Read Order: Munshi Ram v. Vidya Devi and Another 

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, May 27, 2022: While dealing with a revision petition by a shop tenant, involved in an ejectment petition on the ground of bonafide personal necessity of landlord due to his alleged unemployment and seeking the production of income tax returns of such landlord, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the Authorities under the Rent Act are concerned with whether the premises are bonafidely required by the landlord for his personal bonafide need or for that of his family.

Thus, the Bench of Justice Alka Sarin held that the question of whether the landlord (first respondent) was employed or unemployed and whether he was filing income tax returns or not was of no significance.  

“A Court would not embark on a roving and fishing enquiry in order to assist a party to collect evidence”, held the Bench. 

The present revision petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India was filed impugning the order of the Rant Controller whereby the application for directing the respondents to produce relevant documents in their possession was dismissed. 

Briefly, the facts are such that the landlord-respondents filed an ejectment petition seeking eviction of the tenant-petitioner from the shop in question on the ground of bonafide personal necessity of the husband of the landlord (first respondent) who was stated to be unemployed. 

The tenant-petitioner filed a reply stating therein that the said landlord and his family members were in fact members and owners in possession of many shops and commercial properties and that they were engaged in the business of property dealing. 

The husband of the landlord appeared as General Power of Attorney holder (‘GPA’ holder) of the landlord-respondents and filed his affidavit in Court. In his cross-examination, various suggestions were put to him, one of which was as to whether he was filing income tax returns. 

Thereafter, an application was filed by the tenant-petitioner for directing the GPA Holder to produce certain documents (his Income Tax Returns etc.). Reply was filed to the said application and vide the impugned order the said application was dismissed. 

The Rent Controller while dismissing the application held that the Court cannot assist the party in collecting evidence. It further observed that the GPA holder already admitted the documents put to him during his cross-examination and that the tenant-petitioner was at liberty to collect the certified copies of the sale deed and other documents from the concerned departments and produce the same in his evidence. Aggrieved by the said order the present revision petition was filed. 

The counsel for the tenant-petitioner contended that as per the provisions of the Order 11 Rule 14 CPC, it was incumbent on the respondent to produce the documents as demanded. On the relevance of these Income Tax Returns, the Counsel argued that they were material to the case to contradict the claim of the landlord (made in their ejectment application) pertaining to the GPA Holder being unemployed. 

Per contra, the counsel for the landlord-respondents argued that the documents that the tenant-petitioner wanted from the GPA holder, could not be produced by him being such a GPA holder. It was further the contention of the counsel for the landlord-respondents that since the said documents were not necessary and relevant to the present lis, the application was rightly dismissed by the Rent Controller.

After considering the above-stated, the Court observed that the Rent Controller gave the liberty to the tenant-petitioner to obtain certified copies of the sale deeds that he sought to rely upon and produce the same in his evidence while regarding the rejection of the tenant’s prayer qua the income tax returns, the Court held that the Rent Controller was right in doing so. 

Further, the Court held that here in this case for ejectment of the tenant-petitioner on grounds of personal bonafide necessity, the tenant-petitioner was seeking production of the income tax returns which pertained to the GPA holder, when in fact the question surrounding the employed of the GPA holder and his filing of the income tax returns was of no significance. 

Thus, against this backdrop, the Court held that under the Rent Act, the Authorities are concerned with whether the premises are bonafidely required by the landlord for his personal bonafide need or for that of his family, and thus, “the relevance of the documents especially the income tax returns eludes this Court”. 

Justice Sarin hence, asserted that what is required in law is that the Court below should record its satisfaction as to whether the documents are necessary or not. 

Also, it was observed that in this case, a categoric observation was made that the tenant-petitioner was trying to collect evidence through the process of the Court which could not be allowed. Further, the Court noted that Rent Controller observed that the documents put to the witness were already admitted by him in his cross-examination and therefore the Rent Controller have the tenant-petitioner liberty to collect the certified copies of the sale deeds and other documents from the concerned department and to produce them in his evidence.

Lastly, Justice Sarin remarked that a Court would not embark on a roving and fishing enquiry in order to assist a party to collect evidence and that the present petition was nothing but an endeavour to embark on an endeavour not relevant to the matter in disputeThus, the petition was dismissed.

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