Kaluram Onkarmal & ANR Vs.
Baidyanath Gorain  INSC 31 (11 February 1965)
11/02/1965 GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B. (CJ)
GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B. (CJ) HIDAYATULLAH, M.
CITATION: 1965 AIR 1909 1965 SCR (3) 34
West Bengal Premises Tenancy Act. (12 of
1956), ss. 17, 21 and 22--Suit for eviction--Deposit of rent by tenant with
Rent Controller and not in Court during pendency of suit--If defence could be
struck off under s. 17(3).
The appellant and respondent were the tenant
and owner respectively of premises to which the West Bengal Premises Tenancy
Act, 1956, applied. The respondent filed a suit, under s. 13 of the Act, for
the eviction of the appellant on various grounds. The appellant denied the
allegations and contested the suit. Before the suit was filed, the appellant
was depositing the rent for the premises with the Rent Controller under s. 21
of the Act, because, the respondent was not prepared to accept the rent. The
appellant continued to deposit the rent with the Rent Controller even after the
suit was filed and the summons was served. Alleging that as soon as the suit
was filed and a period of one month from the date of service of the summons on
the appellant had expired, it was obligatory on the appellant under s. 17(1),
to pay the amount in court and not with the Rent Controller, the respondent
filed an application for striking out the defence of the appellant in the suit.
The application was allowed by the trial court. The appellant's revision
petition to the High Court was dismissed, following the decision of a Special
Bench of the High Court in Siddheswar Paul v. Prakash Chandra Dutta, A.I.R.
1964, Cal. 105.
In the appeal to this Court it was contended
that the majority view in Siddheswar Paul's case that s.
22(3) does not apply to cases falling under
s. 17(1) was wrong, because, the deposit made by the appellant under s.
21 with the Rent Controller constituted
payment of rent by him to the landlord. under s. 22(3); and therefore, there
was no scope for invoking s. '17(3) against the appellant inasmuch as the basis
of s. 17(3) was that the tenant whose defence was sought to be struck out had
committed a default in the payment of rent.
HELD: Section 17(1) is a complete scheme by
itself and the legislature has intended that in suits or proceedings to which
the section applies the payment of rent by the tenant to the landlord must be
made in the manner prescribed by the section. The legislature wanted the
section to control the relationship between the landlord and the tenant as
prescribed by it. once a suit or proceeding for ejectment was instituted and a
period of one month from the date of service of the writ or summons on the
defendant had expired. Even in cases where the tenant might have been
depositing the rent with the Controller under s. 21, he has to comply with s.
17(1) before the period prescribed by the section had elapsed, because, as soon
as a suit is filed against the tenant by the landlord for eviction, s. 17 which
is a special provision, comes into operation, and it is the provisions of that
special section that must prevail in cases governed by it. The object is. when
a suit or proceeding has commenced between the landlord and the tenant for
ejectment and the tenant had received notice of it, the payment of rent should
be made in court to avoid any disputes in that behalf. The majority view in
Siddheswar Paul's case correctly represents the true scope and effect of s. 17.
as distinguished from ss. 21 and 22. [42E; 431-F;
45G-H] 35 Therefore, even the valid deposit
made under s. 21 could not be permitted to be pleaded by the tenant when the
application was made against him under s. 17(3). [43C]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 875 of 1964.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated April 10, 1964, of the Calcutta High Court in Civil Rule No. 4439
N.C. Chatterjee and D. Goburdhan, for the
P.K. Chatterjee and D.N. Mukherjee, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Gajendragadkar, C.J. Appellant No. 1, Kaluram Onkarmal, was let into possession
of the premises described as holding No. 182H, G.T. Road, Asansol as a monthly
tenant under Harbhajan Singh Wasal who was the owner of the said premises. The
rent agreed to be paid was Rs. 35 per month payable according to the English
Calendar. It appears that in 1953, the Calcutta National Bank Ltd. (now in
liquidation) sued the owner Wasal on the original side of the Calcutta High
Court on a mortgage. In the said suit, a preliminary decree was passed and in
due course, it was followed by a final decree. During the proceedings of the
said suit, Mr. K.K. Ghose was appointed Receiver of the mortgaged properties,
including the premises in the present suit. On February 18, 1960, the Receiver
put the mortgaged properties to sale and the respondent, Baidyanath Gorain,
purchased them. The said sale was confirmed by the Calcutta High Court on March
1, 1960. That is how the respondent became the owner of the suit premises along
with other properties under mortgage. After he acquired title to the suit
premises in this manner, the respondent informed appellant No. 1 about the same
by his letter dated the 2nd April, 1960.
On December IL 1961, the respondent sued
appellant No. 1, and appellant No. 2, Kaluram Bajranglal in the First Court of
the Muns if at Asansol for ejectment. He claimed vacant possession of the
premises let out to appellant No. 1 on several grounds. He urged that he
reasonably required the premises for rebuilding them after .demolishing the
existing structure. According to him, the existing structure had become very
old and was in a dilapidated condition. He also alleged that appellant No. 1
had unlawfully sublet the suit premises to appellant No. 2, and that he had
failed to pay or deposit the rents for the last three years in accordance with
The claim for ejectment thus made by the
respondent was disputed by appellant No. 1 on several grounds. Appellant No. 1
denied that the respondent required the suit premises for rebuilding, and also
disputed his allegation that he had sublet the said 36 premises unlawfully. In
regard to the averment made by the respondent that appellant No. 1 had failed
to pay or deposit the rents due for the last three years, appellant No. 1 made
a detailed dental. He urged that the rents had been regularly paid to the owner
in tune before August, 1960, and he pleaded that since the month of August,
1960 when he found that the owner was not prepared to accept the rents from
him, he deposited them with the House Rent Controller, Asansol, from month to
month. It was his case that notice had been served on the owner in respect of
these deposits from month to month as provided by section 21(3) of the West
Bengal Premises Tenancy Act, 1956, (Act XII of 1956) (herematter called 'the
Act'). The written statement further averred that the deposit of the monthly
rent continued to be made regularly under s. 21 and that the rent for March,
1962 had been duly deposited on April 10, 1962. This written statement was
filed on April 11, 1962.
During the pendency of this suit, the
respondent made an application under s. 17(3) of the Act and claimed that the
defence of appellant No. 1 against delivery of possession should be struck out,
because he had failed to deposit or pay the amount in Court as required by s.
17(1) of the Act. This application was strenuously opposed by appellant No. 1
on the ground that s. 17(3) could not be invoked against him in view of the
fact that he had been depositing the rent from month to month under s. 21. and
he urged that the deposit of rent thus made by him amounted to payment of rent
by him to the respondent under s. 22(3) and, therefore. no default had been
committed by him at all. This dispute raised the question about the true scope
and effect of the provisions of s. 17(3) and s. 22(3) of the Act. The learned
trial Judge held that notwithstanding the fact that appellant No. 1 had been
depositing the rent from month to month under s. 22 with the Rent Controller,
having regard to the provisions contained in s. 17(1) his failure to deposit
the relevant amount in Court incurred the liability to have his defence struck
out under s. 17(3). In coming to this conclusion, the learned Judge followed a
decision of the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Abdul Majid v. Dr.
Samiruddin(1). Having held that s. 17(3) applied, the learned Judge directed
that the defence raised by appellant No. 1 against the claim of the respondent
for delivery of possession of the suit premises must be struck out.
This order was challenged by both the
appellants by preferring a revision application before the Calcutta High Court.
Before this revision application reached the stage of hearing, the question
raised by it had already been concluded by a majority decision of the Special
Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Siddheswar Paul v. Prakash Chandra
Dutta(2). The learned single Judge who heard this (1) 62 C.W.N. 555.
(2) A.I.R. 1964 Cal. 105.
37 revision application was naturally bound
by the said majority decision, and applying the said decision, he held that the
order passed by the learned trial Judge striking out the defence of appellant
No. 1 under s. 17(3) of the Act was justified. It is this order which is
challenged by Mr.
N.C. Chatterjee on behalf of the appellants
in the present appeal which has been brought to this Court by special leave.
Mr. Chatterjee contends that the majority decision of the Special Bench in
Siddheswar Paul's case(1) is erroneous and has proceeded on a misconstruction
of the tone, scope and effect of the two relevant section of the Act--ss. 17
& 22. That is how the short question which falls for our decision in the
present appeal is: what is the true scope and effect of the provisions
prescribed by sections 17 and 22 of the Act? It appears that the Special Bench
in Siddheswar Paul's case was .divided on this issue; the three learned Judges
have taken the view that s. 22(3) does not apply to cases falling under s.
17(1), whereas two other learned Judges have come to the conclusion that if a tenant
had made a deposit with the Rent Controller to which s. 22(3) applies, section
17(3) cannot be invoked against him.
The separate judgments delivered by all the
learned Judges who constituted the Special Bench have dealh with the point at
great length and each one has subjected the said two provisions to a close
analysis and examination. In the present appeal, we propose to consider the
matter in a broad way and will confine ourselves to some general considerations
which flow from the construction of the two relevant provisions and which. in
our opinion, support the view taken by the majority of the Judges in the
Before addressing ourselves to the main point
in dispute between the parties, it is necessary to refer broadly to the scheme of
the Act and its main provisions. The Act was passed in 1956 and superseded the
earlier Act XVII of 1950.
The Act consists of seven Chapters. Ch. I
deals with definitions; Ch. II contains provisions regarding rent; Ch. III
coveys suits and proceedings for eviction; Ch. IV has reference to deposit of
rent; Ch. V considers the question of appointment of the Controller and other
Officers, their powers and functions; Ch. VI provides for appeals, revision and
review; and Ch. VII deals with penalties and miscellaneous provisions. Section
2(b) defines a "Controller"; s. 2(c) defines "fair rent";
s. 2(d) defines a "landlord"; and s. 2(h) defines a
"tenant". A tenant, according to s. 2(h), includes any person by whom
or on whose account or behalf, the rent of any premises is, or but for a
special contract would be payable and also any person continuing in possession
after the termination of his tenancy, but shall not include any person against
whom any decree or order for eviction has been made by a Court of competent
jurisdiction. Section (1) A.I.R.  Cal. 105.
38 4(1) provides that a tenant shall, subject
to the provisions of the Act, pay to the landlord: (a) in cases where fair rent
has been fixed for any premises, such rent; (b) in other cases, the rent agreed
upon until fair rent is fixed.
Section 4(2) lays down that rent shall be
paid within the time fixed by contract or in the absence of such contract, by
the 15th day of the month next following the month for which it is payable; and
under s. 4(3), any sum in excess of the rent referred to in sub-s. (1) shall
not be recoverable by the landlord. These provisions are in conformity With the
pattern which is usually adopted by Rent Restriction Acts. The rest of the
provisions of Chapter II deal with the fixation of standard rent; with the said
provisions, we are not concerned in the present appeal.
Chapter III which deals with suits and
proceedings for eviction contains s.- 17 which falls to be considered in the
present appeal. Section 13 which affords protection to tenants against
eviction, lays down that notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other
law, no order or decree for the recovery of possession of my premises shall be
made by any Court in favour of the landlord against a tenant except on one or
more of the grounds specified by clauses (a) to (k). Amongst these clauses, it
is clause (i) which deals with a case where the tenant has made default in the
payment of rent for two months within a period of twelve months or for two
successive periods in cases where rent is not payable monthly. Section 14
imposes a restriction on subletting. Section 15 prohibits a tenant from
receiving any sum or consideration for relinquishment of tenancy; and s.
16 provides that the creation and termination
of sub- tenancies shall be notified in the manner prescribed by it.
That takes us to s. 17. Section 17(1) reads
thus :-- "On a suit or proceeding being instituted by the landlord on any
of the grounds referred to in s. 13, the tenant shall, subject to the provisions
of sub-s (2), within one month of me service of the writ of summons on him
deposit in Court 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." Section
17(2) deals with cases where there is a dispute as to the amount of rent
payable by the tenant. This provision is not relevant for our purpose. Section
17(3) provides that if a tenant fails to 39 deposits or pay any amount referred
to in sub-s. (1) or sub- section (2), the Court shall order the defence against
delivery of possession to be struck out and shall proceed with the hearing of
the suit. It is under this sub-section that the impugned order has been passed.
Section 17(4) lays down:-- "If a tenant makes deposit or payment as
required by sub-s. (1) or sub-s. (2), 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 landlord:
Provide that a tenant shall not be entitled
to any relief under this sub-section if he has made default in payment of rent
for four months within a period of twelve months.
Reading s. 17(1)by itself, it is clear that
when a landlord institutes a suit to recover possession of the rent, though it
is not described as such by s. 17(1).It is thus clear that whatever may be the
cause on which the landlord's claim for eviction is based, s. 17(1) provides
that subject to the provisions of sub-s. (2), within one month of the service
of the writ of summons on him, the tenant is required to deposit in Court the
amount in the manner prescribed by it. If he fails to comply with the
requirements of s. 17(1), s. 17(3) steps in and' enables the landlord to claim
that the defence of the tenant against delivery of possession should be struck
out. If section 17(1) and (3) are read by themselves, there is no doubt that
appellant No. 1 has failed to comply with s. 17(1), and so, s. 17(3) can be
legitimately invoked against him. He, however, contends that m applying s.
17(3). the Court must take into account not only 40 s. 17(1)but also s. 22(3),
and his argument is that if he has deposited the amount of rent under s. 21 and
the deposit is otherwise valid, then the deposit itself amounts to payment of
rent by him to the landlord and as such, no order can be passed against him
under s. 17(3), because, in law, he has not committed a default in the payment
of rent at all; and it is this contention which makes it necessary to consider
the impact of the provisions of s. 22 on the application of s. 17(3) against
appellant No. 1.
Let us. therefore, read s. 22 and attempt to
decide what is the effect of s. 22(3) on cases falling under s. 17(1). As we
have already pointed out, s. 22 occurs in Chapter IV which deals with deposit
of rent. This Chapter begins with s. 21. Section 21 (1) provides that where the
landlord does not accept any rent tendered by the tenant within the time
referred to in s. 4. or where there is a bona fide doubt as to the person or
persons to whom the rent is payable. the tenant may deposit such rent with the
Controller in the prescribed manner. Section 21(2) lays down that the deposit
shall be accompanied by an application which should set forth "the
particulars prescribed by clauses .(a) to (d).
Section 21 (3) requires that the said
application shall be accompanied by the prescribed number of copies thereof.
Section 21(4) requires the Controller to send
a copy of the application received by him from the tenant to the landlord.
Under s. 21(5). the Controller is authorised
to allow the landlord to withdraw the rent deposited with him. Section 21(6)
empowers the forfeiture of the deposit to Government, subject to the conditions
prescribed by clauses (a) & (b) of the said sub-section. There are three
other sub-sections to s. 21 which are not relevant for our purpose.
That takes us to s. 22 it reads thus:
"(1) No rent deposited under s. 21 shall
be considered to have been validly deposited under that section for purposes of
clause (i) of sub-section (1) ors. 13, unless deposited within fifteen days of
the time fixed by the contract in writing for payment of the rent or, in the
absence of such contract in writing, unless deposited within the last day of
the month following that for which the rent was payable.
(2) No such deposit shall be considered to
have been validly made for the purpose of the said clause if the tenant
wailfully or negligently makes any false statement in his application for
depositing the rent, unless the landlord has withdrawn the amount deposited
before the date of institution of a suit or proceeding for recovery, or
possession of the premises from the tenant.
(3) If the rent is deposited within the time
mentioned in sub-section (1). and does not cease to be a valid deposit for the
reason mentioned in sub-section (2), the deposit 41 shall constitute payment of
rent to the landlord as if the amount deposited has been valid legal tender of
rent if tendered to the landlord on the date fixed by the contract for payment
or rent when there is such a contract, or, in the absence of any contract, on
the fifteenth day of the month next following that for which rent is
payable." Mr. N. C. Chatterjee for the appellants contends that the effect
of s. 22(3) is that the deposit made by appellant No. 1 shall beheld to
constitute payment by him to the landlord, and so, there can be no scope four
invoking s. 17(3) against him inasmuch/the basis of s. 17(3), in substance, is
that the tenant whose defence is sought to be struck out has committed a default
in the payment of rent.
The object of s. 17(1) is to secure the
payment of rent by the tenant to the landlord and since that object has been
satisfied by the deposit duly made by appellant No. 1 under s. 21(1), it would
be unreasonable to allow s. 17(3) to be invoked against him. It is common
ground that the deposit of rent has been made by appellant No. 1 in compliance
with the provisions of s. 21 and that it is not rendered invalid under s.
22(2). In other words, Mr. N.C. Chatterjee is entitled to urge his point on the
assumption that appellant No. 1 has made a valid deposit under s. 21 and is
entitled to the benefit of s. 22(3). Can a valid deposit made under s. 21 be
permitted to be pleaded by a tenant when an application is made against him under
s. 17,(3)?; that is the question which arises for our decision in the present
appeal. The answer to this question necessarily depends upon the determination
of the true scope and effect of the provisions contained respectively in s. 17
and s. 22.
As a matter of common-sense, Mr. N.C.
Chatterjee's argument does sound to be prima facie attractive. If, in fact,
appellant No. 1 has deposited the rent from month to month, it does appear
harsh and unreasonable that his defence should be struck out on the ground that
he has deposited the rent not in the Court where the suit is pending, but with
the Controller. When appellant No. 1 began to deposit the rent with the
Controller, he was justified in doing so; but on the other hand, it is urged
against him by Mr. P.. K. Chatterjee that as soon as the suit is filed under s.
17 and the period prescribed by it has expired, it was obligatory on appellant
No. 1 to pay the amount in Court and stop depositing it with the Rent
Controller; in other words, his failure to pay the amount in Court incurs the
penalty prescribed by s. 17(3) notwithstanding the fact that he may have
deposited the same amount with the Controller. The requirements of s. 17(1)
cannot be said to be satisfied by taking recourse to the provisions of s. 22(3);
that in substance is the argument for the respondent.
The question thus raised for our decision no
doubt lies within a very narrow compass and its answer depends upon a proper
construction of sections 17 and 22; but, as we have already indicated, this
narrow 42 question has given rise to a sharp conflict of opinion in the
Calcutta High Court. It appears plain that appellant No.
1 finds himself in the present difficult
position presumably because, acting upon the view expressed in some of the
judgments of the Calcutta High Court, he was advised to deposit the rent with
the Controller even after he was sued by the respondent and s. 17(1) began to
operate against him.
In dealing with this vexed problem, it is
relevant to remember that the two competing provisions occur in two different
Chapters and apparently cover different fields. Chapter IV deals with the
question of deposit of rent in general, whereas s. 17 in Ch III makes a
provision for the payment of the amount mentioned by it in Court after a suit
or proceeding has been instituted by the landlord against the tenant. It is
common ground that the Rent Controller is not Court within the meaning of s.
17(1). Prima facie. a general provision for the deposit of rent prescribed by
s. 21 would not apply to special cases dealt with by s. 17. The provisions of
s. 21 and 22 which are general in character, would cover cases which are not
expressly dealt with by the special provision prescribed by s. 17. In other
words, though a tenant may deposit rent with the Controller under the
provisions of ss. 21 and 22,-as soon as a suit is brought against him by the
landlord, s. 17 which is a special provision, comes into operation and it is
the provision of this special section that must prevail in cases covered by it:
that is the first general consideration which cannot be ignored.
Section 17 deals with suits or proceedings in
which the landlord claims eviction on any of the grounds referred to in s. 13;
and as we have already noticed, s. 13 which affords protection to the tenant's
eviction, permits the landlord to claim eviction only if he can place his claim
on one or the other of the clauses (a) to (k); that is to say, it is 'only if
one or other of the conditions prescribed by the said clauses is proved that the
landlord can claim to evict his tenant. Default in the payment of rent is one
of these clauses, but there are several other clauses referring to different
causes of action on which eviction can be claimed by the landlord, and it is to
all these cases that s. 17(1) applies. It is thus clear that normally, when a
suit is brought for eviction, the tenant would have to comply with the
requirements of s. 17(1). It is only where owing to the refusal of the landlord
to accept the rent tendered by the tenant, or where there is a bona fide doubt
as to who is entitled to receive the rent. that the provisions of s. 21 empower
the tenant to deposit the rent with the Controller. In a11 other cases, if the
tenant was paying rent to the landlord and is faced with a suit for eviction,
s. 17(1) will unambiguously apply and the amount of rent will have to be paid
in Court as required by it. It is also dear that if a tenant has been
depositing the rent validly and properly under s. 21, a suit against him under
s. 13(1)(i) cannot be filed. Section 13(1)(i) authorises the landlord to claim
eviction of his 43 tenant on the ground that he has made a default in the
payment of rent as described by it. But such a default cannot be attributed to
a tenant who has been depositing the rent with the Controller properly and
validly under s. 21.
Such a valid payment amounts to payment of
rent by the tenant to the landlord under s. 22(3), and so a tenant who has been
making these deposits cannot be sued under s. 13(1)(i).
It is true that the complication of the
present kind arises where a tenant who has been making a valid deposit under s.
21 is sued for ejectment on grounds other than s. 13(1)(i), and s. 17(1) comes
into operation against him. In such a case, if the special provisions prescribed
17(1) apply to the exclusion of sections 21
& 22 the fact that a deposit has been made by the tenant can be no answer
to the application made by the landlord under s. 17(3) In this connection, it
is necessary to bear in mind the fact that s. 17(1) is really intended to give
a benefit to the tenant who has committed a default in the payment of rent. The
first part of s. 17(1) allows such a tenant to pay the defaulted amount of rent
together with the prescribed interest in Court within the time prescribed, and
such a tenant would not be evicted if he continues to deposit the amount in
Court, during the pendency of the suit as required by the latter part of s.
17(1). In our opinion, the scheme of s. 17(1) is a complete scheme by itself
and the Legislature has intended that in suits or proceedings to which s. 17(1)
applies, the payment of rent by the tenant to landlord must be made in the
manner prescribed by s. 17(1).
Even in cases Where the tenant might have
been depositing the rent with the Controller under s. 21, he has to comply with
s. 17(1) before the period prescribed by s. 17(1) has elapsed. It is
significant that the requirement to deposit the amount in Court comes into
force within one month of the service of the writ of summons on the tenant. In
other words appellant No. 1 was justified in depositing the rent even after the
present suit was filed until one month from the service of the writ of summons
of the suit had elapsed.
The Legislature has taken the precaution of
giving the tenant one month's period after the service of the writ of summons
on him before requiring him to deposit the amount in Court. The object
obviously appears to be that when a suit or proceeding has commenced between
the landlord and the tenant for ejectment, and the tenant has received notice
of it the payment of rent should be made in Court to avoid any dispute in that
It is also relevant to remember that in the
matter of payment of rent in Court, s. 17(1) has provided that the amount to be
paid in future shall be paid by the 15th of each succeeding month, and that
means that the date for the payment of the amount has been statutorily fixed
which is distinct from the requirement of s. 4. Section 4(2) provides for the
payment of rent within the time fixed 44 by contract, but s. 17(1) requires the
payment to be made by the 15th of each succeeding month whatever may be the
contract. If, according to the contract, rent was payable quarterly, or
six-monthly, or even annually, s. 17(1) supersedes that part of the contract
and requires the rent to be paid, month by month, by the 15th of each
The position under sections 21 & 22 is,
however, substantially different on this point. Section 21 (I) in terms
requires the deposit to be made within the time referred to in s. 4, and that
means where there is a contract made by the parties in relation to the time for
the payment of rent, it is on the contracted date that the rent has to be
deposited under s. 21. The scheme of the three clauses of s. 22 clearly is
integrally connected with s. 21.
These clauses deal with deposits made under
s. 21. In fact it would be ,difficult to read s. 22(3) independently of s.
22(1) and (2); all the three clauses of s. 22
must be read together, and so, the time for making the deposit for the purpose
of s. 22(3) would be the time prescribed by contract and not the statutory time
provided by s. 17(1). It is clear that the deposit of rent made before the
Controller under section 21 is based on the contractual obligation of the
tenant to pay the rent and he makes the deposit because the landlord is not
receiving the rent or there is a dispute as to who the real landlord is. On the
other hand, the deposit of rent made in Court under s. 17(1) is the result of a
statutory obligation imposed by the said sub-section; no doubt, the amount
required to be deposited may be the amount for which the parties may have
entered into a contract, but the manner and the mode in which the deposit is
required to be made in Court are the result of the statutory provision, and in
that sense they constitute a statutory obligation.
That is another feature which distinguishes
the deposits covered by sections 21 and 22 from the deposits prescribed by s.
Mr. N.C. Chatterjee argued that if the majority
view of the Calcutta High Court is upheld, it may lead to some anomalies. As an
illustration, he asked us to consider the case of a suit failing under s. 17(1)
which ultimately fails and is dismissed. In such a suit, the rent would have to
be deposited in Court by the tenant as required by s. 17(1);
but if the suit fails, what happens to the
rent? Would the tenant be treated as being a defaulter, or would the tenant who
is required to make a deposit in Court as required by s. 17(1) be compelled as
a precaution, to make another deposit with the Controller in cases where the
.landlord had refused to accept rent before he filed the suit? We are not
impressed by this argument. In our opinion, if the tenant had deposited the
rent in Court as required by s. 17(1), he could not be treated as a defaulter
under any provision of the Act. Payment in Court made by the tenant under the
statutory obligation imposed on him would, in law, be treated as payment of
rent made by him to the landlord.
45 Mr. N.C. Chatterjee also relies on the
fact that s. 24 in terms provides that the acceptance of rent in respect of the
period of default in payment of rent by the landlord from the tenant shall
operate as a waiver of such default, when there is no proceeding pending in Court
for the recovery ,of possession of the premises. The argument is that where the
Legislature intended to confine the operation of a specified provision to cases
where there is no proceeding pending in Court, it has expressly so stated. In
our opinion this argument is not well-founded. Section 24 merely indicates that
the Legislature thought that it was necessary to make that provision in order
to avoid any doubt as to whether acceptance of rent would amount to waiver or
not in cases where no proceeding was pending in Court. On the other hand, from
the wording of s. 24 it may be permissible to suggest that the Legislature did
not think of providing for the consequence of acceptance of rent after the
commencement of a proceeding for the recovery of possession. because it knew
that the said matter would be covered by s. 17(1).
Besides, s. 22(2) gives some indication that
the provisions of s. 22 are not intended to be applied when suits or
proceedings have commenced between the landlord and the tenant. It would be
noticed that s. 22(2) says that no. deposit shall be considered to have been
validly made for the purposes of s. 22(1) if the tenant wailfully or
negligently makes any false statement in his application for depositing the
amount unless the landlord has withdrawn the amount deposited before the date
of institution of a suit or proceeding for recovery of possession ,of the
premises from the tenant. This last clause may suggest that the provisions of
all the clauses of s. 22 may not be applicable after the suit or proceeding has
As we have already pointed out, the question
raised for our decision in the present appeal really centers round the
determination of the areas covered by s. 17 on the one hand, and sections 21
and 22 on the other; and though it may be conceded that the words used in the
respective sections are not quite clear, on the whole the scheme evidenced by
them indicates that the Legislature wanted s. 17(1) to control the relationship
between the landlord and the tenant as prescribed by it once a suit or
proceeding for ejectment was instituted and a period of one month from the
service of the writ of summons on the defendant had expired. We have carefully
considered the reasons given by the two. learned Judges who delivered the minority
judgments in the Siddheswar Paul's(1) case, but we have come to the conclusion
that the majority view on the whole correctly represents the true scope and
effect of s. 17, as distinguished from sections 21 and 22.
In the result, the appeal fails and must be
There would be no order as to costs.
(1)A.I.R.  Cal. 105.
L/B(D)2SCI--5 46 Before parting with this
appeal, however, we would like to add that appellant No. 1 has to submit to the
penalty prescribed by s. 17(3) apparently because. acting upon the opinion
expressed by some of the learned Judges of the Calcutta High Court, he was
advised to continue to deposit the rent with the Controller even after the
present suit was filed against him. We do not know whether there are many other
cases of the same type. In case there are several other cases of this type,
that would really mean unjust hardship against tenants who, in substance, have
not committed default in the matter of payment of rent, and yet would be
exposed to the risk of ejectment by virtue of the application of s. 17(3). In
our opinion, such tenants undoubtedly deserve to be protected against
ejectment. We trust the Legislature will consider this matter and devise some
means of giving appropriate relief to this class of tenants.