Civil Appeal No.8233 of 2010 [Arising out of SLP [C] No.16995 of 2009] With Civil Appeal No. 8234 Of 2010 [Arising out of SLP [C] No.1925 of 2008]. Case: 1. Jai Singh and Ors., 2. Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs 1. Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Anr., 2. Jai Singh and Ors.,. Supreme Court

Case Number:Civil Appeal No.8233 of 2010 [Arising out of SLP [C] No.16995 of 2009] With Civil Appeal No. 8234 Of 2010 [Arising out of SLP [C] No.1925 of 2008]
Party Name:1. Jai Singh and Ors., 2. Municipal Corporation of Delhi Vs 1. Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Anr., 2. Jai Singh and Ors.,
Judges:Surinder Singh Nijjar, J.
Issue:Constitution of India - Articles 226, 227; Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 - Section 14(1)(b); Delhi Road Transport Corporation Act, 1950
Citation:2011 (1) CHN 73 (SCSuppl), 2010 (172) DLT 377, JT 2010 (10) SC 241, 2011 (1) MahLJ 153 (SC), 2010 (10) Scale 209, 2010 (9) SCC 385, 2010 (9) UJ 4747
Judgement Date:September 23, 2010
Court:Supreme Court
 
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Judgment:

Surinder Singh Nijjar, J.

  1. In this special leave petition, the petitioners have challenged the judgment of the Delhi High Court in a Writ petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, CM (M) No.516 of 2007, dated 23rd March, 2009, whereby the High Court has quashed and set aside the order passed by the Additional Rent Control Tribunal ["ARCT" for short] dated 12th March, 2001, upholding the order passed by the Additional Rent Controller ["ARC" for brevity].

  2. Heard counsel. Leave granted. The facts, as noticed by the High Court, are that the appellants are claiming themselves to be the landlords in respect of premises constructed on the plot of land No.2, Block B, transport area of Jhandewalan Estate, Desh Bandhu Gupta Road, Karol Bagh, New Delhi.

  3. In the eviction petition, it was stated that the premises were let out to respondent No.2, Delhi Transport Corporation [for short "DTC"], on a monthly rental of Rs.3500/-. DTC has sublet/assigned the premises in favour of respondent No.1, Municipal Corporation of Delhi [for short "MCD"] and parted with possession in favour of MCD without the written consent of the appellants. Therefore, both DTC and MCD were liable for eviction. The High Court has noticed the sequence of events since the transport services were being run by Gwalior Northern India Transport Company (for short "GNIT") to the time when DTC stepped into its shoes. The appellants claimed that the tenancy of the premises was with DTC. MCD had, however, claimed that the legal possession was retained by MCD; rent was being paid by MCD to DTC.

  4. The ARC by an order dated 11th November, 1989, upon consideration of the rival contentions, held:

    "19. Admittedly it is respondent No.2 (MCD) who is in possession of the premises in question. It is also admitted that respondent No.2 (MCD) pays a sum of Rs.3500/- as rent to respondent No.1 (DTC) by way of cheques. It is not the case of the respondent that any written consent of the petitioners was obtained in this regard. Therefore, it has to be held that respondent no.1 (DTC) has either sublet, assigned or otherwise parted with the possession of the tenanted premises illegally to respondent No.2 (MCD). It is well settled that in voluntarily (sic) transfers are also included with the meaning of sub-letting etc. in Section 14(1)(b) DRC Act.".

  5. The order passed by the ARC was upheld by the ARCT with the following observations:

    "15. After having heard up the matter in all its possible aspects I do not find any infirmity or illegality in the finding of the learned trial court by holding that there exists relationship of landlord and tenant between the parties and since the exclusive possession of the premises was handed over by the erstwhile tenant to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, i.e., respondent No.2 which is itself a separate and independent legal entity, it amounts to sub- letting."

  6. The High Court set aside the concurrent findings recorded by the ARC and ARCT with the following observations: "The orders passed by learned ARC and the learned ARCT categorically show that neither the learned ARC nor learned ARCT has devolved upon the facts of the case and nor had even considered the concept of tenancy and sub tenancy in this case in the peculiar circumstances of this case."

  7. The High Court held that this is not a case of sub- letting as Delhi Transport Services (for short "DTS"), Delhi Transport Undertaking (for short "DTU"), MCD and DTC were the creation of statute. The premises had come to them after it was acquired by Union of India (UOI) from GNIT on nationalization of the business. There was no parting with possession by DTC to MCD, therefore, it was not sub-letting. The DTC was incorporated in lieu of DTU as a separate company to facilitate running of transport business. Mere payment of Rs.3500/- per month by MCD to DTC does not show sub-letting or parting with possession. Relying on a judgment of this Court in Madras Bangalore Transport Co. [West] Vs. Inder Singh & Ors. [AIR 1986 SC 1564], the High Court has held that:

    "In the case in hand, the situation, is much better. The alleged original tenant GNIT stood acquired by a Legislative Act and the premises went to DTS. DTS was converted to DTU and DTU was further converted into DTC. The premises remained in occupation of the same entity which changed its form from one to another. Thus it cannot be said that it was a case of sub-letting under any circumstances. The orders passed by learned ARC and learned ARTC are liable to be set aside for non application of law and non consideration of facts at all."

  8. The objection raised by the appellants to the entertainment of the petition under Article 227, on the ground of laches, has been rejected with the following observations: "The respondent in this case has strongly objected to entertaining the petition on the ground of limitation. The petitioner has filed this petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. In exercise of this power, interfering with the orders of the Court of Tribunal has to be done where this Court finds that there was a serious dereliction of duty and blatant violation of the fundamental principles of law and justice and where, the order caused grave injustice and needs to be corrected. Although the petitioner herein had not been vigilant in prosecuting the appeal below but that cannot prevent his Court from correcting the patent illegality writ large on the face of the orders of the ARC and Tribunal below. Both the ARC and ARCT passed orders without considering the facts of the case in a very mechanical manner. Neither the learned ARC nor learned ARCT had taken into account the sequence of facts brought before them regarding acquisition of the entire assets of GNIT and conversion of DTS to DTU and then to DTC by the Legislative Act and the order has been passed merely on the ground that amount of Rs.3500/- was being remitted by the MCD to DTC. The Courts below did not even consider the issue as to who was the tenant and how MCD became the sub-tenant of respondent once the premises was owned by Union of India and the leasehold rights of the entire land vested in Union of India. This Court can set aside the findings and the orders of the Tribunal below if there was no evidence at all to justify the findings and the findings were perverse. The order can also be set aside if no reasonable or prudent person can possibly come to such a conclusion despite the fact that the petition was not brought before this Court by the petitioner soon after the passing of the order. In Badlu and another Vs. Shiv Charan and Others [(1980) 4 SCC 401], Supreme Court observed that the delay caused in prosecuting the case in bona fide and good faith in wrong court due to mistake of law or facts can be condoned, I, therefore, consider that petition is not liable to be dismissed on the ground of delay, nor learned ARCT was justified in dismissing the application. Learned ARCT went wrong in dismissing the application of the petitioner for condonation of delay. The order of learned ARCT on this count also is liable to set aside. It is ordered accordingly."

  9. Mr. Altaf Ahmad, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants submits:

  10. The exercise of power under Article 227 of the Constitution of India, by the High Court, in the peculiar facts of this case was improper.

  11. The petition was liable to be dismissed on the ground of delay and laches alone.

  12. Even otherwise, the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction by acting as an appellate court.

  13. The High Court erroneously decided the question of ownership of the premises which was not even an issue in the proceedings, under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

  14. Even on facts, the findings are contrary to the material on record.

  15. On the other hand, Ms. Madhu Tewatia, learned counsel appearing for the respondents submits that the High Court was fully justified in exercising its jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution to...

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