A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice KM Joseph and Justice PS Narasimha has held that Section 13 of MP Accommodation Control Act, 1961 would apply even if the ground of eviction is not one under Section 12(1)(a).

The Court held that if the words "for the period for which the tenant may have made default" is an indispensable requirement to apply Section 13, then the substituted provisions, extending the protection in an Appeal or other proceeding by a tenant, would be confined to a proceeding under Section 12(1)(a).

Ms. Shobha Menon, Senior Advocate appeared for the Appellants while Mr. Amit Sahni, Advocate appeared on behalf of the Respondent.

The High Court had allowed the application filed by the Appellants under Order XLI Rule 5 of the CPC and applications for an appropriate direction to the Appellants to pay mesne profits along with regular monthly rent and damages filed by the Respondent.

The High Court had directed that the Appellants shall pay the rent of suit shops at the rate of Rs.18000/- per month to the Respondent from the date of the decree passed by the lower Appellate Court till the disposal of the Second Appeals. The Appellants were directed to pay the entire arrears of rent within a period of 2 months failing which the interim order of protection from eviction under the decree was to stand vacated. Respondent is the landlady of the appellants before the Supreme Court.

In issue before the Court was the interpretation to be placed on Section 13 of the Madhya Pradesh Accommodation Control Act, 1961.

The Court, after discussing the case laws relied upon by the parties, made the following crucial observations.

"The definition of the word "tenant" in Section 2(i) undoubtedly does not include any person against whom an Order or Decree for Eviction has been made. It would not include even a tenant, against whom, an Order of Eviction has been made under Section 12(1)(a), which 10 AIR 1978 MP 165 / 1979 ILR MP 676 provides that default in payment of rent within two months of the demand for the arrears of rent, shall be a ground to evict. Section 13 on the other hand starts with the heading 'when tenant can get the benefit of protection against eviction'. It is correct that the heading of a section cannot control the construction of the provision itself. The provision, as it unfolds under the heading, must be given the full meaning according to the principles of interpretation, which the court is persuaded to apply. The only area where the heading may be useful is when the provision is shrouded in ambiguity. The heading may shed some light, however, faint it may be."

The Court noted that the provisions of Section 13 prior to substitution in 1983 did not embrace a situation where any appeal or other proceeding was filed by the tenant.

The Court noted that under the erstwhile avatar, the lawgiver confined the provision to a situation where a suit or proceeding was instituted by the landlord.

The Court then analyzed the impact of Section 13 as it stood prior to its substitution in 1983.

The Court noted that when Section 13 was substituted in 1983, the legislative intent marked a shift. The Court made the following observations.

"The tenant is obliged not only when a Suit or other proceeding is filed by the landlord to deposit the amount in terms of Section 13, but he is compelled by law, even after an Order of Eviction has been passed against him and when he challenges the Decree or Order for Eviction by way of an Appeal or other proceeding, to deposit within one month of the institution of the Appeal or other proceeding the amount equal to the rent. He may also, on an application made to the court, deposit the amount or pay within such further time, as the court may allow. The amount, to be paid by the tenant, is to be calculated at the rate of the rent at which it was paid. So far, there is no controversy."

The Court discussed the debate concerning the words "for the period for which the tenant may have a default".

The Court noted that "therefore, in an area, where there is no such Authority notified under Section 28, the Law-Giver contemplated a Suit before the Civil Court. It is in this context, apparently, that the law provided that Section 13 contemplates Decree being passed for eviction and protection under Section 13 being extended in an Appeal from such Decree. In fact, in the cases before us, the proceedings are suits, appeals under Section 96 of the CPC and second appeals under Section 100."

The Court noted that when Section 13 is made applicable to a revision filed against an order of eviction under Section 23C, the revision would be a revision filed by a tenant who had suffered an order of eviction under Section 23 C.

The Court noted that opening words of Section 13 provided that on a suit being instituted by a landlord, the tenant is to deposit in Court or pay to the landlord the amount equal to the rent.

On the question as to whether Section 13 has the effect of operating as a stay of the decree for eviction in its own right, the Court made the following observations:

"To make it even more clear, both, at the stage when landlord-tenant relationship exists and, at the stage, when following an Order of Eviction, going by the definition of 'tenant' in Section 2 of the Act, the erstwhile tenant would cease to be a tenant, the amount payable in Section 13 is described in the similar manner. In fact, there is no case as such that the amount which is paid by the tenant in Section 13 is anything but the agreed rent. However, for reasons which follow, it will not advance the case of the appellants."

The Court ultimately modified the direction to pay the entire amount. The appeal was allowed in part and appellants were granted 5 weeks to deposit the amount. The Court noted that these amounts would subsume the amount payable under Section 13.

The impugned orders were affirmed, save as the observations in the judgment. There was no order as to costs.

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