R M V SESHASAYANA RAO Vs. MANURI VENKATESA RAO
HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
MANURI VENKATESA RAO
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Venkatarama Aiyar, J. -
(1.) This revision arises out Of proceedings taken by the respondents for evicting the petitioners who ate in occupation of a house at Guntur as their tenants. The respondents are brothers and it is stated by the petitioners that they (respondents) are members of a joint undivided Hindu family. The application for eviction was filed under Section 7(3)(a)(i) of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act XXV of 1949, on the allegation that the only house in which the members of the family were residing was a small one and that one of the brothers who had just retired from service, the first applicant wanted this house for his own occupation. The Rent Controller dismissed the application on the ground that the house which was in the occupation of the family "afforded enough of accommodation for the first applicant, also". It is conceded that this was due to a mistake, as the house inspected by the Rent Controller was not the house in the occupation of the family. The Subordinate Judge, on appeal, confirmed the order of the Rent Controller on a different ground, viz., that the joint family must be taken to be the landlord and as the joint family was in possession of another residential building in the city, the application was not competent under Section 7 (3)(a)(i) of the Act. Against this order the respondents preferred a revision to the District Judge, Guntur. He held that there had been a division in status in the family and that, therefore, the members were entitled to separate possession of the houses. He also held that even on the footing that there was no division, the applicants were entitled to an order for eviction, as the house was needed by the first applicant for his occupation.
(2.) The correctness of this order is challenged before me by Mr. Bhimasankaram. He contends firstly that the finding as to the division in status is erroneous, and secondly that as the joint family is a juristic person so long as it is in occupation of any one house, an application by its members for possession of any other house would be barred by the terms of Section 7 (3)(a)(i). He contends that the landlord under Section 7(3)(a) (i) would be the joint family.
(3.) I am unable to agree with this contention. Though it may be possible to regard a Hindu joint family as a juristic person for some purposes, it cannot, in my opinion, be held to be a landlord for purposes of Section 7(3)(a)(i) of the Act. That section enacts that the landlord may apply for possession of a residential building, if he requires it for his own occupation, provided he is not occupying a residential building of his own in the same place. Now, a juristic person cannot, in the context, be aptly described as occupying a residential building; it is only in the case of a natural person that the question of residence can arise. A joint family regarded as a juristic entity, can, therefore, have, as such, no residence. It is only its members that can reside in a building. This is further made clear by the use of the word "he" in the section; a joint family as juristic person is neither a "he" nor a "she". The true position is, that when a building belonging to a joint family is leased, the landlord is not an abstract juristic entity called "joint family", but the members who constitute that family. When a coparcener, therefore, applies for possession under section 7(3)(a)(i), he will be entitled to an order, if he establishes that he requires the house for his own occupation, and he is not disentitled to that relief by reason of the fact that the family owns another house and members of the family are residing there, if he is himself not in occupation of it. The contention that he must be deemed to be in constructive possession of that house because other members of the family are in occupation thereof must fail, when once it is held that the joint family as a juristic person is not the landlord for purposes of Section 7 (3)(a)(i). The policy of the Act, clearly, is to prevent rackrenting and to secure to tenants possession of the premises on payment of reasonable rent. The Act is therefore concerned with actual and physical possession and not with natural (notional?) and constructive possession; and it will be foreign to the scheme of the Act to hold that occupation by one member should be construed as occupation by another when that other is not in fact in occupation.;
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