Mansimran Kaur

Chennai, April 30, 2022: In a case of eviction of the tenant on the ground of willful default in payment of rent, the Madras High Court has held that to pass an order of eviction it must be shown that the conduct and attitude of the tenant in non-payment of rent to the landlords is willful, deliberate, intentional and wanton.

The Bench of Justice S. Kannammal while dealing with a Civil Revision Petition assailing the judgment passed by the Rent Control Appellate Authority whereby the appeal filed by the tenant was allowed and judgment of eviction was quashed, observed that the landlord must first and foremost present a notice to the tenant for calling upon him to deposit the rent before filing of the Original Petition and failing to do the sane shall result in dismissal of the same. 

The landlords in the present case had filed the Civil Revision Petition aggrieved by the judgment dated December 9, 2016 passed by the Rent Control Appellate Authority whereby the appeal instituted by the tenant was allowed by reversing the judgment and decree dated January 1, 2015. 

Relevant facts for perusal of the present revision petition were that landlords instituted the ROCP in 2012 for eviction of the respondent/tenant on the ground of willful default in payment of rent. The respondents claimed that there was default in payment of rent from April 2011 to July 2012 for a period of 16 months. Consequently, on the ground of default in payment for 16 months, the petitioners filed the original petition for eviction. 

Thereafter, the Rent Control Authority upon considering all the material in record observed that the respondent/ tenant had committed willful default in payment of the rent and further submitted that the tenant holds no authority to deny the title of landlords without any bona fide reason. Thus the order of eviction was pronounced. 

Aggrieved by the same, the respondent/ tenant filed an appeal before the Appellate Authority. The Rent Appellate Authority reversed the judgment of eviction on the ground that the appellant paid the entire rent before the first date of hearing of the original petition filed by the landlords and absolved him of the charges of a willful defaulter. 

Reliance was placed on the judgment of the Supreme Court in C. Chandramohan vs. Sengottaiyan wherein it was held that when the arrears of rent paid by the tenant has been received by the landlords, they are precluded from raising the plea of willful default.

In pursuance of the same, the present Civil Revision Petition was instituted. 

After observing the submissions of the rival parties, the Court considered the question as to whether there was a willful default in payment of rent by the tenant. The same was examined in the light of oral and documentary evidence adduced by the parties. 

The Court took into consideration the judgment of the Supreme Court in S. Sundaram Pillai and Others Vs. V.R.Pattabiraman and Others,.wherein it was held that mere default simplicitor would not be sufficient to evict the tenant but, it must be shown that the default was not willful. It was opined that a consensus of the meaning of the words ‘willful default’ appears to indicate that default in order to be willful must be intentional, deliberate, calculated and conscious, with full knowledge of legal consequences flowing there from.

It was further stated by this Court that further in the aforesaid judgment the Apex Court observed that before instituting the original petition seeking eviction of the tenant, the landlord has an obligation to put the tenant on notice to call upon him to clear the entire arrears of rent. Thus, if this observation of the Supreme Court is taken into consideration then it is clear that the respondent/ tenant was not issued any notice and the stand of the respondent that if notice would have been issued before filing of the Original Petition, then he would have cleared the entire rent as he did a day before hearing and further the contention concerning the withdrawn of the rent amount by the respondents without any prejudice stands admitted, the Court observed. 

The Bench said, “ It is needless to mention that a tenant has an obligation to pay the monthly rent, month after month, as and when demanded or even if there is no demand made by the landlords. If in a case where there were repeated demands made and yet the tenant fails to fulfil his statutory obligation to pay the rent, then it can be construed as a ‘wilful default’ requiring the tenant to vacant and handover vacant possession of the premises to the landlords.”

It was further observed by this Court that the tenant had not intentionally evaded payment of rent to the landlords and therefore, the above such settled parameters are not made out by the landlords as against the tenant. Further, it was noted that even during the pendency of the original petition, the Rent Control Appeal as well as the present Civil Revision Petition, the tenant continued to pay the rent month after month and the proof for such payments had been produced by way of a typed set of papers dated September 24, 2021. 

The Court further clarified that if the tenant does not pay the rent even after multiple requests being made, then the same shall amount to willful default.

Thus in the instant case, the Court opined that the Appellate Authority was right in its ruling by observing that the appellant was not a willful defaulter in payment of rent and accordingly quashed the judgment of conviction passed by the Rent Control Authority. 

Consequently, this Court was of a considerate view that there was no legal infirmity in the order passed by Appellate Authority and the respondent/ tenant in the instant case could not be termed as a chronic and willful defaulter.Thus, the present Civil Revision Petition was dismissed

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