MAHILA SAHKARI UDYOG MANDIR Vs. BAPUBHAI MOHANBHAI
HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT
MAHILA SAHKARI UDYOG MANDIR
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J.B.MEHTA, S.H.SHETH -
(1.)The plaintiff Mahila Sahakari Udyog Mandir a society registered under the Bombay Co-operative Societies Act 1925 has filed these two revision applications as the plaintiffs suit against the concerned defendants-tenants had been dismissed by both the Courts. The appellate Court had held that the plaintiff-society had purchased the suit premises on November 29 1962 from Bai Taragauri widow of Maganlal Narandas for Rs. 25000/and had proved its title. The lower appellate Court also held that the plaintiff would have greater hardship and concurred with that finding of the trial Court. The plaintiffs suit however was dismissed on the short ground that the plaintiff-society's requirement could not be said to be a reasonable requirement because the plaintiff society sought to use these residential premises for the purposes of the society contrary to the bar created by sec. 25 of the Bombay Rents Hotel and Lodging Houses Rates Control Act 1947 hereinafter referred to as the Act. As there were conflicting decisions the learned Single Judge has referred the matter to the Division Bench and that is how it has come up before us. Sec. 25(1) of the Act enacts that a landlord shall not use or permit to be used for a non-residential purpose any premises which on the date of the coming into operation of this Act were used for a residential purpose. Under sub-sec. (2) any landlord who contravenes the provisions of sub-sec. (1) shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine or with both.
(2.)Sec. 25(1) imposes an embargo on converting residential premises into non-residential premises provided that they were used for a residential purpose on the date when the Act came into operation. The salutary object of sec. 25(1) is to see that the residential accommodation which is available in the area in question is not curtailed by the landlords changing or permitting change of the user of the said premises. This mandatory obligation created by sec. 25(1) is sought to be implemented by the penalty provided by sec. 25(2) and the penal provision has therefore to be strictly construed. Sec. 13(1) however provides that notwithstanding anything contained in this Act but subject to the provisions of sec. 15 a landlord shall be entitled to recover possession of any premises if the Court is satisfied that the premises are reasonably and bona fide required for occupation by himself or by any person for whose benefit the premises are held or where the landlord is a trustee of a public charitable trust that the premises are required for occupation for the purpose of the trust. There is no dispute that the plaintiff society is a registered public charitable trust. Therefore after this 1953 amendment in sec. 13(1)(g) such a landlord which is a private or a public charitable trust is also entitled to recover possession of the suit premises under sec. 13(1)(g) provided the premises are required for occupation for the purpose of the trust. Of-course as pointed out by the Division Bench in Abdulrehman v. Maniar Jamat 9 G.L.R. 64 even in case of such a public trust the question of comparative hardship would have to be gone into as required under sec. 13(2) before any eviction decree is passed on the ground specified in sec. 13(1)(g). In R. P. Mehta v. I. A. Sheikh A.I.R. 1964 S.C. 1676 their Lordships pointed out that the term occupation of the premises in sec. 13(1)(g) does not necessarily refer to the occupation as residence and the owner could occupy a place by making use of it in any manner. The landlord could even demolish the premises and make alterations before he occupied the same. Their Lordships pointed out that the Act restricts general right of the landlord in the special circumstances prevailing in regard to the availability of accommodation and the incidental abuse of those circumstances by landlords in demanding unjustifiably high rents. The Act has provided sufficient protection to the tenants against being harassed by threat of ejectment in case they are unable to satisfy landlords demands. Their Lordships pointed out that sec. 17 provides that if the premises are not occupied within a period of one month from the date the landlord recovers possession of the premises or are re-let within a period of one year of the said date to any person other than the original tenant the Court may order the landlord on the application of the original tenant within the time prescribed to place him in occupation of the premises on the original terms and conditions. This tends to ensure that the provisions of sec. 13(1)(g) of the Bombay Rent Act are not abused and the landlord does not eject the tenant unless he required the premises for occupation by himself. That is why the term occupation was construed in the widest sense and was not restricted to the occupation as residence. That was the clarification made by the 1953 amendment by making benefit of this provision available even to such public trust which requires the premises for occupation for the purpose of the trust.
(3.)The material question which however arises is as to whether sec. 13(1)(g) can be for its true construction made subject to the provisions of sec. 25 as has been done by the lower Courts relying upon certain decisions. This question of construction of the statute must be resolved on the plain language of sec. 13(1) which is absolutely clear and unambiguous. Sec. 13(1) starts with a non-obstante clause and provides that a landlord shall be entitled to recover possession of any premises if the Court is satisfied under sub-clause (g) that the premises are reasonably and bona fide required by the landlord for occupation by himself.......or where the landlord is a trustee or a public charitable trust that the premises are required for occupation for the purpose of the trust. The non obstante clause gives this right to such a landlord to recover possession notwithstanding anything contained in the Act and makes this right subject only to the provisions of sec. 15. The legislature has not subjected this right to any other provisions including sec. 25. Therefore the non obstante clause in sec. 13(1) would have the wider operation in connection with the landlords right to recover possession under sec. 13(1)(g) as it is not subjected to any of the provisions of sec. 25 on a plain reading of the section.
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