OWNERS CAN EVICT COMMERCIAL TENANTS TOO: SUPREME COURT

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Tenants in a commercial property will have to vacate the premises if asked by the land owner, the Supreme Court has ruled. The court has struck down a provision of the rent law applicable for the Capital that restricted the right of the landlord to evict a tenant from the premises lent for residential purposes only.

A bench comprising Justice B N Agrawal and Justice G S Singhvi said: “We hold that Section 14(1)(e) of the 1958 Act is in violation of the doctrine of equality embodied in Article 14 of the Constitution of India insofar as it discriminates between the premises let for residential and non-residential purposes when the same are required bona fide by the landlord for occupation for himself or for any member of his family dependent on him and restricts the latter’s right to seek eviction of the tenant from the premises let for residential purposes only.”

The court further said: “We feel that ends of justice will be met by striking down the discriminatory portion of Section 14(1)(e) so that the remaining part thereof may read as under: That the premises are required bona fide by the landlord for himself or for any member of his family dependent on him, if he is the owner thereof, or for any person for whose benefit the premises are held and that the landlord or such person has no other reasonably suitable accommodation.”

Justice Singhvi writing the verdict for the bench said, “An analysis of the various rent laws for the Capital shows that till 1947 no tangible distinction was made between the premises let for residential and nonresidential purposes. The implicit restriction on the landlord’s right to recover possession of the non-residential premises was introduced in the Delhi and Ajmer-Marwara Rent Control Act, 1947 and was continued under the 1958 Act. However, the 1995 Act does not make any distinction between the premises let for residential and non-residential purposes in the matter of eviction of tenant on the ground that the same are required by the landlord for his/her bona fide use or occupation. Even though, the 1995 Act is yet to be enforced and in Common Cause vs Union of India this court (Supreme Court) declined to issue a writ of mandamus to the Central Government, for that purpose, we can take judicial notice of the fact that the legislature has, after taking note of the developments which have taken place in the last 37 years i.e. substantial increase in the availability of the commercial and non-residential premises or the premises which can be let for commercial or non-residential purposes and meteoric rise in the prices of land and rentals of residential as well as non-residential premises, removed the implicit embargo on the landlord’s right to recover possession of the premises if the same are bona fide required by him/her”.

The court allowed the appeals of the landlord’s seeking eviction of the tenants, who had opposed it saying that the premises were let out for residential purposes.

In one such appeal, on August 18, 1953, Delhi Improvement Trust
leased out a plot of land in Basti Reghar in the city to Jagat Singh. In terms of the lease deed, the lessee was prohibited from using the land and building (to be constructed over it) for any purpose other than residence, with a stipulation that in case of breach of this condition, the lease shall become void.

After constructing the building, the lessee inducted Shri Jai Narain Sharma and Dr Ms Tara Motihar, as tenants in two portions of the building, who started using the rented premises for running watch shop and clinic, respectively.

The appellant Smt Satyawati Sharma had purchased the property from legal heirs of the lessee. After purchasing the property, she had sought eviction of the tenants who said that the previous owner let out the premises for non-residential purposes and cannot be evicted.

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