L. BALMOKAND Vs. PARMA NAND JAIN
HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA
PARMA NAND JAIN
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Bhandari, J. -
(1.) THE only point for decision in the present case is whether a certain order made by the Rent Controller of Delhi without affording a reasonable opportunity to the tenants to have their say in the matter offends against the principles of natural justice and should be set aside. It appears that on 22 -2 -1919 one L. Parma Nand Jain, a retired Assistant Comr. of Income Tax and at present a Deputy Custodian of Evacuee Property submitted an application to the Rent Controller at New Delhi requesting him to fix the fair rent of house No. 7'/47, Kamla Nagar, Sabzi Mandi which had beer recently constructed by him. After a due consideration of the facts and circumstances presented before him by the landlord the Controller fixed the rent at a sum of Rs. 1,074 on 28 -8 -1949. On the 7th June L. Balmokand Shah a refugee from the Rawalpindi District submitted a similar application. in which he alleged that he was an occupier of certain rooms on the first floor of the building, that ho had taken the said rooms on rent on 15 -10 -1948 and was the first tenant thereof, and that the landlord was charging rent at the rate of Rs. 400 per mensem for the said accommodation. It was accordingly prayed that as the rent charged by the landlord was excessive and wholly incommensurate with the accommodation let to tho tenant an enquiry be made in accordance with the provisions of Section 7 -A, Delhi and Ajmer Merwara Rent Control Act of 1947. No action was taken on this application and on 17th September L. Balmokand Shah submitted another application in which the above statements were repeated. The Controller sent a notice of this application to the landlord and the landlord replied that the rent of the accommodation in question had already been fixed at Rs. 221 per mensom. In view of this communication the Controller sent a copy of his order dated 23 -3 -1949 to the tenant and informed him that no further action could be taken in the matter. The tenant preferred an appeal to the learned Dist. J., Delhi but the learned Dist. J. declined to interfere with the order of the Controller. The tenant has come to this Court in revn. and the question for this Court is whether the learned Dist. J. came to a correct determination in point of law.
(2.) BEFORE the learned Dist. J. it was contended that the proceedings taken by the Rent Controller in connection with the fixation of rent on the motion of the landlord were wholly incompetent as at that time there was no complaint before the Rent Controller that the rent actually charged was excessive, that the order of 23 -3 -1949 fixing the rent was not, therefore, a proper order under the Rent Control Act at all, that if that particular order were ton be ignored then the Bent Controller was bound -in law to make an enquiry into the merits of the case when the tenant approached him in June 1949, that the proceedings taken by the -Rent Controller in February and March 1949 -should be ignored and should be taken to be nonexistent and that as the Rent Controller had! made no other enquiry on the complaint of the) tenant he should be directed to make an enquiry under the provisions of the Act. The learned Dist. J. agreed that if the technicalities of the matter alone were concerned there could be some force in the arguments addressed to -him by the counsel for the tenant, but held that as far as the substance of the matter was concerned it was wholly futile to reopen the matter. It was true that in February or March 1949 no one had specifically complained to the, Controller that the rent charged was excessive -and that the tenants in any case had not moved in the matter but the Dist. J. held that in view of the provisions of the Fourth Schedule to the Act, a Rent Controller is not bound to wait till some one makes a complaint to him and that, ho has sufficient power to initiate proceedings as soon as he has reason to believe that the rent of any newly constructed premises is excessive. The learned Dist. J. admitted that the proceedings by which the fair rent was fixed were taken behind the back of the tenant but he was unable to find any provision in the Fourth Schedule which required the Controller to call and hear the tenant interested in the matter and SC long as it appeared that the Controller had otherwise proceeded in a reasonable manner and had arrived at his conclusion on a sound basis it would not be proper to interfere merely because the tenant or tenants were not allowed an opportunity of being heard. In the present, case the Controller had inspected the building, had noted the various details including the quality of the material used and the amenities provided in the building, had formed an estimate -of the total cost of construction and the value of the site and had then allowed the landlord a return of six per cent, per annum on his total; investment. As the basis adopted for fixing the rent was reasonable the learned Dist. J. held -that the Controller was not bound to look into the matter afresh when he was approached by the tenants, for it would have meant going over the same ground once again and arriving at more or less the same conclusion. In these circumstances he found that no useful purpose would be served by his interference and he accordingly dismissed the appeal. The two points which were argued before the learned Dist. J. in appeal were reagitated1 before mo in revn., namely: (l) that the Controller had no jurisdiction to fix the standard rent of the premises on the application of the land alone lord alone, and (2) that in any case the Controller's order is void in the eye of law as no reasonable opportunity was afforded to the tenant of being heard before the standard rent was fixed.
(3.) THE first point presents no difficulty whatsoever. Section 7 -A, Delhi and Ajmer -Mer -wara Rent Control Act, 1947, declares that the provisions set out in the Fourth Schedule shall apply to the fixation of rent and other matters relating to the promises in Delhi, the construction of which was not completed before the commencement of the said Act. Para, 2, Schedule 4 is in the following terms:
2. If the Rout Controller on a, written complaint or otherwise has reason to believe that the rent of any newly constructed promises is excessive, he may after making such inquiry as ho thinks fit, proceed to fix the standard rent thereof.;
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