Tenant’s too have responsibilities: Karnataka High Court

Court sets aside trial court orders, says tenants failed to handover property on time.

Benevolent pieces of legislation do not get stranger than the laws favouring the tenants. Section 36 of The Karnataka Rent Act, 1999 that favours tenants of commercial premises sometimes leads to strange situations where tenants end up opposing court orders that don’t go in their favour. In some cases, verdicts favour tenants even if the mistake is theirs. Recently, the High Court stepped in to show that tenants too have responsibilities under rent laws and cannot be allowed to go against the spirit of the law.
The dispute between the landowner and four tenants resulted in multiple cases for nearly two decades. During the pendency of the various cases between the tenants and the owner, the Karnataka Rent Control Act, 1961 was replaced by the Karnataka Rent Act, 1999.
Basavva Basappa Shellikeri, Irappa Basappa Shellikeri, Gourava Basappa Shellikeri and Shantavva Gurappa were tenants of Chandranath Padesoor of a commercial premises at Hubballi. Chandranath filed for eviction of the tenants under the Karnataka Rent Control Act, 1961. The order came on February 8, 2001 where the tenants were granted six months to vacate the property and Chandranath was ordered to carry out construction and handover the possession to the tenants within a year.
The tenants however challenged this order in a revision petition which was dismissed. Then they approached the HC with a revision petition which was also dismissed. The HC also ordered them to hand over the property to the owner within six months.
But when they did not hand over the property even after six months, Chandranath filed an execution petition and finally with the help of the police, took possession of his property on September 19, 2001. He demolished the building, but “due to financial constraints, he could not reconstruct the building as by then he had retired from the services of BEL, Bengaluru.”
The tenants then approached the court under the new rent act and sought for the property being handed over to them after construction. The trial court however dismissed their plea. They filed a revision of the petition which was allowed on November 29, 2008. The owner was asked to construct the building and hand it over to the original tenants.
The owner’s advocate contended that though Section 36 of the new Act grants the tenantal rights to seek repossession of the property, simultaneously, it does impose a duty upon the tenant to handover the possession to the landlord within the stipulated period given by the court. In this case, the tenants had not handed over the property for reconstruction even though the HC had ordered it. The order by the lower court now “permits the tenant to take the benefit of his own wrong,” violating the spirit of Section 36, it was argued. The HC, in its order dated October 29, 2015, said, “Before a tenant is entitled to seek the relief of re-possessing the suit property, from the court, the prerequisite condition is that he/she must have delivered the possession of the suit property to the landlord on or before the date specified in the order for the purpose of repair, building or rebuilding.”
The HC said that permitting tenants to get the benefit of Section 36 in this case would lead them to commit contempt of court. It said, “In case the tenants are permitted to defy the order of the Court, and yet be permitted to seek the repossession of the suit property, such an interpretation of the law would only motivate the tenants to commit contempt of court. Thus, such an interpretation would certainly be an absurd one. A person cannot be permitted to take the benefit of his own fault. The tenant must necessarily lose the benefit given under Section 36 of the New Act.”
The HC set aside the order of the lower court which had ordered the owner to construct and deliver the premises to the tenants.
The section talks about “recovery of possession for repairs and re-building and re-entry.” This law permits the tenant to elect whether he wants to be placed in occupation of the premises after the landowner evicts him for re-building or repairs. Under this Section, the court will also specify the date on which the tenant will return the premises and the date by which the owner will deliver possession to the same tenant after repairs or renovation.

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