By Sunil Garodia
In a major ruling that is expected to bring relief to countless landlords fighting eviction cases against their tenants, the Supreme Court has said that it is wrong to doubt the bona fide of a landlord regarding the requirement of the commercial premises sought to be vacated even if the landlord or his family are already engaged in business elsewhere.
In the case Hukum Chandra vs Nemi Chand Jain, the landlord sought eviction of the defendant from his shop as he wanted to settle his son. The trial court dismissed the case as the defendant proved that the landlord’s son was already engaged in business. Citing this as an insufficient ground for eviction, the trial court said that since the son was already engaged in business and was not unemployed, it did not see any need to evict the tenant as there was no bona fide requirement on part of the landlord.
But the 1st appellate court reversed the judgment and clearly stated that it cannot be expected for the landlord’s son to sit idle till the suit was disposed of. The Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld the appellate court’s order, adding that the landlord had proved bona fide requirement.
Aggrieved by high court order, the tenant approached the apex court, only to discover that he stood on shaky ground. The Supreme Court also held that the bona fide cannot be doubted just for the fact that the landlord’s son was already engaged in business. It added that material on record did not show that the said person was engaged in business at the time of filing of the eviction suit.
The court said that “In the present case, mere fact that Rajendra Kumar was involved in the business of utensils – “Rajendra Bartan Bhandar” a bona fide need of the premises cannot be doubted. It would be inappropriate to expect the son of the respondent – landlord to sit idle without doing any work till the eviction petition is decided on the basis of the bona fide requirement. If there is categorical averment by the respondent that the premises are required for his son Rajendra Kumar; engaging in the business of utensils in the meanwhile, cannot be a ground to deny a decree for eviction.”
Although it is true that landlords often create problems for tenants, it is also true that most tenants enjoy prime commercial spaces at piffling rents and always try to avoid eviction by putting forward specious arguments. Earlier, the tenancy laws were in favour of the tenants. But now, given the need for more housing and commercial spaces, the laws have been equitably designed to prevent excesses by both landlords and tenants. This order by the apex court is undoubtedly a shot in the arm for numerous landlords who can now hope to evict tenants faster.