“tenant’s estoppel”=Tenant estopped to question the ownership of the landlords.=though defendant Bhanaram in his written statement had denied ownership of the plaintiffs he went on to add, “This being a suit for eviction of a tenant, the question of ownership is not relevant to the suit”. In his cross-examination he clearly admitted that the lease from Nazul Department stood in the name of the plaintiffs and that the witness himself had produced that document in some other proceedings. He had further admitted that he used to pay rent by money orders in the name of the father of the plaintiffs. On facts, it must be held that defendant Bhanaram had without any doubt regarded the plaintiffs as landlords and owners of the suit house. This matter is thus fully covered by the decision of this Court in Anar Devi’s case and it was not open to defendant Bhanaram to question the ownership of the plaintiffs- landlords.- In the circumstances, the view taken by the High Court while setting aside the concurrent decisions of the Courts below was not correct and justified. We, therefore, allow this appeal. While setting aside the judgment under appeal, we restore the decisions of the Trial Court and the Lower Appellate Court passed in the instant case.Since respondents are in occupation of the suit house for last more than 40 years, we deem it appropriate to grant them time upto 31st August, 2017 to vacate and hand-over peaceful possession of the suit house to the appellants subject to the respondents filing usual undertakings within four weeks from the date of this judgment. In case no such undertakings are filed by each of the respondents within the time so stipulated, the appellants shall be free to execute the decree for eviction of the suit house.

Non-Reportable

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO.7360 OF 2016
(Arising out of SLP(Civil) No.9418 of 2011)

Ambika Savaria & Ors. ….Appellants

Versus

Sanjay Sharma & Ors. …. Respondents

[[

JUDGMENT

[

Uday Umesh Lalit, J.

1. Leave granted. This appeal challenges correctness of the
judgment and order dated 20.10.2010 passed by the High Court of
Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur allowing Second Appeal No.242 of 1989 and setting
aside concurrent decisions of the Trial Court and Lower Appellate Court
granting decree of eviction in favour of the appellants.

2. Civil Suit No.67-A of 1979 was filed by Vasudev Shyamji and
Govind Shyamji, the predecessors of the appellants seeking eviction of one
Bhanaram Sharma, predecessor of the respondents from suit house which was
described in the plaint as the front portion of house No.189/1, Ward No.18,
Raigarh. The eviction was sought on grounds including bona fide need. In
paragraph 2 of his written statement Bhanaram stated, “……..It is
specifically denied that the plaintiffs are owners of house No.189/1 in
Ward No.18 of Raigarh Town. This being a suit for eviction of a tenant the
question of ownership is not relevant to the suit.”

3. Thus though it was denied that the plaintiffs were owners of
the suit house, in the very next sentence defendant Bhanaram asserted that
the question of ownership was not relevant in the instant suit. Bhanaram
entered the witness box and in his cross-examination admitted that the
lease from Nazul Department stood in the name of plaintiffs and that the
witness himself had produced the same in some other proceedings. It was
further accepted that he had paid rent by money orders sent in the name of
Shyamji Gangji, father of the plaintiffs.

4. The aforesaid suit was re-numbered as Civil Suit No.417A of
1986. After considering the evidence on record the Trial Court by its
judgment and order dated 21.01.1987 decreed the suit principally on the
ground that the plaintiffs required the suit house for reconstruction and
for bona fide need.

5. The matter having been carried in appeal by Bhanaram, the Lower
Appellate Court also considered the question regarding ownership of the
suit house. While considering the evidence of Bhanaram, it observed,
“……This witness has also admitted that lease from nazul of this property
was also accepted in the name of plaintiffs and he himself has produced
that lease on his behalf in other civil court.” The Lower Appellate Court
affirmed the view taken by the Trial Court and dismissed Civil Appeal
No.3A/87 vide its judgment and order dated 20.03.1989.

6. The heirs of Bhanaram namely the respondents being aggrieved,
filed Second Appeal No.242 of 1989 in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at
Bilaspur. This appeal came to be allowed by the High Court vide judgment
and order dated 20.10.2010. It was observed by the High Court that for a
plaintiff to succeed in seeking eviction of tenant on the ground of bona
fide need under Section 12(1)(e) of the Chhatisgarh Accommodation Control
Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) it was incumbent to
establish that he was owner of the accommodation in question. After
considering the evidence on record, particularly that of defendant
Bhanaram it was observed:

“Evidence of this witness, pleadings and evidence of defendant Bhanaram
Sharma clearly reveal that father of Vasudev Shyamji i.e. Shyamji Gangji
was landlord of the suit accommodation, but was not owner of the suit
accommodation. In his detailed evidence, Vasudev Shyamji has not stated
anything to show that how he became owner of the suit accommodation.”

According to the High Court, the fact that defendant Bhanaram used to
pay rent of the suit house to the father of the plaintiffs, was not
sufficient to prove ownership over the suit house especially when ownership
was under dispute and the plaintiffs had not adduced any evidence to prove
the issue of ownership.

7. The aforesaid judgment of the High Court is presently under
appeal. We heard Mr. Kamal Mohan Gupta, learned Advocate in support of the
quotation and Mr. Ujjal Banerjee, learned Advocate for the respondents.
Relying on the decision of this Court in Anar Devi(Smt) v. Nathu Ram[1] it
was submitted by Mr. Gupta, learned Advocate that the defendant was
estopped from questioning the title of the plaintiffs and that the High
Court was in error in allowing the second appeal. Mr. Banerjee, learned
Advocate supported the view taken by the High Court and submitted that no
evidence whatsoever was led to prove ownership of the suit house which was
necessary in view of Section 12(1)(e) of the Act.

8. The relevant provision, namely, Section 12(1)(e) of the Act is
as under:
“12. Restriction on eviction of tenants – (1) Nothwithstanding anything
to the contrary contained in any other law or contract, no suit shall be
filed in any civil Court against a tenant for his eviction from any
accommodation except on one or more of the following grounds only, namely:
…………………………………………

(e) that the accommodation let for residential purpose is required bona
fide by the landlord for occupation as a residence for himself or for any
member of his family, if he is the owner thereof, or for any person for
whose benefit the accommodation is held and that the landlord or such
person has no other reasonably suitable residential accommodation of his
own in his occupation in the city or town concerned;
……………………………………………..”

9. In Anar Devi’s case the provision which came up for
consideration was Section 23-A(b) of M.P. Accommodation Control Act which
was as under:-

“23-A. Special provisions for eviction of tenant on ground of bona fide
requirement.— Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the
time being in force or contract to the contrary, a landlord may submit an
application, signed and verified in a manner provided in Rules 14 and 15 of
Order VI of the First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of
1908) as if it were a plaint to the Rent Controlling Authority on one or
more of the following grounds for an order directing the tenant to put the
landlord in possession of the accommodation, namely—

(a)………..

Explanation….

(b) that the accommodation let for non-residential purpose of continuing
or starting his business or that of any of his major sons or unmarried
daughters, if he is the owner thereof or for any person for whose benefit
the accommodation is held and that the landlord or such person has no other
reasonably suitable non-residential accommodation of his own in his
occupation in the city or town concerned:

…………………………………..….”

10. The relevant provision in the instant case, namely, Section
12(1)(e) of the Act is pari materia with Section 23-A(b) which was
considered in Anar Devi’s case. The expression, “if he is the owner
thereof” is common and identically placed. Para 18 of the decision in Anar
Devi’s case discloses that the respondent-tenant had acknowledged the
ownership of the accommodation as that of the appellant and had regarded
her as the landlord in his counter notice. In the circumstances it was
held that the respondent was not entitled to deny the title of the
appellant to the accommodation. During the course of its judgment, this
Court dealt with “tenant’s estoppel” as statutorily recognized in Section
116 of the Evidence Act and observed as under:-

“10. Since the doctrine of “tenant’s estoppel” could throw light on the
question as to what can make a landlord to succeed in enforcing his right
to recover possession of accommodation from a tenant under clause (b) of
Section 23-A of the Act, it would be advantageous to refer to its scope and
applicability, before taking it up for our consideration.

11.“Doctrine of tenant’s estoppel” which governs the relationship of
landlord and tenant is founded on a contract of tenancy entered into by
them, is well settled. Jessel, M.R., who adverted to that doctrine in
Stringer’s Estate, Shaw v. Jones-Ford[2] explains it thus:

“Where a man having no title obtains possession of land under a
demise by a man in possession who assumes to give him a title as tenant, he
cannot deny his landlord’s title, as, for instance, if he takes for twenty-
one years and he finds that the landlord has only five years’ title, he
cannot after five years set up against the landlord the jus tertii, though,
of course, the real owner can always recover against him. That is a
perfectly intelligible doctrine. He took possession under a contract to pay
rent so long as he held possession under the landlord, and to give it up at
the end of the term to the landlord, and having taken it in that way he is
not allowed to say that the man whose title he admits and under whose title
he took possession has not a title. That is a well-established doctrine.
That is estoppel by contract.”

12. Indeed, the said doctrine of tenant’s estoppel, finds statutory
recognition in Section 116 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, for short ‘the
Evidence Act’, in that, it states that “no tenant of immovable property, or
person claiming through such tenant, shall during the continuance of the
tenancy, be permitted to deny that the landlord of such tenant had, at the
beginning of the tenancy, a title to such immovable property”.

13. This Court in Sri Ram Pasricha v. Jagannath[3], has also ruled that in
a suit for eviction by landlord, the tenant is estopped from questioning
the title of the landlord because of Section 116 of the Act. The Judicial
Committee in Kumar Krishna Prasad Lal Singha Deo v. Baraboni Coal Concern
Ltd.[4], when had occasion to examine the contention based on the words ‘at
the beginning of the tenancy’ in Section 116 of the Evidence Act,
pronounced that they do not give a ground for a person already in
possession of land becoming tenant of another, to contend that there is no
estoppel against his denying his subsequent lessor’s title. Ever since, the
accepted position is that Section 116 of the Evidence Act applies and
estops even a person already in possession as tenant under one landlord
from denying the title of his subsequent landlord when once he acknowledges
him as his landlord by attornment or conduct. Therefore, a tenant of
immovable property under landlord who becomes a tenant under another
landlord by accepting him to be the owner who had derived title from the
former landlord, cannot be permitted to deny the latter’s title, even when
he is sought to be evicted by the latter on a permitted ground.

14. The scope and applicability of the doctrine of “tenant’s estoppel”
being what we have said of it, we shall now proceed to consider the
aforesaid question which has arisen with reference to the right of landlord
under Section 23-A(b) of the Act in the matter of recovery of possession of
the accommodation from the tenant.”

11. In the instant case though defendant Bhanaram in his written
statement had denied ownership of the plaintiffs he went on to add, “This
being a suit for eviction of a tenant, the question of ownership is not
relevant to the suit”. In his cross-examination he clearly admitted that
the lease from Nazul Department stood in the name of the plaintiffs and
that the witness himself had produced that document in some other
proceedings. He had further admitted that he used to pay rent by money
orders in the name of the father of the plaintiffs. On facts, it must be
held that defendant Bhanaram had without any doubt regarded the plaintiffs
as landlords and owners of the suit house. This matter is thus fully
covered by the decision of this Court in Anar Devi’s case and it was not
open to defendant Bhanaram to question the ownership of the plaintiffs-
landlords.

12. In the circumstances, the view taken by the High Court while setting
aside the concurrent decisions of the Courts below was not correct and
justified. We, therefore, allow this appeal. While setting aside the
judgment under appeal, we restore the decisions of the Trial Court and the
Lower Appellate Court passed in the instant case.

13. Since respondents are in occupation of the suit house for last more
than 40 years, we deem it appropriate to grant them time upto 31st August,
2017 to vacate and hand-over peaceful possession of the suit house to the
appellants subject to the respondents filing usual undertakings within four
weeks from the date of this judgment. In case no such undertakings are
filed by each of the respondents within the time so stipulated, the
appellants shall be free to execute the decree for eviction of the suit
house.

14. The appeal stands allowed in the aforesaid terms without any order as
to costs.

………………………………J.
(C. Nagappan)

………………………………J.
(Uday Umesh Lalit)

New Delhi,
August 09, 2016

———————–
[1]

[2] (1994) 4 SCC 250
[3]

[4] LR 6 Ch D 1:37 LT 233
[5]

[6] (1976) 4 SCC 184

[7]

[8] AIR 1937 PC 251

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