Farmers on leased land can’t be evicted on mere expiry of tenancy

The Supreme Court on 5 July 2016 in Shyam Lal Vs. Deepa Dass Chela Ram Chela Garib Dass has held that farmers who is in possession of leased land even after expiry of the lease period, cannot be evicted if the owner either acknowledges the tenancy or is accepting the rent.

A three-judge bench headed by justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising justices Arun Mishra and Prafulla C. Pant set aside the judgment of the Punjab and Haryana high court that had ordered the eviction of a farmer after expiry of the lease period of the land.

“The operation of section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act would confer legitimacy to the possession of the tenant even after the termination or expiration of the deemed period of the lease so as to confer on him a status akin to that of a statutory tenant and hence protection from eviction as envisaged by the provisions of the Act (Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act) of 1953,”

the bench said.

The bench said there was no legal provision to evict the farmers as the eviction conditions laid down in the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act 1953 and Punjab Tenancy Act 1887 do not include a tenant whose lease has expired.

“It would necessarily follow that to be entitled to protection from eviction under the 1953 Act, any person claiming such protection has to come within the fold of the expression ‘tenant’ under the 1953 Act read with the relevant provisions of the 1887 Act.

Protection against eviction would be available only to those farmers deemed to be tenants under both the 1953 Act and the 1887 Act.

“Statutory protection would be available only to a statutory tenant, namely a tenant under the Act. The Punjab Act of 1953 read with the relevant provisions of the 1887 Act do not include a tenant whose lease has expired,”

the bench noted in its judgment.

The apex court said the continuance of occupancy even after expiry of deemed period of the lease under the Transfer of Property Act “would clothe the occupant with the status of a tenant under the Act in view of section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act which deals with the consequences of holding over.”

If the lease in the instant case has to be deemed to be a lease from year to year and the terms thereof cannot be looked into to determine the total duration thereof what would follow is that the tenant remained in possession beyond the legally presumptive period of the lease (one year) with the implied consent of the landlord. In the present case such consent ceased to exist only upon institution of the cross objection in the suit filed by the tenant.

The tenant, therefore, acquired the status of a tenant holding over or a tenant at will, which would confer on him protection under the 1953 Act requiring the landlord to establish proof of any of the conditions specified in Section 9 of the 1953 Act before being entitled to a decree of eviction.