Read Order: P.MANOHARAN AND ORS V. THE COMMISSIONER AND ORS 

Mansimran Kaur

Madurai, June 22, 2022: While dealing with the writ petitions instituted by the tenants against the impugned order passed by the Madurai Municipal Corporation whereby the  Corporation granted permission for demolition of the buildings on the ground that the said buildings were damaged and in a perilous condition, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has observed that if the structural stability of a building is likely to endanger the life or property of the neighbors or the general public, then the Municipal Authorities cannot close their eyes and await the verdict of the rent control authorities. 

On the issue, whether the pendency/dismissal of the rent control proceedings for demolition and reconstruction would be a bar for the Corporation Authorities to initiate proceedings under Section 327 of the Madurai Municipal Corporation Act, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice R. Vijaykumar said, “In view of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the reasons discussed above, I am of the opinion that the pendency/dismissal of a rent control proceedings for demolition and reconstruction would not be a bar for the Municipal Authorities to order demolition of a building.”

Factual background of the case was such that the petitioners took the premises on lease from one Kasiranjan and were keeping the property in good condition after carrying out the repair. However, rent control proceedings were initiated by the landlord on the file of the Rent Controller, Madurai seeking possession of the property on the grounds of demolition and reconstruction.  The said application was rejected on September 17,  2019. In pursuance of the same, the landlord approached the Municipal Authority under Section 327 of the Madurai City Municipal Corporation Act, 1971 and requested them to pass an order granting permission for demolition of the building. The petitions in question had been filed challenging an order passed by the Madurai Municipal Corporation whereby permission was granted for demolition of the buildings.

The Court observed that there was no dispute with regard to the landlord and the tenant relationship between the writ petitioners and the third respondent/fifth respondent in the respective writ petitions. It was opined by the Bench that both the Rent Control Legislations and the Municipal Laws relating to the demolition of the building operate on two different fields depending upon the class of persons likely to be affected by the dilapidated nature of the building. Hence, neither there is an overlap between two enactments nor it is a case of one enactment prevailing over the other, the Court remarked. 

On the facts of the present case, the Court stated that the shops in question were restaurants and sweet stalls frequented by the general public. Considering the safety of the general public, the Corporation authorities have rightly exercised the statutory power despite dismissal of the rent control proceedings. In furtherance of the same, the Court also stated that the pendency/dismissal of rent control proceedings for demolition and reconstruction would not be a bar for the Municipal Authorities to order demolition of a building.

On the contention of the petitioner that the entire exercise of the Corporation was actuated by malice, the Court observed that a portion of the building had started to fall down and immediately the Corporation  issued series of notices to the landlord directing him to get permission for demolition of the building. This action was initiated under Section 327 of Madurai Corporation Act. Subsequently after two days, the landlord chose to make an application on May 6, 2021  to the Corporation Authorities seeking permission for demolition of the building. The impugned order was passed after a period of 20 days on May 26, 2021 granting permission for demolition of the disputed building. Thus, this sequence vividly reflected that it was not the landlord who approached the Corporation for demolition but it was otherwise. Hence, this contention was held to be not legally sustainable.

The Bench also referred to the judgment in Om Metal Infra Projects Ltd. Vs. Union of India. It was also opined that keeping in view the facts of the present case and the dangerous condition of the building that was brought out by the Engineer’s report, it will not be necessary to set aside the order and remitting back to the authorities on the ground of violation of principles of natural justice,noted the Court. Thus, in light of the aforesaid observations, the writ petitions were dismissed on account of being meritless. 

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