Delhi High Court
The Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in a recent decision in Virender Singh v State Bank of India has recapitulated the importance and object of the Slum Clearance Act in matters where the landlord seeks to evict tenants under the relevant rent control legislation. The relevant extracts from the judgment are reproduced hereinbelow;
12. The object and purpose of a Rent Control Legislation was highlighted by the Supreme Court in the decision reported as 1985 (2) SCC 683 Gian Devi Anand Vs. Jeevan Kumar. In para 23 it was observed:-
“The Rent Acts which are indeed in the nature of social welfare legislation are intended to protect tenants against harassment and exploitation by landlords, safeguarding at the same time the legitimate interest of the landlords. The Rent Acts seek to preserve social harmony and promote social justice by safeguarding the interests of the tenants mainly and at the same time protecting the legitimate interests of the landlords. Though the purpose of the various Rent Acts appear to be the same, namely, to promote social justice by affording protection to tenants against undue harassment and exploitation by landlords, providing at the same time for adequate safeguards of the legitimate interests of the landlords, the Rent Acts undoubtedly lean more in favour of the tenants for whose benefit the Rent Acts are essentially passed.”
13. In the context of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958, the word "Tenant‟ is defined in clause (ii) of Section 2(l) of the Act, as follows:
“2 (l) “tenant” means any person by whom or on whose account or behalf the rent of any premises is, or, but for a special contract, would be, payable, and includes . . .
(ii) any person continuing in possession after termination of his tenancy . . .”
14. It is apparent that the definition of "tenant‟ in the Delhi Rent Control Act incorporates the concept of a statutory tenant. But since the Delhi Rent Control Act is not applicable to tenancies where the monthly rent payable is in excess of Rs. 3,500/-, the question of a tenant whose tenancy has expired by efflux of time or has been otherwise validly determined as per the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 becoming a statutory tenant does not arise.
15. The essential object of the Slum Act is entirely different. It was noted by a Full Bench of this Court in the decision reported as AIR 1972 Del 34 (FB) Bardu Ram v. Ram Chander. It was observed:-
“An essential object of the Slum Areas Act is to enable the poor, who have no other place to go to and who, if they were evicted to remain in their dwellings until provision is made from a better live for them elsewhere..”
16. For holding as aforesaid, reliance was placed by the Full Bench on the decision of the Supreme Court reported as AIR 1961 SC 1602 Jyoti Pershad v. U.T. of Delhi, wherein it was observed:-
“Obviously, if the protection that is afforded is read in the context of the rest of the Act, it is clear that it is to enable the poor who have no other place to go to, and who if they were compelled to go out would necessarily create other slums in the process and live perhaps in less commodious and more unhealthy surroundings than those from which they were evicted to remain in their dwellings until provision is made for a better life for them elsewhere...The Act, no doubt, looks at the problem not from the point of view of the landlord, his needs, the money he has sunk in the house and the possible profit that he might make if the house were either let to other tenants or was reconstructed and let out, but rather from the point of view of the tenants who have no alternative accommodation and who would be stranded in the open if an order for eviction were passed.”
17. It is because of the difference in the object and purpose of the Slum Act and the Delhi Rent Control Act that in the decision reported as AIR 1977 SC 789 Lal Chand (dead) by L.Rs. & Ors. Vs. Radha Kishan‟, the Supreme Court observed as under:-
“15. The Slum Clearance Act was passed, inter alia, for the protection of tenants in slum areas from eviction. As observed by this Court in Jyoti Pershad v. Administrator for the Union Territory of Delhi, (1962) 2 SCR 125 = (AIR 1961 SC 1602) the Slum Clearance Act looks at the problem of eviction of tenants from slum areas not from the point of view of the landlord and his needs but from the point of view of tenants who have no alternative accommodation and who would be stranded in the open if they were evicted. The policy of the Slum Clearance Act being that the slum dweller should not be evicted unless alternative accommodation is available to him, we are of the view that the word „tenant‟ which occurs in Section 19 (1)(a) must for the purpose of advancing the remedy provided by the statute be construed to include a person against whom a decree or order for eviction has been passed. We might mention that a Full Bench of the Delhi High Court in Bardu Ram Dhanna Ram v. Ram Chander Khibru, AIR 1972 Delhi 34 (FB) has taken the same view, namely, that the word „tenant‟ in Section 19 of the Slum Clearance Act includes a person against whom a decree or order of eviction has been passed.”
18. Purpose of the Slum Act is to protect the occupiers of properties in slum areas irrespective whether they were tenants or not and relevant would it be to highlight that the Slum Act only defines an occupier and does not define a tenant. The object of the Slum Act is to protect the occupiers from eviction unless permission is obtained from the competent authority and relevant would it be to highlight that as per Section 19, while granting or declining permission the relevant criteria is the means of the occupier. If the occupier has no means to relocate himself, permission for ejectment has not to be granted inasmuch as it would be presumed that upon ejectment the occupier would create a further slum. It is well settled that protection under Section 19 would be available to a person, whether he is a tenant or an occupier who is poor and is unable to arrange for alternative accommodation.
19. In the decision reported as 71 (1978) DLT 318 Dimple Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Harsh Kaur Aggarwal & Ors. it was observed that the
The decisions referred to above clearly bring out that the protection under Section 19 of the Slum Act is not available to a company. In paras 33 to 35 it was observed as under:-
“33. Learned Counsel for respondent No. 1, Mr. Ishwar Sahai, on the other hand has argued that the petitioner company are a jurisdiction. They are not a natural person. Thus the protection meant for the eviction of poor tenants from their respective accommodations cannot be made available to the petitioner. I find myself in perfect agreement with the learned Counsel for respondent No. 1.
34. Admittedly the petitioners are a company. Thus they are a juristic person.A Company is formed when certain persons join hands with a view to carrying on some commercial or industrial undertaking. Thus it can naturally be formed by those persons who have got sufficient funds to carry on their business. A Company cannot be run by poor persons with no financial means to run the same. The object and the purpose for the enactment of the Slum Areas (Improvement & Clearance) Act, 1956 was to clear the slums and to provide protection to poor tenants against harassment at the hands of landlords who bring forward and initiate proceedings for their eviction...
35. I am also tempted to cite the observations of a Single Judge of this Court as reported in Bismilla Jan v. Jain Tractors & Auto Spare, 1985 Rajdhani Law Reporter 477, (para 13).....”The Slum Act was enacted for giving protection to poor individual tenants who have small means and cannot afford to get alternate accommodation outside the slum area or within the slum if evicted. If a couple of persons with substantial means float a company which goes into losses, even if they are evicted from the premises, they cannot create slums, particularly when the same persons own other concerns which also have offices at different places”.
20. The view taken by the learned Single Judge was earlier on taken by another Single Judge in the decision reported as 105 (2003) DLT 422 Shyam Kishore & Anr. Vs. Roop Saree Kendra.
21. The view is incorrect for the reason it ignores the law on the subject that the concept of a contractual tenancy is only applicable where the Rent Control Legislation so envisages and that ejectment of an occupier of a property in a slum area, be the occupier a tenant or otherwise is entirely different than the issue of payment of damages for unauthorized use and occupation. A person occupying a slum property upon becoming liable to pay damages may not be evicted from the property for non-payment of damages, but that would not mean that damages cannot be recovered. The Slum Act does not regulate the rent payable by a tenant or the charges payable for unauthorized use and occupation. If the Rent Act does not apply to a slum area, rent payable would be governed as per contract between the parties and damages for unauthorized occupation as per the general law applicable.