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Surinder Singh Sibia Vs. Vijay Kumar Sood [1991] INSC 260 (10 October 1991)

Sahai, R.M. (J) Sahai, R.M. (J) Thommen, T.K. (J)

CITATION: 1992 AIR 1540 1991 SCR Supl. (1) 467 1992 SCC (1) 70 JT 1991 (4) 125 1991 SCALE (2)781

ACT:

Himachal Pradesh Urban Rent Control Act, 1987:

Section 14(3)- Second Proviso---Expression "has not vacated such building without sufficient cause"--Scope of--Possession given be consequence of requisition order cannot be held vacation not without sufficient cause.

Himachal Pradesh Requisition and Acquisition of Immova- ble Property Act, 1972:

Validity or invalidity of requisition order--Cannot reflect on sufficiency cause under Rent Control Act----Requisition Proceedings--Non-filing of objection by Landlord--Effect of.

Words and Phrases:

HEAD NOTE:

"Vacation "--"Sufficient Cause"-- Meaning of.

Section 14(3) of the Himachal Pradesh Urban Rent Control Act 1987 enables a landlord to obtain an order for eviction of the tenant if he requires the building for his own occu- pation and he has no other building in the area concerned.

This right however stands deferred under second proviso for a period of five years if the landlord has vacated a build- ing in use without sufficient cause.

The appellant, an owner of a house, was in occupation of first floor of the house, while the second floor was let out to a Judge. His entire house is requisitioned for occupation of a Judge. The appellant did not file any objection under section 3(2) of the Requisition Act. However, after vacating the building he applied for eviction of respondent. The Courts in view rejected his application by applying the second proviso to section 14(3) of the Himachal Rent Control Act.

468 Allowing the Landlord's appeal and setting aside the order of Courts below, this Court,

HELD: 1. 'Sufficient cause' is an expression which is found in various statutes. It has been construed liberally in keeping with its ordinary dictionary meaning as adequate or enough. That is any justifiable reason resulting in vacation has to be understood as sufficient cause. For instance economic difficulty or financial stringency or family reasons may compel a landlord to let out a building in his occupation. So long it is found to be genuine and bona fide it would amount to vacating a building for suffi- cient cause. And the bar of second proviso stands lifted In other words if the vacation of the building was not a pre- tence or pretext the proviso could not frustrate the right of landlord to approach the controller for necessary direc- tion to tenant to hand over possession to him. [470 B-C]

1.1 Vacation of a building by landlord in pursuance of an order of requisition by the competent authority could not be characterised as 'not without sufficient cause'. A land- lord has no option. He is required to vacate under con- straint of law. Therefore the statutory restriction created by second proviso would not apply in such a case. [470-D]

2. Validity or invalidity of an order under Requisition Act could not adversely reflect on sufficiency of cause under Rent Control Act. Reason for either arises in differ- ent circumstances. Vacating a building, even under an incor- rect order passed by a competent authority under Requisition Act would be for sufficient reason. The Rent Control author- ities could not examine merit of the order under Requisition Act Therefore it could not be a valid consideration for holding that the building was vacated without sufficient cause. The courts below thus committed an error of law in applying second proviso to reject the application filed on behalf of the appellant. [470-H, 471-A-B]

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 2383 of 1988.

From the Judgment and Order dated 1.4.1988 of the Hima- chal Pradesh High Court in Civil Revision No. 29 of 1988.

N.S. Hegde and Ms. Madhu Moolchandani for the Appellant.

469 Ms. Asha Jain Madan for the Respondent.

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by R.M. SAHAI, J. The short but interesting question of law that arises or consideration in this appeal, directed against judgment of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, is if possession given to competent authority under Himachal Pradesh Requisition and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1972 (for brevity 'Requisition Act') is vacation of premises without sufficient cause within second proviso to sub-section (3) of Section 14 of Himachal Pradesh Urban Rent Control Act, 1987 deemed to have come into force with effect from 17th November 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Act').

Sub-section (3) of Section 14 is extracted below:

"(3) A landlord may apply to the Controller for an order directing the tenant to put the landlord in possession (a) in the case of a residential building, if - (i) he requires it for his own occupation:

Provided that he is not occupying another residential building owned by him, in the urban area concerned: Provided further that he has not vacated such a building without suffi- cient cause within five years of the filing of the application, in the said urban area;" It enables a landlord to obtain an order for eviction of the tenant if he requires the building for his own occupa- tion and he has no other building in the area concerned.

This right however stands deferred under second proviso for a period of five years if the landlord has vacated a build- ing in his use without sufficient cause. The question is how the expression he has not vacated such building without sufficient cause' in the second proviso should be construed.

It has two aspects one whether the proviso applies to volun- tary vacation only or it extends to vacating under pressure of legal proceedings such as requisition order by competent Authority. Second even assuming that the expression 'vacate such building' is given wide interpretation does giving up possession in consequence of a requisition order amounts to vacation without sufficient cause? Vacate, normally, means to go away, to leave. The setting or context in which the word has been used does not indicate ,my different meaning.

Nor it is 470 necessary to decide if it applies to voluntary vacation only as it was urged that even assuming that giving up possession in pursuance of requisition order is included in the proviso can it be said to be without sufficient cause Sufficient cause is an expression which is found in various statutes.

It has been construed liberally in keeping with its ordi- nary dictionary meaning of adequate or enough. That is any justifiable reason resulting in vacation has to be under- stood as sufficient. cause. For instance economic difficulty in financial stringency or family reasons may compel a land- lord to let out building in his occupation. So long it is found to be genuine and bona fide and would amount to vacat- ing a building for sufficient cause. And the bar of second proviso stands lifted. In other words if the vacation of the building was not a pretence or pretext the proviso could not frustrate the right of landlord to approach the controller for necessary direction to tenant to hand over possession to him.

Vacation of a building by landlord in pursuance of an order of requisition by the competent authority could not be characterised as, 'not without sufficient cause'. A landlord has no option. He is required to vacate under constraint of law. Therefore the statutory restriction created by second proviso would not apply in such a case. Does it make any difference in law or the action of the landlord is rendered without sufficient cause as he did not file any objection in requisition proceedings either under mistaken advice or ignorance of law? For this it is necessary to narrate facts in brief. The appellant is owner of Kennilworth house/Simla and its annexure He was in occupation of first floor of Kennilworth house. Second floor was let out to the District Judge, who, later was elevated to the Bench. For his occupa- tion the entire house was requisitioned. The appellant did not file any objection. After vacating, the building he applied for eviction to respondent from the annexe. His application was rejected as it would found to be in teeth of the second proviso. It was held that the order of requisi- tion was passed because the appellant did not show any cause be filing any objection under sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Requisition Act even though proviso to the sub-sec- tion precluded any property or part from being requisitioned if it was in bonafide use by the owner. The explanation of the appellant that he was advised by his lawyer not to file an objection as the building was required for a High Court judge, was not accepted.

Validity or invalidity of an order under Requisition Act could not adversely reflect on sufficiency of cause under Rent Control Act. Reason for either arises in different circumstances. Vacating a building, even under an incorrect order passed by a competent authority under Requis- 471 tion Act would be for sufficient reason. The Rent Control authorities could not examine merit of the order under Requisition Act. Therefore it could not be a valid consider- ation for holding that the building was vacated without sufficient cause. The courts below thus committed an error of law in applying second proviso to reject the application filed on behalf of the appellant.

Even the finding on requirement of the appellant to occupy the building is not well founded. The inference drawn by the two courts below that the appellant being a rich man would not occupy the annexe or that he would use it occa- sionally is not well founded. It being undisputed that the appellant has no other building in the urban area and it having been found that he vacated the other building for sufficient reason there was no fetter on the right of appel- lant to seek eviction of the tenant.

In the result this appeal succeeds and is allowed. The orders of all the courts below are set aside. The applica- tion of appellant shall stand allowed. He shall approach the Rent Control authorities for appropriate directions. Parties shall bear their own costs.

T.N.A Appeal allowed.

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