G.Shenoy & Ors Vs. K.P. Ballakuraya & ANR  INSC 125 (6 April 1999)
D.P.Mohapatra, Thomas J.
a lease is of land appurtenant to a building or vice-versa continues to remain
an issue providing pabulum for many a litigation. In the instant case also that
issue has assumed decisive dimension. Our efforts to have this case settled out
of court did not fructify despite the active role played by counsel on both
sides. So we have to determine this issue on the facts of this case.
case reached the Supreme Court after drifting through a long stream of
vicissitudes. Genesis of this litigation is traced to a lease created during
pre-independence days when one of the two buildings situated in the disputed
property was rented out by its owner, (a bureaucrat then stationed at Delhi) to one Somappa Naik. On 28-7-1951
a new lease deed was executed by the said Somappa Naik in respect of the
disputed property having an area of 1.60 acres containing the same pucca
residential building thereon, for a monthly rent of Rs.9/-. When the lessee
continued under the lease he assigned his rights in favour of the present
respondent (who is a practicing advocate of Kassargod District Court) on 17-8-1968.
the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 (for short the Act) came into force the
respondent filed an application before the Land Tribunal, Kassargod in 1974 as
per Section 72B of the Act for assigning to him the right, title and interest
of the landowner, claiming that he is a cultivating tenant of the disputed
land. Despite resistance made by the appellant (landowner) the said application
was allowed by the Land Tribunal but the Appellate Authority remitted the case
back to the Land Tribunal for fresh consideration and disposal. The Land
Tribunal again allowed the application and when appellant appealed, the
Appellate Authority confirmed the order.
moved the High Court in revision under Section 103 of the Act. A Single Judge
referred the case to a Division Bench as he felt that the legal question
involved was to be determined by a larger Bench. By the impugned order a
Division Bench of the High Court concurred with the conclusion made by the Land
Tribunal and the Appellate Authority. Hence this appeal by special leave.
main ground on which the appellant resisted the application of the respondent
is that the lease was of a building with the land appurtenant thereto and hence
it does not fall within the purview of the Act. Under Section 3 of the Act such
a lease is exempted from the provisions relating to tenancies subsumed in
Chapter II of the Act. Section 3(1)(ii) can be extracted here:
in this Chapter shall apply toxxx xxx xxx xxx (ii) leases only of buildings,
including a house, shop or warehouse and the site thereof, with the land, if
any, appurtenant thereto." Shri T.L. Vishwanatha Iyer, learned senior
counsel who argued for the respondent laid emphasis on the monosyllable only in
order to bolster up his contention that the legislative intent was to limit the
exemption to leases of buildings. It is not a sound principle in interpretation
of statutes to lay emphasis on one word disjuncted from its preceding and
succeeding words. A word in a statutory provision is to be read in collocation
with its companion words. The pristine principle based on the maxim noscittur a
sociis (meaning of a word should be known from its accompanying or associating
words) has much relevance in understanding the import of words in a statutory
clause was worded as lease of buildings there would have been difficulties in
cases where land also adjoins the building. But the legislature chose to frame
the clause as leases only of the buildings with the land, if any, appurtenant
thereto. The legislature was conscious of many such leases where the dominant
factor is the building, or the object of the lease is to demise building which
has landed areas as adjunct or appendage or incident to the building.
word appurtenant when used in connection with leases of properties, has gained
wider as well as narrower interpretations through judicial pronouncements. Such
divergence in the interpretation was necessitated to comply with legislative
intent while considering facts of each case. In an early decision (Budhi Mal
vs. Bhati, AIR 1915 All. 459) the Allahabad High Court understood the word as
an appendage, or adjunct, or something belonging to another thing which is the
principal matter. Quoting from Abbots Law Dictionary, Ramanatha Iyer in his
treatise on The Law Lexicon of British India has extracted the following
meaning to the word appurtenant:
to another thing as principal, as hamlet to another village, garden to a home;
that which passes as incident to the principal thing, a thing used with and
related to or dependent upon another thing more worthy and agreeing in its
nature and quality with the thing whereunto it is appendant or appurtenant;
which belongs to something else, an adjunct, an appendage." In Maharaj
Singh vs. State of U.P. (1977 1 SCC 155) a two-Judge Bench of this Court
considered the claim of a defendant that the hat, bazar and mela as areas
appurtenant to the buildings in the property on the premise that they have not
vested in the government under Section 6 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and
Land Reforms Act, 1950. Learned Judges observed thus:
is integral is not necessarily appurtenant. A position of subordination
something incidental or ancillary or dependant is implied in
appurtenance." In M/s. Larsen and Toubro Ltd. vs. Trustees of Dharmamurthy
Rao Bahadur Calavala Cunnan (1988 4 SCC 260) the company (Larsen and Toubro)
was a tenant of all that plot of vacant land and buildings erected thereon and
more particularly described in the schedule and delineated in the plan annexed
and measuring 17 grounds and 321 sq. ft. or thereabouts. The company claimed
protection under Section 9 of the Tamil Nadu City Tenants Protection Act, 1922
which applied only to tenancies of lands in certain towns. The word building in
the said Act was defined as any building and includes the appurtenances
company contended that since apart from the building a large area of land was
also included in the lease deed it cannot be considered as appurtenances to the
building. Learned Judges pointed out that the question whether a land is
appurtenant or not is one of fact. After adverting to the different clauses
contained in the lease deed involved in that case their Lordships concluded:
is not possible to infer from these clauses that the parties had entered into
two separate transactions of lease, though incorporated in a single document.
In our opinion, this was a composite lease, as we have already said, of a
building with appurtenant land and having regard to the definition contained in
the Act, the lessee is not entitled to the rights conferred by Section 3 or
Section 9 of the Act." In Suryakumar Govindjee vs. Krishnammal and ors.(1990
4 SCC 343) a two-Judge Bench of this Court has observed thus:
a very strict and narrow interpretation is given to the word appurtenant, it is
arguable that a considerable part of the surrounding land is surplus to the
requirements of the lessee of the building. But, we think, no argument is
needed to say that such a lease would be a lease of building for the purposes
of the Rent Control Act. Where a person leases a building together with land,
it seems impermissible in the absence of clear intention spelt out in the deed
to dissect the lease as (a) of building and appurtenant land covered by the
Rent Control Act and (b) of land alone governed by other relevant statutory
provisions. What the parties have joined, one would think, the court cannot
tear as under." In the light of the legal principles laid down by this
court we have now to judge whether the lease in this case is of a building with
the land appurtenant thereto or it comprises of two leases one of building and
the other of land by bringing both of them under one deed.
lease deed dated 28-7-1951 incorporated all the terms and
conditions for the lease. Its English translation is produced as Annexure-B.
The lessor was described as Secretary to the Minister for communication,
Government of India, and the lessee was described as a clerk of the Panchayat
Board, Kassargod Kasba. In the prefatory portion it refers to the tiled
building belonging to the lessor which was demised to the lessee for a period
of 11 months as per a Chalageni Chit (rent deed) dated 6-5-1947 and on the expiry of the said period the lessee was
permitted to continue under the same terms and conditions.
saying so the lease deed continues to state that while so, as per the request
made by the lessee to grant him lease of some portion of the land adjoining the
leasehold property and as agreed to by the lessor the additional portion is
taken possession of by the lessee, and this Chalageni Chit is executed.
next paragraph of the lease deed it is stated that the property described thereunder
in which the house wherein the lessee resides now, is included, together with
the bath-room (which was constructed by the lessor) and the trees on the
property, have been demised by the lessor to the lessee for a period starting
from 1-7-1951 and ending with 30-6-1952. The other stipulations in the lease
deed are the following:
The lessee is liable to pay the monthly rent of Rs.9/- by the 10th day of every
(2) If the rent falls in arrears it shall bear interest at
the rate of 5 per cent per annum from the date of default.
(3) All the
improvements standing on the landed area would belong to the lessor.
lessee has no right
(a) to effect any kinds of improvement on the land,
make any repairs to the building without the written consent of the lessor or to
make any claim for the cost incurred for such repairs,
cut any of the trees without any proper reasons,
sub-lease or to alienate to any other person.
description of the property is as follows: The western portion of the property
lying in survey R.S. No. 112/1, having an extent of 1.60 acres and the tiled
residential building (in which lessee is residing) together with a bathroom, 33
coconut trees (among which 21 are yielding), 7 jack trees, 7 mango trees, 50
cashew trees, 2 nellikai trees, and 2 casuarina trees. It is made clear that
the other pucca building situated on the land is not included in the lease.
counsel contended that factors such as the nomenclature as Chalageni and that
the lease is expansion of the original lease, are positive indications in favour
of the lease being mainly one of land. Nomenclature does not matter in this
case because even the previous deed of 1947 also contained the same
appellation. Nor can the fact that it is expansion of the first lease be of any
decisive impact, for that feature can be highlighted by both sides as a
supporting factor to their respective stand.
standard by which this document can be tested for discerning the predominant
factor therein building or land can be this:
one lease for the building and the landed portion was added as appendage or
incidental thereto? Or was it one document for two separate demises i.e. one
for building and the other for the land? It is difficult to make out a third
possibility that it would have been only one lease where the predominant factor
was land, the building being of subsidiary importance.
counsel for the appellant first pointed out the situation at which both parties
were placed then. The lessor having such a pucca residential building with a
sprawling compound attached to it had to remain in New Delhi as he was working as Secretary to
the Government of India. The lessee who was a public servant working at Kasarcodu
needed a house to live in at that place.
facts, according to the learned counsel, would clearly show that it was the
building which was of prime consideration for the lease. The attached compound
could not have been left out, for practical reasons, uncared by any one and
hence it became necessary to include that compound area also as part of the
lease. The said contention cannot be sidelined as without force.
counsel then highlighted the factors such as provisions for payment of rent
every month and liability to pay interest from the date of default and
contended that they are clear indications in favour of the lease being that of
building with the land adjoining thereto. The very fact that the land portion
is described as adjoining to the building is proof positive of its object,
according to the learned counsel. He also contended that if the land was
intended to be enjoyed, de hors the building, no provision was necessary to
prohibit the lessee from effecting any improvement on the land. It is only the
fruits of the trees which the lessee was permitted to take.
fact that another building situated within the boundaries has been retained by
the lessor is a pointer indicating that the land was only to be used as adjunct
to the residential building. Over and above all those, the interdict against
making any improvement on the land is a stirring feature which is in conflict
with the idea of land becoming the dominant factor of the lease. No lease of
land can possibly be conceived without the lessee being given freedom to use
the land to generate profit therefrom. Here the lease imposed a complete ban on
the lessee to use the land for such purposes. All that he is permitted thereon
is to take usufructs of the trees already standing on the land.
reading of the lease deed from the above angles indicates that there was no
idea for the lessor to create a right to enjoy the land independent of the
building but only to take usufruct of the trees standing thereon while residing
in the building. The area of the land alone cannot be a determinative factor.
It was common practice in olden days for residential buildings to have
sprawling areas as adjuncts to such buildings. That practice could well have
been followed by the parties in the lease deed which is subject matter of the
the aforesaid reasons we take the view that the lease was of building with the
landed area meant as appurtenant thereto. Its corollary is that the lease is
exempted from Chapter II of the Act and the consequence is that respondent
cannot claim any right under Section 72B of the Act.
result, we allow the appeal and set aside the impugned judgment as also the
order of the Land Tribunal as confirmed by the Appellate Authority.
Accordingly, the application filed by the respondent under Section 72B of the
Act will stand dismissed.