Supreme Court yesterday ruled that tenants in Delhi who used leased
premises for commercial purposes can be evicted if the landlord
required it for bonafide purpose.
This is a sharp turn in the Delhi Rent Control law as a full bench of the Delhi High Court had protected commercial tenants. The High Court had distinguished lease for residential and commercial purposes, and allowed landlords to recover the premises only in case the tenant was using it for residential purposes.
The Supreme Court stated that the High Court ruling was outdated as it was delivered in the context of shortage of buildings in the capital following the influx of refugees after partition. The situation has considerably eased now and therefore that judgment was no longer relevant, the Supreme Court said while allowing the appeals of several landlords.
|The Supreme Court also partly struck down Section 14(1)(e) of the Delhi Rent Control Act 1958 which made the illegal distinction. The judgment, delivered by Justice B N Agrawal and Justice G S Singhi, stated that the provision as it stood now infringed Article 14 of the Constitution as it discriminated between the premises let out for residential and non-residential purposes when it is required bonafide by the landlord for occupation for himself or for any member of his family dependent on him.
|The original clause dealing with eviction of tenant for bonafide use of the landlord mentioned 'residential' purpose. Since this was discriminatory, the Supreme Court removed that word so that the relevant part of the provision would now read like this: "the premises are required bonafide by the landlord for himself or for any member of his family dependent on him."
|In the earlier laws governing Delhi tenancy, the right of the landlord to evict the tenant was uniformly applicable to residential and non-residential buildings. The amendment in the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1956 created the classification. The judgment said the classification created by the amendment has no relation to the object sought to be achieved by the act.
|"To vacate a premise for the bonafide requirement of the landlord would not cause any hardships to the tenant," the judgment explained. "Statutory protection to a tenant cannot be extended to such an extent that the landlord is precluded from evicting the tenant for the rest of his life even when he bonafide requires the premises for his personal use and occupation. It is not the tenants but the landlords who are suffering great hardships because of the amendment. A landlord may genuinely like to let out a shop till the time he bonafide needs the same."
|The court continued:
"As of now, a period of almost 50 years has elapsed from the enactment
of the 1958 Act. During this long span of time much water has flown
down the Ganges. Those who came from West Pakistan as refugees and even
their next generations have settled down in different parts of the
country, more particularly in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and surrounding
areas. They are occupying prime positions in political and bureaucratic
set up of the government and have earned huge wealth in different
trades, occupation, business and similar ventures. Not only this, the
availability of buildings and premises which can be let for
non-residential or commercial purposes has substantially increased."
Therefore, the reason which prompted the High Court to sustain the
differentiation/classification of the premises with reference to the
purpose of their use is no longer valid, the court emphasised.
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