Civil Appeal No. 4682 of 2022
Asha Rani Gupta v. Sir Vineet Kumar
Date of Order:
14th of July,2022
Dinesh Maheshwari J.
Petitioner: Asha Rani Gupta
Defendant: Sir Vineet Kumar
The Supreme Court in this judgement states in regard that a defendant cannot use the property while a lawsuit is pending without paying the required rent or damages, according to the Supreme Court, even if they only dispute the existence of a landlord-tenant or lessor-lessee relationship. The issue before the court was whether Order XV Rule 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure applied to the situation. According to this clause, the defendant's defence in an eviction lawsuit may be struck out if the rent is not paid on time.
There is no "holidaying for a tenant in payment of rent or damages for use and occupation, whether the lease is subsisting or it has been determined," according to the court's opinion of Order XV Rule 5 CPC.
Civil Procedure Code Rule 5 Order XV-Default in payment of arrears of rent during the pendency of suit-Court if competent to strike off defence.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- The appeal was brought by Asha Rani Gupta, to the respondent Sri Vineet Kumar, asserting that the defendant was her tenant and had constantly defaulted in the payment of rent and taxes, despite her constant reminders, which dates back to 2010.
- The history of the property is that the petitioner acquired the store from Rajiv Kant Sharma, through a registered sale deed. It should be noted that the respondent was the tenant of the property before the sale of the property. The petitioner asserts that after the transfer of the said property the relationship of landlord- tenant automatically transfers between the petitioner and respondent.
- The defendant in his claim didn’t dispute the default of payment of rent and taxes to the petitioner, however he did object to the landlord-tenant relationship between them.
- It was alleged by the respondent that the sale deed purported by the petitioner was invalid and illegal, he explained by stating that Shri Rajiv Kant Sharma, the putative transferor of the plaintiff, did not lease the shop to him, rather, his wife Sudha Sharma did. Additionally, he said that Sudha Sharma had previously provided rent receipts but stopped doing so after collecting monthly rent.
- In her argument, Asha Rani Gupta referenced Order XV Rule 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) and asked that the respondent's defence should be rejected since neither party had made any rent payments and had provided no evidence to back up such payments.
- Sri Vineet Kumar challenged this motion, claiming that Order XV Rule 5 CPC's provisions only applied in situations where the defendant would accept the plaintiff as his tenant.
- In the present instance, he said explicitly that Asha Rani Gupta was neither the landlord nor the proprietor of the business, and that there was no landlord-tenant connection between the plaintiff and defendant.
- The Trial Court ruled that the defendant had not provided any proof to the record attesting to the fact that he had paid the plaintiff's rent, and it was noted that the application under Order XV Rule 5 CPC may still be maintained even if the tenant denied having a landlord-tenant relationship.
- •Aggrieved by the decision of the Trial Court the respondent proceeded towards the High Court. The High Court took notice of the entire background aspect and after a long-drawn arguments of the said partied, concluded that the sale deed is a registered one, and directed the respondent to to deposit the arrears of rent together with interest within one month; and further to deposit the current rent, month by month, by seventh of every month during the pendency of litigation.
i. Whether the suit for eviction and recovery of arrears of rent as well as damages for use and occupation should be allowed.
ii. Whether the High Court was right in reversing the order striking off defence in terms of Order XV Rule 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT
- The appellant strongly argued that the High Court handled the case in a rather hasty manner and had inaccurately overturned the carefully considered judgments dated 1st March 2017 and 18th January 2018, as made by the Trial Court and the Revisional Court, respectively, and striking off the defence of the defendant-respondent in accordance with Order XV Rule 5 CPC for failure to pay the required amount of rent/damages.
- The appellant further argued that the High Court erred in its interpretation and application of Order XV Rule 5 CPC by granting the defendant's petition by merely concluding that he was entitled to some leeway without offering any additional justification or finding to reverse the carefully considered judgments rendered by the lower courts.
- The appellant contends that the defendant-respondent would still be liable for rent even if he had entered a plea that implied a rejection of the plaintiff's title and the tenant-landlord relationship. He would be subject to the penalties listed in Order XV Rule 5 CPC if he didn't, and he wouldn't be qualified for any purported indulgence.
- The appellant further made reference to an affidavit that the defendant-respondent filed in 1990, which acknowledged that Shri Rajiv Kant Sharma was the property's original owner and that the plaintiff appellant had acquired the property from him through a registered sale deed dated May 10, 2010.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT
- The respondent argued that the High Court's stance did not need intervention. Since the defendant-respondent had specifically pleaded the absence of a landlord-tenant relationship, he argued, the defendant-respondent was not required to deposit any rent in accordance with Order XV Rule 5 CPC.
- He asserted that the word "may" in sub-rule (1) of Rule 5 of Order XV only gives the Court the discretionary right to do so and does not require the Court to do so in every instance of default or non-payment of rent.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- The Court emphasised that where a really fide tenant is involved, the ability to strike off a defence is discretionary and should only be utilised sparingly. The Court emphasised that it was essential that the defendant, who had not denied that he was the lessee, had adhered to the law's obligations and had deposited any back rent that was required.
- In addition, the court ruled that the defendant in the current-nature action cannot occupy the property while the case is in progress without paying the required rent or damages. This is because both the plaintiff's title and the relationship between the lessor and the lessee or landlord are simply rejected.
- The court further observed that despite being the lessee of the suit shop, the defendant's words and deeds show that he was persistent in his refusal to pay rent or damages.
- No matter whether the lease is still in place or has been terminated, the court claims that Order XV Rule 5 CPC establishes the fundamental principle that a tenant is not permitted to "holiday" from paying rent or compensating damages for usage and occupancy.
The Trial Court had dismissed the defence after determining that there was no evidence in the file to support the defendant-payment respondent's or deposit of rent in the plaintiff's favour. In light of all the pertinent facts and circumstances, the court came to the conclusion that there was absolutely no justification for the High Court to intervene in this case. The court so overturned the judgement of the High Court and upheld the judgement of the Trial Court.
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