Sunday, March 7, 2010

Trespass on leased property is an attack on landlord himself: SC

Trespass on leased property is an attack on landlord himself: court

J.VENKATESAN

If a tenant in exclusive possession of a property under lease is dispossessed forcibly by a trespasser or a muscleman, the landlord can seek immediate restoration by maintaining a suit under the Specific Relief (SR) Act, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench comprising Justices P. Sathasivam and R.M. Lodha said: "A landlord by letting out his property does not lose possession, as he continues to retain the legal possession, although the actual possession, use and control of that property are with the tenant. By retaining legal possession or in any case constructive possession, the landlord also retains all his legal remedies."

Conflicting rulings

Laying down the correct proposition of law in view of conflicting rulings by the High Courts of Bombay, the then Patiala and East Punjab State Union (PEPSU), Madras, Patna, Calcutta and Rajasthan, the Bench held that if a tenant was forcibly thrown out of the tenanted premises by a trespasser, the landlord would have an implied right of entry in order to recover possession for himself and his tenant.

'Right to fight'

Writing the judgment, Justice Lodha pointed out that an attack by a trespasser on the tenant was in fact a slap on the right of the landlord over the property.

The Bench said: "Landlords have the right to fight for their tenants who have been forcibly thrown out of their tenanted premises. This is true even if the trespasser is a kin of the landlord. A landlord, when he lets out his property to the tenant, is not deprived of his possession in law.

"What is altered is the mode in which the landlord held his possession in the property, inasmuch as the tenant comes into physical possession while the landlord retains possession through his tenant."

On the incidental question "whether the tenant is a necessary party in such a suit," the Bench said: "Section 6 of the SR Act provides that the suit to recover possession under the said provision could be filed by the person who is dispossessed or any person claiming through him.

"The tenant, having lost the possession, though without his consent, to a third party, may not be interested in recovery of possession. He may not be available. He may not like to involve himself in litigation. In such circumstances, if a landlord brings the suit to recover possession against the trespasser under Section 6, it cannot be laid down as an absolute proposition that the tenant must necessarily be impleaded as a party to such suit."

The Bench was dismissing an appeal by a trespasser — Sadashiv Shyama Sawant — through legal representatives and others (relatives of the respondent, landlady Anita Anant Sawant) who had thrown tenant P.V. Warik out of her house nearly 22 years ago on October 1, 1988.

The landlady's relatives had claimed ownership of the house at Ambet village in Maharashtra's Raigad district and forcibly entered possession. They contended that only the tenant and not the landlady had the right to file a suit. The landlady succeeded in the Bombay High Court and the present appeal was directed against this judgment.

Courtesy_


FULL Judgment in PDF format at: http://docs.google.com


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