Arun Kumar, J. -
(1.)These appeals are directed against a common judgment dated 24-12-1999 of the High Court disposing of two Revision Petitions. Briefly the facts giving rise to the present appeals are that the appellant was a tenant in the suit premises since before its purchase by the respondent-landlords. In May 1990, by mutual consent of the parties rent of the suit premises was enhanced to Rs. 500/- per month. Admittedly, rent up to October, 1990 was received by the landlords, thereafter as per the case of the respondents, tenant defaulted in payment of rent. The appellant filed suit for injunction in the Civil Court praying that the landlords be restrained from threatening to dispossess the appellant from suit premises. In the said suit, an interim injunction was granted in favour of the appellant. On 1st November, 1993, the landlords issued a default notice alleging that the tenant had committed default in payment of rent and was, therefore, liable to eviction. The tenant replied to the said notice on 20th November, 1993 denying any default on his part in payment of rent. Ultimately, on 7th February, 1994, an eviction petition was filed before the Rent Controller by the landlords on two grounds viz., (i) default in payment of rent and (ii) personal need of the landlords for occupying the premises.
(2.)On 15th March, 1994, the tenant made an application under Section 8(5) of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control Act), 1960 (hereinafter referred to as the "Act"), for permission to deposit the amount of rent in Court. The Rent Controller allowed the said application vide order dated 25th April, 1995. The Eviction Petition filed by the landlords was dismissed on the same date. The Rent Controller held that it could not be said that tenant had committed default in payment of rent. The Rent Controller further observed that even assuming there was default on the part of the tenant, it could not be said to be willful default, therefore, the eviction petition was dismissed. No finding was given on the second ground for eviction regarding personal need of the landlords for occupying the premises. The landlords filed appeals before the Rent Control Appellate Authority against both the orders of the Rent Controller. Both the appeals were allowed by the Appellate Authority. The Appellate Authority held that the tenant had committed default in payment of rent. It relied on admission on the part of the tenant himself as available in the evidence of the tenant that at least from May, 1993, no rent had been paid. The tenant is said to have deposited the rent in Court during the pendency of the proceedings. However, the question for consideration before the Appellate Authority was whether the tenant had committed default in payment of rent The Appellate Authority held that the tenant had committed default, and therefore, the eviction petition was allowed. It was observed by the Appellate Authority that even after the petition had been filed by the landlords, the tenant did not think of offering the rent to the landlords. Further the tenant did not issue notice as required under S. 8(2) of the Act calling upon the landlords to notify the Bank where the tenant could make the deposit of rent. On the basis of the evidence on record, the Appellate Authority held that the tenant had committed default in payment of rent, and therefore, the eviction petition was allowed. No finding was however recorded on the second ground of eviction. Based on the failure of the tenant to follow procedure and deposit rent of suit property under S. 8(2) of the Act it was held that the tenant having failed to comply with the procedure prescribed in that behalf under the Act the decree for eviction had to follow. The tenant filed Civil Revision Petitions against both the orders of the Rent Control Appellate Authority in the High Court. Both the revision petitions were dismissed by the High Court vide the impugned judgment dated 24-12-1999. Hence the present appeals by the tenant.
(3.)The sole question for consideration in these appeals is whether the provisions of Section 8 of the Tamil Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control Act), 1960 are to be strictly complied with by the tenant before he can seek benefit under the said provisions regarding deposit of rent in the Court. In this connection, relevant provisions of Section 8 of the Act need to be quoted:
"Section 8 : [Landlord liable to give receipt for rent or advance] :
(2) Where a landlord refuses to accept, or evades the receipt of, any rent lawfully payable to him by a tenant in respect of any building, the tenant may, by notice in writing, require the landlord to specify within ten days from the date of receipt of the notice by him, a bank into which the rent may be deposited by the tenant, to the credit of the landlord.
Provided that such bank shall be one situated in the city, town or village in which the building is situated or if there is no such bank in such city, town or village, within (five kilometers) of the limits thereof.
Explanation. It shall be open to the landlord to specify from time to time by a written notice to the tenant and subject to the proviso aforesaid, a bank different from the one already specified by him under this sub-section.
(3) If the landlord specifies a bank as aforesaid, the tenant shall deposit the rent in the bank and shall continue to deposit in it any rent which may subsequently become due in respect of the building.
(4) If the landlord does not specify a bank as aforesaid, the tenant shall remit the rent to the landlord by Money Order, after deducting the money order commission.
(5) If the landlord refuses to receive the rent remitted by Money Order under sub-section (4), the tenant may deposit the rent before the Controller and continue to deposit with him any rent which may subsequently become due in respect of the building."