A viral whatsapp message has been doing the rounds that payment of rent cannot be refused during the lockdown. The message includes a news link of Deccan Herald which is about a Court’s order on a plea to waive off rent of lawyers’ chambers as they are unable to earn money due to the Courts being shut. An inference has been drawn that refusal to waive rent of lawyers’ chambers applies to all properties whether residential, industrial or commercial and that no tenant can refuse to pay rent. Let us have a look at the entire post and then check its veracity:
The Supreme Court has rejected the plea (of tenants) for a waiver on rent.
Meaning the payment of rent Can not be refused and is mandatory for the tenant for any property that they occupy.
The order was passed on the plea of lawyers requesting to waive off the rent of their chambers during lockdown which was rejected by the court and is applicable to all properties whether residential, industrial or commercial. (sic)
The Deccan Herald report is dated 30th April 2020. On 30th April, Supreme Court had passed an order in the case of Pawan Pathak Prakash v Bar Council of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 10949 of 2020 which stated that
“The application for permission to appear and argue in person is allowed. Having heard the petitioner-in-person and taking into consideration the grievance of the petitioner, we are of the opinion that the best course is that the Bar Council of India should consider assisting its brethren, keeping in view the prevailing situation. With the above observation, the writ petition stands disposed of.”
In the case mentioned above, the Court requested the Bar Council of India to consider financial emergency assistance to lawyers.
On 5th May, in another case of Pawan Pathak Prakash v Union of India, Writ Petition No. 11005 of 2020, the Court held that
‘We are not inclined to entertain this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed’
In this case, the Court dismissed the petition requesting for waiver of rent for lawyers during the lockdown period. Nowhere does it say that the Court has made it mandatory to pay rent in the case of lawyers’ chambers or otherwise. No inference can be drawn that the court has made it applicable to all properties, whether residential, industrial or commercial.
If we analyse the Deccan Herald report which has many comments by the judges made in open court (but not mentioned in the written order). The comments made by the Courts have no legal bearing or precedential value. They are at the end of the day just comments and are not to be taken as Court orders which have any legal consequences. When an SLP or a Writ Petition is dismissed in limine (without a reasoned order) and the relief sought for is denied, the opposite of the relief cannot be construed to be the Court’s ruling.
To sum up, the viral message quoted above has misinterpreted the Court order. The Court has merely refused to give orders to waive rent for lawyers’ chambers. The Court order does not mention that paying rent is mandatory for tenants of all properties whether residential, industrial or commercial. Therefore, the viral message is a misleading interpretation of the Court’s order.