Farmer in possession of leased premises cannot be evicted even after expiry of Lease period: SC [Read Judgment]

Farmer in possession of leased premises cannot be evicted even after expiry of Lease period: SC [Read Judgment]


The operation of Section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act would confer legitimacy to the possession of the tenant even after the termination or expiration of the deemed period of the lease so as to confer on him a status akin to that of a statutory tenant and hence protection from eviction as envisaged by the provisions of the Act of 1953, the Bench said.


Three Judge Bench of the Apex Court in SHYAM LAL VS. DEEPA DASS CHELA RAM CHELA GARIB DASS has held that a self-cultivating tenant in Punjab who is in possession of the leased premises beyond lease period cannot be evicted by the Landlord without establishing proof of any conditions specified in Section 9 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act, 1953.

The Bench comprising of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Arun Mishra and Prafulla C. Pant were answering the reference to it from the Division bench of Apex Court. The question referred was : Whether after the expiry of the fixed term tenancy in respect of an agricultural lease under the Punjab Security of Land Tenure Act, 1953 (hereinafter referred to as “the 1953 Act”) the tenancy gets automatically terminated and the person occupying the leased premises ceases to be a tenant?

BACKGROUND

In the instant case, the lessee had filed a suit for injunction seeking a restraint on his ouster and it is in the said suit that the landlord, as the defendant, had filed a cross-objection seeking mandatory injunction for the vacation of the premises by the appellant-tenant on the ground that he had ceased to be a tenant on expiry of the period of lease. The Trial court’s order of eviction was later upheld by the High Court. The lessee moved the Apex Court.

SECTION 107 TP ACT APPLICABLE TO AGRICULTURAL LEASES IN PUNJAB AND HARYANA

Referring to Government notification extending certain provisions of Transfer of Property Act to state of Punjab, the Court observed: “Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 which has been made applicable to the State of Punjab (including Haryana) by the above notifications require annual leases of immovable property to be made by a registered instrument. Though Section 117 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 makes the provisions of Chapter V, which includes Section 107, inapplicable to agricultural leases, Section 117 has not been made applicable to the State of Punjab by the notifications referred to above. Therefore, the provisions of Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 would apply with full force and vigour to all leases of immovable property including agricultural leases in the State of Punjab (including Haryana).”

UNREGISTERED AGRICULTURAL LEASE DEED WOULD NOT BE ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE

Distinguishing the facts of the instant case with that in Anthony v. K.C. Ittoop & Sons & Ors, the Court observed: “As the lease in question was not a registered instrument and as Section 117 of the Transfer of Property Act has no application to the State of Haryana, in view of the provisions of Sections 17 and 49 of the Registration Act read with Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 the terms of the lease deed would not be admissible in evidence and, therefore, cannot be looked into for the purpose of determining the duration of the lease….In the present case, the lease being admittedly an agricultural lease the same can be deemed to be from year to year in view of the provisions of Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act.”

AGRICULTURAL TENANT PROTECTED UNDER 1953 ACT

The Court further held:“If the lease in the instant case has to be deemed to be a lease from year to year and the terms thereof cannot be looked into to determine the total duration thereof what would follow is that the tenant remained in possession beyond the legally presumptive period of the lease (one year) with the implied consent of the landlord. In the present case such consent ceased to exist only upon institution of the cross objection in the suit filed by the tenant, as mentioned earlier. The tenant,therefore, acquired the status of a tenant holding over or a tenant at will, which would confer on him protection under the 1953 Act requiring the landlord to establish proof of any of the conditions specified in Section 9 of the 1953 Act before being entitled to a decree of eviction. From the above it would necessarily follow that to be entitled to protection from eviction under the 1953 Act any person claiming such protection has to come within the fold of the expression “tenant” under the 1953 Act read with the relevant provisions of the 1887 Act. Statutory protection would be available only to a statutory tenant, namely, a tenant under the Act. The Punjab Act of 1953 read with the relevant provisions of the 1887 Act do not include a tenant whose lease has expired. Nevertheless, retention/continuance of possession after expiry of the duration of the lease with the consent of the landlord will continue to vest in the erstwhile tenant the same status on the principle of holding over. Such continuance even after expiry of the deemed period of the lease under Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act, as in the present case, would clothe the occupant with the status of a tenant under the Act in view of Section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act which deals with the consequences of holding over. The operation of Section 116 of the Transfer of Property Act would confer legitimacy to the possession of the tenant even after the termination or expiration of the deemed period of the lease so as to confer on him a status akin to that of a statutory tenant and hence protection from eviction as envisaged by the provisions of the Act of 1953.”

Read the Judgment here.