31 Jan 2022 4:29 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has held that the jurisdiction of civil courts are excluded from landlord-tenant disputes when they are specifically covered by the provisions of the State Rent Acts, which are given an overriding effect over other laws.The Court held this while explaining the interplay between the Burmah Shell (Acquisition of Undertakings) Act, 1976 and the Haryana (Control of Rent...
The Supreme Court has held that the jurisdiction of civil courts are excluded from landlord-tenant disputes when they are specifically covered by the provisions of the State Rent Acts, which are given an overriding effect over other laws.
The Court held this while explaining the interplay between the Burmah Shell (Acquisition of Undertakings) Act, 1976 and the Haryana (Control of Rent & Eviction) Act, 1973 in the case Subhash Chander And Ors. v. M/s. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
The Apex Court reiterated that if a property fell within the ambit of State Rent Act, even after the expiry of the period of contractual tenancy or the duration as per the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, a tenant can be evicted only in terms of provisions of the said Rent Act.
A Bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had opined that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was barred and the petition for possession filed by the appellants ought to have been filed before the Rent Controller under the State Rent Act.
The subject property was leased out to M/s. Burmah Shell Oil Storage Distributing Company Ltd. for a fixed period of 20 years vide Lease Deed dated 04.06.1958. As per the terms of the Lease Deed it could be renewed for another 20 years. Before expiry of 20 years, the Central Government enacted the Burmah Shell (Acquisition of Undertakings) Act, 1976, ("1976 Act") and M/s. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. ("Bharat Petroleum") took over the leasehold rights. The lease finally expired on 01.04.1998.
On 30.01.1998, the appellant sent a legal notice to Bharat Petroleum to terminate tenancy. Subsequently, the appellant filed a suit on the ground that their predecessor in interest was the owner of the subject property and they needed the property for their personal bonafide necessity for expanding business. Assailing the jurisdiction of the Civil Court, Bharat Petroleum contended that they could only be evicted under the provisions of the Haryana (Control of Rent & Eviction) Act, 1973 ("1973 Act"). Refuting the same, the appellants argued that the suit property would be governed by the Special Act of 1976. Alternatively, it was argued that without consent of the appellants, the subject property was sublet by Bharat Petroleum to M/s. Banarsi Lal And Sons. The Trial Court held Bharat Petroleum was in unauthorised possession of the subject property. The Court of Appeal as well as the High Court were of the view that the Civil Court did not have jurisdiction as the subject land was governed by the 1973 Act.
Contentions of the appellants
Senior Advocate, Mr. Manoj Swarup appearing on behalf of the appellants submitted that Section 11 of the Special Act of 1976 had an overriding effect over all other laws inconsistent with the provisions of the statue. Moreover, he argued the lease deed only permitted one renewal beyond which Bharat Petroleum became trespassers. Bharat Petroleum's claim of being a statutory tenant under the 1973 Act was, contended, to be in violation of the 1976 Act.
Contentions of the respondents
Senior Advocate, Mr. V. Giri appearing on behalf of the appellants argued that Bharat Petroleum had become the statutory tenant under the 1973 Act and could have been evicted only by invoking Section 13 of the 1973 Act. On the basis of the same, it was submitted that the Rent Controller and not the Civil Court had jurisdiction in the dispute.
Analysis by the Supreme Court
The Court observed that it was undisputed that the appellants were owners of the subject property and it being situated within the municipal limits of Kaithal were governed by the 1973 Act. It was noted that in terms of Section 3 of the 1976 Act, right, title, interest of Burmah Shell, inter alia, in the subject property stood vested in the Central Government, which was conferred on Bharat Petroleum. On perusal of the 1976 Act, the Court was of the view that under Section 7(3), Bharat Petroleum was a statutory tenant. Referring to the Constitutional Bench judgment, V. Dhanapal Chettiar v. Yesodai Ammal (1979) 4 SCC 214, the Court reiterated that even after the expiry of the period of contractual tenancy or expiry of the term as per Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, a tenant can be evicted only in terms of provisions of the State Rent Act. Even though Section 11 of 1976 Act had an overriding effect, it was held that jurisdiction of Civil Court was barred from the field covered specifically by the provisions of the 1973 Act, which was a complete code on the subject matter.
"…that being the complete code determining the rights of a tenant/landlord to the exclusion of the other laws, we find no error in the view expressed by the High Court in the impugned judgment holding that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is held to be barred and remedial mechanism for ejectment could be possible only under the provisions of the Act 1973."
Case Name: Subhash Chander And Ors. v. M/s. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL) And Anr.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 101
Case No. and Date: Civil Appeal No. 7517 of 2012 | 28 Jan 2022
Corum: Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka
Counsel for the Appellant: Senior Advocate, Mr. Manoj Swarup; Advocate-on-Record Mr. Rohit Kumar Singh
Counsel for the Respondent: Senior Advocate, V. Giri; Advocates-on-Record Mr. Parijat Sinha, Dr. Vipin Gupta.
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment