Omission to label demolition notice with provision under which it was issued would not make it nugatory if substance clearly stated: SC

Omission to label demolition notice

Supreme Court: While hearing a set of two civil appeals against Bombay High Court’s decision whereby, the eviction decrees against two tenants in respect of two portions of the same building were invalidated, the Division Bench of Aniruddha Bose and Bela M. Trivedi, JJ. dismissed the appeals and held that a flaw by itself would not make the demolition notice unenforceable and the omission to label a notice with the provision under which it was issued would not make it nugatory, if substance thereof is clearly conveyed.


In the matter at hand, the premise was purchased by the appellants in 1992 and both the tenants against whom the eviction notice was given were inducted by the former owner of the building. The premises involved in these proceedings comprised of two blocks in the building, where the tenants lived separately. A demolition notice was issued by the Mahabaleshwar Giristhan Municipal Council on 23-01-2002, stating the parts of the structure were damaged and out of shape and could collapse at any time. The said notice constituted one of the grounds on which the appellants wanted to evict the tenants under the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999 (‘the 1999 Act’). This notice was followed by three subsequent notices by the said Municipal Council.

Thereafter, the appellants served eviction notices to both the tenants, but no result was yielded. Hence, two suits were instituted against the tenants, which were tried simultaneously and were decreed by the Trial Court, which was sustained by the Appellate Court. In the Civil Revision Petition, the judgment and decree were set aside, ruling in favour of the Tenants. The High Court held that the Appellate Court had committed an error of law in interpreting Section 15 of the 1999 Act and was contrary to both, the text as well as the rulings of the High Court on the subject. The High Court said that in the present case rents were regularly offered and dispatched by way of money orders, but it refused by the landlords. In such circumstances, there is no obligation upon the tenants to comply with conditions prescribed in Section 15(3) of the 1999 Act.

Section 15 and 16 of the 1999 Act

Section 15 provides for ‘no ejectment ordinarily to be made if tenant pays or is ready and willing to pay standard rent and permitted increases.’ Section 16 provides for ‘when landlord may recover possession.’

Analysis and Decision

The Court noted that the requirement under Section 16(4) thereof, requiring the Courts to determine which part of the rented-out premises ought to be vacated for carrying out the work of repair or erection, was addressed neither by the Trial Court nor the Appellate Court, before directing eviction. The Court referred to P. Orr and Sons (P) Ltd. v. Associated Publishers (Madras) Ltd., (1991) 1 SCC 301, wherein, while dealing with the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960, the Court opined that the condition of building had to be considered for determining the legitimacy of the demand for timely demolition by reason of extent of damage to the structure, apart from considering other factors.

The Court said that the test under Section 16(4) of the 1999 Act is to ascertain if part-demolition could save the tenant’s interest. The Court also perused Section 16(1)(g) of the 1999 Act, which provides that ‘a landlord shall be entitled to recover possession of any premises if the Court is satisfied — that the premises are reasonably and bona fide required by the landlord for occupation by himself or by any person for whose benefit the premises are held or where the landlord is a trustee of a public charitable trust that the premises are required for occupation for the purposes of the trust.’ The Court said that Section 16(2) of the 1999 Act relates to reasonable and bona fide need in terms of Section 16(1)(g), the Court must be satisfied having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the question whether other reasonable accommodation is available to the landlord or the tenant.

Further, the Court said that Section 16(2) essentially incorporates the principle of “comparative hardship”, a test in tenancy jurisprudence. On the said question, the Court affirmed the view taken by the High Court in the matter at hand, that there was no satisfaction regarding the test under Section 16(2) of the 1999 Act as far as bonafide need in terms of Section 16(1)(g) was concerned. The Court said that there was no flaw with the High Court’s judgment regarding the landlord’s claim for non-compliance of Section 16(6) of the 1999 Act.

Regarding the demolition notice, the Court noted that the High Court viewed it to be faulty for not referring to Section 195 of the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act, 1965 (‘1965 Act’). However, the Court took a different view and said that such a flaw by itself would not make the notice unenforceable. Hence, the Court held that the omission to label a notice with the provision under which it was issued would not make it nugatory, if substance thereof is clearly conveyed.

Satisfaction of the Court on requirement of immediate demolition

The Court noted that the High Court had opined that it was necessary to satisfy itself that the premises in question were required to be demolished immediately. The Court perused Section 195 of the 1965 Act which speaks for satisfaction regarding the immediacy of the demolition. The Court relied on M.L. Sonavane v. C.G. Sonar1, wherein the scope of Section 195 of the 1965 Act was examined. Therefore, the Court said that satisfaction under Section 195 is that of the local authority in a suit for eviction, but an area of satisfaction is still reserved for the Court. Therefore, the Court reiterated that the Court must examine if there is immediacy of the need for demolition.

Section 16(1)(k) and (i) of the 1999 Act

The Court accepted the appellant’s argument that the Court trying an eviction proceeding has very limited role in determining as to whether demolition is necessary or not. However, the Court said that it does not automatically follow therefrom that the Court would mechanically adopt the municipal authority’s view of there being urgent need of demolition. The Court explained that the conditions under which a landlord can bring an eviction action under clauses (i) and (k) of Section 16(1) are different in their operations. The Court said that the eviction proceedings under Section 16(1)(i) have a lesser degree of immediacy or urgency, however, under Section 16(1)(k) a greater degree of urgency is required, and it is within the jurisdiction of the Court to test this factor of urgency.

The Court did not find flaws within the impugned judgment which required re-appreciation and hence dismissed both the appeals.

[Baitulla Ismail Shaikh v. Khatija Ismail Panhalkar, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 84, Decided on 30-01-2024]

Judgment Authored by: Justice Aniruddha Bose

Know Thy Judge | Supreme Court of India: Justice Aniruddha Bose

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellants: Senior Advocate Vinay Navare, Advocate Abhay Anil Anturkar, Advocate Dhruv Tank, Advocate Aniruddha Awalgaonkar, Advocate on Record Dr. R. R. Deshpande

For Respondents: Advocate Makarand D. Adkar, Advocate Shantanu M. Adkar, Advocate on Record Aparna Jha, Advocate on Record Prashant Padmanabhan, AOR

1. 1981 (1) All India Rent Control Journal 466.

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