Read Judgment : SHANKARLAL NADANI Vs. SOHANLAL JAIN 

Mansimran Kaur 

New Delhi, April 13, 2022: Referring to Rajasthan Rent Control Act, 2001, the Supreme Court has observed that Section 18 only restricts the jurisdiction of the civil court from the date the Act became applicable and, a suit filed before the civil court prior to the applicability of the Act has to be decided by the civil court. 

Considering two appeals assailing the judgment of the High Court of Rajasthan whereby the tenant’s revision petition against the decree for possession was dismissed, the Division Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian held that a  decree passed by the civil court is valid and executable which is not interdicted by the applicability of the Act to the area in question.

Brief facts of the case leading to the present appeals were that the appellant’s father was the tenant of Shop No. 4 situated at Jain Katla, Bikaner Road, Suratgarh since 1982, whose owner was the father of the respondent herein at that time. The premises were let out on lease for monthly rent of Rs. 583.33. After the demise of the appellant’s father, the shop was in the possession of the appellants on a monthly rent basis. Thereafter, notice of termination of tenancy was issued under Section 106 of the Transfer of Property Act , 1882 on April 18, 2013. However, when the notice of termination was issued, the said premise was not in the urban area. While the suit was sub judice before the competent Court, the State Government issued a notification on July 11, 2014 wherein the provisions of the Rajasthan Control Act, 2001 were extended, effective from May 11, 2015.  

The Civil Court passed the  decree of possession against the appellants despite the fact that the provisions of the Rajasthan Rent Control Act, 2001 were operative from May 11, 2015.   Aggrieved by the same, the appellants filed first appeal before the Additional District Judge, Suratgarh which was dismissed on October 5, 2021. The appellants moved a second appeal wherein they stressed upon the case of K. Ramnarayan Khandelwal v. Shri Pukhraj Banthiya, 2017 SCC OnLine Raj 4178,  wherein it was held that the decree in a civil suit cannot be passed after the applicability of the Act to the area in question. The High Court noted that the above stated case had been stated by this Court, in Special Leave Petition and therefore was not binding. Consequently the High Court cited the case of the Co-ordinate Bench in Mohd. Rafiq v. Hanuman Sahai & Ors.(SBCWP No. 16681 of 2019) wherein it was held that a decree in civil suit can be passed. By observing the same, the High Court of Rajasthan dismissed the appeals filed by the appellants. The appellants pursuant to the same appeared before the present Court. 

The Counsel for the appellants contended that the decree of possession could not be passed by the civil court as it could be passed only by the Rent Tribunal. It was submitted that the notification of the State Government issued on July 11, 2014, became operative from May 11, 2015, and so, it was the Rent Tribunal alone which would have jurisdiction to hear and decide the petitions related to disputes between landlord and tenant and not the civil courts. 

To deal with the question of jurisdiction, the Apex Court referred to a plethora of judgments of this Court in Atma Ram Mittal v. Ishwar Singh Punia , Vineet Kumar v. Mangal Sain Wadhera,Ram Saroop Rai v. Lilavati, Ramesh Chandra v. III Addl. District Judge and Shri Kishan v. Manoj Kumar and stated that it has been held in the judgments referred to above that in a suit filed within the exemption period, the decree could be passed by the civil court even if the premises are located within the urban area to which the Act is applicable. The Bench added that the consistent view has been that the decree can be validly executed if the suit was filed within the exemption period, except Vineet Kumar’s Case(Supra), which was specifically held to be not laying good law.

At last, the Court observed that Section 18 of the Act is silent on the question of validity of a decree of a Civil Court. The Act came into force in respect of the premises in question on May 11,2015 i.e., after the civil suit was filed, therefore, the decree could validly be passed and executed. After the applicability of the Act to the area in question, the landlord and tenant dispute can be raised only before the Rent Tribunal but not before the civil court, added the Bench.

The Division Bench said, “However, a suit filed before the civil court prior to the applicability of the Act has to be decided by the civil court. A decree passed by the civil court is valid and executable which is not interdicted by the applicability of the Act to the area in question. The Act is applicable to the area in question from the date the notification came into force and it does not bar the decree of the civil court or the pendency of such civil suit.”

The Apex Court also highlighted that one of the principles is that the rights of the parties have to be determined on the date when lis commences i.e., on the date of filing of the suit.The plaintiff is entitled to decree on that day when he initiated the proceedings, therefore, rights of the parties have to be examined as on the said day.

On this premise of law, the Top Court referred to the judgment of ECGC Limited v. Mokul Shriram EPC JV  was examining the question as to whether the condition of deposit while filing appeal under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 would be applicable or the provisions as it existed under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 when the complaint was filed would be applicable. This Bench considered the Constitution Bench judgments in Garikapati Veeraya v. N. Subbiah Choudhry & Ors.  , Vitthalbhai Naranbhai Patel v. Commissioner of Sales Tax, M.P., Nagpur and Hardeodas Jagannath v. The State of Assam  held that the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 would not be applicable to the complaints filed prior to the commencement of the 2019 Act. 

Thus, without finding any error in the order passed by the High Court, the appeals were dismissed.

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