Delhi High Court has rejected a plea seeking waiver of the outstanding rent of tenants due to the economic hardship caused by the lockdown.
While imposing costs of ₹10,000, the Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan noted that it cannot do charity at the cost of others. 'Charity beyond law is an injustice to others', the court said.
The court further observed that:
'Varieties of factors are required to be considered, for grant of one time amnesty, which will be a policy decision to be taken by the Government authorities. Court is not the maker of the law, and cannot draft a brand new law.'
Filed by Mr Gaurav Jain, the petition sought for waiving off the outstanding rent of the tenants and prompt payment to the landlords to compensate them for the said waiver.
The Petitioner had highlighted that persons belonging to relatively underprivileged groups, such as maids, cooks, labourers, factory workers, e-rickshaw drivers, cycle-rickshaw pullers, street-vendors, shop attendants, office boys, guards, waiters, barbers etc., have suffered loss of livelihood and savings due to the various measures taken by the government to control the spread of COVID19.
The petition stated that:
'These tenants who have lost their livelihood and savings due to lockdown, face a serious risk of getting evicted from their homes if they do not pay the outstanding rent for the month of April and/or may and/or June. And if they pay the rent, they face a serious risk of starving to death or beg to survive as they will not be left with any money to buy food after paying the rent. It's inhuman and unconstitutional to subject anyone to the choice between eviction, begging or death.'
The Petitioner went on to argue that if a person is evicted from her rented accommodation, due to the constraints beyond her control, her fundamental rights under Articles 19(1) and 21 are violated.
It was also highlighted by the Petitioner that there is an order by the Home Secretary and two orders by the Chief Secretary ordering the landlords to not demand rent.
Despite the recent resumption of work under Unlock 1.0, the Petitioner argues, it would be very difficult for these persons to pay outstanding rent while facing continuous harassment from their landlords.
The petition stated:
'In the order dated 29/03/20 the words "for a period of one month" quantified the amount of rent which shall not be demanded from the tenant. It did not quantified the duration for which such a demand cannot be raised by the landlord. If the rent – for a period of one month – shall not be demanded again, it means that the rent has been waived off. The interpretation that the landlord can demand payment of the rent after one month from the date of issuance of the Order is absurd because it frustrates the purpose of the Order.'
Therefore, it was the case of the Petitioner that the harassment and forced eviction of the tenants can only be averted effectively and with less bad-blood between the tenants and the landlords, by proactive and preemptive steps taken by the state.