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J.L. Varandani Vs. Smt. Ashalata Mukherjee [1990] INSC 218 (3 August 1990)

Reddy, K. Jayachandra (J) Reddy, K. Jayachandra (J) Verma, Jagdish Saran (J) Punchhi, M.M.

CITATION: 1990 SCR (3) 610 1990 SCC (4) 40 JT 1990 (3) 365 1990 SCALE (2)164

ACT:

West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1956: Sections 17(2), (2A), (2B), (3) and (4).

Rent Control--Default in payment of rent--Suit for eviction-- Benefit of protection against eviction to the tenant under Section 17(4)Deposit of rent in compliance with Court's order under Sections 17(2) and 17(2A)--Condition precedent--Non striking off defence by the Court under section 17(3) for failure to deposit rent within the speci- fied time--Whether leads to presumption that time was ex- tended and delay condoned.

HEAD NOTE:

The respondent-landlady filed a suit for eviction of the appellanttenant on the ground of default in payment of rent.

The appellant deposited the rent and made an application under section 17(2) of the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1956. The Trial Court determined the rent payable and di- rected deposit of the arrears of rent. The suit was subse- quently compromised.

The appellant again committed a default in payment of rent and the respondent filed another suit for eviction. The appellant filed petition under section 17(2) and (2A), disputing the amount of rent and also seeking permission to deposit rent by installments. The Trial Court decided the rent payable and directed the appellant to deposit the arrears of rent in monthly installments by the 15th of each month. Thereupon the appellant-tenant claimed protection under section 17(4) which was resisted by the landlady on the ground that (i) the protection cannot be granted as per the proviso to section 17(4), since he has already been granted relief once in the earlier suit, and (ii) Appel- lant's non-compliance with the Court's order in depositing the rent disentitled him from claiming relief under section 17(4).

The Trial Court decreed the respondent's suit and the first appellate Court as well as the High Court confirmed the same by dismissing the appeals preferred by the appel- lant.

611 In the appeal to this Court it was contended on behalf of the appellant that since the follow-up action of the Court under section 17(3) viz. striking off the defence has not been ordered, it should be presumed that the delay in depositing the rent was condoned thereby entitling the appellant to relief under section 17(4).

Dismissing the appeal, this Court,

HELD: The mere fact that the Court has not passed an order striking off the defence as contemplated under Section 17(3) because of the tenant's failure to deposit within the time specified in the order passed under Section 17(2) and 17(2A), does not necessarily lead to a presumption that the time was extended. On the other hand Section 17(2B) which is a mandatory provision lays down that no application for extension of time for the deposit or payment of any amount under clause (a) of sub-section (2A) shall be entertained unless it is made before the expiry of the time specified in sub-section (1). [615H; 616C] In the instant case no application for extension of time was made by the appellant. Therefore, in the absence of such application it cannot be contended that the Court is deemed to have condoned the delay. [616G] Since deposit of rent as per Court's order under Section 17(2) and (2A) is the condition precedent for seeking relief under section 17(4) the appellant who has not fulfilled the same cannot claim the said relief. The orders of the Court below are therefore confirmed. [616H]

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 671 of 1985.

From the Judgment and Order dated 24th August, 1984 of the Calcutta High Court in Appeal from Appellate Decree No. 263 of 1979.

N.S. Nesargi and Dr. Meera Agarwal for the Appellant.

Rajan Mahapatra and Rathin Das for the Respondents.

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by K. JAYACHANDRA REDDY, J. The matter arises under the West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1956 ('Act' for short).

The appellant is the tenant occupying the premises belonging to the respondent 612 on a monthly rent of Rs.475. The respondent landlady filed a Suit No. T.S. 84/73 on the ground of default of rent for the period from May to August, 1973. The appellant deposited the rent and made an application under Section 17(2) of the Act.

The trial court vide its order dated 27.2.74 held that the rent payable is only Rs.450 per month and directed the appellant to deposit the balance of arrears of rent within 15 days. At this stage a compromise memo was filed and the suit was compromised in terms of the compromise memo. In the memo it was mentioned that the default was of the first instance and that there would be no decree for khas posses- sion. It appears the appellant again committed default in payment of rent from June to December, 1975 (both months inclusive). The respondent landlady filed Title Suit No. 3/76 after giving notice for eviction. In that suit the appellant filed a petition under Section 17(2) and Section 17(2A) of the Act. By Order No. 26 dated 23.3.77 the trial court decided that the rent payable was Rs.475 per month and the appellant was asked to deposit the arrears at the rate of Rs.3 15 per month by the 15th of each month commencing from April, 1977. The appellant contested the suit and filed a written statement claiming benefit under Section 17(4) of the Act pleading that it was the first default. The respond- ent landlady contested the same stating that no such relief can be granted as per the proviso to the Section since such a relief was already granted once and that at any rate the appellant did not comply with the order while making the deposit of the arrears by 15th of each month and on that ground also no relief can be granted under Section 17(4).

The trial court decreed the suit and the first appellate court as well as the High Court dismissed the appeals pre- ferred by the appellant.

In this appeal firstly it is contended that though there was delay in paying the installments as per Order dated 23.3.77 passed under Sections 17(2) and 17(2A) the Court did not order striking off the defence as provided under Section 17(3) and therefore the delay must be deemed to have been condoned and consequently it must be held that the appellant made the deposits as required by sub-sections (2) and (2A) of Section 17 and hence he is entitled to claim relief under Section 17 (4). The second contention is that the default which is the subject matter of Title Suit No. 3/76 should be treated as the first default inasmuch as the relief granted in Title Suit No. 84/73 in respect of the default for the period from May to August, 1973 was not one under Section 17(4) since the suit was decreed by way of compromise.

When this matter came up before another Bench of this Court consisting of two Hon'ble Judges, in support of the second contention, 613 reliance was placed on Jagan Nath v. Ram Kishan Das & Anr., [1985] 2 SCR 388, (a decision of three-Judges) where a similar provision in the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 was considered in a case where the earlier suit was withdrawn.

The Bench felt that the provision was construed in a narrow and technical sense and referred this matter to a Bench of three Judges and that is how this matter has come up before us.

All the three courts below have held that the appellant did not make the deposits before 15th day of each month as per the order dated 23.3.77 passed under Section 17(2) and Section 17(2A). Unless such a deposit is duly made no relief can be granted under Section 17(4) of the Act. At this stage it becomes relevant to refer to the provisions of Section 17. Section 17 reads as under:

"S. 17. When a tenant can get the benefit of protection against eviction--(1) On a suit or proceeding being insti- tuted by the landlord on any of the grounds referred to in Section 13, the tenant shall, subject to the provisions of sub-section (2) within one month of the service of the writ of summons on him or where he appears in the suit or pro- ceeding without the writ of summons being served on him, within one month of his appearance deposit in court or with the Controller or pay to the landlord an amount calculated at the rate of rent at which it was last paid, for the period for which the tenant may have made default including the period subsequent thereto up to the end of the month previous to that in which the deposit or payment is made together with interest on such amount calculated at the rate of eight and one-third per cent, per annum from the date when any such amount was payable up to the date of deposit, and shall thereafter continue to deposit or pay, month by month, by the 15th of each succeeding month a sum equivalent to the rent at that rate.

(2) If in any suit or proceeding referred to in subsection (1) there is any dispute as to the amount of rent payable by the tenant, the tenant shall within the time specified in sub-section (-1), deposit in court the amount admitted by him to be due from him together with an applica- tion to the Court for determination of the rent payable. No such deposit shall be accepted unless it is accompanied by an application for determination of the rent payable, On receipt of such application, the Court shall-- 614 (a) having regard to the rate at which rent was last paid, and the period for which default may have been made, by the tenant, make, as soon as possible within a period not ex- ceeding one year, a preliminary order, pending final deci- sion of the dispute, specifying the amount, if any, due from the tenant and thereupon the tenant shall, within one month of the date of such preliminary order, deposit in court or pay to the landlord the amount so specified in the prelimi- nary order; and (b) having regard to the provisions of this Act, make, as soon after the preliminary order as possible, a final order determining the rate of rent and the amount to be deposited in Court or paid to the landlord and either fixing the time within which the amount shall be deposited or paid or, as the case may be, directing that the amount already deposited or paid be adjusted in such manner and within such time as may be specified in the order.

(2A) Notwithstanding anything contained in subsec- tion (1) or sub-section (2), on the application of the tenant, the Court may, by order,-- (a) extend the time specified in sub-section (I) or sub- section (2) for the deposit or payment of any amount re- ferred to therein;

(b) having regard to the circumstances of the tenant as also of the landlord and the total sum inclusive or interest required to be deposited or paid under subsection (1) on account of default in the payment of rent, permit the tenant to deposit or pay such sum in such installments and by such dates as the Court may fix;

Provided that where payment is permitted by in- stallments such sum shall include all amounts, calculated at the rate of rent for the period of default including the period subsequent thereto upto the end of the month previous to that in which the order under this sub-section is to be made with interest on any such amount calculated at the rate 615 specified in sub-section (1) from the date when such amount was payable upto the date of such order.

(2B) No application for extension of time for the deposit or payment of any amount under clause (a) of subsec- tion (2A) shall be entertained unless it is made before the expiry of the time specified therefore in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2), and no application for permission to pay in installment under clause (b) or sub-section (2A) shall be entertained unless it' is made before the expiry of the time specified in sub-section (1) for the deposit or payment of the amount due on account of default in the payment of rent.

(3) If a tenant fails to deposit, or pay any amount referred to in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) within the time specified therein or within such extended time as may be allowed under clause (a) of sub-section (2A), or fails to deposit or pay any installment permitted under clause (b) of sub-section (2A) within the time fixed therefore, the Court shall order the defence against delivery of possession to be struck out and shall proceed with the hearing of the suit.

(4) If a tenant makes deposit or payment as re- quired of sub-section (1), sub-section (2) or sub-section (2A) no decree or order for delivery of possession of the premises to the landlord on the ground of default in payment of rent by the tenant shall be made by the Court but the Court may allow such costs as it may deem fit to the land- lord:

Provided that a tenant shall not be entitled to any relief under this sub-section if, having obtained such relief once in respect of the premises, he has again made default in the payment of rent for four months within a period of twelve months." The learned counsel for the appellant submits that assuming that there was delay in making the deposit of installments of the rent as per the said order, the follow-up action by the Court as contemplated under Section 17(3) namely strik- ing off the defence has not been ordered and therefore it should be presumed that the delay was condoned or deemed to have been condoned. We are unable to agree with this submis- sion of the learned counsel for the appellant. As already 616 mentioned, the appellant filed petition under Sections 17(2) and 17(2A) pending the present suit disputing the amount of rent and also seeking permission to deposit the rent by way of installments. The rent was held to be Rs.475 per month and the same was directed by the Court to be paid by monthly installments before 15th of each month but the appellant did not make the deposits duly. Admittedly no application was made for extension of time. Section 17(2) provides that if in any suit there is dispute as to the amount of rent pay- able the tenant within the time specified shall deposit in court the amount admitted by him to be due from him with an application for determination of rent. Section 17(2A) pro- vides for extension of the specified time and also to depos- it the rent by way of installment under the orders of the Court. Section 17(2B) lays down that no application for extension of time shall be entertained unless it is made before the expiry of the specified time under sub-section(1) or sub-section (2) and it further lays down that no applica- tion for permission to pay in installments under clause (b) of sub-section (2A) shall be entertained unless it is made before the expiry of the time specified. Section 17(3), on which reliance is placed by the appellant lays down that if a tenant fails to deposit, or pay any amount referred to in sub-section (1) or sub-section (2)' within the time speci- fied therein or within such extended time as may be allowed under clause (a) of sub-section (2A), or fails to deposit or pay any installment permitted under clause (b) of sub-sec- tion (2A), the Court shall order the defence against deliv- ery of possession to be struck out shall proceed with the hearing of the suit. We have already noted that no applica- tion for extension of time was made. The mere fact that the court has not passed an order striking off the defence as contemplated under Section 17(3) because of the tenant's failure to deposit within the time specified in the order passed under Sections 17(2) and 17(2A) does not necessarily lead to a presumption that the time was extended. On the other hand Section (2B) which is a mandatory provision laid down that no application for extension of time for the deposit or payment of any amount under clause (a) of sub- section (2A) shall be entertained unless it is made before the expiry of the time specified in sub-section (1). There- fore in the absence of such application it be contended that the Court is deemed to have condoned the delay. That being the position it must be held that the appellant tenant to make the deposit of the rent as per Order No. 26 dated 25, 3.77 passed under Section 17(2) and 17(2A). Since such a deposit is the condition precedent for seeking relief under Section 17(4) the appellant who has not fulfilled the same cannot claim the said relief. On this ground alone the orders of the courts below have to be confirmed. In this view of the matter we do not propose to go into the 617 second contention in this appeal. It may be decided in any other appropriate case where the question directly arises.

The premises in question is in Calcutta City where accommo- dation problem is very acute. Therefore the appellant is given time till 31st March, 1991 to vacate the premises on filing the usual undertaking within three weeks from today.

The appeal is accordingly dismissed. In the circumstances of the case there will be no order as to costs.

T.N.A. Appeal dis- missed.

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