination in this civil revision petition. The civil revision petitioner is the landlord in respect of the premises bearing door No. 116, T.P.K. Road, Ward No. 19, Madurai town, measuring an extent of 33ft. north-south and 148 ft. east-west barring an extent of 17 ft. north-south and 70 ft. east-west in the north western corner was leased to1 the third party. It is the admitted case of the landlord as well as the tenant that what was leased out is the vacant site with only one asbestos sheet roofing in the middle supported by wooden poles without any enclosure with open sides. The agreed monthly rent is Rs. 400. The landlord filed R.C.O.P. No. 25 of 1978 on the file of the Court of the Rent Controller, Madurai, for eviction of the tenant on the ground that the tenant had committed wilful default in payment of rent for the period of four months prior to the filing of the petition and also on the grounds that the tenant sub-let the premises without the written consent of the landlord to the respondents 2 to 5 in the Rent Control petition.

2. The case of the tenant before the Rent Controller as stated in the counter statement is that only a vacant site with asbestos roof resting on four poles was leased out to him and that he had made several constructions valued at Rs. 1,14,000 with the consent of the landlord and he denied that he had committed wilful default in payment of rent. He also; denied that the respondents 2 to 5 in the Rent Control Petition are the workers under him and they are falsely impleaded by the landlord1 with ulterior motive. The learned Rent Controller after a full-fledged enquiry came to the conclusion that the tenant had committed wilful default in payment of rent and had sub-let the premises and ordered the eviction of the tenant from the petition-mentioned premises. As against the order of the Rent Controller the tenant filed an appeal in C.M.A. No. 188 of 1978 on the file of the Appellate Authority and the Subordinate Judge, Madurai. Before the Appellate Authority, the tenant! contended that what was leased out to him1, viz., a vacant site with only one asbestos sheet roofing shed in the middle supported by woodens poles without any enclosure with open site, cannot be said to be a building as defined under Section 2(2) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, and, therefore, the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act will not apply. The Appellate Authority treated this question as a preliminary issue and after going through the evidence and the authorities cited before him came to the conclusion that the demised premises cannot be said to be a building as defined under Section 2(2) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, and that the provisions of the said Act will not apply to the lease in question. In view of his finding that what was leased out to the tenant is not a building, the learned Appellate Authority allowed the appeal of the tenant even without going into the question of wilful default and subletting. As against the orders of the Appellate Authority, the landlord has filed the above civil revision.

3. The only question for determination in this civil revision petition is whether the premises leased out is a building as defined under Section 2(2) of the above said Act. Before adverting to the provisions of the above said Act certain facts may be usefully stated. In the rent control petition in R.C.O.P. No. 25 of 1978 on the file of the Court of the Rent Controller, and the District Munsif, Madurai, in paragraph 3, it is stated that the property leased out is a building. In, the counter statement filed by the tenant the allegation made in the petition that a building was leased out is not denied. On the other hand, in paragraph 3 of the counter-statement, it is stated that he became a tenant under the landlord on 1st September, 1971, in respect of the premises bearing door No. 116, T.P.K. Road, agreeing to pay a monthly rent of Rs. 400 is true. Thus it is seen that the initial stand taken by both the parties in the case is that what was leased out is a premises and there is no plea that the same is not a building as defined under Section 2(2) of the above-said Act. Even prior to the Rent Control petition under revision, in the notice Exhibit A-1 issued by the landlord's advocate on 26th November, 1973, to the tenant, it is specifically stated that the first respondent herein became a tenant in respect of the building and premises in door No. 116, T.P.K. Road, belonging to the landlord. In the reply notice, Exhibit A-2, dated 30th December, 1973, issued by the advocate for the tenant it is stated that the allegation that the first respondent herein became a tenant in respect of the premises hearing door No. 116, T.P.K. Road, agreeing to pay a monthly rent of Rs. 400 is true. In the reply notice, the tenant did not deny the statement made in the notice that what was leased out is a building. Before the premises was let out to the present tenant, the landlord seems to have taken proceedings for eviction against the previous tenant and obtained orders of eviction and took possession in pursuance of the orders of eviction. After taking possession the landlord sent a vacancy report to the Accommodation Controller stating that the non-residential shed and the appurtenant grounds at No. 116, T.P.K. Road, Madurai had been vacated. Exhibit A-18 is the letter of the landlord to the Accommodation Controller. The Accommodation Controller informed the landlord that the premises is not required for Government purpose as per his letter No. L. Dis. 25891/71-Z, dated 7th August, 1971, marked as Exhibit A-19. Thus it is seen, prior to the leasing of the premises it was treated as a building by the landlord and the Accommodation Controller as defined in the abovesaid Act.

4. For the first time in the course of the appeal in C.M.A. No. 188 of 1978 on the file of the Court of the appellate authority and the Principal Subordinate Judge, Madurai, the tenant raised the contention that the premises leased out to him is not a building ass defined under Section 2(2) of the above said Act. The case of the landlord is that this plea is made as an after-thought. But the appellate authority purporting to rely upon the cases cited before it, agreed with the contention of the tenant and allowed the appeal. The appellate authority came to the conclusion that the provisions of the abovesaid Act are not applicable to the lease in question mainly relying upon the case reported in Thangakani Ammal and Ors. v. A.K.A. Kaja Mahideen Sahib and Anr. (1978) 2 M.L.J. 377 : 91 L.W. 659, where Nainar Sundaram, J., held that a property consisting of a wall with certain windows and a door without a roofing is not a building as defined under the abovesaid Act. In that case, after taking the premises on lease the tenants made suitable alterations covering the structures with the roof and made the property fit for occupation for non-residential purposes, for which the tenants took the property on lease. It is also seen that at the time of lease the structures as they stood could not serve any useful purpose either residential or non-residential. The learned Judge also observed that the landlord could not point out any material on record which would show that the structures as they stood at the time of lease were taken by the tenants to be utilised straightway for non-residential purposes. The learned Judge also observed that the intention of the parties could never be that the demised structure was a building within the meaning of the abovesaid Act. We have to consider whether the principle laid down in the above case can be applied to the facts of this case. Nainar Sundaram, J. in the course of the judgment in the case cited above-observed as follows:

In my opinion, one cannot avoid taking note of the way of modern living. Days have come when entertainment in open air theatres is conceived and given. It will not be a surprise if man finds a comfortable and healthly living in open air structures of exemplary architecture and utility without roofing, which could be put to use and for very many purposes of utility, both residential and non-residential. Hence to tie down the definition of 'building' to only structures having roofings may not be in consonance with modem notions of living and carrying on trade. That was why the Supreme Court in Ghanasingh Das v. Debi Prasad : [1966]3SCR875 , was prepared to consider a large stadium or an open air swimming pool, which are designed for a useful purposes as a 'building' of course within the meaning of Section 9 of the U.P. Zamidari Abolition and Land Reforms Act.

The real test would be how one party intended to give and how the other party intended to take the structures. If the structures as they stood are demised, though not without a roofing were so demised to serve a useful purpose, residential or non-residential, as they stood, they may come within the meaning of 'building' under the Act. If the structures as they stood and demised are capable of occupation as falling within the residential class or within the class connected with commercial industry in some way or other, they may come within the definition of 'building'. If however, the structures1 which could not fit within the conventional meaning of a building were demised and they could not be occupied or utilised for residential or non-residential purposes as they stood and were demised, they cannot come within the definition of building under the Act. Hence, not only the nature of structures, but also the manner and the purpose for which they were let out and the user for which they were let out as they stood and demised will be deciding factors depending upon the facts in each case.

If we apply the tests laid down to the facts of the case it is seen--(1) that both parties at the time of lease intended the lease to be one for a non-residential purpose for the purpose of locating an automobile workshop; (2) that the premises had a roofing and was capable of being adopted for non-residential purposes such as a workshop; (3) that the premises was actually put to use by the tenant for locating an automobile workshop; (4) that the pleadings in the rent control petition and the counter-statement clearly show that the parties intended the transaction as the lease of premises for non-residential purposes.

5. All these circumstances viewed in the light of the principles laid down in the above decision, clearly indicate that the lease of the petition mentioned premises is a lease of a 'building'. The appellate authority without fully comprehending the principles laid down in the above decision, and by taking merely the conclusion arrive^ at on the facts of the said case had come to a different conclusion. On the facts in that case, it is seen that only a site enclosed by walls and without roof which would not be straightway used for any purposes was leased out, and the tenant had to make the property fit for occupation. But the facts in this case are entirely different and on the facts the only conclusion that can be arrived is, it is a lease of a building for nonresidential purpose.

6. In the case reported in J.H. Irani and Ors. v. T.S.P.L.P. Chidambmam Chettiar and Ors. (1952) 2 M.L.J. 221 : 65 L.W. 713 : A.I.R. 1953 Mad 650, a Division Bench of this Court came to the conclusion that the lease of a vacant site with small sheds at one of the premises on which the tenant subsequently put up a cinema theatre is a lease of a building coming within the definition of 'building' occurring in Madras Act XV of 1946. In the course of the judgment the following observations of the Division Bench made in the case reported in Muhamadunni v. Melapurakkal Unniri : (1949)1MLJ452 , is quoted with approval:

Having regard to the wide connotation that was given to the word 'building', the purpose for which the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act was enacted, the nature of the structures in the suit premises and the manner in which the entire premises were being let out and used: for a number of years, at any rate, from 1914, and the purpose for which the building was taken on rent by the lessee from time to time leave no doubt in my mind that the suit premises come within the meaning of the word 'building' under the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1946.

7. In order to appreciate in the proper perspective the above principle it is necessary to examine the definition of a 'building' occurring in Section 2(2) of the above said Act, which is as follows:

2(2) 'building' means any building or hut or part of a building or hut, let or to be Jet separately for residential or non-residential purposes and includes-

(a) the garden, grounds and out-houses, if any appurtenant to suchbuilding hut or part of such building or hut and let or to let along with such building or hut;

(b) any furniture supplied by the landlord for use in such building or hut or part of a building or hut, but does not include a room in a hotel or boarding house.

This definition is not very helpful in arriving at the meaning of the word 'building' as it) states that a building means any building. But, what is a building? If we take the derivative meaning of the word 'building', it means that which is built. It may be a well, it may be a structure not fit for human habitation; it may be anything and not necessarily a house. The Legislature could not have intended to use the word in its derivative sense as it is clear from the object of the Act, which was to prevent unreasonable eviction of tenants from residential and non-residential buildings and to control the rents. The inclusion of a hut in the definition and the other indications in Sub-clauses (a) and (b) point to the fact that the word is used to denote a structure of the nature of a house intended for human habitation or for using it for non-residential purposes such as carrying on a business. Hence if we take the definition of the building along with the purpose of the Act, it include is not only a building but even a part of it. A building consists of not only the superstructure but also the site on which the superstrucure stands and in which the foundation of the superstructure is erected. A mere superstructure dissociated from the site on which it stands cannot be considered to be a 'building'.

8. In the present case what was leased 0ut was not a mere vacant land but a premises consisting of a vacant site and a shed standing on four poles which the tenant intended to make use of as his automobile workshop. In the case reported in R. Sundaram v. A.D. Peter (1966) 1 M.L.J. 343 : 79 L.W. 92, Natesan, J., while referring to the definition of a 'building' which includes a hut also, observed as follows:

if the shed can be deemed to be a building under the Act, the terrace would certainly be the place or position occupied1 by the shed, and will be covered by the word 'site' used in the section. At any rate, it is an area upon which the building stands. The conception of building has changed in the past few decades. We have now premises built in flats one over the other, where the flats are not merely enjoyed separately but acquired, conveyed and owned separately.

The following observation of the Earl of Halsbury, Lord Chancellor in the case reported in Grant v. Langston L.R. (1900) A.C. 383 , also throws light on the question-

A hundred years ago there was not much difficulty in saying what was a 'house' but builders and architects have so altered the construction of houses and the habits of people have so altered in relation to them, that the word 'house' has acquired an artificial meaning, and the word is not the expression of a simple idea; but to ascertain its meaning one must understand the subject-matter with respect to which it is used in order to arrive at the sense in which it is employed in a statute.

If we apply the above principle to the definition of a 'building' under the abovesaid Act, any premises which the parties intended to be used for residential or non-residential purposes may be construed as a 'building'. In the case reported in A.R. Salary Mohammed Sail and Ors. v. Jaffar Mohamed Sait's Memorial Dispensary Charity and Ors. 1969 R.C.J. 200, the Supreme Court observed as follows:

In order to determine whether the lease is of a vacant land or of a building within the meaning of the Act of 1960 we must take into account both the form and the substance of the transaction.

My attention is also drawn to an unreported judgment of Kailsam, J., in Messrs, M.L. Automobiles v. D. Thirumalai Reddy C.R.P. No. 214 of 1971, dated 1st November, 1971, where the learned Judge observed as follows:

The landlord who is the respondent therein applied for possession of the building under Section 10(3)(a)(iii) of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960. It has now been found that the landlord owned the superstructure of the premises No. 57, General Patters Road. He is carrying on business in welding and tinkering and he applied for possession of the premises in question for the purpose of having his office store. The contention urged is that the premises No. 57, General Patters Road consists only of four poles and a zinc sheet roofing and cannot be treated as a building and that the premises in the occupation of the tenant is required for his business. I am unable to accept either of the contentions. According to the definition of 'building' in Section 2(2) 'building' in Section 2(2) means any building or hut or part of a building or hut, let or to be let separately for residential or non-residential purposes. Even if according to the petitioner the building was standing on the four poles with zinc sheet roofing, it will come under the definition of building, though the building is not owned by him completely but only the superstructure belongs to him. Therefore, he owns a building.

The learned Judge is clearly of the view that a roofing resting on four poles will come within the definition of 'building' under Section 2(2) of the abovesaid Act.

9. My attention is also drawn by the learned advocate for the respondents herein to Exhibit B-3, issued by the son of the landlord on 28th February, 1974, which is as follows:

Received a cheque No. AT/13-186423, dated 27th February, 1974, for Rs. 400 to-wards the rent for the site at T.P.K. Road.

The learned advocate for the respondents herein argued that ass per Exhibit B-3, even the landlord construed the premises only as a site. The word 'site' mentioned in Exhibit B-3 can only be said to be used in a loose sense and it will have to be noted that the term 'vacant site' is not used. The recital in Exhibit B-3 cannot outweigh the pleading in the rent control petition, the admission in the counter statement, the vacancy report submitted by the landlord to the Accommodation Controller evidenced by Exhibit A-18 and the other circumstances of the case set out above which clearly go to show that both the landlord and the tenant intended only a lease of a premises fort the purposes of an automobile workshop. Hence the argument of the learned Counsel fort the respondents based on Exhibit B-3 will have to he rejected. In considering (sic) the question whether the premises is to be construed as a 'building' or not coming within the ambit of Section 2(2) of the abovesaid Act we will have to consider the nature of the premises, the purpose for which it was leased out and the intention of the parties at the time of granting of lease. All these factors in the case clearly point out that what was leased out is a premises for the purposes of an automobile workshop, a non-residential purpose. Hence the petition mentioned premises falls within the definition of a 'building' occurring in Section 2(2) of the abovesaid Act. The view taken by the Appellate Authority that it is not a 'building' as defined under Section 2(2) of the abovesaid Act cannot be upheld and the order of the Appellate Authority will have to be set aside. Inasmuch as the Appellate Authority had not dealt with the questions whether the tenant had committed wilful default in payment of rent, and whether the premises in needed by the landlord for his own use the matter will have to be remanded bad to the Appellate Authority for fresh disposal according to law after considering the case of both the parties on these two aspects.

10. In the result the civil revision petition is allowed and the matter is remanded back to the Appellate Authority for fresh disposal in the light of the observations made above. There will be no order as to costs.


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