Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sunil Gaur, J. dismissed a writ petition filed by Associated Journals Ltd. against the order of Land and Development Office whereby it decided to re-enter into the premises allotted to AJL.

AJL, an unlisted public company was incorporated in 1937 that published the newspaper, National Herald. In 1962-63, a premises 5-A, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi was allotted to AJL which is its registered office. As per a Perpetual Lease Deed of 1967, the premises was to be used by AJL for construction of a 5-storied building for the bona fide purpose of running press. In 2013, AJL was permitted to use four floors to let out to commercial concerns. Subsequently, it came to notice of the Land and Development Office (respondent) that no press was functioning in the premises for four years and it was being used mainly for commercial purposes. The respondent inspected the premises after which Breach Notice was sent to AJL in 2016. To confirm the present status, the premises was again inspected in April 2018. After receiving AJL’s reply on the show-cause notice issued, the respondent passed the impugned order wherein it decided to re-enter the premises; and if the possession of the premises was not handed over by AJL, necessary action under Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 for their eviction would be taken. Aggrieved thereby, AJL filed the present petition.

Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Senior Advocate argued for AJL and Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India represented the respondent.

The High Court observed that AJL made bald and unspecific allegations of Mala fide action by the respondent. Such allegations were termed preposterous and no note of them was taken. As for the merits of the case, the Court held that respondent’s action followed principles of natural justice. Report of Inspection Committee was considered and found that no press activity was discernible at the premises. Petitioners not even disclosed the volume of publication of their newspaper National Herald. It was stated, “The subject premises was leased out to legendary AJL for its publication, but the dominant purpose is now practically lost. This Court is constrained  to observe that major portion of the ‘subject premises’ has been rented out and petitioners’ newspaper, which was to be housed originally in the basement and ground floor, has now been shifted on the top floor with hardly any press activity.” Observation was also made against the manner in which 99% shares of AJL were transferred to Young India Co. whose shareholders include Indian National Congress President Rahul Gandhi and former President Sonia Gandhi. After considering the record on merits, the Court held that respondent was entitled to invoke provisions of PP Act to evict AJL if did not hand over possession of the premises within two weeks. [Associated Journals Ltd. v. Land and Development Office, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13060, dated 21-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J., dismissed a writ petition against the order of Respondent 5. The said order directed the petitioner to vacate the government accommodation given to him, by or before 08.08.2018.

The main issue, in this case, was whether Respondent 5 was justified in issuing an order for vacating the said premises without adopting the due course of law.

The Court, in this case, observed that it is an accepted fact that the petitioner was an unauthorized occupant of the said government premises because he ceased to hold the official status/position and the allottee of a Government accommodation, may it be a Government Servant, Minister or a Legislator, is required to vacate the accommodation allotted to him, after he ceases to hold the official status/position. The Court further applied the ‘useless formality theory’ according to which if there is no possibility of change or improvement in a situation even after hearing the person against whom the order is passed, then such a formality can be avoided.

The Court held that since petitioner was an unauthorized occupant of the said government accommodation for a long time now, hence he has no indefeasible right to be heard before issuing the order of eviction of public premises. Concluding that the petitioner has failed to show any valid and reasonable cause to retain the Government Accommodation in question after the petitioner ceased to be Minister or Member of State Legislative Assembly, hence his petition was dismissed.[Thakur Randhir Singh v. State of J&K,2018 SCC OnLine J&K 505, order dated 13-08-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Uday U. Lalit, J. delivered the judgment for Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.  and himself whereby the Court reiterated that no eviction can be ordered unless grounds for seeking eviction are made out.

The appellant-tenants and respondent-landlord entered into a lease agreement. Subsequently, the respondent wanted the premises to be evicted which effort was resisted by the appellants. The matter became a dispute and a police complaint was filed. A written settlement was reached between the parties under which the appellants agreed to vacate the premises. The appellant disputed the said agreement alleging that they were made to enter into the compromise by coercion under police pressure. The matter travelled through various competent authorities; the Principal Subordinate Judge allowed the application filed by the appellant; however, on appeal by the respondent, the High Court reversed the order of the said Judge. Aggrieved thus, the appellants preferred the instant appeal.

The Supreme Court referred to its earlier judgments including K. K. Chari v. R.M. Seshadri, (1973) 1 SCC 761 and Nagindas Ramdas v. Dalpatram Ichharam, (1974) 1 SCC 242. The Court observed that the common thread running through the judgments referred was that ‘in cases where protection under Rent Act is available, no eviction can be ordered unless grounds seeking eviction is made out, even in a case where parties have entered into a compromise. Moreover, invalidity on that count can even be raised in execution.’ In the present case, however, noted the Supreme Court, the order of the High Court did not even remotely note that any particular ground under the Rent Act was made out. In the view of the Court, the order passed by the Principal Subordinate Judge was correct and did not call for any interference by the High Court. Therefore, the order impugned was set aside and the appeal was allowed. [Alagu Pharmacy v. N. Magudeswari,2018 SCC OnLine SC 961, dated 14-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: The Court recently addressed a writ petition for quashment of a previous order that had been passed by the Joint Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation owing to which the premises of the petitioners had been cordoned off by way of the powers vested under Section 8(1) of the J&K Control of Building Operations Act, 1988.

The facts stated briefly are that the petitioners had raised construction of a building in accordance with the municipal corporation’s plan at a certain area in Jammu. The petitioners had got permission of a part of the premise to be used for commercial purposes. But subsequently, the demolition of the premises was ordered by a competent authority after a notice under Section 7(1) of the J&K Control of Building Operations Act was issued to the petitioners for the misuse of the premise for commercial purposes. Despite the petitioners having filed their reply to the notice, the Joint Commissioner after considering it, directed for the premise to be sealed under Section 8 of the J&K Control of Building Operations Act.

The counsel for the petitioner argued that resorting to Section 8 was in itself an action that was per se without jurisdiction as this provision can only be invoked when a work is in progress or has been completed and that it cannot be invoked against the user of the building. The petitioner’s counsel also contended that Section 8 shall be invoked only to prevent a dispute on the nature and extent of construction. The Counsel for the respondents submitted that the proceedings had been invoked under Section 7 of the Act and hence consequently, Section 8 could also be invoked.

The Court held that a reading of the provisions make it clear that Section 8 of the Act can only be resorted to if the construction is in progress and not when it’s a case of illegal use of the building by its owner. The Court also noted that the validity of the order passed in the proceeding under Section 7 of the Act was still pending wherein the Tribunal had passed an interim order demanding for status quo to be maintained and hence, the respondents invoking Section 8 per se was in itself a contravention and without jurisdiction. Thus, the Court quashed the petition. [S. Lt. Col. (retd) G.C. Raina v. Municipal Corporation, Jammu, 2017 SCC OnLine J&K 697 , order dated 16.11.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of V. Gopala Gowda and A.K. Goel, JJ, while deciding the question as to whether the consent of the owner of the premises is necessary for renewal of tenant’s licence under the Section 492(3) of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994, held that the requirement of consent of landlord is applicable only when a person intends to obtain a licence for the first time. It was held that renewal or subsequent application for obtaining licence on expiry of the period of the existing licence, during the currency of the tenancy, is not applicable for obtaining licence. However, the Court clarified that even in the case of application for obtaining licence for the first time, the tenant cannot be deprived of running lawful business merely because the landlord withheld the consent as valid tenancy itself has implied authority of the landlord for legitimate use of the premises by the tenant.

While interpreting the Section 492 (3) of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994, the Tribunal and the single bench of Kerala High Court had said that Under Section 492(3) of the Kerala Municipality Act, a consent of the owner is needed only for obtaining licence for the first time. Since the petitioner has not applied for licence for the first time the Corporation cannot impose a condition for obtaining a consent from the landlord. It was further held that The Corporation cannot insist upon such a tenant for production of a written consent from the landlord for the purpose of issuing of the licence. A statutory tenant can be evicted from the leased premises only in accordance with the various provisions contained in the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1965.

The Court, noting that since the possession of the tenant is lawful, the landlord is not entitled to withhold his consent for the conduct of the business for which the premises were given on rent, agreed with the abovementioned view and hence, set aside the order of the division bench of the High Court, thereby, restoring the order of the Tribunal as affirmed by the Single Bench of the High Court. [Sudhakaran v. Corp. of Trivandrum, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 666, decided on 05.07.2016]