Rajasthan Rent Control Act - Civil Court Has Jurisdiction To Decide Cases Instituted Prior To Applicability Of Act - SC
A two-judge bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian disposed of two appeals that arose from a judgment passed by the Rajasthan High Court. By way of the disposal, the Supreme Court upheld the High Court's decision of dismissing the tenant's revision petition against the decree for possession.
Senior Counsel Mr. Gopal Sankaranarayanan assisted by Advocate on Record Mr. Deepak Prakash appeared on behalf of the Appellants before the Apex Court.
In this case, the Appellant's father was the tenant of a shop owned by the Respondent's father. After the Respondent's father's death, a notice of termination of tenancy was served to the Appellants under Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. Shortly, the Appellants filed a suit for possession. The shop was not located in an urban area at this time.
During the pendency of the suit, the State Government issued a notification which extended the provisions of the Rajasthan Rent Control Act, 2001.
The Civil Court passed a decree for possession against the Appellants, although at this point the Act had become applicable to the area in question. The first appeal filed by the Appellants was dismissed.
In the second appeal before the High Court, the Appellants relied on a judgment where it was held that the decree in a civil suit could not be passed after the applicability of the Act to the area in question. In view of this, the High Court held that the decree in a civil suit could be passed as the same view was adopted by another coordinate Bench of the High Court in another case. Consequently, the second appeal was also dismissed.
The Counsel for the Appellants argued before the Supreme Court that the appeals should be heard along with the Special Leave Petition that arose out of K. Ramnarayan Khandelwal and other similar cases which are pending final disposal before the Court. Once the question of law is answered in one matter, all pending matters will follow suit. However, the Bench found that the interest of the Appellants was materially different from the interest of the Petitioners in the pending Special Leave Petitions.
Relying on the non-obstante clause of Section 18(1) of the Act, the Counsel for the Appellants further argued that since the notification of the State Government became operative before the judgment was passed, only the Rent Tribunal would have the jurisdiction to hear and decide the petitions, and not the Civil Courts.
However, the Bench found that although only the Rent Tribunal would have the jurisdiction to decide such disputes, there is no express or implied provision in the Act in respect of the decrees passed prior to the applicability of the Act to the area in question. To this end, the Bench held, "The notification issued cannot have any retrospective application or the Act contemplates the applicability of the Act with retrospective effect."
The Bench analyzed the dictum of various cases decided previously by the Supreme Court and the effect of the Acts of various other states. The consistent view of the Court was that the decree can be validly executed if the suit was filed within the exemption period.
The Court noted that Section 18 of the Act does not talk about the validity of any decree of the civil court but only restricts the jurisdiction of the civil court from the date the Act became applicable.
In this context, the Bench opined -
"After the applicability of the Act to the area in question, the landlord and tenant dispute can be raised only before the Rent Tribunal but not before the civil court. However, a suit filed before the civil court prior to the applicability of the Act has to be decided by the court. A decree passed by the civil court is valid and executable which is not interdicted by the applicability of the Act to the area in question. The Act is applicable to the area in question from the date the notification came into force and it does not bar the decree of the civil court or the pendency of such civil suit."
Therefore, the Bench found that the judgment and decree passed in the suit for possession did not suffer from any illegality and there was no error in the order passed by the High Court.