Rent Law; Baburao Vs. Pokhardas [Supreme Court of India, 16-08-2016]

Hyderabad Houses (Rent, Eviction, and Lease) Control Act, 1954 – Section 15 – Arrears of rent and default – Deposit in Court – the amount towards arrears of rent was deposited by the tenant in the Court of Rent Controller before institution of the eviction application; and intimation in that behalf was given to the landlord. The tenant continued to periodically deposit the rent amount in Court thereafter. Further, the appellant in his evidence has admitted of having withdrawn the rent amount till Diwali.  This finding of fact recorded by the District Court and affirmed by the High Court, being concurrent finding of fact, need no interference. As a necessary corollary, it must follow that the tenant was not a defaulter muchless willful defaulter. Thus, the ground of default on which eviction of the tenant was prayed is untenable.

Tenant willing to Increase Rent – As per the agreement, the rate of rent is Rs.400/- per month, which, the tenant is now willing to increase up to Rs.10,000/- per month. Even though the Court dismissed the appeal, directed the tenants to pay a monthly rent in respect of the suit shop to the landlord at the rate of Rs.10,000/- per month w.e.f. 1st January, 2016. The additional rent amount for the period between 1st January, 2016 till 31st July 2016 be paid to the landlord within one month from the date of this order; and the tenants shall then continue to pay future rent at the rate of Rs.10,000/- per month before the fifth day of every English calendar month. Appeal is disposed of in the above terms. No order as to costs.


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(T.S.Thakur, CJI) (A.M. Khanwilkar, J.) (Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J.)

August 16, 2016

CIVIL APPEAL NO.2606/2013

Baburao s/o Narayanrao Terkar ….….Appellant

Versus

Pokhardas s/o Bhanumal Khatnani died through L.Rs. and others  ….Respondents

J U D G M E N T

A.M. KHANWILKAR, J.

The application for early hearing is allowed.

2. Appeal is taken up for hearing forthwith, by consent.

3. This appeal challenges the judgment of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Bench at Aurangabad, in Civil Revision No.59 of 2007 dated 6th September, 2011. The High Court dismissed the revision application preferred by the appellant and thereby confirmed the decision of the District Court dismissing the eviction application preferred by the appellant.

4. Briefly stated, the appellant, claiming to be landlord in respect of suit premises being shop admeasuring east-west 12ft. and south-north 16ft. situated at Municipal house No.23/124/A, corresponding to City Survey No.9572 in Cloth Lane, Latur, instituted an eviction application against the respondent-tenant on the ground of arrears of rent and default within the meaning of

Section 15 of the Hyderabad Houses (Rent, Eviction, and Lease) Control Act, 1954.

It was the case of the appellant that the respondent-tenant had failed and neglected to pay rent between October, 1987 till March, 1988. In fact, the appellant had issued a notice to the respondent-tenant on 20th January, 1988 calling upon him to pay rent in respect of the suit premises. That notice was replied by the respondent-tenant on 22nd February, 1988, raising a dispute of ownership of the suit premises. The appellant then issued demand notice to the respondent-tenant on 17th March, 1988 calling upon him to pay the arrears of rent. No reply was received from the respondent-tenant. As a result, an eviction application was filed by the appellant. The Rent Controller held that the respondent-tenant had committed default and was liable to be evicted. Accordingly, an eviction order was passed by the Rent Controller on 11th April, 2005. Against that decision, the respondent-tenant preferred a statutory appeal before the District Judge at Latur being Rent Appeal No.5 of 2005. The District Court reversed the finding of fact recorded by the Rent Controller. The Appellate Court found that the respondent-tenant upon receipt of notice from the appellant immediately approached the Rent Controller and deposited the amount towards rent as prescribed by the Rent Controller. Further, the appellant admitted in his evidence of having withdrawn the amount deposited in Court by the respondent-tenant till Diwali 2003. On the factum of willful default by the respondent-tenant, the Appellate Court reversed the finding of the Rent Controller. As regards the factum of denial of title by the respondent-tenant, the Appellate Court held that the circumstances in which that plea was taken by the respondent-tenant was bonafide – considering the fact that the appellant landlord himself had admitted that the dispute regarding ownership of suit shop was the subject matter of the RCS No.1033 of 1983 filed by him before the Civil Court. Besides the appellant, one Vishwanath Tandale also claimed his ownership over the suit shop. He had filed an affidavit in the proceedings before the Rent Controller to which the appellant was a party. The District Court, accordingly, allowed the appeal preferred by the respondent-tenant and reversed the order passed by the Rent Controller. Consequently, the eviction application filed by the appellant was dismissed.

5. Against this decision, the appellant preferred a revision application before the High Court. The High Court after considering the relevant material on record held that the finding of fact recorded by the District Court was flawless on both counts, namely, the factum of tenant not being a willful defaulter and also on the issue of justness of his plea to question the ownership in respect of the suit shop. The High Court, accordingly, affirmed the view taken by the District Court and dismissed the revision application. Against this decision, present appeal has been filed by the landlord.

6. According to the appellant, in the fact situation of the present case, the decree of eviction passed by the Rent Controller should be restored. Inasmuch as, admittedly, the tenant failed to give reply to the demand notice served on him nor offered the outstanding rent within the statutory period. Thus, Section 15 (2) (i) was attracted. Further, the tenant failed to regularly pay the amount towards rent during the pendency of eviction proceedings. As a matter of fact, contends the counsel for the appellant, the tenant having denied the title of the appellant was not entitled to occupy the suit shop. Further, the original eviction application was filed by the appellant as back as in the year 1988 and by passage of time the appellant has already become 84 years of age. He has three sons who are yet to settle down. It is contended that the appellant requires the suit shop for his personal and bonafide need for which reason also order of eviction passed by the Rent Controller should be restored. The respondent-tenant, on the other hand, contends that the latter contention raised by the appellant cannot be taken note of. In that, the present appeal arises from the eviction proceedings instituted by the appellant limited to the ground of arrears of rent and willful default committed by the tenant. The ground on which eviction of the respondent-tenant was prayed has been thoroughly examined by the District Court and the finding of fact recorded by the District Court has found favour with the High Court, which needs no interference in the present appeal. The learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the plea of personal and bonafide requirement is untenable. As per her instructions, two sons of the appellant have since expired. The third son is gainfully employed and doing business in another commercial premises in possession of the appellant. Moreover, the appellant has sufficient accommodation in his possession. It is submitted that the appeal is devoid of merit and be dismissed.

7. Having considered the rival submissions, we are in agreement with the view taken by the High Court that the evidence on record leaves no manner of doubt that after receipt of notice from the appellant, the respondent-tenant immediately rushed to the Rent Controller and took permission to deposit the amount towards rent of the suit shop. Further, in terms of the liberty given by the Rent Controller the respondent-tenant deposited the amount towards rent of the suit shop before the Rent Controller. That option was resorted to by the respondent-tenant because of dispute relating to ownership of the suit shop. The High Court justly adverted to the dictum in the case of