In a Whatsapp forward circulating alongwith screenshots of a newspaper article, social media in Tamil Nadu is abuzz with the news that Madras High Court has ordered landlords not to collect rent for the months of April, May and June.

The screenshots of the four messages are given below:

If we look at the third image, mischievously certain words have been underlined to give the impression that Madras High Court has waived off rent for 3 months. However this is not the case. In reality, a Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Court to waive off rent for these months of the Lockdown. The Court has issued notice to the government to reply to the PIL filed. No order has been issued by the Court and the matter is still subjudice.

The plea was moved by the petitioner Advocate LK Charles Alexander, citing that governments of Maharashtra and Karnataka have deferred rent payments for tenants owing to the Covid crisis. He moved the High Court seeking the state government of Tamil Nadu  to restrain landlords from demanding rent during this period.

The order of the High Court has not yet been uploaded on the Court website therefore we approached the petitioner L.K. Charles Alexander directly, who confirmed to us that the case of LK Charles Alexander vs.The Secretary to Government, Writ Petition No. 8378/2020 was heard on 2nd July, 2020.  The matter was taken up by the division bench of R. Subbiah and Krishnan Ramaswamy, JJ. and they had ordered that two weeks time is given to the government to file an affidavit.

On March 29 and March 30, 2020  the centre and state government of Tamil Nadu had issued orders to defer payment of rent for the month of March however no such decision has been taken until now for the months of April, May and June.

Therefore, we can safely say that the social media message with the maroon background is clearly misleading. No order has been issued by the Courts or the State Government of Tamil Nadu to defer payment of rent and the matter is subjudice. The Court has merely issued a notice to the Government to reply to the PIL.

Nilufer Bhateja, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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