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Whether civil suit will be barred if tenancy agreement is not registered?

IN THE HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY
(AURANGABAD BENCH)

Civil Revision Application No. 7 of 2011

Decided On: 19.04.2011

Shashikant
Vs.
Nirmala

Hon’ble Judges/Coram:R.M. Borde, J.

Citation:2011(5) MHLJ 251:2011(3) ALLMR 832

1. Heard Shri C.R. Deshpande, learned Counsel for the Petitioner and Shri D.G. Nagode, learned Counsel for the Respondent.

Rule. Rule made returnable forthwith and heard finally by consent of learned Counsel for respective parties.

2. This is a petition by the original Defendant raising exception to the order dated 23.09.2010, passed by 5th Joint Civil Judge, Junior Division, Latur, below Exhibit23 in Regular Civil Suit No. 447/2009.

3. Petitioner herein, (referred to as ‘the Defendant’), tendered an application under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure, requesting the Court to reject the plaint. The application tendered by the Petitioner came to be rejected. Hence, this Civil Revision Application.

4. Plaintiff instituted suit claiming recovery of an amount of Rs. 39,000/towards arrears of rent against the Defendant. It is the contention of Plaintiff that Defendant is a tenant in respect of residential premises which were let out to him. The monthly rent was fixed at Rs. 1500/per month. Defendant occupied the premises since December 2006, however, it is contended that since May 2007, for a period of about 26 months, Defendant has failed to pay the rent. As such, Plaintiff is claiming recovery of amount towards arrears of rent.

5. The suit claim was opposed by the Defendant by presenting his written statement. Defendant has denied oral agreement of tenancy. Defendant has also controverted Plaintiff’s status as owner of the suit premises. Defendant controverted relationship of landlord and tenant and he further claims that the property exclusively belongs to his sister, which has been bequeathed in his favour by his sister after demise of her daughter Apurva. Defendant, as such, requests for dismissal of the suit.

6. In the pending suit, Defendant presented an application under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure requesting for rejection of the plaint. It is contended by the Defendant that the Plaintiff, in the suit, pleaded oral agreement of rent in respect of the suit premises. In view of provisions of Section 55 of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999, an agreement in respect of payment of rent is compulsorily required to be in writing and be registered and the consequence of failure to record the agreement in writing and getting the same registered would lead to penal consequences. It is, thus, contended that the very foundation of the claim raised by the Plaintiff is an illegal agreement, which cannot be the basis for raising claim for recovery of rent and as such, plaint is required to be rejected.

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7. Plaintiff opposed the application contending that the consequences for failure to register the agreement of rent are as laid down in the Section itself and as such, plaint presented by the Plaintiff claiming recovery of rent cannot be rejected.

8. Rule 11(d) of Order VII provides that the plaint shall be rejected where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law. Section 55 of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999, mandates that the tenancy agreement for leave and licence or letting of any premises, entered into between the landlord and the tenant or the licensee, as the case may be, after the commencement of this Act, shall be in writing and shall be registered under the Registration Act, 1908. The responsibility of securing registration of the agreement is on the shoulders of the landlord and in the absence of written registered agreement, the contention of the tenant about the terms and conditions, subject to which premises have been given to him by the landlord on leave and licence or have been let to him, shall prevail, unless proved otherwise. Sub-section (3) of Section 55 provides that in the event of contravention of the provisions of this Section by any landlord, he shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three months or with fine not exceeding rupees five thousand or with both.

Thus, on perusal of the Section, it is clear that the consequences of failure of reducing the tenancy agreement in writing and securing its registration are prescribed in subsections (2) and (3) of Section 55. In the absence of written and registered agreement, the contention as regards the terms and conditions, subject to which the premises have been given to the tenant, as contended by the tenant, shall have to be accepted. The penal consequences for contravention of mandate of Section 55(1) are as those stated in Sub-section (3) of Section 55. The Section in itself does not prescribe any bar of presenting a suit based on any tenancy agreement, which is not in consonance with Section 55. The objection raised by the Defendant that contravention of Sub-section (1) of Section 55 shall lead to consequence of rejection of plaint, as contemplated by Order VII Rule 11(d), is not acceptable.

9. Learned Counsel for the Petitioner seeks leave to place reliance on the judgment in the matter of Shanta Tukaram Kasare v. Milton Gonsalves and Ors., reported in MANU/MH/0950/2004 : 2005 (3) Bom.C.R. 417. It is contended that Section 22 of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999, also mandates an agreement to be in writing while creating a service tenancy. In the reported judgment, tenancy created in favour of the tenant was not in consonance with Section 22(1) of the Act, and as such, an objection was raised as regards tenability of the application before the competent authority seeking eviction of the tenant, as contemplated by Section 22(2) of the Act, which was upheld by this Court. It is contended by the Petitioner that a parallel can be drawn in respect of the agreement required to be entered with the tenant, as contemplated by Section 55 and creation of service tenancy as contemplated by Section 22(1) of the Act. As this Court has held in the reported matter, that contravention of provisions of Section 22(1) of the Act leads to consequence of dismissal of a plaint under Section 22(2) of the Act, a similar parallel can be drawn in respect of a claim raised in the instant matter for recovery of rent based on tenancy agreement, which, according to the Defendant, is not in consonance with Section 55(1) of the Act and as such, the suit shall have to be held as not maintainable.

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10. The contention raised by the Defendant cannot be accepted for the simple reason that Sub-section (2) of Section 22 itself provides that after creation of service tenancy under Sub-section (1), if the tenant ceases to be in the service or employment of the said landlord, either by retirement, resignation, termination of service, death or for any other reason, the tenant or any other person residing with him or claiming under him failed to vacate such premises or any part thereof immediately, then, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other law for the time being in force, the Competent Authority shall, if it is satisfied, on an application made to it in this behalf by such landlord within thirty days, make an order that the tenant or any such person as aforesaid shall place the landlord in vacant possession of such premises or part thereof. It is, thus, clear that one of the requirements for entertaining an application under Sub-section (2) of Section 22 is creation of a service tenancy under Sub-section (1) of Section 22. However, in contrast with provisions of Section 22, Section 55 of the Act does not provide for a similar consequence as laid down under Sub-section (2) of Section 22. The consequence of failure to register a tenancy agreement or reduce the same into writing, as provided in Sub-section (3) of Section 55 provides for punishment of imprisonment, which may extend to three months or with fine not exceeding Rs. 5000/or both. As stated earlier, Section 55 itself does not prohibit presentation of a plaint in the event of failure of securing the tenancy agreement, as contemplated by Section 55(1) of the Act. The judgment in the case of Shanta (supra), relied upon by the Petitioner, is not applicable to the facts of this case and no parallel can be drawn between Section 22 and Section 55 of the Act, so far as it relates to maintainability of a suit in the event of failure to record the tenancy agreement, as contemplated by Section 55(1) of the Act.

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11 This Court, in the matter of Raj Prasanna Kondur v. Arif Taher Khan and Ors., reported in MANU/MH/1264/2004 : 2005 (4) Bom.C.R. 383, has held that the right of a landlord under Section 24 to get a person evicted from the premises on expiry of license is not curtailed in any manner on account of absence of the agreement being in writing or registered, as contemplated by Section 55 of the Act.

Section 55 of the Act nowhere provides for “any other consequence” for failure on the part of the landlord to get the agreement drawn in writing or getting the same registered, except those provided in Sub-section (3) of Section 55. In other words, on account of failure of the landlord to get the agreement registered, he cannot be precluded or prohibited from presenting a plaint in Civil Court seeking recovery of rent. The consequence of failure to record the agreement in writing and to get it registered, would put the tenant in an advantageous position at trial, as his contention as regards the terms and conditions of tenancy will have to be accepted, unless proved otherwise. Section 55 of the Act nowhere puts an embargo in respect of entertain ability of any civil action by the landlord either for recovery of rent or for recovery of possession of the tenanted premises on account of his failure to secure an agreement of tenancy in the form, as contemplated by Section 55(1) of the Act.

12. The contention raised by the Petitioner – original Defendant that on account of failure of the tenant to secure an agreement of tenancy in the form mandated by Section 55(1) of the Act would necessarily lead to a consequence of invalidating civil remedies necessitating rejection of plaint, cannot be accepted. The trial Court was justified in rejecting the application tendered by the Petitioner original Defendant seeking rejection of the plaint, as contemplated under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

13 In the result, Civil Revision Application stands dismissed. Rule discharged. No costs.

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