Op EdsOP. ED.

This article concerns with a recurrent issue that arises from an ever-widening relationship of landlord-tenant. There can be no hesitation mentioning that almost all the societies have witnessed conflicts when it comes to determination of tenancy and thus, regulate the same. In India, Part V of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, (hereinafter referred to as “the Act” or “TPA”) governs such a relationship entered into through a lease. A perplexing question that needs discussion here pertains to procedural requirement of “giving a notice” under Sections 106 and 111(g) of the Act, by the landlord, of his intention to determine the jural relationship of tenancy before filing a suit for eviction under the various State Rent Acts. The issue within this is not regarding what amounts to “giving of a notice” or whether a notice given in a certain way fulfils all requirements to be a valid notice. The controversy centres on whether such a notice is at all necessary to be given. The major takeaway for the readers would be knowledge of confined situations where notice is required to be served by the landlord and consequently, would reduce the confusion regarding the same. Before moving on to the question on hand it becomes pertinent to shed some light on the concept and scope of the aforesaid provisions.

Ordinarily, a contract between the parties would regulate all the relevant terms including the duration of the subsistence of tenancy, however, there might be a case where the contract mentions no date of termination of such relation. On a plain reading of Section 106, it is clear that the legislature has classified the leases into two categories and according to their purposes this provision would be attracted to construe the duration of the lease and accordingly duration of notice to be served in absence of a contract or local usage to the contrary[1]. This implies that this section is applicable only in the absence of contract as to the duration of lease. Also, it is open to the parties to contract themselves out of the provision and to make a valid contract between themselves as regards duration of their lease and the manner of termination of the same. It is obvious that the lease of tenancy, mostly, if not always, would be covered by the mandate of giving 15 days’ notice to the tenant. Even the length of the notice or the calendar for computation of the period can be subject to contract between the parties[2].

The other indispensable requirement of giving notice is rooted under Section 111(g) of the Act. The sub-section deals with the subject known as forfeiture of leases. Forfeiture ordinarily implies a penalty for an offence or unlawful act or for some wilful omission of a tenant of property whereby he loses it, together with his title, which devolves upon others[3]. To constitute forfeiture in a matter, there must be a breach of an express condition of the lease which provides for the landlord’s re-entry to the premises.

The question that stares us at this stage is whether both the notices under the impugned sections technically are identical to each other. To start with, a bare reading of Section 111(g) shows that it is nowhere mentioned as to the nature and time period of the notice that needs to be given is identical to that of Section 106. Clearly, Section 106 of the Act was incorporated as an equitable provision so that a tenant may not be taken by surprise. The rationale behind such a mandate could be intimating the intention of landlord so that the tenant could arrange for himself another roof. It seems to be in the interests of hapless tenants who are without just cause thrown out of the premises at the mercy of the landlord. On the other hand, the latter’s purpose apparently is not the one as of the former and is not based on the principles of justice, equity or good conscience[4]. It cannot be said to be guided by reason and equity as the tenant after liability has been incurred cannot be given benefit of his own wrong. Therefore, notice under the latter sub-section is not the one to be given under Section 106 of the Act. However, at most, it can be said that the similarities that can be drawn in both the notices are with respect to the procedural formalities but not the technical ones.

This brings us to the real question of this article as to whether the “giving of notice” as contemplated by the Act is a prerequisite condition that needs to be adhered to prior to filing of a suit of eviction against tenant under the State Rent Acts.

Here, it becomes imperative to appreciate the fact that the State List[5] of the Constitution of India prescribes the State Governments to regulate rights in or over land, land tenures including the relation of landlord and tenant, and the collection of rents. Resultantly, almost all the States have enacted their law governing determination of tenancy. The controversy now is limited to whether the provisions of the relevant State Rent Act was in addition to the provision of the TPA or was in derogation thereof. In other words, whether it would supplement or supplant the same. The Rent Acts  passed in different States were intended to prevent indiscriminate eviction of tenants and were intended to be a protective statute to safeguard the security of possession of the tenants and therefore, should be construed in the light of it being a social legislation[6].

As far as the answer to the present question is concerned it can be said that there were mixed and inconsistent views iterated by the Supreme Court and various High Courts in catena of judgments. A few of the judgments deserves to be highlighted herein. The Supreme Court in Manujendra Dutt v. Purendu Prosad Roy Chowdhury[7], while deciding requirement of notice in both the sections to be sine qua non before filing suit for eviction under the State rent provisions, has remarked that:

5. … Rent Acts are not ordinarily intended to interfere with contractual leases and are Acts for the protection of tenants and are consequently restrictive and not enabling, conferring no new rights of action but restricting the existing rights either under the contract or under the general law.

In addition to the above case, the Supreme Court while referring to its judgment in Namdeo Lokman Lodhi v. Narmadabai[8], has held that giving notice under Section 106 is a principle of equity and hence mandatory but laid down contrary with respect to Section 111(g). It observed that:

26. … The irrelevance of the English Law as such to notions of good conscience in India notwithstanding, we agree that a written notice is no part of equity. The essential principles, not the technical rules, of the TP Act form part of justice, equity and good conscience. The conclusion emerges that the landlord’s termination of the tenancy in this case is good even without a written notice.[9]

Either of the above view was adopted by the Supreme Court of India in many more pronouncements until the landmark judgment[10] by a seven-Judge Bench of the Court. The ruling marked the end of all the chaos and confusing and thus overruled all the previous conflicting views. Moreover, it emphasised the need to have a uniform law in all the States despite having some difference in phraseology of relevant provisions in the State laws.

The Court pointed out with no hesitation that notice under both the sections is different kind of intimation. As far as Section 106 is concerned it brushed aside the previous position of law and stated that when under the various State Rent Acts, either in one language or the other, it has been provided that a tenant can be evicted on the grounds mentioned in certain sections of the said Acts, then how does the question of determination of a tenancy by notice arise? If the State Rent Act requires the giving of a particular type of notice in order to get a particular kind of relief, such a notice will have to be given. It further observed that:

11. … It is true that the Rent Act is intended to restrict the rights which the landlord possessed either for charging excessive rents or for evicting tenants. But if within the ambit of those restricted rights he makes out his case it is a mere empty formality to ask him to determine the contractual tenancy before institution of a suit for eviction[11].

Thus, the action of the landlord in instituting a suit for eviction on the ground mentioned in any State Rent Act will tantamount to an expression of his intention that he does not want the tenant to continue as his lessee and the legal relationship of lessor and lessee will come to an end on the passing of an order or a decree for eviction. Until then, under the extended definition of the word “tenant” under the various State Rent Acts, the tenant continues to be a tenant even though the contractual tenancy has been determined by giving of a valid notice under Section 106 of the TPA.

On the other hand, the Court while considering the requirement under Section 111(g) obliterated the difference between “contractual tenantandstatutory tenant. It observed that where any tenant has violated any term of the contract and the landlord having served the notice determines the contractual lease under Section 111(g) of the Act, nevertheless, he would be provided with the protection under various State Acts as statutory tenant and can only be evicted after obtaining an order or decree to that effect. Stating it in words of the Bench:

16. … Why this dual requirement? Even if the lease is determined by forfeiture under the Transfer of Property Act the tenant continues to be a tenant, that is to say, there is no forfeiture in the eye of the law. The tenant becomes liable to be evicted and forfeiture comes into play only if he has incurred the liability to be evicted under the State Rent Act, not otherwise. In many State statutes different provisions have been made as to the grounds on which a tenant can be evicted and in relation to his incurring the liability to be so evicted. Some provisions overlap those of the Transfer of Property Act. Some are new which are mostly in favour of the tenants but some are in favour of the landlord also.[12]

Therefore, it can be aptly concluded that determination of a lease in accordance with the TPA is unnecessary and a mere surplusage because the landlord cannot get eviction of the tenant even after such determination. The tenant continues to be so even thereafter.

Thereafter, this position of law has been followed in a plethora of judgments by the Supreme Court. In Shakuntala S. Tiwari v. Hem Chand M. Singhania[13], the Court held that it is an act in law and not an act of law because under the scheme a determination of tenancy which takes place under the TPA, according to the appellant, is wholly irrelevant for founding a cause of action in ejectment because the provisions of the TPA are superseded by the provisions of the Rent Act. Interestingly, the Court has broadened its sweep to the extent saying that Section 111(g) in such situations be treated as inoperative and deemed to be repealed[14].

Conclusion

On a careful consideration of all the material referred to, it can be aptly remarked that requirement of giving a notice to the tenant under Sections 106 and 111(g) in a case of filing an eviction petition under the respective State rent legislations is not based on rule of equity and reason. Hence, it is an additional technical formality, absence of which ensue no legal consequences and cannot be insisted upon the landlord. But does that mean that the impugned provisions have no role to play in shaping the rent control jurisprudence? The answer cannot be in affirmative. The two provisions would still operate in a larger field of regulating other leases of immovable property other than tenancy. Also, it cannot be said that both of them are in nullity when we talk about regulation of landlord-tenant relationship. The judgment of the Supreme Court in Nopany Investments (P) Ltd. v. Santokh Singh (HUF)[15] can be interpreted to the extent that giving a notice under Section 106 of the Act is not a requirement even when filing a suit in general law. However this does not seem to be the correct proposition of law laid down in Yesodai Ammal case[16] as these provisions of the Act would apply in absence of Rent Act in the State concerned and where the landlord presses a ground which does not find mention in the State Act but in general law[17]. In furtherance to this, there can be another situation which is a necessary corollary to the intent of State Legislatures i.e. where the State rent law itself expressly or by necessary implication entails to give a notice in accordance with the terms of Section 106.

Ergo, the requirement of giving a notice can be summed up in the following categories as noted hereinbelow:

  1. Where the rent agreement speaks for giving notice in a manner which is not inconsistent with the statute in force of that State or the general law (in case no State Act exists) as the case maybe, then that specific clause of the agreement shall prevail.
  2. Where no clause for giving notice is provided in the agreement or if provided is inconsistent with the State law or Central law (in case of absence of State law), then:

(a) Where that particular State has not enacted its rent statute, then the terms provided under TPA shall apply and would become a mandate.

(b) Where a particular State has enacted its rent statute but does not provide any provision regarding giving of notice, then no notice need to be served before filing a petition for eviction and tenancy shall only be terminated once a decree is granted by the proper rent court.

(c) Where the State rent statute itself expressly or by necessary implication entails to give a notice in accordance with the terms of Section 106 of TPA.

(d) Where the landlord presses a ground which does not find mention in the relevant State Rent Act in a particular State of India but in TPA, then terms of TPA shall be complied with.


*Final Year Student of BA LLB (Hons.), University School of Law & Legal Studies, GGSIPU.

[1] Samir Mukherjee v. Davinder K. Bajaj, (2001) 5 SCC 259 

[2] Harbhajan Singh v. P.N. Chopra, 1976 SCC OnLine Del 174

[3] Wharton’s Law Lexicon, see also Sunil Kumar Modi v. Munna Lal Gupta, 2007 SCC OnLine All 899

[4] Rattan Lal v. Vardesh Chander, (1976) 2 SCC 103; see also, Namdeo Lokman Lodhi v. Narmadabai,  1953 SCR 1009

[5] Sch. VII, List II, Entry 18,  Constitution of India

[6] Manujendra Dutt v. Purendu Prosad Roy Chowdhury, (1967) 1 SCR 475

[7] Ibid

[8] 1953 SCR 1009

[9] Rattan Lal v. Vardesh Chander, (1976) 2 SCC 103, 117

[10] V. Dhanapal Chettiar v. Yesodai Ammal, (1979) 4 SCC 214

[11] Id. at p. 22

[12] V. Dhanapal Chettiar v. Yesodai Ammal, (1979) 4 SCC 214, at p. 227

[13] (1987) 3 SCC 211

[14] Palani Ammal v. Viswanatha Chettiar, (1998) 3 SCC 654

[15] (2008) 2 SCC 728

[16] (1979) 4 SCC 214

[17] Biswanath Agarwalla v. Sabitri Bera, (2009) 15 SCC 693

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and L. Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ has refused to hold  Section 13-B of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 (Rent Act) merely because it grants a right to claim eviction for bona fide need by summary procedure to a certain group of landlords, that is, Non-Resident Indians subject to and on the satisfaction of statutory conditions which incorporate a check on frivolous evictions.

The Court said that the plea that Section 13-B ought to be struck down on the ground that similar rights can be extended to other landlords was without substance, as

“It rests with the legislature to make laws and extend it to other similarly situated persons. The rent act(s) invariably give similar rights by a controlled mechanism and alluded riders to various other classes/groups of landlords, namely, government servants, members of armed forces, the retired or soon to retire employees of the Central and the State Governments, widows, etc.”

The Court, further, explained that the right of Non-Resident Indians to initiate eviction under the summary procedure provided in Section 18-A of the Rent Act is not an unfettered and absolute right. It is subject to satisfaction of various pre-requisites and imperatives that ensure and check potential abuse by resorting to a short-circuit procedure. The requirement should arise from a genuine need of the Non-Resident Indian landlord or his dependent. Such landlord should be an owner for five years preceding the date of filing of the eviction petition. There is a cap on permitting the use of the provision which is available only once in a lifetime and only in respect of one building. There are restrictions and constraints on the re-sale and re-letting and a further requirement to possess the property for a continuous period of three months after the possession is taken.

It was, hence, noticed that the pre-conditions and post possession restrictions suggest that Section 13-B serves a specific policy objective to ensure the right of Non-Resident Indians to occupy their property in the Union Territory of Chandigarh and the State of Punjab as the case may be, after “returning” to their country. This right has to be balanced with the right of the tenants to establish their case on merits by disproving the genuine requirement of the Non-Resident Indians.

“Section 13-B cannot, therefore, be treated as an arbitrary classification that infringes and violates Article 14 of the Constitution.”

[Ram Krishan Grover v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1469, decided on 14.11.2019]