HP HC | Disconnecting electricity of tenant held unreasonable where landlord found hell-bent to show him the door of the Court

Himachal Pradesh High Court: Tarlok Singh Chauhan, J. entertained a petition filed by a landlord against the order passed by the Rent Controller in favor of the tenant, whose supply of electricity was unreasonably disconnected by the said landlord.

Factual matrix of the case was that the tenant filed an application under Section 11(3) of H.P. Urban Rent Control Act, 1987 to the Rent Controller and contended that the supply of electricity was allegedly disconnected by the landlord without any just and reasonable cause. The Rent Controller passed an order in favor of the tenant, aggrieved by which the landlord proffered an appeal which was dismissed by the authority, hence the landlord filed the instant petition.

The main point noted by the Court was the scope of revisional jurisdiction, which the Court exercised keeping in mind judgment passed by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd. v. Dilbahar Singh, (2014) 9 SCC 78, where it was held that, “The expression “revision” is meant to convey the idea of much narrower expression than the one expressed by the expression “appeal”. The revisional power under the Rent Control Act may not be as narrow as the revisional power under Section 115 of the CPC but certainly, it is not wide enough to make the High Court a second court of first appeal”. Another important point held in the abovementioned judgment was, “The power of the High Court even though wider than the one provided under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure is not wide enough to that of the appellate Authority.”

In the aforesaid decision, the Supreme Court was dealing with the provisions of the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1965, T.N. Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960 and Haryana Urban (Control of Rent and Eviction) Act, 1973. The incongruity in the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in Rukmini Amma Saradamma v. Kallyani Sulochana, (1993) 1 SCC 499 was the backdrop in which the Constitution Bench was called upon to decide the scope of the revisional jurisdiction and the expression “legality and propriety” provided in the relevant statues. The essential question being as to whether in exercise of such powers, the revisional authority could reappreciate the evidence or not. It was held, “A finding of fact recorded by court/authority below, if perverse or has been arrived at without consideration of the material evidence or such finding is based on no evidence or misreading of the evidence or is grossly erroneous that, if allowed to stand, it would result in gross miscarriage of justice, is open to correction because it is not treated as a finding according to law.”

The High Court hence based on the above-discussed judgment and considering the exposition of law opined that, admittedly the electricity supply to the premises let out to the tenant had been disconnected by the landlord on the ground of nonpayment of such charges. Even though there appeared to be some dispute regarding rate of rent, but that by itself was not sufficient ground and could not have been made the basis for the landlord to disconnect the electricity supply to the premises let out to the tenant. The Court further held that, ground on the basis of which, electricity was disconnected was that the tenant had failed to pay the electricity charges the Court did not consider it as a sufficient ground to disconnect the electricity supply, more particularly, when it had been proved on record that there is submeter installed in the premises. It was further opined by the Court that once that be the admitted position, then obviously nonpayment of the amount due, if any, on account of electricity consumption would be a matter between electricity department and the tenant and it would be the prerogative of the aforesaid department to disconnect the electricity supply as per rules in case the electricity charges are not deposited.

The Court decided that the instant petition was frivolous and a perfect case where a heavy fine was to be imposed and dismissed the petition as it had no merits.[Ramesh Thakur v. Roshini Chauhan, 2019 SCC OnLine HP 1135, decided on 22-07-2019]

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