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The Supreme Court has held that a landlord can seek recovery of the rented premises on behalf of the tenant if the latter has been thrown out by a trespasser or a muscleman.

A bench comprising Justices P Sathasivam and R M Lodha handed down the ruling on an appeal by a landlady Anita Anant Sawant whose relatives had thrown out her tenants P V Warik from her house almost 22 years ago on October 1, 1988. The relatives of the landlady had claimed the ownership of the house in Ambet village in Raigad district of Maharashtra.

The apex court in its ruling noted, ‘landlords have the right to fight for their tenants who have been forcibly thrown out of their tenanted premises by a trespasser. This is true even if the trespasser is a kin of the landlord.’ The Judges further noted, ‘a landlord, when he lets out his property to the tenant, is not deprived of his possession in the property in law.’ ‘What is altered is the mode in which the landlord held his possession while the landlord retains possession through his tenant.

And attack by a trespasser on the tenant was in fact a slap at the right of the landlord over the property,’ the Judges further added.

The court concluded by ruling that the landlord was the right person to fight for the dispossessed tenant because he retained the legal possession and the right to exclude strangers from interfering even though the actual or physical possession to use and control the property was with the tenant.

The onus was on the landlord to exercise his right to enter the property -- from where his tenant was forcibly ejected -- and clear the land of the trespasser and immediately recover possession of the property to the hapless tenant if the tenant so wished to continue on the same premises.

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