The Bombay High Court recently upheld the law laid down by the Supreme Court, in the case of Suhas H Pophale vs Oriental Insurance Company Limited and its Estate Officer, wherein it was held that such persons who are in occupation prior to the premises belonging to or taken on lease by government companies and corporations, will continue to be governed by the State Rent Control Act.
The Public Premises Act will apply only to those who come in such occupation after such date.
A division bench of Justice AS Oka and Justice AK Menon dismissed the petition filed by current owner Central Bank of India and allowed the petition filed by tenant Dr Preeti Bhatt.
The case relates to a property named Ewart House in South Mumbai’s Fort area, which was owned by Life Insurance Corporation of India.
The original tenant occupying fourth floor of this property was RS Bhatt. His daughter Preeti had been residing in this house since 1950.
By a deed of conveyance dated May 22, 1972, Life Insurance Corporation of India sold this property to Central Bank of India.
In 2012, Central Bank filed an application before the estate officer appointed under the provisions of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971, praying for directions to the tenant to hand over possession of the said premises to the applicant and pay mesne profit at the rate of Rs. 2,17,000 per month at the rate of 12% per annum with effect from July 1, 2007.
This application was contested by tenant Preeti Bhatt, who submitted a written statement saying that she was suffering from cancer and that she is considered to be legally blind. She submitted a medical certificate to support her claim.
She also contended that the notice of termination of tenancy was illegal because Central Bank was not a statutory authority within the meaning of sub clause (iii) of clause (f-a) of section 2 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971.
In a judgment dated October 24, 2011, the estate officer directed the tenant to vacate the said premises within 15 days and pay monthly damage of Rs. 1,83,600 from July 1, 2007, at the rate of 6% per annum.
Aggrieved by the order, Bhatt filed an appeal before the city civil and sessions court. This appeal was partially allowed with the rate of damages reduced to Rs. 90,000 per month, however, the order for eviction was confirmed.
Following this, two separate writ petitions were filed in the High court. One by tenant Preeti Bhatt against the order of eviction and damages, while the second petition was filed by Central Bank against the order of reduction of damages.
Submissions and Final Judgment
Advocate for the tenant Vaibhav Joglekar submitted that his client falls in the category of persons with disability under the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, and the order for eviction by the estate officer and the sessions court has failed to consider the rights of the tenant under the provisions of the Disabilities Act.
Joglekar also relied on the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Suhas H Pophale vs Oriental Insurance Company Limited and its Estate Officer and argued that the said building was not owned by Central Bank on May 24, 1972, and thus, the said Act of 1971 will be applicable to the said building from the date of the conveyance under which the bank purchased the property.
He further submitted that the father of the tenant was a tenant of the said premises even before vendor of the said bank (Life Insurance Corporation of India) came into existence.
After hearing submissions from both parties, referring to the apex court’s decision in Suhas H Pophale, the court noted:“In the present case, the tenant's father was admittedly a tenant of the said premises before the predecessor of the said Bank, Life Insurance Corporation of India, came into existence. Moreover, the petitioner's father was admittedly a tenant of the said premises prior to 16th September 1958. The petitioner's father died on 9th September 1997. At that time, the petitioner was staying with him in the said premises. The petitioner became the tenant on her father's death. In view of what is held in paragraph 64 above, the proceedings under the said Act of 1971 against the tenant are not competent.”
Thus, the court held that the orders passed by estate officer as well as the sessions court were not maintainable and set them aside. The tenant’s petition was allowed.
Read the Judgment Here