Status of tenant not obviated by landlord’s death: Supreme Court

The owner of the property can pursue eviction proceedings only under the rent laws, says the apex court

Protection offered to a statutory tenant by rent control law can only be overcome by following the procedure laid out in the statute. Owner cannot demand re-possession of property without following statutory procedure, the Supreme Court has held.

The status of tenant does not stand obviated by the death of the person who created the tenancy. The only remedy available to the owner of the property is to pursue eviction proceedings under the rent laws.

Only upon the satisfaction of the competent authority that sufficient grounds exist for eviction of the tenant can an order be passed directing the tenant to vacate the premises, a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed in a recent judgment.

“A statutory protection granted for the benefit of the tenants under specific tenancy laws is to be viewed from a standpoint of protecting the interests of a particular class. Restrictions on recovery of possession of the premises let out to the tenants have been imposed for the benefit of the tenants as a matter of legislative policy,” the Supreme Court said.

“The protection which is conferred upon the tenant against eviction, except on specified grounds, arises as a consequence of statutory prescription under rent control legislation. The reason why the tenant is entitled to occupy the premises beyond the life time of the landlord who created the tenancy is simply as a result of a statutory enactment,” Justice Chandrachud wrote in the judgment.

The verdict came in a case dealing with the provisions of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 which are available to the tenant. Under the Act, the tenant has a protected status. That status cannot be disrupted or brought to an end except on grounds specified in the enactment, the apex court held.

The East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act 1949 aims at regulating conditions of tenancy, controlling rents and preventing unreasonable eviction of tenants. For the advancement of these objects, tenants are invested with rights and landlords are subjected to obligations.

The facts of the case pertain to the creation of tenancy by Shiv Dev Kaur in favour of Chander Parkash Soni. The life estate granted to Ms. Kaur had also empowered her to create tenancy on the property. After Ms. Kaur’s death, the heirs to the property filed a suit against Mr. Soni, who was even termed a trespasser. The appeal came to the Supreme Court after the high court dismissed the suit.

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