Any dispute between landlord and tenant under the Rent Control Act has to go to the Rent Controller and not to an ordinary civil court. The Controller means any person not below the rank of a tahsildar appointed by the Gogernment to perform the functions of a Controller under the AP Buildings (Lease, Rent & Eviction) Control Act, 1960. A similar provision is there in almost all rent control legislations in the different states in India. Munsiffs and Assistant Judges can also be appointed as Controllers, which is held to be valid under a judgment of the AP High Court (K Satyanarayana vs G.Narasimha Murthy AIR 1971 AP 341). The Rent Controller is not a court. Thus the High Court has no power to transfer a case from a Rent Controller to either the civil court or to another Rent Controller.
This was decided so in Mohd. Ali & Sons vs Madhavarao AIR 1964 AP 132. The Rent Controller has the powers to pass orders to fix the standard rent and also to order the lawful increase in rent. He can order the eviction of tenants and various other orders can also be issued on the applications filed before him by the landlord or the tenant. The Supreme Court in M M Chawla v J S Sethi, 1969 Rent Control Reporter 861 (SC) held that the Controller was authorised to try a proceeding to eject, to determine the standard rent, or to determine a fair rent with respect to a hotel and lodge as well.
The Rent Controller may also pass many interloculatory order in pending proceeding. They are summoning of witnesses: without a witnesses certain problems cannot be decided. After the parties submit a list of witnesses, the Controller can examine the need and issue a summons. This is generally the power of a civil court. Second the Controller also can issue a commission also can issue a commission for the examination of witnesses: if the witness can not come to the premises of the Rent Controller, his/her office can depute a person, generally an advocate, to reach that witness and record his or her statement in the presence of the parties. The opposite party can cross-examine the witness as well. All this has to be recorded and sent to the Rent Controller who could also fix some sort of honorarium.
Another important power the Controller has is to order the discovery, production and inspection of documents Certain deeds like a lease deed or title deed or any other registered document may need to be discovered or ordered to be produced from a party who has it in his possession. Sometimes, it is not possible to ascertain the problem unless the actual premise is seen. Then the Controller might order the inspection of such premises.
Where parties die during pending petition, the Rent Controller can give orders to bring the legal representatives of deceased on record. Before that the Controller has to determine as to who are the real heirs and representatives. The controller can consider and take into account any subsequent event to determine the rights of the parties. Generally the rights of the parties can be ascertained only on the basis of the facts as they exist on the date of the action instituted. However in certain cases subsequent events may be very relevant if the rights of the parties are to be known. In such cases the Rent Controller has the discretion to take into account the subsequent events in order to do justice.
The writer is a professor at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.