M. Anantanarayanan, C.J.
1. This is a very unusual proceeding under the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act XVIII of 1960. Section 6 of that Act makes provision for a claim by the landlord for increase over rent in certain cases, where there has been an increase in the amount of the taxes and cesses payable relevant to the periods specified in Section 6, Sub-section (1) and where such excess or increase did not result ' from an increase of rent in respect of the building.' The landlord is entitled tinder Sub-section (1) to claim this excess of taxes and cesses in relation to the periods specified ' in addition to the rent payable for the building under this Act.' Under Sub-section (2) of Section 6, any dispute between the landlord and the tenant in regard to such increase, is to be decided by the Controller.
2. The present proceeding was instituted by the landlord before the Controller in respect of taxes and cesses payable for the substantial building No. 26, Llyods Road, Royapettah, in which there are a number of tenants. According to the landlord, in terms of Section 6, Sub-section (1) the property tax and water tax had been increased and the landlord was entitled to claim the excess from these tenants as equal contributions. The Controller went into the matter in great detail, and gave a decree for excess property tax and also excess water tax specifying the amount payable by each of these tenants, respondents 1 to 6. Two of these tenants took the matter up in appeal to the appellate authority. The learned appellate authority went into the question whether a single petition would lie against these tenants, and whether the landlord was entitled to call on the tenants to share the burden equally. The appellate authority held that single petition did not lie, that water tax could not be claimed by the landlord, and that the tenants could not be called upon to pay the excess property tax and water tax equally. The appeals were allowed, and the entire petition was dismissed.
3. It seems to me to be clear that the order of the learned appellate authority is misconceived. I need not now decide the question whether the form of the relief should have been the institution of distinct petitions against each of the tenants, or whether one petition of this character against the several tenants of this building would be sufficient. After all, it is the ' building ' in respect of which the relief is claimed under Section 6 and I am unable to see anything illegal in the institution of a single petition. In any event, as I have pointed out in Umsalma Bibi v. Lakkia Gowder (1967) 1 M.L.J. 277, in all such cases, the real question is whether there has been any prejudice by the procedure, and the contesting respondents have not appeared here to contend that prejudice was caused. Again, assuming that the excess property tax, limiting the claim to that for the moment,' could be properly claimed by the landlord under Section 6 (1) it is very difficult to see how the Controller could have made any other order, except the order that all the tenants must equally contribute, and bear the burden. I could follow the procedure of a different distribution of the burden of the excess, if some tenants had been occupying larger areas, and the Court finds out what would be the proportionate excess tax on the area occupied by each tenant; clearly, this may be impossible in most cases, and the distribution of the burden equally amongst the tenants is manifestly equitable and proper. After all, the point is that the landlord is entitled to claim the excess property tax from the tenants and, when this is the case, his claim cannot be defeated by the simple finding that it is not clear in what proportion the tenants must contribute. As regards water tax, I desire to say nothing at this juncture. It is not clear to me how. if there has been a real increase in respect of this charge, the landlord is excluded from claiming the increase under Section 6 (1).
4. For all these reasons, it is manifest that the dismissal of the petition cannot be upheld and that the petition will have to be disposed of on the merits in appeal. Accordingly, I set aside the order of the learned appellate authority and remit the appeals for fresh hearing and disposal in the light of the above observations. No costs.