1. This is a Rule calling upon the opposite party as well as upon the Controller of Rents, Calcutta, to show cause why the order dismissing an application under Section 15 of the Calcutta Rent Act (for fixing the standard rent), on the ground that the petitioner had no locus standi to make the application, should not be set aside.
2. The order of the Rent Controller was as follows:--'From the evidence on the record it appears evident that the applicant is a woman of the town and that the sub tenants to whom she has sub let the different rooms comprised in the premises are also women of the town. The appellant has, therefore, no locus standi to make this application and I dismiss it.'
3. It is unnecessary to consider the contention that the rent of a house let out to a prostitute cannot be standardised under the Rent Act, because the contract of tenancy is void, as in the present case the opposite parties, who are the landlords, did not set up the question of invalidity of the tenancy. They admitted the petitioner to be their tenant in their written statement in the case. They stated that they had sued her in the Calcutta Small Cause Court for ejectment : and that she was allowed to reside in the house on payment of rent at the rate of Rs. 85 per month under the decree of that Court, provided she paid the rent regularly. They went further and invited the Rent Controller to fix the standard rent of the premises at Rs. 150 per month.
4. It is also stated in the petition before us, and not denied by the opposite party, that they had sued the petitioner for rent and obtained decrees several times and that at the time when this Rule was granted, a suit for rent against the petitioner was pending in the Calcutta Small Cause Court, and we are informed that the suit has since been decreed, which must have been on the footing that there was relationship of landlord and tenant between the parties. The opposite party are not estopped from pleading that the contract of tenancy is void, but they have not set up the invalidity of the tenancy. There is no doubt upon the authorities that the rent of a house knowingly let out to a prostitute where she carries on her trade is not recoverable. That is because the object of the agreement being unlawful, the contraat is void. But in the supplementary written statement the opposite party merely said that the petitioner is a public woman and nothing else was stated. It is true that the petitioner admitted that she was a public woman, and her sub tenants the same. The latter fast has no bearing upon the present question. Her admission about herself might perhaps have been sufficient, but having regard to the fact that the opposite party have treated the petitioner as tenant in the written statement, and have all along and even after the grant of the Rule treated the contract of tenancy as being a valid one by recovering decrees for rent in Court, upon the footing that there was relationship of landlord and tenant, they ought to have set up the invalidity of the contract of tenancy, and stated all the facts which would render it invalid. As stated above, even in the supplementary written statement, they did not stats the circumstances which would render the tenancy a void one.
5. In the circumstances, we think that so far as the parties to this case are concerned, it has not been shown that the contract of tenancy was void.
6. We accordingly set aside the order of the Court below and remand the case to that Court in order that standard rent may be fixed according to law.
7. We ought to mention that Mr. Justice Buckland, before whom the case came on for hearing in the first instance, directed notice to be given to the Advocate-General to appear in this matter for the purpose of arguing whether this application should be made to this Court on the Appellate Side or on the Original Side. The learned Advocate-General appeared before us and while contending that the Original Side also had jurisdiction, did not dispute the jurisdiction of the Appellate Side to hear the application.