(1.)The landlord respondents initiated proceedings for eviction of the tenant-appellants from the suit premises described as Door No. 244 and 264. Walltax Road, Chennai on the ground available under clause (1) of sub-section (2) of Section 10 of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960 (hereinafter 'the Act' for short), by applying to the Controller for a direction in that behalf. It was alleged in the application for eviction filed on 6th April, 1989 that the tenants did not pay the rent of premises Door No. 264 for January and Feb. 1989 at the rate of Rs. 1,000/- per month and for premises Door No. 244 for the month of February, 1989 at the rate of Rs. 4,000/- per month. The tenants, in their written statement, denied their being defaulters and submitted that there was dispute as to the rate at which the rent was payable and also as to the quantum of arrears, though they were agreeable and always prepared to pay the rent at which it was previously paid but for the exaggerated and inflated demand of the landlords.
(2.)It appears that the suit premises are owned by the Municipal Corporation of Chennai and are held by the landlords as allottee of the Municipal Corporation. The landlords have further leased out the premises to the tenants (appellants before us). Thus, there are three persons associated with the suit premises - the Municipal Corporation, their allottees (i.e. the respondents) and further lessees inducted by the allottees i.e. the appellants. We are not concerned with any controversy between the Municipal Corporation and its allottees. The Municipal Corporation was never a party to the litigation and has sought for intervention at the hearing before this Court but the intervention is being denied for the reasons which we would be stating at the end of this judgment. We would, therefore, confine ourselves to the controversy arising for decision between the parties, before us and for that purpose, in this judgment, the respondents shall be referred to as 'landlords' and the appellants shall be referred to as 'tenants'.
(3.)In the written statement, the tenants confined themselves to denying their being defaulters and raising dispute as to the rate of rent and quantum of arrears. However, an anxiety for protecting their possession over the suit premises and zeal for giving a rebuff to the landlords, impelled them to file an additional counter in Sept. 1993, in addition to their counter filed by way of written statement in Feb. 1990. In the additional counter, it was submitted that the tenants had reliably learnt, on making enquiries from the Municipal Corporation of Madras, that long term lease was granted by the Corporation in favour of late M.B. Ramachandra Naidu, who expired in the month of March 1982. With his death, the lease came to an end. Even the term of lease by Municipal Corporation in favour of the landlord had expired and the Corporation had taken steps to create a lease directly in favour of the actual occupants and the respondents had agreed to pay the rent to the Municipal Corporation w.e.f. 1-4-1982 and onwards. For these reasons, it was submitted that the proceedings for recovery of possession from the tenants were not maintainable. This additional counter, far from defending the tenants, has proved to be a potent troubleshooter for the tenants and the bone of contention in this litigation as will be noticed shortly hereinafter. We may hasten to add to the factual statement that sometime after the month of March 1993, one of the partners of the tenants was delivered a notice by the Municipal Corporation which read as under :-
Corporation of Chennai
Land Revenue Department.
Ref : 8/1737/93 Date :
In your letter dated 26-3-1993 you have confirmed that you are occupying the premises No. 244, Walltax Road, (4110 sq. ft.) belonging to Corporation of Chennai from 1-4-1982.
The lease period has already elapsed. Moreover you have agreed to pay the lease amount by your letter dated 26-3-1993.
Since you are enjoying the premises belonging to Corporation of Chennai the following amount is due from you :
(1-4-1982 to 31-3-1989)
prior to 1989 162.96
Hence you have to pay the amount of Rs. 245187.46 before 15-4-93 to the Corporation Treasury, failing which the above premises belonging to Corporation of Chennai will be auctioned to public.
Surendar Kumar Chouraria,
40, Ormes Road,