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East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act: SC Upholds Right Of NRIs To Claim 'Summary' Eviction Procedure [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
16 Nov 2019 6:50 AM GMT
East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act: SC Upholds Right Of NRIs To Claim Summary Eviction Procedure [Read Judgment]
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"The right of Non-Resident Indians to initiate eviction under the summary procedure..is not an unfettered and absolute right."

The Supreme Court has upheld the Constitutional Validity of Section 13-B of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 which grants Non-Resident Indians a right to claim eviction for bona fide need by summary procedure.The three judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has also dismissed the challenge against ts extension and applicability to the Union Territory...

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The Supreme Court has upheld the Constitutional Validity of Section 13-B of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 which grants Non-Resident Indians a right to claim eviction for bona fide need by summary procedure.

The three judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has also dismissed the challenge against ts extension and applicability to the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

Section 13-B of the Rent Act gives a right to Non-Resident Indians to recover immediate possession of residential/ scheduled/non-residential buildings situated in the Union Territory of Chandigarh and urban areas in the State of Punjab on the satisfaction of the conditions stated.

In Ram Krishan Grover vs. Union Of India, while considering the challenge against Constitutional Validity of Section 13-B, the bench also comprising of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, noted that, such right of NRIs to avail summary procedure is subject to and on the satisfaction of statutory conditions which incorporate a check on frivolous evictions. The bench noted as follows:

The right of Non-Resident Indians to initiate eviction under the summary procedure provided in Section 18-A of the Rent Act is not an unfettered and absolute right. It is subject to satisfaction of various pre-requisites and imperatives that ensure and check potential abuse by resorting to a short-circuit procedure. The requirement should arise from a genuine need of the Non-Resident Indian landlord or his dependent. Such landlord should be an owner for five years preceding the date of filing of the eviction petition. There is a cap on permitting the use of the provision which is available only once in a lifetime and only in respect of one building. There are restrictions and constraints on the re-sale and re-letting and a further requirement to possess the property for a continuous period of three months after the possession is taken. These pre-conditions and post possession restrictions suggest that Section 13-B serves a specific policy objective to ensure the right of Non-Resident Indians to occupy their property in the Union Territory of Chandigarh and the State of Punjab as the case may be, after "returning" to their country. This right has to be balanced with the right of the tenants to establish their case on merits by disproving the genuine requirement of the Non-Resident Indians.

The bench said that Section 13-B cannot be treated as an arbitrary classification that infringes and violates Article 14 of the Constitution. It said:

The plea that Section 13-B ought to be struck down on the ground that similar rights can be extended to other landlords is without substance and should be rejected. It rests with the legislature to make laws and extend it to other similarly situated persons. The rent act(s) invariably give similar rights by a controlled mechanism and alluded riders to various other classes/groups of landlords, namely, government servants, members of armed forces, the retired or soon to retire employees of the Central and the State Governments, widows, etc. 

On legislature's power to reasonable classification, the bench observed:

Legislature's primary function is to make laws for all or different groups or classes of persons. The lawmakers as elected representatives are in a better position than any other body which is removed from local and other circumstances, to know the needs, requirements and expectations of citizens. It, therefore, seems only logical that the legislature possesses the power to distinguish and classify persons or things subjected to such laws.  

The bench also noted Section 18-A of the Rent Act which prescribes a summary procedure for recovery of possession applicable to eviction petitions filed by Non-Resident Indian landlords under Section 13-B of the Rent Act. It observed that Section 18-A of the Rent Act requires the Controller to take up the matter on a day-to-day basis until the hearing on an application for leave to defend is concluded. No litigant can possibly object to a provision stipulating day-to-day hearing which ensures speedy, expeditious and effective decisions, the court added. 

Click here to Read/Download Judgment


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