R. C. Lahoti, J. -
(1.)The suit property consists of a building situated on Easvarankoil Street of Tirupur city in the State of Tamil Nadu. There are six tenants in the building and the portions in their occupation are identified respectively as door Nos. 64, 64A, 64B, 64C, 64D and 64E. Six petitions for evicting the tenants were filed before the Controller on the ground available under clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Tamil Nadu Building (Lease and Rent Control Act) 1960 (hereinafter the 'Act', for short) alleging that the building was bona fide required by the landlord for the immediate purpose of demolishing it and such demolition is to be made for the purpose of erecting a new building on the site of the building sought to be demolished. The tenants resisted the proceedings for eviction. One of the pleas taken by them was that the land, on which the building stood, belonged to Veeraragava Perumal and Visweswara temple and, therefore, the question of the landlord reconstructing any building over the land did not arise. However, this plea did not find favour with the Controller and, at the stage of appeal, the plea was specifically given up by the tenants. Similarly the landlord had sought for eviction of the tenants also on the ground of the tenants being wilful defaulters but that plea was given up by the landlord. What survives for consideration is, therefore, solely the availability of ground for eviction under Section 14(1)(b). The Controller negated the availability of this ground for eviction. The landlord preferred six appeals which were allowed and, in supersession of the order of the Controller, the petitions for eviction were allowed and the tenants were directed to be evicted. Out of six tenants, one has submitted to the order of the appellate authority. Five tenants preferred civil revision petitions before the High Court. The High Court has reappreciated the evidence and recorded a finding that the requirement of the landlord could not be said to be bona fide and, by a common order directed the eviction petitions to be dismissed.The landlord has filed these five appeals by special leave.
(2.)Sub-section (1) and (2) of Section 14 and Sections 15 and 16 of the Act, relevant for our purpose, read as under :-
"14. Recovery of possession by landlord for repairs or for reconstruction.-
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, but subject to the provisions of Sections 12 and 13 on an application made by a landlord, the Controller shall, if he is satisfied-
(a) that the building is bona fide required by the landlord for carrying out repairs which cannot be carried out without the building being vacated; or
(b) that the building is bona fide required by the landlord for the immediate purpose of demolishing it and such demolition is to be made for the purpose of erection a new building on the site of the building sought to be demolished, pass an order directing the tenant to deliver possession of the building to the landlord before a specified date.
(2) No order directing the tenant to deliver possession of the building under this section shall be passed-
(a) on the ground specified in clause (a) of sub-section (1) unless the landlord gives an undertaking that the building shall, on completion of the repairs, be offered to the tenant who delivered possession in pursuance of an order under sub-section (1) for his reoccupation before the expiry of three months from the date of recovery of possession by the landlord, or before the expiry of such further period as the Controller may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, allow; or
(b) on the ground specified in clause (b) of sub-section (1), unless the landlord gives an undertaking that the work of demolishing any material portion of the building shall be substantially commenced by him not later than one month and shall be completed before the expiry of three months from the date he recovers possession of the entire building or before the expiry of such further period as the Controller may, for reasons to be recorded in writing allow.
15. Tenant to re-occupy after repairs,-
(1) Where the landlord recovers possession under clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 14, he shall, within two months before the date on which the work of repairs is likely to be completed, give notice to the tenant of the date on which the said work will be completed. Within fifteen days from the date of receipt of such notice, the tenant shall intimate to the landlord his acceptance of the building offered for his reoccupation and if the tenant gives such intimation, the landlord shall within thirty days from the date of completion of the work of repair put the tenant in possession of the building on the original terms and conditions. If the tenant fails to give such intimation, his right to re-occupy the building shall terminate.
(2) If after the tenant has delivered possession, the landlord fails to commence the work of repairs within one month from the date of such delivery, or fails to complete the work before the expiry of three months from the date of such delivery, or before the expiry of the further period allowed under clause (a) of sub-sec. (2) of S. 14 or having completed the work fails to put the tenant in possession of the building in accordance with the provision of sub-sec. (1), the Controller may, on the application of the tenant made within thirty days from the date of such failure, order the landlord to put the tenant in possession of the building on the original terms and conditions; and on such order being made, the landlord and any person who may be in occupation shall put the tenant in possession of the building.
16. Tenants to occupy if the building is not demolished. -
(1) Where an order directing delivery of possession has been passed by the Controller under clause (b) of sub-sec.(1) of S. 14 and the work of demolishing any material portion of the building has not been substantially commenced by the landlord within the period of one month in accordance with his undertaking under clause (b) of sub-sec. (2) of S. 14, the tenant may give the landlord notice of his intention to occupy the building the possession of which he delivered. If within fifteen days from the date of receipt of such notice, the landlord does not put him in possession of buildings on the original terms and conditions, the tenant may make an application to the Controller within eight weeks of the date on which he put the landlord in possession of the building. The Controller shall order the landlord to put the tenant in possession of the building on the original terms and conditions.
(2) Where in a pursuance of an order passed by the Controller under clause (b) of sub-sec. (1) of S. 14, any building is totally demolished and a new buliding is erected in its place, all the provisions of this Act shall cease to apply to such new building for a period of five years from the date on which the construction of such new building is completed and notified to the local authority concerned."
(3.)Before we may proceed to discuss the submissions on question of law made by the learned counsel for the parties, we may briefly set out the relevant facts to lay down the factual matrix on which the submissions, on question of law, would stand. The building is situated in the city of Tirupur which, as the appellate authority has noted, is an industrial town and so far as the cloth business is concerned the city is top-city of the State. Evidence was recorded before the Controller in the year 1989. At that time the building was 30 years old. According to the landlord, the building was situated in a business locality but was in a bad condition. the landlord wanted to reconstruct the building so as to augment his earnings. the condition of the building the plans for reconstruction submitted to the Municipality and approved by it, are the facts stated in the notice, served on the tenants, prior to invitation of proceedings for eviction. According to the landlord, the building would be demolished immediately and on godown being constructed at the site the landlord would be able to earn rent at the rate of Rs.1.25 p. per sq. feet. The landlord also stated that a portion of the newly constructed building would be utilized for the personal use and occupation of the landlord and if any portion was left out as being in excess of the personal requirement of the landlord then the landlord was willing to let out the same to the tenants at the rate of Rs.1.50p. per sq. feet. The building proposed to be constructed was a double-storey building on which an amount of Rs.6 lakhs was likely to be spent. The landlord tendered documentary evidence showing that approximately an amount of Rs. 9 lakhs was available with the landlord in the bank accounts. One of the tenants, namely Venkatesa Gupta, RW1 admitted in his deposition that the suit premises were situated in an important business locality of Tirupur. The building was constructed with stones, bricks and mortar and was not required to be demolished. However, during cross-examination, he admitted that the front portion of the building was covered with cement sheets and back portion was covered with tiles. There was also some un-constructed portion of the property lying at the back. Subbarayan, RW3 admitted that though the building was not dilapidated and damaged, yet, if a building on all the land was constructed, then it would fetch more rental income. The tenants offered that even without new construction they were prepared to pay rent at the rate of Rs. 1.25p. per sq. feet in the present condition of the building.