Delhi High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Satish Chandra Sharma, CJ and Subramonium Prasad, J. refused to transfer the civil suits pending before the Additional District Judge, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi, to the designated Commercial Court as the Commercial Courts (Amendment) Act, 2018 (‘Amending Act’) shall not apply retrospectively and thus, the advantage provided under Section 19 of the Amending Act cannot be taken, as dispute relates before to the date of commencement of the Act, i.e., 03-05-2018.

The instant transfer petition was filed seeking transfer of civil suits relating to a commercial dispute pending before Additional District Judge, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi to the designated Commercial Courts in wake of Section 15 Commercial Act, 2015 Act on the ground that the suits are commercial in nature and pertain to ‘commercial disputes’ as defined under the Commercial Act, 2015 Act.

The main point of contention by petitioner was that even though the Amending Act, 2018 was to apply to cases filed on or after the institution of Amending Act, 2018, the Saving Clause enumerated in Section 19 of the Amending Act, 2018 conveyed that the Amending Act would have a retrospective impact to the extent that pending cases of the lowered specified value could also be transferred to a Commercial Court.

The issue under consideration is whether the Commercial Courts (Amendment) Act, 2018 (‘the Amending Act’) would apply retrospectively to the instant petition or not?

The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division Act, 2015 (‘2015 Act’), now known as Commercial Courts Act, 2015 as amended in 2018 was enacted by the Legislature under which all suits over a sum of Rs.1 Crore was to be transferred from Ordinary Courts to the designated Commercial Courts. The amendment was promulgated whereby territories in which the High Courts had ordinary Original civil jurisdiction, Commercial Courts were to be established at the level of the District Courts as well, and any appeal from these Commercial Courts at the District Level would lie before the Commercial Appellate Division of the High Court. Further, the Amending Act reduced the specified value to Rupees three lakhs and, therefore, widened the pecuniary jurisdiction exercised by such District Courts (Commercial).

It was brought to the attention of the Court that the administrative side of this Court vide order dated 04-02-2020 ruled that the Amending Act would be applicable to only those cases which were instituted on or after 03-05-2018 and accordingly vide order dated 25-03-2022 notice was issued to the High Court to produce the record so as to demonstrate the rationale of the said order.

Dr. Amit George, Standing Counsel for the Delhi High Court, substantiated that the Amending Act is not applicable retrospectively, on the following grounds:

  • The Amending Act categorically states that it shall apply only to cases relating to commercial disputes that have been filed on or after the date of its commencement, i.e. 03-05-2018.
  • The general rule of interpretation is that every statute is prospective in operation until and unless it has been made expressly retrospectively in application.
  • The Saving Clause provided in Section 19 of the Amending Act has to be read harmoniously with Section 15 of the 2015 Act, and that any other interpretation by the Court would frustrate the very object of the Amending Act and would reduce Section 19 to a nullity.

The Court noted that 188th Report of the Law Commission of India on “Proposals for Constitution of Hi-Tech Fast — Track Commercial Divisions in High Courts”, states that the purpose of instituting the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, was to expedite commercial cases of a high pecuniary value and to create confidence in the commercial circles nationally and globally.

Placing reliance on Monnet Ispat and Energy Limited v. Union of India, (2012) 11 SCC 1 The Supreme Court observed that the cardinal principle of construction is that every statute is prima facie prospective unless it is expressly or by necessary implication made to have retrospective operation.

The Court observed that it cannot be said that there is any lack of clarity or ambiguity in the phrasing of Section 19 of the Amending Act which categorically states that the provisions of the Amending Act will apply to cases relating to commercial disputes filed on or after the date of commencement of the Act, i.e., 03-05-2018.

Thus, the Court opined that considering it to be retrospective in effect will lead to administrative difficulties which is contrary to the intention of the Legislature and had it intended for the Amending Act to be retrospective in nature, there is nothing that could have prevented the Legislature from explicitly specifying the same. Additionally, the purpose of the Saving Clause is to preserve from destruction certain rights, remedies and privileges already existing. This Clause saves all the rights that were previously there; it does not create any new rights.

The Court thus held that the Petitioners cannot take advantage of the Saving Clause in the Amending Act as the Act shall not apply retrospectively and therefore, the Court refused to transfer the civil suits pending before the Additional District Judge, Patiala House Courts, New Delhi, to the designated Commercial Court.

[Satyanarayan Khandelwal v. Prem Arora, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2142 decided on 18-07-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Praveen Suri and Ms. Komal Chhibber, Advocates, for the Petitioner;

Mr. Vipin Nandwani, Advocate for the Respondent 1 and 2 Dr. Amit George, Standing Counsel, Delhi High Court with Mr. Rishabh Dheer & Mr. Amol Acharya, Advocates, for the Respondent.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Asserting that “Deity” in the temple is a “minor” and the Court should be astute to protect the interests of an idol in any litigation, S.M. Subramaniam, J., held that,

When the trustee or the Executive Officer or the custodian of the idol, temple and its properties, leave the same in lurch, any person interested in respect of such temple or worshipping deity can certainly be clothed with an adhoc power of representation to the protect its interest.

Background

Petitioner submitted that land to an extent of 3227 sq. feet belonged to the 4th respondent temple and the superstructure originally belonged to the father of the petitioner.

Further, it was stated that by a registered sale deed, petitioner’s father had sold the superstructure along with the Lease Hold Rights to his brother. After the death of the father of the petitioner, his brother Mr D. Kumarasamy executed the settlement deed in favour of the petitioner.

Pursuant to the said settlement deed, the petitioner was a permissible tenant and was in continuous possession and enjoyment of the property till date by letting out to tenants. Further, the petitioner claimed that he paid the admitted rent regularly. He requested the 4th respondent for name transfer as he had done some minor repairs to the property.

Adding to the above, it stated that the 4th respondent had been increasing the rent and the same was being paid by the petitioner.

Petitioner submitted that the 4th respondent had terminated the lease deed and thereafter, the suit was filed for injunction not to put up any illegal construction in the temple properties.

In view of the above circumstances, the competent authorities initiated action under Section 78 of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 and passed the eviction order. An eviction order had been communicated to the petitioner and thereafter an appeal was filed.

In an earlier order, this Court had directed the petitioner to deposit a sum of Rs 10,00,000 before the third respondent temple and the petitioner paid the said amount and thereafter, Court directed respondent 1 to dispose of the appeal.

What is the Grievance of the petitioner?

Petitioner stated that during the pendency of the appeal, respondent was initiating the steps to evict the petitioner as respondent 1 had not granted any interim stay of the eviction order.

Due to the above-stated facts, instant petitioner was moved.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Petitioner claimed to be the authorized leaseholder of the subject temple, though he could not produce any lease deed or documents to establish that his father was a leaseholder recognized by the Temple Authorities.

Bench noted that no one was holding a valid lease document properly executed by the Temple Authorities.

Court opined that the manner in which the temple properties were dealt with by the petitioner, sixth respondent and father of the petitioner were absolutely in violation of the provisions of the Act, and they were not only encroachers and illegal occupants, but utilized the property of the temple in an unlawful manner for their personal and unjust gains.

Bench was shocked to note the above and stated that though the Authorities initiated action, this Court had to record that such actions initiated were not only insufficient but raised a doubt about the active or passive collusion on the part of Competent Authorities of the temple.

Section 34 of the Act enumerates ‘alienation of immovable Trust property’. Sub section (1) of Section 34 stipulates that “Any exchange, sale or mortgage and any lease for a term exceeding five years of any immovable property, belonging to, or given or endowed for the purpose of, any religious institution shall be null and void unless it is sanctioned by the Commissioner as being necessary or beneficial to the institution”.

Court observed that, the temple property, which is meant for the benefit of the temple, can never be allowed to be encumbered in a different manner and in such circumstances, the Courts are bound to step in and deal with the issues properly

Significant, the Bench observed that where the persons in management of a temple failed to protect the interest of the temple diligently, the Court is empowered to take notice of such facts and deal with the issues in an appropriate manner.

If there are lapses, slackness or negligence on the part of the Executive Officer and the trustees of the temple, “it is the duty of the Court to ensure that the ‘Deity’ does not suffer thereby. The Courts should be astute to protect the interests of an idol in any litigation.”

Continuing to make some very interesting observations, Court added that the temple properties are allowed to be looted by few greedy men and by few professional criminals and land grabbers.

Lapses, negligence, dereliction of duty on the part of public officials are also to be viewed seriously and all appropriate actions in this regard are highly warranted.

High Court also noted that there are many instances where persons entrusted with the duty of managing and safeguarding the properties of temples deities and Devaswom Boards have usurped and misappropriated such properties by setting up false claims ownership or tenancy, or adverse possession.

The above is only possible with the passive or active collusion of the authorities concerned.

Such acts of ‘fences eating the crops’ should be dealt with sternly.

In the present matter, Court stated that the petitioner was not only an encroacher but abused the property of the temple for his personal gains. He has been enjoying the temple properties in an illegal manner, but derived profit from the temple properties and the profit gained was running to several lakhs.

In view of the above said, Bench expressed that,

High Court has its constitutional obligation in such circumstances to step-in and protect the interest of the minor idol and issue appropriate orders.

Directions of the Court:

  • Respondents 1 to 5 are directed to complete the eviction in all aspects and take over possession of the temple properties and deal with the same in accordance with the provisions of the Act and more specifically for the benefit of the temple administration;
  • Respondents 1 to 5 are directed to conduct an enquiry and assess the financial loss occurred to the subject temple and initiate all appropriate actions against all the persons concerned for the recovery of the financial loss caused to the temple;
  • Respondents 1 to 5 are directed to look into the active or passive collusion on the part of the Authorities in dealing with the temple properties in such a manner and initiate appropriate action against all those Authorities, who have contributed for the maladministration of the temple properties

[K. Senthilkumar v. Government of Tamil Nadu, WP No. 18190 of 2021, decided on 15-09-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner:G. Devi, For Mr V. Raghupathi

For Respondents: Mr N.R.R. Arun Natarajan, Government Advocate,  [For R1 to R4]

Mr Willson Topaz, For M/s A.S. Kailasam and Associates

Government Advocate [For R5]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., while quoting that ‘Promises are meant to be broken’ stated that the law has evolved the doctrines of legitimate expectation and promissory estoppel to ensure that promises made by the Government, its officials and other authorities are not broken and are, in fact, judicially enforceable, subject to certain conditions.

Promise by Chief Minister of Delhi

Petitioners filed the instant petition seeking enforcement of CM of Delhi’s promise.

Petitioners sought the recovery/payment/refund of the monthly rental amount, as per the promise made by the CM.

What was the promise?

CM, Delhi in a press conference on 29-3-2020, amidst the pandemic requested all the landlords to postpone the demand/collection of rent from those tenants who were poor and poverty-stricken.

CM, in the press conference, had made a clear promise that if any tenant is unable to pay the rent due to poverty, the Government would pay his/her rent on their behalf.

“…a solemn assurance was given that the Government would take care of the tenants.”

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench on perusal of various decisions of the Courts laid down the salient principles of the doctrines of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation:

Principles from decisions in India:

In India, the two doctrines of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation have been moulded and expanded further, in order to suit the economic and social conditions prevalent in India. Some of the principles that emerge are:

i)  If a representation is made by the Government, the question is whether it should be allowed to go back on it and whether such an act of resiling from the said assurance would constitute legal fraud.

ii)  It is necessary to promote honesty and good faith in governance. Therefore, if a promise has been made, the Government has a duty to fulfil the same.

iii)  Executive necessity does not constitute an adequate reason to not give effect to a representation.

iv)  If the promise made is clear and unequivocal then the Court can enforce it.

v)  If the promise is acted upon by the promisee, the need to enforce the said promise becomes stronger. There need not be any detriment caused. Mere action on the promise is sufficient for cause of action to arise.

vi)  Under the traditional law of contracts, unless and until, the terms are agreed upon, there would be no contract. However, the doctrine of promissory estoppel is an exception, i.e., no contract is required to enforce a promise made by the Government, if the Government made the same consciously, with an intention for it to be acted upon by the citizen.

vii)  It is important to bridge the gap between law and morality and these two doctrines of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation are judicial contributions in the said direction.

viii)  Relief based on legitimate expectation or promissory estoppel can be refused only if it is unequitable to hold the Government to its promise.

ix)  If public interest would be prejudiced by enforcing the said promise, only then, relief may be refused. The only exception is overriding public interest or when enforcement is unfair or contrary to public interest. However, the Government would have to disclose the facts that would exempt it from enforcing the said promise and a mere claim in respect of the same would not be sufficient to establish overriding public interest.

x)  A mere ipse dixit would not work, and the Government cannot presume a self-exemption. Only a Court can grant exemption from liability for not adhering to the assurance, provided the Government shows proper justification.

xi)  High ranking officials who may have made representations or given assurances or promises, can, due to the position they hold, bind the Government to their statements.

xii)  It is presumed that once a representation is made by a high- ranking official, the same is within the scope of its authority.

xiii)  If the representation or promise made or is prohibited by law then it cannot be enforced.

xiv)  The relief that may be given by the Court, in the case of an unconscionable departure from a promise is flexible, so as to remedy the injustice caused.

xv)  The mere non-issuance of a notification would not stand in the way of granting relief, if the facts justify the same, as the same would only be a ministerial act.

xvi)  Both these doctrines have to be expansively interpreted, as a recognition of the doctrine of fairness and non-arbitrariness.

xvii)  The legitimate expectation of a citizen ought to be considered and given due weight in decision making. It is a relevant factor for consideration in the decision-making process.

xviii)  Failure to adhere to a promise without adequate justification violates the trust between the Government and the citizen.

xix)  The broad exceptions to not grant relief on the basis of these principles would be – mistake, or if the same is unfair and contrary to public interest.

xx)  The doctrine of legitimate expectation is broader in its scope than the doctrine of promissory estoppel, and it may be based on past practice of the authorities. It need not involve a specific statement and is meant to ensure non-arbitrariness in State action.

xxi)  The doctrine of legitimate expectation and its enforcement is an integral part of non-arbitrariness and non-abuse of power as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution.

Now, moving on to analysing the facts, Bench noted that the address by the CM in the press conference has three dimensions:

  • The first dimension is an appeal to the landlords.
  • Second is a promise to landlords that it would pay on behalf of the tenants, if they are unable to due to lack of means and poverty, and
  • thirdly, it has a warning to landlords to not coerce the tenants.

Whether the said statements given by the CM were enforceable by applying either the doctrine of legitimate expectation or promissory estoppel?

Further, Bench stated that the promise made by the CM was under the premise that COVID-19 may be over within two-three months, as the words used were  आश्वासन (assurance or promise) and भुगतान (reimbursement) for the landlords, on behalf of the tenants.

High Court expressed that the principles governing the doctrines of legitimate expectation and promissory estoppel primarily recognize the role of the State of the Governmental authorities vis-à-vis the public.

Adding to the above, High Court stated that the said doctrines are a reflection of the legal recognition being accorded to the trust that citizens repose on promises/assurances/representations which are made by Constitutional functionaries and governmental authorities, especially in times of distress.

The raison d’être for granting recognition to such assurances/promises/representations, is that such functionaries and authorities, who are either elected to public positions or who hold positions of power, are answerable to the people, especially once they undertake or agree to do or not to do a particular thing.

Legal Enforceability

Bench expressed that the question as to whether a promise/assurance/representation results in a legally enforceable right and if so, what would be the relief that a Court can grant, depends upon the factual circumstances of each case and the context in which the said promises/assurance or representations have been made by the Governmental authorities.

Judicial Enforceability

The assurance given or the promise made in the present case was obviously with a view to stop or curb the migration of people from Delhi to the extent possible.

The actual effect of the promise or the assurance was beyond the scope of the present writ petition, inasmuch as there was no clarity as to whether the assurance resulted in tenants staying back.

However, this Court cannot be dismissive of the fact that the Petitioners, who are before the Court, claim to have acted on the promise or the assurance made by the CM. It would not be unreasonable to presume that some tenants and landlords may have altered their positions based upon the assurance given by the CM.

The salient facts and features of the present case were:

(1) Exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(2) Extreme distress being faced by migrant labourers and blue-collar workers and employees.

(3) A clear promise/assurance made by the CM.

(4) No positive policy to implement the said promise/assurance given by the GNCTD.

(5) No contrary policy implemented by the government, placed before the Court.

(6) No decision taken to not implement the said promise/assurance that was given by the CM.

(7) The exception of public interest having not been invoked for the non-implementation of the promise/assurance.

What should be the conduct of the Government, in the context when a senior functionary like the CM gives a promise/assurance to the public, which is categorical, unequivocal and unambiguous?

Court opined that such inaction would not be permissible when clearly the making of the promise/assurance by the CM was not in doubt, and was in fact admitted by the GNCTD.

Doctrines of Promissory Estoppel and Legitimate Expectation

The said doctrines are based on the axiom that the people trust the government.

In a democratic setup, persons who hold an elected office, and especially heads of government, heads of State and those holding responsible positions are expected to make responsible assurances/promises to their citizens, especially in times of crisis and distress. On behalf of the citizens, there would obviously be a reasonable expectation, that an assurance or a promise made by a senior Constitutional functionary, not less than the CM himself, would be give effect to.

If the GNCTD had actually come out with a policy either deciding to not implement the said promise or assurance on grounds which are legally sustainable, obviously the Courts cannot interfere. However, even applying the basic Wednesbury principles, the decision making, after the promise was made, ought not to be an arbitrary one.

 Bench held that in the backdrop of the commitment made, it is not the positive decision making which is arbitrary, but the lack of decision making or indecision, which this Court holds to be contrary to law.

Once the CM had made a solemn assurance, there was a duty cast on the GNCTD to take a stand as to whether to enforce the said promise or not, and if so on what grounds or on the basis of what reasons.

In the context of upholding Fundamental Rights, the principles of legitimate expectation have to be accorded a higher pedestal and the burden on the authority concerned not to honour the same, is even higher.

Conclusion

A statement given in a consciously held press conference, in the background of the lockdown announced due to the pandemic and the mass exodus of migrant labourers, cannot be simply overlooked. Proper governance requires the Government to take a decision on the assurance given by the CM, and inaction on the same cannot be the answer.

The expectation of the citizens could be that the Government would implement the promise, however, when this Court is examining this promise and the expectation that comes with it, the question is whether there is any reason as to why the Government did not even take a decision in this regard.

To that extent, insofar as the indecision is concerned, the GNCTD needed to answer the question, which it has failed to answer. 

Elaborating more, Court stated that the said promise was to act as a balm on the wounds of landlords and tenants, who were severely affected as a class of citizens in Delhi. However, the lack of any decision to implement, or a conscious reasoned decision not to implement, has resulted in non decisionem factionem in respect of the legitimate expectation of its citizens. The statements made by persons in power are trusted by the public who repose faith and believe in the same.

Thus, “puffing” which may be permissible in commercial advertising, ought not to be recognisable and permissible in governance.

Whether the statement made by the CM can be completely ignored and can be held to be not binding on the GNCTD?

In Court’s view, the promise/assurance/representation given by the CM clearly amounts to an enforceable promise, the implementation of which ought to be considered by the Government. Good governance requires that promises made to citizens, by those who govern, are not broken, without valid and justifiable reasons.

Lastly, the Court concluded by laying down the following directions:

  1. The GNCTD would, having regard to the statement made by the CM on 29th March, 2020, to landlords and tenants, take a decision as to the implementation of the same within a period of 6 weeks;
  2. The said decision would be taken, bearing in mind the larger interest of the persons to whom the benefits were intended to be extended in the said statement, as also any overriding public interest concerns.
  3. Upon the said decision being taken, the GNCTD would frame a clear policy in this regard.
  4. Upon the said decision being taken, if a Scheme or Policy is announced, the Petitioners’ case be considered under the said Scheme/Policy as per the procedure prescribed therein, if any.

Petition was disposed of in the above terms. [Najma v. GNCTD, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 3775, decided on 22-07-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner: Gaurav Jain, Advocate

For the Respondent: Rahul Mehra, Sr. Advocate with Mr. Gautam Narayan, ASC, GNCTD and Mr. Adithya Nair, Advocate.

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., imposed costs on the petitioner while rejecting his petition to grant waiver of rent for all tenants and related reliefs.

In the present petition, following are the reliefs sought:

  1. Waiver of Rent for all the tenants
  2. Constitution of ‘Rent Resolution Commission’,
  3. Constitution of ‘Rent Auxiliary Fund’
  4. Issue directions to the Delhi Police to make amendments to the standard operating procedure where, if their Control Room officer receives any distress call on ‘100 or 112’ from a tenant or a landlord, as the case may be, the officer shall connect the caller, after receiving her consent, to ‘Rent Resolution Commission’
  5. One time amnesty to the landlords or tenants, and
  6. setting aside order dated 17th May, 2020 passed by respondent 1/UOI

Essence of the petition

Petition asks landlords to forgo consideration for their premises already retained by the tenant.

The powers/discretion for waiving of such consideration (rent) vests first with the landlords, who are contractually entitled to the same. This Court will be extremely slow in interfering with the contractual terms which have been entered into by the parties to the contract.

Court declined to entertain the prayer for waiver of the rent and added that,

It ought to be kept in mind that Court cannot do charity at the cost of others. Charity beyond law is an injustice to others.

If the landlord is entitled to receive the rent/consideration in accordance with law as per the contractual agreement entered between the parties concerned, then, the Court cannot, by a general order of the nature sought by the petitioner, waive such amount.

Rent Resolution Commission

In Court’s opinion it sees no reason to constitute ‘Rent Resolution Commission’ and provide for all the mechanism of appointment of the Members thereof, procedure for removal thereof, fixation of salary thereof etc.

Moreover such issues are policy oriented and not for the Court to decided as the same lies in the legislative/executive domain.

Further the Court added that, it cannot pass general directions that would result in waiver of contractual or property rights or establishment of adjudicatory bodies.

Fallacy in the Case

Petitioner seeking an order placing the burden of proof on the landlord with regard to the financial situation of the tenant is the fallacy in the matter.

Further, petitioner was unable to justify as to how a landlord can be asked to provide such evidence which may not be within his/ her knowledge at all. The petitioner has sought to postulate a scheme based upon his own understanding, but without sufficient thought as to the modalities or the consequences of the proposal.

One time amnesty to landlords or tenants

For grant of one time amnesty requires various factors to be considered and the same will be a policy decision to be taken by the Government authorities.

Court is not the maker of the law, and cannot draft a brand new law, except where the law is silent or where some lacuna is to be filled up.

Presumption

It has been presumed that the tenants alone are suffering from financial hardship or from the economic consequences of pandemic and lockdown, however, it ought to be kept in mind that even the landlords can be financially dependent on the rent.

Thus, whenever a landlord expects eviction of the premises on the basis of non-payment of the rent, in such eventuality, the Court has to appreciate the proved facts of that particular case.

Thus in view of the above the Court does not see any reason to interfere with the order dated 17th May, 2020 passed by UOI.

Concluding its analysis for the above matter, Court stated that the present petition does not appears to be a public interest litigation, but it is publicity interest litigation.

Proposals made by the petitioner are ill- conceived, as he does not appear to have thought about their practicability or their effect on other stakeholders.

Cost of Rs 10,000 have been imposed on the petition for abuse of process of the Court and the said amount will be utilized for COVID relief and welfare measures. [Gaurav Jain v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 652 , decided on 15-06-2020]

Fact ChecksNews

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)[1]

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[2] 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[3], 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.


[1] https://www.deccanherald.com/national/covid-19-sc-declines-plea-for-rent-waiver-relief-for-lawyers-831845.html

[2] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/10949/10949_2020_32_5_21909_Order_30-Apr-2020.pdf

[3] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/11005/11005_2020_32_1_21916_Order_05-May-2020.pdf

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Valmiki Mehta, J. dismissed an appeal filed by the appellant-tenant impugning the judgment of the trial court whereby mesne profits were awarded to the respondent-landlord.

The appellant was a tenant in the subject premises. The tenancy commenced in 1986 and was terminated in 1998 vide legal notice. The appellant in the meanwhile, during the pendency of suit for possession and mesne profits, handed over the possession of the tenanted premises to the landlord in 1999. Therefore, the mesne profits were calculated from May 1998 to August 1999 (date of filing the suit to date of handing over of possession). Against the award of mesne profits, the appellant filed the present regular first appeal under Section 96 CPC.

The High Court noted that the trial court relied on the rent paid by another tenant to calculate the mesne profits. It was also observed that some amount of honest guess work is always involved in calculation of mesne profits, therefore, once the rent paid on similar premises on same area was taken as the basis, there was no illegality in the award of the mesne profits passed by the trial court. Furthermore, the definition of mesne profits in Section 2(12) CPC provides that mesne profits include the interest payable thereon. Holding that the judgment impugned did not require any interfere, the learned Judge went on to observe that there is no inherent right in citizens of this country, who are tenants, to violate the law by overstaying in the premises where the tenancy stands dismissed. The appeal was dismissed. [Hindustan Motors Ltd. v. Seven Seas Leasing Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine Del 11391, decided on 19-09-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Vineet Kothari, J., decided a writ petition filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, wherein a stay was granted on the possession notice issued by the respondent Bank to the petitioner, directing the petitioners to approach the Debt Recovery Tribunal in proper proceedings.

The petitioners were tenants of Respondent 1 who was a debtor of Respondent 2 State Bank of India. Respondent 1 defaulted in re-payment of the loan and respondent 2-SBI issued notice to Respondent 1 to repay the loan within sixty days. Also, respondent 2 SBI issued notices to the petitioners-tenants, to evict the building within seven days which was a Secured Asset and would be taken over in the condition of non-payment of the loan, under the provisions of SARFAESI Act, 2002. Aggrieved by the said notices, the petitioners field the instant petition.

The Court perused the record and placing reliance on its earlier decisions held that the tenants too have a right to approach Debt Recovery Tribunal under Section 17(4-A) of SARFAESI Act. Holding that since the petitioners had an alternate and efficacious remedy available to them under the said Act, the Court declined to consider the petitions on merit. The petitioners were given liberty and directions to approach the DRT under proper proceedings within one month. Further, SBI was directed not to take any action for eviction of the petitioners for a period of four weeks. The petitions were accordingly disposed of. [Aravindamma v. K.S. Jayalakshmammanni,  2018 SCC OnLine Kar 530, order dated 5.3.2018]