Decided on October 23,1953

Globe Theatres Ltd. And Ors. Appellant
State Of Madras Represented By The Chief Secretary To Government Respondents


Rajamannar, J. - (1.) THESE three appeals involve a common question of law and arise out of applications under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of writs of certiorari or for appropriate writs to quash the orders made by the Government under Section 13 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1949, exempting certain buildings from the provisions of the said Act on the ground that the said section is inconsistent with Article 14 and therefore void under Article 13 of the Constitution.
(2.) SECTION 13 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, which will hereinafter be referred to as the Act, runs thus: "Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the State Government may, by notification in the Port St. George Gazette, exempt any building or class of buildings from all or any of the provisions of this Act." This Act is the latest of the series of Acts and Orders successively passed for the regulation of the lease of buildings and for control of rent in the State of Madras. The legislation dates back to the period of the Second World War when a state of emergency prevailed and there was an acute shortage of accommodation. The preamble to the present Act, which is the same as the preamble to the previous Acts and Orders, is as follows: "Whereas it is expedient to regulate the letting of residential and non -residential buildings and to control the rents of such buildings and to prevent unreasonable eviction of tenants therefrom in the State :" The Act deals broadly with two subjects mentioned in the preamble, namely, regulation of letting and control of rents. Section 4 prescribes the procedure for having the fair rent fixed by the Controller, and Section 6 enacts that the landlord shall not claim or receive payment of any sum in addition to the fair rent fixed. Section 5 -A, Section 6 -A and Section 6 -B relates to this subject or rent. Section 7 is the main section relating to eviction. It provides that a tenant shall not be evicted whether in execution of a decree or otherwise except in accordance with the provisions of that section. The only circumstances entitling a landlord to evict his tenants are set out in Sub -sections (2) and (3) of that section. Section 8 deals with the amenities enjoyed by the tenant. Sections 9 and 12 are procedural, the former Section concerning execution and the latter appeals. The other provisions are not material for the disposal of the question before us. Section 13 of the Act is impugned on the ground that the power of exemption conferred on Government by that section is contrary to the principles of equality before law and equal protection of the law laid down in Article 14 of the Constitution. Before dealing with this ground, which was elaborately developed by Mr. K. V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar in his able and learned argument, I will briefly refer to a decision of a Division Bench of which I was a party in which the constitutional validity of the impugned section came up for consideration, namely, the decision in - - 'W. P. No. 132 of 1951 (Mad) (A). Though both Articles 19 and 14 of the Constitution were mentioned, the contention based on either of these Articles was not fully presented as now and I briefly dealt with the two Articles. I said : "We are unable to see what fundamental right of the petitioner has been violated. Admittedly, the petitioner has no fundamental right to remain in possession of the building for all time. Whatever rights he now urges in his support are rights conferred by the very Act, and the Government has purported to pass the order only under one of the sections of the same Act. Article 14 of the Constitution cannot be invoked in support of the petitioner. There is no violation of the principle of equality before the law. Logically the contention of the petitioner must lead to the position that either every building must be exempted, or no building should be exempted, - - an absurd conclusion. Apparently, the building belonged to a charitable institution, and on that ground the Government chose to exempt it from the provisions of the Act. It is not suggested in the affidavit filed in support of this application that there has been any 'mala fide' exercise by the Government of the power which undoubtedly is vested in them by Section 13 of the Act."
(3.) I still adhere to the opinion which I expressed so far as Article 19 is concerned. This point was considered at some length by Subba Rao J. in - - Dr. K. C. Nambiar v. : AIR1953Mad351 (B) and he held that Section 13 of the Act does not infringe Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution. He said at p. 355 : "While the main object of the Act was to prevent the arbitrary eviction of the tenants, it took good care to see that interests of the landlords were protected within reasonable limits. A statutory tenant, the creation of the Act, with certain rights and restrictions - cannot accept the rights and complain of the restrictions. No question of unreasonable restriction on his part would arise as the statute itself created that right 'subject to restrictions.' He acquired the right not to be evicted except under certain circumstances and one of those circumstances is when the Government exempts a particular building from all or particular provisions of the Act. His right to the user of the properties therefore is not an absolute one, but is circumscribed by the provisions of the Act itself." I am an entire agreement with this view.;

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