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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sec,15 (7) of Delhi Rent Control Act - Power to strike out the defence - Apex court held that The appellants-tenants, despite their contumacious disobedience, of the directions contained in the order of the Rent Controller dated 14.9.2009, have frustrated the process of law successfully, for about five years (from 28.4.2009, i.e., the date on which the application under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act was filed, till the disposal of the present Civil Appeal). The tenants have achieved, what the legislation aimed to avoid. In the above view of the matter, I am of the considered view, that the order passed by the Rent Controller dated 14.9.2009, which was upheld by the Rent Control Tribunal (on 24.5.2010) and the High Court (vide order dated 10.5.2011) calls for no interference whatsoever. = Dina Nath (D) by Lrs. & Anr. …Appellants Versus Subhash Chand Saini & Ors. …Respondents = 2014 ( April. Part ) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41418

Sec,15 (7)  of Delhi Rent Control Act - Power to strike out the defence - Apex court held that The appellants-tenants, despite  their  contumacious  disobedience,  of  the directions contained in the order of the Rent  Controller  dated  14.9.2009, have frustrated the process of law successfully, for about five years  (from 28.4.2009, i.e., the date on which the application under  Section  15(7)  of
the Rent Act was filed, till the disposal  of  the  present  Civil  Appeal). The tenants have achieved, what the legislation aimed to avoid. In the above view of the matter, I am of  the  considered  view,  that the order passed by the Rent Controller dated 14.9.2009,  which  was  upheld
by the Rent Control Tribunal (on 24.5.2010) and the High Court  (vide  order dated 10.5.2011) calls for no interference whatsoever. =

power to strike out the defence vested in  the  Court
under Section 15 (7) of the Delhi Rent  Control  Act  is  discretionary  and
ought to be exercised only when the tenant deliberately,  contumaciously  or
negligently fails to deposit the rent due from him,  I  have,  however,  not
been able to persuade myself  to  hold  that  such  deliberate,  neglect  or
contumacious failure has been established against the  petitioner-tenant  in
the instant case so  as  to  justify  the  exceptional  step  of  the  Court
striking out his defence at the threshold.=
Miss Santosh Mehta v. Om Prakash and Ors. (1980) 3  SCC  610  while
interpreting Section 15 (7) of the Delhi Rent Control Act  Krishna  Iyer  J.
held that the power to strike out the  party’s  defence  is  an  exceptional
step and is only to be exercised where  a  “mood  of  defiance”  and  “gross
negligence” on the part  of  the  tenant  is  detected.  
This  Court  warned
against the landlord using Section 15 (7) as  a  “booby  trap”  to  get  the
tenant evicted.  One can do no better  than  to  reproduce  the  passage  in
which this Court indicated the  correct  approach  to  be  adopted  in  such
matters. 
This Court said:
          “3.  We  must  adopt  a  socially  informed  perspective   while
           construing the provisions and then it will  be  plain  that  the
           Controller is armed with a facultative power.  He  may,  or  not
           strike out the tenant's defence. A judicial discretion has built-
           in-self-restraint, has the scheme of the statute in mind, cannot
           ignore the conspectus of circumstances which are present in  the
           case and has the brooding thought playing on the power that,  in
           a court, striking out a party's defence is an exceptional  step,
           not a routine visitation of a punitive esteem following  upon  a
           mere failure to pay rent. First of all, there must be a  failure
           to pay rent which, in the context,  indicates  willful  failure,
           deliberate default or volitional non-performance. Secondly,  the
           Section provides no  automatic  weapon  but  prescribes  a  wise
           discretion, inscribes no mechanical consequence  but  invests  a
           power to overcome intransigence. Thus,  if  a  tenant  fails  or
           refuses to pay or deposit rent and the court discerns a mood  of
           defiance or gross neglect, the tenant may forfeit his  right  to
           be heard in defence. The last resort cannot  be  converted  into
           the first resort; a punitive direction of court cannot  be  used
           as a booby trap to get the tenant out.  Once  this  teleological
           interpretation dawns, the mist of misconception about matter of-
           course invocation of  the  power  to  strike  out  will  vanish.
           Farewell to the realities of a given case is playing truant with
           the duty underlying the power.
           4...The effect of striking out of the defence under s. 15(7)  is
           that the tenant is deprived of the protection  given  by  s.  14
           and, therefore, the powers under s. 15(7) of  the  Act  must  be
           exercised with due circumspection.”
The  instant  controversy  actually  demonstrates  how  a  tenant  has
effectively frustrated the legislative intent contemplated in Section  15(7)
of the Rent Act.   
The  legislative  purpose  was,  to  curb  tendencies  of tenants, from abusing the legal process.  
As  already  noticed  hereinabove,
the respondents-landlords filed an  eviction  petition  in  November,  2007.
Based on the non-compliance of the directions issued by the Rent  Controller
(on  21.4.2008),  the  respondents-landlords   moved   an   application   on
28.4.2009, praying for striking out the defence of  the  appellants-tenants.
After the appellants-tenants  filed  their  reply  on  17.8.2009,  the  Rent
Controller allowed the above application, and struck off the defence of  the
appellants-tenants, by an order dated 14.9.2009.   
The  order  of  the  Rent
Controller dated 14.9.2009 was assailed  by  the  appellants-tenants  before
the Rent Control Tribunal.  The prayer made by  the  appellants-tenants  was
rejected by the above Tribunal on 21.4.2010.   The  appellants-tenants  then
approached the High Court by filing a petition  under  Article  227  of  the
Constitution of India.  
The High Court dismissed the petition on  10.5.2011.
The said order was assailed by filing  a  Petition  for  Special  Leave  to
Appeal.  
The matter has been pending disposal  in  this  Court  ever  since.
The appellants-tenants, despite  their  contumacious  disobedience,  of  the
directions contained in the order of the Rent  Controller  dated  14.9.2009,
have frustrated the process of law successfully, for about five years  (from
28.4.2009, i.e., the date on which the application under  Section  15(7)  of
the Rent Act was filed, till the disposal  of  the  present  Civil  Appeal).
The tenants have achieved, what the legislation aimed to avoid.
In the above view of the matter, I am of  the  considered  view,  that
the order passed by the Rent Controller dated 14.9.2009,  which  was  upheld
by the Rent Control Tribunal (on 24.5.2010) and the High Court  (vide  order
dated 10.5.2011) calls for no interference whatsoever.
  For  the  reasons  recorded  hereinabove  the  appeal  fails  and  is
accordingly dismissed.
2014 ( April. Part ) http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41418
T.S. THAKUR, JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR

                                        REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                     CIVIL APPEAL NO.  4563     OF 2014
                 (Arising out of S.L.P (C) No.26941 of 2011)


Dina Nath (D) by Lrs. & Anr.                 …Appellants

           Versus

Subhash Chand Saini & Ors.                   …Respondents



                               J U D G M E N T

T.S. Thakur, J.

1.    Leave granted.

2.    I have  had  the  privilege  of  going  through  the  elaborate  Order
proposed by my Esteemed Brother J.S. Khehar,  J.   While  I  entirely  agree
with the view that the power to strike out the defence vested in  the  Court
under Section 15 (7) of the Delhi Rent  Control  Act  is  discretionary  and
ought to be exercised only when the tenant deliberately,  contumaciously  or
negligently fails to deposit the rent due from him,  I  have,  however,  not
been able to persuade myself  to  hold  that  such  deliberate,  neglect  or
contumacious failure has been established against the  petitioner-tenant  in
the instant case so  as  to  justify  the  exceptional  step  of  the  Court
striking out his defence at the threshold.

3.    The facts giving rise to the controversy have been set  out  at  great
length in the  judgment  of  my  Erudite  Brother.   I,  therefore,  do  not
consider it necessary to recapitulate the same  over  again  except  to  the
extent it may be necessary in the course of this judgment to do  so.  Before
adverting to the factual matrix relevant to the  question  of  striking  out
the tenant’s defence, we need to remind ourselves of the  spirit  underlying
the Rent Control Legislations in general and Delhi Rent  Control  Act,  1958
in particular. The historical perspective in which these  legislations  came
about has been traced in several decisions of this  Court.
Nagindas  Ramdas v. Dalpatram Ichharam @ Brijram and Ors.  (1974)  1  SCC  242  is  one  such
decision in which this Court traced the historical compulsions that  led  to
the enactment of the rent laws in this country. The broad policy  underlying
these laws including the Delhi Rent Control Act, observed  this  Court,  was
to protect the tenants against unreasonable demands of the landlords  as  to
rents, evictions and repairs. The following passage is an apposite  reminder
of the  times  that  saw  the  enactment  of  these  laws  and  the  purpose
underlying the same:

           “...The strain of the last World War, Industrial Revolution, the
           large-scale exodus of the working people to urban areas and  the
           social and  political  changes  brought  in  their  wake  social
           problems of considerable  magnitude  and  complexity  and  their
           concomitant  evils.  The  country  was  faced  with   spiralling
           inflation, soaring cost of living, increasing  urban  population
           and scarcity of accommodation.  Rack  renting  and  large  scale
           eviction of  tenants  under  the  guise  of  the  ordinary  law,
           exacerbated those conditions making the  economic  life  of  the
           community unstable and insecure. To tackle  these  problems  and
           curb these evils,  the  Legislatures  of  the  States  in  India
           enacted Rent Control legislations...

           ...The language of the preambles  of  the  Delhi  Rent  Act  and
           Madras Rent Act is strikingly  similar.  The  broad  policy  and
           purpose as indicated in their preambles  is,  substantially  the
           same viz.,  “to  protect  tenants  against  their  landlords  in
           respect of the rents, evictions  and  repairs".  With  the  same
           beneficent end in  view,  all  the  three  Acts  interfere  with
           contractual tenancies and make provisions for fixation  of  fair
           and standard rents, or protection against  eviction  of  tenants
           not only during the continuance of their contractual tenure  but
           also after its determination. Indeed, the  neologism  "statutory
           tenant" has come  into  existence  because  of  this  protective
           policy which is common to all enactments of this kind...”

                                                         (emphasis supplied)




4.    The above decision was followed in D.C. Bhatia and Ors.  v.  Union  of
India and Anr. (1995) 1  SCC  104  in  which  this  Court  referred  to  the
challenge mounted against such rent laws and the restrictions placed by  the
same upon the rights of the landlord to  seek  eviction  of  their  tenants.
This Court while upholding  the  constitutional  vires  of  The  Delhi  Rent
Control Act, 1958 restricted the eviction of tenants except on  the  special
grounds stated in  the  statute.  Reference  may  also  be  made  to  Ashoka
Marketing Ltd. and Anr. v. Punjab National Bank and Ors. (1990)  4  SCC  406
where the Delhi  Rent  Act  once  again  fell  for  consideration  before  a
Constitution Bench of this Court. Relying upon the Statement of Objects  and
Reasons of the enactment, this Court held  that  the  purpose  of  the  Act,
inter alia, was to give the tenants a larger measure of  protection  against
eviction.  This Court observed:

           “...The statement of objects and reasons for  the  enactment  of
           the Rent Control Act, indicates that it has been enacted with  a
           view:

           (a) to devise a suitable machinery for expeditious  adjudication
           of proceedings between landlords and tenants;

           (b) to provide  for  the  determination  of  the  standard  rent
           payable by tenants of the various categories of  premises  which
           should be fair to the tenants, and at  the  same  time,  provide
           incentive for keeping the existing houses in good  repairs,  and
           for further investment in house construction; and

           (c) to give tenants  a  larger  measure  of  protection  against
           eviction.

           This indicates that the object underlying the Rent  Control  Act
           is to make provision for expeditious  adjudication  of  disputes
           between landlords and tenants, determination  of  standard  rent
           payable by tenants and giving  protection  against  eviction  to
           tenants. The premises belonging to the Government  are  excluded
           from the ambit of the Rent Control Act which means that the  Act
           has been enacted primarily to regulate the private  relationship
           between landlords and tenants with  a  view  to  confer  certain
           benefits on the tenants and at the  same  time  to  balance  the
           interest  of  the  landlords  by   providing   for   expeditious
           adjudication of proceedings between landlords and tenant...”

                                                        (empahasis supplied)



5.    The Delhi Rent Control Act though originally drafted with  the  highly
pro-tenant objective has been amended in the years 1960, 1963,  1976,  1984,
1988 and 1995. The Delhi Rent  (Repeal)  Bill,  2013  is  currently  pending
before  the  Parliament  which  aims  at  safeguarding  the   interests   of
landlords.  Significantly, the 1988 Amendment  limited  the  application  of
the Delhi Rent Control Act to only such premises as were let out for a  rent
of less than Rs.3500/- per month. In D.C. Bhatia’s case (supra)  this  Court
observed that the object of the Amending Act was quite  different  from  the
objects of the Parent Act and that  the  Amending  Act  was  an  attempt  to
rationalize the Rent Control  Act  by  restoring  the  balance  between  the
interests of the landlords and tenants.  The Court said:

           “...As a result of these legislations a host  of  problems  have
           cropped up. These problems  have  been  stated  in  the  various
           Committee   Reports   set   out   earlier   in   the   judgment.
           Representations were also made  by  the  landlords  highlighting
           these problems. In order to tackle the problems created  by  the
           Rent Act, the Delhi Rent Control Act  was  amended  in  1988  by
           Delhi Rent Control Amending Act, 1988 (Act 57 of 1988).


           ...The objects of the Amending Act are quite different from  the
           objects of the parent Act. One of the objects  of  Amending  Act
           was to rationalise the Rent Control  Law  by  bringing  about  a
           balance between the  interest  of  landlords  and  tenants.  The
           object was not merely to  protect  the  weaker  section  of  the
           community. In fact, the representations made by  the  landlords'
           association and the reports of various Committees indicated, the
           laws were being very often abused by the  rich  tenants  against
           poor or middle class landlords. The Rent Act had  brought  to  a
           halt house-building activity for letting out. Many  people  with
           accommodation to spare did not let out  such  accommodation  for
           the fear of losing the accommodation altogether. As a result  of
           all these, there  was  acute  shortage  of  accommodation  which
           caused hardship to the rich and the poor alike. In the light  of
           this experience, the Amending Act of 1988 was passed.


           ...In order to strike a balance between  the  interests  of  the
           landlords and also the tenants and for giving a boost  to  house
           building activity, the Legislature in its wisdom has decided  to
           restrict the protection of the Rent Act only to  those  premises
           for which rent is payable upto the sum of Rs. 3,500/- per  month
           and has decided not to extend this statutory protection  to  the
           premises constructed  on  or  after  the  date  of  coming  into
           operation of the Amending Act for a period of ten years. This is
           a matter of  legislative  policy.  The  Legislature  could  have
           repealed the Rent Act altogether. It can also repeal it step  by
           step. It has decided to confine the statutory protection to  the
           existing tenancies whose monthly rent did not exceed Rs. 3,500/-
           .”


                                                         (emphasis supplied)




6.    Having said that, we must refer to the decision of this Court  in  M/s
Rahabhar Productions Pvt. Ltd. v. Rajendra K. Tandon (1998) 4 SCC 49,  where
this Court held that while the provisions of the rent law must be  construed
harmoniously so as to balance the rights and obligations of the  tenant  and
the landlord, Courts cannot be unmindful of the fact  that  the  legislative
object of the law continues to be to curb the tendency of the  landlords  to
evict the tenants on one pretext or the other so that the  former  can  rent
out the premises at a higher rate of rent. This Court observed:

           “...The Act which was brought on the Statute book in 1958  is  a
           composite  legislation  in  the  sense  that   while   providing
           protection to the  tenants  who,  under  common  law,  including
           Transfer of Property Act, could be evicted from the premises let
           out to them, at any time by the landlord on the  termination  of
           their tenancy, it restricts the right of the landlords to  evict
           the tenants at their will. The Act is thus  beneficial  as  also
           restrictive in nature. The Courts are, therefore, under a  legal
           compulsion to harmoniously read the provisions of the Act so  as
           to balance the rights of the landlord and the obligations of the
           tenant towards each other  keeping  in  mind  that  one  of  the
           objects of the legislature while enacting the Act  was  to  curb
           the tendency of the greedy landlords to throw out  the  tenants,
           paying lower rent, in the name of personal occupation  and  rent
           out the premises at the market rate...”

                                                         (emphasis supplied)



7.    There is thus no gainsaying that while  legislative  intervention  has
tried to moderate the law with a view to restoring the balance  between  the
rights and obligations of the landlords on the one hand and the  tenants  on
the other, the spirit and purpose underlying the rent legislation  continues
to be to protect the  tenants  against  arbitrary  and  unfair  demands  for
eviction or enhancement of rents.  The pendulum  has  undoubtedly  swung  in
favour of the landlords not only by reason of these amendments to  the  rent
legislation which were perceived to be halting house-building  activity  and
leading to a visible reluctance among the owners to let  out  the  available
accommodation  for  fear   of   losing   the   same   altogether.   Judicial
pronouncements have also liberalized the approach  to  be  adopted  qua  the
landlord’s prayer for eviction when such eviction is sought  on  the  ground
of bonafide personal need of the landlord.  Decisions of this Court in
Mst.Bega Begum and Ors. v. Abdul Ahad Khan (Dead) by LRs. and Ors. (1979) 1  SCC
273, M/s Central Tobacoo Co. Bangalore v. Chandra Pakash  1969  (2)  UJ  432
and Phiroze Bamanji Desai v. Chandrakant N. Patel  and  Ors.  1974  (1)  SCC
661, interpreted the Rent Control  legislation  rather  narrowly  placing  a
relatively heavier burden on the landlords in cases where  vacation  of  the
tenants was sought on the ground of bona fide personal  requirement  of  the
former. Recent  decisions  have  made  a  significant  departure  from  that
approach.  In Mohd. Ayub and Anr. v. Mukesh Chand  (2012)  2  SCC  155  this
Court observed that the landlord’s requirement  need  not  be  one  of  dire
necessity. So long as the need was bona fide,  the  mere  affluence  of  the
landlord would not be  a ground to reject his application for  eviction.  To
the same effect is the decision of this Court  in  Bhimanagouda  Basanagouda
Patil v. Mohd. Gudusaheb (2003) 3 SCC 101.

8.    The noticeable shift in the approach adopted towards eviction  matters
based on personal bona  fide  requirement  does  not,  however,  necessarily
cascade  into  a  similar  approach  towards  grounds  other  than  personal
requirement, especially where the default in the payment of rent is  set  up
as a ground for eviction.  In such cases, the Courts will have  to  adopt  a
relatively liberal approach towards the tenant.  Just  because  there  is  a
default in payment of rent  may  not  necessarily  result  in  an  order  of
eviction unless the statute clearly or unequivocally so mandates.

9.    In the case at hand, Section 15(7)  of  the  Delhi  Rent  Control  Act
leaves wide discretion with the Trial Court whether or  not  to  strike  out
the defence of the tenant even where a default is proved. Exercise  of  that
discretion in turn depends upon whether or not the  default  in  payment  of
rent is seen by the Courts to be deliberate or contumacious in nature.  That
is because Section 15(7)  of  the  Delhi  Rent  Control  Act  cannot  be  so
interpreted as to negate or frustrate the spirit of  the  legislation  which
aims at granting protection to the  tenants  from  eviction.  The  provision
must be so construed as to promote the object underlying the  Act.   To  the
same effect are the pronouncements of this Court in  which  this  Court  has
considered striking off the defence of the  tenant  to  be  an  “exceptional
step” warranted only when the tenant’s conduct  is  seen  to  be  negligent,
deliberate or contumacious.

10.   In Miss Santosh Mehta v. Om Prakash and Ors. (1980) 3  SCC  610  while
interpreting Section 15 (7) of the Delhi Rent Control Act  Krishna  Iyer  J.
held that the power to strike out the  party’s  defence  is  an  exceptional
step and is only to be exercised where  a  “mood  of  defiance”  and  “gross
negligence” on the part  of  the  tenant  is  detected.  This  Court  warned
against the landlord using Section 15 (7) as  a  “booby  trap”  to  get  the
tenant evicted.  One can do no better  than  to  reproduce  the  passage  in
which this Court indicated the  correct  approach  to  be  adopted  in  such
matters. This Court said:


           “3.  We  must  adopt  a  socially  informed  perspective   while
           construing the provisions and then it will  be  plain  that  the
           Controller is armed with a facultative power.  He  may,  or  not
           strike out the tenant's defence. A judicial discretion has built-
           in-self-restraint, has the scheme of the statute in mind, cannot
           ignore the conspectus of circumstances which are present in  the
           case and has the brooding thought playing on the power that,  in
           a court, striking out a party's defence is an exceptional  step,
           not a routine visitation of a punitive esteem following  upon  a
           mere failure to pay rent. First of all, there must be a  failure
           to pay rent which, in the context,  indicates  willful  failure,
           deliberate default or volitional non-performance. Secondly,  the
           Section provides no  automatic  weapon  but  prescribes  a  wise
           discretion, inscribes no mechanical consequence  but  invests  a
           power to overcome intransigence. Thus,  if  a  tenant  fails  or
           refuses to pay or deposit rent and the court discerns a mood  of
           defiance or gross neglect, the tenant may forfeit his  right  to
           be heard in defence. The last resort cannot  be  converted  into
           the first resort; a punitive direction of court cannot  be  used
           as a booby trap to get the tenant out.  Once  this  teleological
           interpretation dawns, the mist of misconception about matter of-
           course invocation of  the  power  to  strike  out  will  vanish.
           Farewell to the realities of a given case is playing truant with
           the duty underlying the power.


           4...The effect of striking out of the defence under s. 15(7)  is
           that the tenant is deprived of the protection  given  by  s.  14
           and, therefore, the powers under s. 15(7) of  the  Act  must  be
           exercised with due circumspection.”


                                                         (emphasis supplied)





11.   Subsequent decisions rendered on the subject have not, in my  opinion,
in the least bit diluted leave alone digressed  from  the  above  principles
that governs the exercise of power under Section 15(7). Even later  decision
of this Court in Miss Santosh Mehta’s  case  (supra)        also  recognises
that mere failure to pay rent is not enough to  justify  an  order  striking
out  the  defence.   It  is  only  wilful  failure,  deliberate  default  or
volitional  non-performance  that  can  call  for  the  exercise   of   that
extraordinary power vested in the Court. More importantly, the plenitude  of
the discretionary power of the Court under Section 15 (7)  was  held  to  be
vesting a wise discretion and not an automatic weapon  to  be  used  against
the tenant. The power to  strike  out  the  defence  is  available  only  to
overcome intransigence, especially when   the power is penal in nature,  the
exercise whereof would deprive the tenant of  the  protection  available  to
him under Section 14. The same must, therefore, be exercised with  due  care
and circumspection.


12.   Even in Smt. Kamla Devi v. Shri Vasudev (1995) 1 SCC  356  this  Court
reiterated that the power to strike out the defence simply vested  the  Rent
Controller with the discretion to do so. It was not mandatory for  the  Rent
Controller to strike out the defence simply because a default had  occurred.
The exercise of  that  discretion  obviously  depends  upon  the  facts  and
circumstances of each case. The decision in M/s Jain Motor  Car  Co.,  Delhi
v. Smt. Swayam Prabha Jain & Anr. (1996) 3  SCC  55  does  not  disturb  the
legal parameters regulating the exercise of the power but  deals  more  with
the facts and circumstances of that case in which the  power  was  found  to
have been rightly exercised.


13.   Coming then to the case at hand there are three distinct aspects  from
which the question of default in payment of rent  has  to  be  viewed.   The
first and foremost is whether the arrears which  the  Court  determined  and
directed the petitioner to pay were paid.  The answer to  that  question  is
in the affirmative. The Trial Court passed an order dated  21-04-2008  under
Section 15(1) of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 directing  the  petitioner
to deposit arrears of rent from 1st November, 2007 to  April,  2008  and  to
continue to pay future rent @ Rs.66/- p.m. by the 15th  of  each  succeeding
English calendar month.  It is not in dispute that the  petitioner  complied
with the order regarding deposit of arrears in the  right  earnest  inasmuch
as on 21st April, 2008, the date on which  order  under  Section  15(1)  was
passed. He paid to respondent No.1 the entire amount  in  cash  representing
arrears of rent from 1st November, 2007 to April, 2008.


14.   The second aspect is that over and above the  amount  directed  to  be
deposited, the petitioner paid an amount  equivalent  to  ten  months  rent,
although there was neither any legal obligation cast upon him to do  so  nor
was any direction issued by the Trial Court for  making  any  such  payment.
It is also  common  ground  that  though  the  excess  amount  paid  by  the
petitioner did not represent  any  admitted  liability,  the  excess  amount
received was neither adjusted against future rent nor  was  it  refunded  to
him. It is significant to note that  although  the  respondent-landlord  had
claimed arrears even for the period beginning  from  1st  January,  2007  to
October, 2007, the Trial Court had excluded that period from  its  order  as
the liability for that period was disputed on account of the  specific  case
set up by  the  petitioner  that  rent  for  the  said  period  stood  paid.
Adjustment of the excess amount paid to the respondent-landlord towards  the
future rent for the period commencing from 1st May, 2008 was the only  legal
option. Payment of the said excess amount having been  acknowledged  by  the
landlord, the same must in the absence of a  direction  from  the  Court  be
deemed to have been received and held by the landlord  for  the  benefit  of
the tenant. Adjustment of any such excess amount  against  future  liability
was  in  that  view  the  only  possible  and  legally   valid   method   of
appropriation  of  that  amount.  Viewed  thus,  the  amount  paid  by   the
petitioner on 21st April, 2008 covered  the  entire  period  upto  February,
2009.


15.   The third aspect is that between the date  of  the  order  dated  21st
April, 2008  under  Section  15(1)  of  the  Act  till  February,  2009  the
petitioner had made further payments of rent.  One  of  these  payments  was
made on 27th June, 2008 while the second payment was made on 17th  December,
2008. These payments represented rent for  a  period  of  six  months.  This
means that the petitioner had paid advance rent upto 31st August, 2009.  Not
only that, the petitioner had made two further deposits,  one  on  1st  May,
2009 and the second on  5th  May,  2009.  These  payments  when  taken  into
consideration cleared the entire rent liability  of  the  petitioner  for  a
period of one year and nine  months  commencing  from  1st  September,  2009
onwards. If that be so the petitioner was not in default on the date of  the
order passed by  the  Trial  Court  striking  out  his  defence  and  for  a
considerable period beyond that.  The petitioner has in  the  special  leave
petition referred to certain subsequent payments also  but  we  consider  it
unnecessary to go into those details. What is important is that  as  on  the
date of the order passed by the Trial Court on 21st April, 2008  itself  the
entire arrears directed to be deposited by the petitioner stood paid by  him
and so also on the date of the order passed by the Trial Court striking  out
his defence, rent for the entire intervening  period  and  even  beyond  had
been paid. These  payments  may  require  reconciliation,  calculations  and
suitable adjustments against the months for which rent was payable but  what
cannot be disputed is that the amount which the petitioner was  called  upon
to pay and which he has, pursuant to the direction of the Trial Court,  paid
or deposited has been at all relevant points of time in excess of  what  was
payable to the landlord. The charge of contumacious failure  and  deliberate
default in making the payment levelled against  the  tenant  is,  therefore,
not well-founded. The petitioner on the contrary was at all points  of  time
keen to pay the amount of rent in excess of what was lawfully due. This  may
have been partly because of the consequences that flow from non-payment  and
partly because the amount of contractual rent is, by  the  current  standard
of market rent, very meagre. The withholding of such a meagre amount  was  a
risk that no prudent tenant protected under the  Rent  Control  law  of  the
land could take nor was it a case where by withholding the  kind  of  amount
which was due towards rent would have in any manner benefitted  the  tenant,
just as the  same  would  not  have  deprived  the  landlord  of  any  major
financial income from the property let out by him.  It  is  true  that  just
because the amount payable for the premises  is  low  and  payment  or  non-
payment thereof  makes  little  difference  to  either  the  tenant  or  the
landlord, is no reason for the tenant not paying the rent as and  when  due.
The question, however, is not whether the denial of the  amount  would  have
caused any major prejudice to the landlord  or  put  the  tenant  under  any
financial  burden.  The  question  is  whether  the  tenant  was  guilty  of
contumacious conduct in  withholding  such  payment.  While  answering  that
question, the amount of rent payable for the premises may be a factor  which
cannot be totally brushed aside. Suffice  it  to  say  that  the  facts  and
circumstances of the case at  hand  do  not,  in  my  opinion,  suggest  any
negligence, defiance or contumacious non-payment of the amount  due  to  the
landlord to warrant the taking of that “exceptional step” which is bound  to
render the tenant defenceless in his contest against the landlord.


16.   It is noteworthy that in the course  of  hearing  before  us,  learned
counsel for the petitioner-tenant had offered to raise rent by ten times  of
the current amount and pay the same in advance for a period  of  five  years
to show his bona fides.  From the point of view of the  landlords  this  may
be seen as a damage control desperate bid to avoid eviction by  winning  the
sympathy of the Court but from the point of  view  of  the  tenant  it  only
shows that  the  tenant  does  not  grudge  the  landlord  getting  what  is
legitimately due to him. The cumulative effect of all  these  circumstances,
in my view, entitles the tenant to an opportunity to contest  the  suit  for
eviction. It is a different matter that the contest  may  eventually  result
in his eviction but there is no need to prejudge the matter  on  merits  nor
any  valid  reason  to  deprive  the  tenant-petitioner  the  bare   minimum
opportunity to contest the eviction petition on merits.


17.   In the result, I allow this appeal, set aside the order passed by  the
Courts below and dismiss the  petition  filed  by  the  respondent-landlords
under Section 15(7) of the Delhi Rent Control Act leaving  it  open  to  the
petitioner to make good his offer by enhancing the rent voluntarily  by  ten
times the current rent and depositing the future rent for a period  of  five
years, as offered by him, in advance.  The parties are left  to  bear  their
own costs.

                                                          ………………….……….…..…J.
                                         (T.S. Thakur)
New Delhi
April 16, 2014
                                                                “REPORTABLE”



                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION



                    CIVIL APPEAL NO.   4563       OF 2014

                (ARISING OUT OF S.L.P. (C) No. 26941 OF 2011)



Dina Nath (D) By Lrs. & Anr.                       …. Appellants

                                   Versus

Subhash Chand Saini & Ors.                            …. Respondents





                               J U D G M E N T



Jagdish Singh Khehar, J.



   1. Leave granted.


   2. It is not a matter of dispute  that  the  appellants  rented  a  shop
      bearing no. 1445-A, Dariba Kalan, Delhi, wherein the monthly  payable
      rent is Rs. 66/-.  The 25 respondents jointly own the  abovementioned
      tenanted premises.  The rent for the shop is paid to  respondent  no.
      1, who holds a power of attorney to collect rent (on  behalf  of  the
      respondents). In November 2007, the  respondents  filed  an  eviction
      petition under Section 14 (1) (a) (b) (c) and (j) of the  Delhi  Rent
      Control Act, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as “the Rent Act”) seeking
      repossession of the rented premises, for a  variety  of  reasons.  It
      was, inter alia, alleged, that the appellants had  neither  paid  nor
      tendered rent with effect from January, 2007, despite the service  of
      a demand notice, requiring the tenants to pay arrears  of  rent.   It
      was also asserted,  that  the  appellants  had  sublet  the  tenanted
      premises to his  son.  In  this  behalf,  it  was  alleged  that  the
      appellant’s  son  was  using  the  shop  for   running   a   “halwai”
      (traditional  Indian  sweetmeat  maker)  business.   The   shop   was
      originally let out for selling cold  drinks,  biscuits  etc.  On  the
      issue of usage, it was pointed out, that since the shop was now being
      used for running “halwai” business, the  appellants  were  using  LPG
      cylinders  in  the  rented  premises.    This,   according   to   the
      respondents, had damaged the old construction.  Additionally  it  was
      alleged, that the appellants had also raised  illegal  constructions,
      and had thereby altered the structure of the  rented  shop.  In  this
      behalf it was asserted, that the appellants had lowered the floor  of
      the premises (by approximately 3 feet  below  the  plinth  level)  by
      excavating and dismantling the flooring. It was also alleged, that  a
      ‘chabutra’ (a covered sitting platform) measuring about 4.5 feet  and
      a ‘chhajja’ (over hanging cover) measuring 7.8 feet,  had  also  been
      constructed unauthorizedly by the appellants. It was  also  asserted,
      that  the  appellants  had  demolished  the  side  pillars   of   the
      constructed portion of the rented premises, and had also removed both
      the side walls on which the  entire  roof,  and  upper  storeys  were
      resting. It was also alleged, that the appellants had demolished  the
      front door wall, and had installed a loft in the shop. Likewise,  the
      appellants were alleged to have demolished the back wall of the  shop
      to increase the length of the tenanted premises.

   3. The appellants entered appearance  before  the  Rent  Controller  and
      contested  the  eviction  petition.   For  the  said   purpose,   the
      appellants  filed  a  written  statement  on  7.2.2008,  denying  and
      disputing all the allegations made by the respondents in the eviction
      petition.



   4. Since one of the grounds on which the eviction of the appellants  was
      sought, was on account  of  non-payment  of  rent  with  effect  from
      January, 2007; the Rent Controller passed an  order  dated  21.4.2008
      under Section 15(1) of the Rent  Act,  requiring  the  appellants  to
      deposit the undisputed arrears of rent, and to pay future  rent.  The
      aforesaid order of the Rent Controller is being extracted hereunder :-



      “E-931/2007




      21.04.08




      Arguments heard u/s 15(1) of  DRC  Act.  The  rate  of  rent  and  the
      relationship  is  not  in  dispute  between  the  parties  though  the
      petitioner claims the arrears w.e.f.  01.01.2007  and  the  respondent
      states that he has paid rent upto October, 2007.




      Since the orders u/s 15(1) of DRC Act are to be passed on the admitted
      facts, the respondent is directed to pay or  deposit  the  arrears  of
      rent w.e.f 01.11.2007 till date @ Rs.66/-pm within 30 days from  today
      and further continue to pay or deposit the future  rent  at  the  said
      rate month by month before 15th of each  succeeding  English  Calendar
      month.




                                                         SD/-

                                                ARC/DELHI/21.04.2008”


A perusal of the order dated 21.4.2008 reveals,  that  the  Rent  Controller
having  taken  into  consideration,  the  assertion  made  in  the   written
statement, that the appellants have already paid rent from  1.1.2007  up  to
October 2007, directed the appellants to pay  rent  only  with  effect  from
1.11.2007.  The  arrears  were  ordered  to  be  paid  within  30  days  (of
21.4.2008). Future rent was ordered to be paid every month (i.e., “month  by
month”) before the 15th day of each succeeding English calendar month.


   5. On account of the non-compliance of the order  dated  21.4.2008,  the
      respondents filed an application under Section 15(7) of the Rent  Act
      on 28.4.2009, praying for striking out the defence of the appellants.
      The  appellants  filed  a  reply  to  the  aforesaid  application  on
      17.8.2009. Before filing the aforesaid reply, on  1.5.2009  i.e.,  on
      the very day the appellants  came  to  know  of  the  filing  of  the
      application under Section 15(7)  of  the  Rent  Act,  the  appellants
      deposited rent before  the  Rent  Controller,  for  the  period  from
      November, 2009 to July, 2010. In making the  aforesaid  deposit,  the
      appellants had mistakenly mentioned that the rent was being deposited
      from November, 2009, although they ought to have deposited rent  from
      November, 2008.  Immediately on realizing the aforesaid mistake,  the
      appellants again deposited rent before the Rent  Controller  for  the
      period from November, 2008 to October 2009 on 5.5.2009.



   6. For an effective determination of the controversy before  us,  it  is
      essential to extract herein the factual  position  indicated  by  the
      appellants in their reply dated 17.8.2009 (to the  application  filed
      by the respondents under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act). Accordingly,
      paragraphs 3,  4  and  6  of  the  abovementioned  reply,  are  being
      reproduced hereunder :-




      “3.  Para 3 of the application in so far it states about  contents  of
      the  written  statement  is  a  matter  of  record.  However,  it   is
      specifically denied that the respondent has made any  false  statement
      or furnished a false information before this Hon’ble  Court.  In  fact
      the rent was paid from January 2007 to  October 2007 to the petitioner
      No.1 but he deliberately did not issue any rent  receipt  and  because
      the respondent had no proof about the payment of rent in  writing,  to
      avoid any kind of controversy, the rent for  the  period  with  effect
      from January 2007 onwards was paid by  respondent No.1  to  petitioner
      No.1 vide receipt dated 21.4.2008.




      4.      Para 4 of the application is admitted. It would not be out  of
      place to mention that the Petitioner No.1 used to  collect  rent  from
      the respondent No.1 not every month but after 3 months or 6 months  or
      years time.  The respondent No.1, at the  time  when  the  order  u/s.
      15(1) of DRC Act was passed, was not present in  the  Court.  However,
      passing of the order was duly communicated through the  clerk  of  the
      counsel to the respondent  No.1.  In  the  evening  of  21.4.2008  the
      petitioner No.1 personally went to the respondent No.1  and  collected
      the rent from him with effect from 1.1.2007 to 30.4.2008. He  did  not
      adjust the rent already paid and has already  submitted  the  rate  of
      rent being too meager and the respondent No.1 was  not  interested  to
      enter into any controversy, the rent for the period with  effect  from
      1.1.2007  to  30.4.2008  was  paid  by  the  respondent  No.1  to  the
      petitioner No.1 against Receipt No.  21  dated  21.4.2008  which  also
      included the house tax for the  years  2007-2008  and  2008-2009.  The
      petitioner No.1 also stated to the respondent No. 1 that  he  may  not
      deposit rent in the court as he will directly receive  the  rent  from
      him by issuing receipts.  The respondent No.1 being an  old  and  aged
      person, not knowing the intricacies of law and also the  repercussions
      of non-deposit of rent every month believed  the  petitioner  No.1  in
      good faith. Though on 21.4.2008 the respondent No. 1  offered  to  pay
      advance rent for a years time  yet  the  petitioner  No.1  refused  to
      accept the same. It was, however, a fault on the  part  of  respondent
      No.1 for not depositing the rent in the  court.  After  21.4.2008  the
      petitioner No.1 again collected the rent for the month of May 2008  in
      the end of May 2008 but issued  the  receipt  subsequently  which  was
      dated 27.6.2008. Thereafter despite request of the respondent No.1 the
      petitioner No.1 procrastinated the acceptance of rent and  finally  in
      the month of October 2008 he accepted the rent  for  the  period  with
      effect from 1.6.2008 to 31.10.2008 and again he did not issue  a  rent
      receipt. The rent receipt was later on issued in the month of December
      2008 when the respondent No.1 asked for the  same,  number  of  times.
      After October 2008 the petitioner No. 1 did not accept the  rent  from
      the respondent No.2 because due to his illness the respondent No.1 was
      not coming to the shop for some time. It was only because  of  serious
      illness of respondent No.1, due to which  the  counsel  could  not  be
      contacted by him so as to deposit the rent in the court. On  28.4.2009
      the petitioner No.1 taking advantage of the situation  has  filed  the
      present application.




                    xxx              xxx              xxx




      6.  Para 6 of the application  is  not  admitted  as  such  and  hence
      denied. As already submitted herein above the  rent till the month  of
      March 2008 was paid in October 2008 itself  but  the  petitioner  No.1
      deliberately issued receipt in the month of December 2008 and now  for
      his own deliberate attempt and the ignorance of  respondent  No.1  the
      petitioner No.1 is trying to take advantage. There has  never  been  a
      deliberate attempt on the part of respondent No.1 of noncompliance  of
      the orders passed by this Hon’ble Court but it  was  only  account  of
      misrepresentation  of  petitioner  No.1,   non-intentional   violation
      occurred.”

                                                          (emphasis is mine)



   7.  By  an  order  dated  14.9.2009  the  Rent  Controller  allowed  the
      application filed by the respondents under Section 15(7) of the  Rent
      Act, and thereby, struck off the defence of  the  appellants  in  the
      pending eviction petition.  Dissatisfied with the order passed by the
      Rent Controller, the appellants approached the Rent Control Tribunal.
       By an order dated 24.5.2010, the Rent Control Tribunal dismissed the
      appeal preferred by  the  appellants.  Dissatisfied,  the  appellants
      approached the High Court of Delhi (hereinafter referred to  as  “the
      High  Court”)  by  filing  a  petition  under  Article  227  of   the
      Constitution of India, wherein, the  appellants  assailed  the  order
      passed by the Rent Controller  dated 14.9.2009, as well as, the order
      of  the  Rent  Control  Tribunal  dated  24.5.2010.  The  High  Court
      dismissed the petition filed under Article 227 on 10.5.2011.  It  is,
      therefore, that the appellants approached this  Court,  by  filing  a
      Petition for Special Leave to Appeal (C) no. 26941 of  2011,  wherein
      we have now granted leave.



   8. The question for this Court’s consideration is, whether it  was  just
      and appropriate for the succeeding courts (the Rent Controller,  Rent
      Control Tribunal and the High Court) to have accepted the prayer made
      by the respondents, for striking out the defence of  the  appellants,
      in the eviction proceedings.  For determining the issue in  hand,  it
      is essential to extract herein Section 15 of the Rent Act.  The  same
      is being reproduced hereunder :-

      “15. When a tenant can get the benefit of protection against eviction.
      -




     1)  In every proceeding of the recovery of possession of any  premises
        on the ground specified in clause (a) of the proviso to sub-section
        (1) of Section 14, the Controller shall, after giving  the  parties
        an opportunity of being heard, make an order directing  the  tenant
        to pay to the landlord or deposit with the  Controller  within  one
        month of the date of the order,  an amount calculated at  the  rate
        of rent at which it was last paid for  the  period  for  which  the
        arrears of the  rent  were  legally  recoverable  from  the  tenant
        including the period subsequent thereto up to the end of the  month
        previous to that in  which  payment  or  deposit  is  made  and  to
        continue to pay or deposit, month by month,  by  the  fifteenth  of
        each succeeding month, a sum equivalent to the rent at that rate.




     2)  If, in any proceeding  for  the  recovery  of  possession  of  any
        premises on any ground other than that referred to  in  sub-section
        (1), the tenant contests the claim for eviction, the landlord  may,
        at any  stage  of  the  proceeding,  make  an  application  to  the
        Controller for an order on the tenant to pay to  the  landlord  the
        amount  of  rent  legally  recoverable  from  the  tenant  and  the
        Controller may, after giving the parties an  opportunity  of  being
        heard, make an order in accordance with the provisions of the  said
        sub-section.




     3)  If, in any proceeding referred  to  in  sub-section  (1)  or  sub-
        section (2), there is any dispute as to the amount of rent  payable
        by the tenant, the Controller shall, within  fifteen  days  of  the
        date of the first hearing of the proceeding, fix an interim rent in
        relation to the premises to be paid or deposited in accordance with
        the provisions of sub-section (1) or sub-section (2), as  the  case
        may be until the standard rent in relation thereto is fixed  having
        regard to the provisions of this Act, and the amount of arrears  if
        any, calculated on the basis of the standard rent shall be paid  or
        deposited by the tenant within one month of the date on  which  the
        standard rent is fixed or such further time as the  Controller  may
        allow in this behalf.




     4)  If, in any proceeding referred  to  in  sub-section  (1)  or  sub-
        section (2), (there is any dispute as to the person or  persons  to
        whom the rent is payable, the Controller may direct the  tenant  to
        deposit with the Controller the amount payable by  him  under  sub-
        section (1) or sub-section (2) or sub-section (3), as the case  may
        be, and in such a case, no person shall be entitled to withdraw the
        amount in deposit until the  Controller  decides  the  dispute  and
        makes an order for payment of the same.




     5)  If the Controller is satisfied that any dispute referred to in sub-
        section (4) has been raised by a tenant for reasons which are false
        or frivolous, the Controller may order the defence against eviction
        to be struck out and proceed with the hearing of the application.




     6)  If a tenant makes payment or deposit as  required  by  sub-section
        (1) or subsection (3), no order shall be made for the  recovery  of
        possession on the ground of default in the payment of rent  by  the
        tenant, but the Controller may allow such costs as he may deem  fit
        to the landlord.




     7)  If a tenant fails to make payment or deposit as required  by  this
        section, the Controller may order the defence against  eviction  to
        be struck out and proceed with the hearing of the application.”







9.    It is not a matter of dispute, that the Rent Controller had passed  an
order dated 21.4.2008 under Section 15(1) of the Rent  Act.   By  the  above
order, the Rent Controller had required the appellants  to  pay  arrears  of
rent to the respondents from October 2007 upto date, within 30  days  (i.e.,
by 21st of May, 2008).  The appellants were required to pay future  rent  at
the rate of Rs. 66/- per month, “month by month”, by the 15th  day  of  each
succeeding English calendar month.  Even though I will deal with the  actual
details of the delay in payment of future rent,  “month  by  month”,  it  is
clear from the acknowledged factual position disclosed by the appellants  in
their reply dated 17.8.2009, that there was  delay  in  doing  so.   Despite
this acknowledged position, the issue  that  arises  for  consideration  is,
whether the said delay would be  sufficient  by  itself,  in  terms  of  the
mandate contained under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act,  to  strike  out  the
defence of the appellants.   Insofar  as  the  instant  issue  is  concerned
reference may be made to the provision itself (Section  15(7)  of  the  Rent
Act), which clearly uses the word “may” with reference to striking  out  the
defence of a  tenant.   The  use  of  the  word  “may”  postulates,  that  a
discretion is vested with the Rent Controller  to  strike  out  (or  not  to
strike out) the defence of a tenant, who has committed breach  of  an  order
passed under Section 15(1) of the Rent Act.  It is therefore apparent,  that
despite non-compliance by a  tenant,  of  directions  issued  under  Section
15(1) of the Rent Act, there would be situations wherein the  defence  of  a
tenant would not be struck  off.   The  issue  in  hand  is  no  longer  res
integra.  This Court has had various occasions to  interpret  Section  15(7)
of the Rent Act, wherein it has laid down the parameters to  be  taken  into
consideration, while passing an order for striking out the  defence  of  the
tenant (under Section 15(7)  of  the  Rent  Act).   I  have  endeavoured  to
examine a few of those judgments, in the following paragraph.


10.1.  The power of the Rent Controller under Section 15(7) of the Rent  Act
to strike out a tenant’s defence in an eviction petition on her  failure  to
deposit rent, came to be examined by this Court in Miss  Santosh  Mehta  Vs.
Om Prakash and Others, (1980) 3 SCC 610.  In the  aforesaid  judgment,  this
Court held as under:-
      “3. We must adopt a socially informed perspective while construing the
      provisions and then it will be plain that the Controller is armed with
      a facultative power. He may,  or  may  not  strike  out  the  tenant's
      defence. A judicial discretion has  built-in-self-restraint,  has  the
      scheme of the  statute  in  mind,  cannot  ignore  the  conspectus  of
      circumstances which are present in  the  case  and  has  the  brooding
      thought playing on the power that, in a court, striking out a  party's
      defence is an exceptional step, not a routine visitation of a punitive
      extreme following upon a mere failure to pay rent. First of all, there
      must be a failure to pay rent which, in the context, indicates  wilful
      failure, deliberate default or volitional  non-performance.  Secondly,
      the Section  provides  no  automatic  weapon  but  prescribes  a  wise
      discretion, inscribes no mechanical consequence but invests a power to
      overcome intransigence. Thus, if a tenant fails or refuses to  pay  or
      deposit rent and the court  discerns  a  mood  of  defiance  or  gross
      neglect, the tenant may forfeit his right to be heard in defence.  The
      last resort cannot be converted into  the  first  resort;  a  punitive
      direction of court cannot be used as a booby trap to  get  the  tenant
      out.  Once  this  teleological  interpretation  dawns,  the  mist   of
      misconception about matter-of-course invocation of the power to strike
      out will vanish. Farewell to the realities of a given case is  playing
      truant with the duty underlying the power.




      4. There is no indication whatsoever in  the  Act  to  show  that  the
      exercise  of  the  power  of  striking  out  of  the   defence   under
      Section 15(7) was imperative whenever the tenant failed to deposit  or
      pay any amount as required by Section 15. The provisions contained  in
      Section 15(7) of the Act are directory and not mandatory. It cannot be
      disputed that Section 15(7) is a penal  provision  and  gives  to  the
      Controller discretionary power in the matter of striking  out  of  the
      defence, and that in appropriate cases, the Controller may  refuse  to
      visit upon the tenant the penalty of non-payment or  non-deposit.  The
      effect of striking out of the defence under Section 15(7) is that  the
      tenant  is  deprived  of  the  protection  given  by   Section 14 and,
      therefore, the powers under Section 15(7) of the Act must be exercised
      with due circumspection.”


                                                          (emphasis is mine)


10.2. On the issue in hand, reference may also be made to  the  judgment  of
this Court in Kamla Devi Vs. Vasdev, (1995)  1  SCC  356.   In  the  instant
judgment, this Court opined that sub-section (7) of Section 15 of  the  Rent
Act allows a discretion to the Rent Controller, to strike out  the  tenant’s
defence, in case of non-compliance of direction to  deposit  rent.   It  was
clearly opined, that Section 15(7) of the  Rent  Act  did  not  postulate  a
mandatory provision for striking out the defence of the tenant,  on  account
of failure to make payment or deposit pursuant to an  order  passed  by  the
Rent Controller under Section 15(1) of the  Rent  Act.   While  so  holding,
this Court observed as under:-

      “17. We are unable to uphold this contention. In our view, it  is  not
      obligatory for the Rent Controller to strike out the  defence  of  the
      tenant under Section 15(7) of the Delhi Act, if the  tenant  fails  to
      make  payment  or  deposit  as  directed  by  an  order  passed  under
      Section 15(1). The language of Sub-section (7) of  Section 15 is  that
      'the Controller may order the defence against eviction  to  be  struck
      out'. That clearly means, the Controller, in a  given  case,  may  not
      pass such an order. It must depend upon the facts of the case and  the
      discretion of the Controller whether such a drastic  order  should  or
      should not be passed.




                    xxx              xxx              xxx

      22.  The  unreasonableness  of  the  construction  suggested  by   the
      appellant, is well illustrated by the  case  of  Santosh  Mehta  v. Om
      Prakash and Anr: (1980) 3 SCR 325 . In that case,  the  tenant  was  a
      working woman, who had engaged an  advocate  to  represent  her  in  a
      dispute with the landlord. She duly paid all the arrears  of  rent  by
      cheque or in cash to her advocate, who failed to deposit the amount or
      to pay to the landlord, as directed by  the  Rent  Controller.  On  an
      application made by the landlord, the Rent Controller struck  out  the
      defence of the tenant under Section 15(7) of the  Delhi  Rent  Control
      Act. A Bench of two Judges of this Court held  that  the  exercise  of
      power  of  striking  out  the  defence  under  Section 15(7) was   not
      imperative whenever the tenant failed to deposit or pay any amount  as
      required by Section 15. The provisions contained  in  Section 15(7) of
      the Act were directory and not mandatory.  Section 15(7) was  a  penal
      provision and gave the Rent  Controller  discretionary  power  in  the
      matter of striking out of the defence. It was ultimately held that the
      order of the Rent Controller striking out the defence of the tenant in
      the facts of that  case  was  improper.  The  consequential  order  of
      eviction was set aside.
      23. We are unable to uphold the contention of the appellant  that  the
      case of Ram Murti v. Bhola Nath and Anr.: (AIR (1984)  SC  1392),  was
      wrongly decided and reliance was wrongly placed in that  case  on  the
      decision of a Bench of three Judges of  this  Court  in  the  case  of
      Shyamcharan Sharma v. Dharamdas : (1980) 2 SCR 334. In our view,  Sub-
      section (7) of Section 15 of the Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 gives  a
      discretion to the Rent Controller and does  not  contain  a  mandatory
      provision for striking out the defence of the tenant against eviction.
      The Rent Controller may or may not pass  an  order  striking  out  the
      defence. The exercise of this discretion will depend  upon  the  facts
      and circumstances of each case. If the Rent Controller is of the  view
      that in the facts of a particular case the time  to  make  payment  or
      deposit  pursuant  to  an  order  passed  under  Sub-section  (1)   of
      Section 15 should be extended, he may do  so  by  passing  a  suitable
      order. Similarly, if he is not satisfied about the case  made  out  by
      the tenant, he may order the defence against  eviction  to  be  struck
      out.  But, the power to strike out the  defence  against  eviction  is
      discretionary and must  not  be  mechanically  exercised  without  any
      application of mind to the facts of the case.”

                                                          (emphasis is mine)
10.3. On the issue  in  hand,  reference  was  also  made  to  the  decision
rendered by this Court in Jain Motor Car Co., Delhi Vs. Swayam Prabha  Jain,
(1996) 3 SCC 55.  Therein,  this  Court  examined  a  case  where  a  single
default had been committed by the tenant.   The  tenant  had  not  deposited
rent for the month of February 1972.  On  the  issue  of  striking  out  the
defence of the tenant under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act, this  Court  held
as under:-
      “21.  Applying the above principles to the instant case, it cannot but
      be held that the view expressed  by  the  Rent  Controller,  the  Rent
      Control  Tribunal  as  also  the  High  Court  that  the  time   under
      Section 15(1) for depositing the rent could not be extended nor  could
      the delay be  condoned  was  wholly  erroneous.  The  whole  approach,
      therefore, from the beginning, was based on wrong premises.  The  High
      Court went a step further. While the  Rent  Controller  and  the  Rent
      Control Tribunal had not struck out the defence of  the  appellant  on
      the ground that 15 days' default in depositing the rent for  February,
      1972 was not wilful or contumacious, the High Court,  on  an  corneous
      view, struck out the defence.  We  have  already  noticed  above  that
      striking out of defence under  Section 15(7) of  the  Act  is  in  the
      discretion of the Rent Controller. Since  the  discretion  appears  to
      have been properly exercised by the Rent Controller  as  also  by  the
      Rent Control Tribunal, the High Court, in the particular circumstances
      of the case, was not justified in interfering with that discretion and
      striking out the defence of  the  appellant.  The  High  Court,  while
      considering this question, has observed as under :
           ‘In the other appeal S.A.O. No. 193  of  1973  of  the  landlord
           challenging the Judgment and order of  the  Tribunal  dismissing
           his application under Section 15(7) of the Act, the  defence  of
           the appellant tenant was not struck off by  the  Controller.  In
           other words the tenant was allowed to defend the eviction  case.
           He was allowed to lead evidence and take part during  the  trial
           of  the  eviction  proceedings.  The   appellant   had   claimed
           condonation for the purpose of Section 15(7) of the Act  on  the
           ground that the attorney of the appellant had fallen ill and the
           partner of the firm  Ajit  Prasad  had  forgotten  the  date  of
           deposit on account of being busy in connection with the election
           in which his brother was also a candidate. These facts  are  not
           sufficient to condone the delay in deposit of rent.  These  acts
           amount to negligence on the part of the  appellant  which  is  a
           partnership firm. The attorney had fallen ill  and  one  partner
           had forgotten the date of deposit, there were other partners and
           other officials of the firm who ought to  have  taken  steps  to
           deposit the rent within time. I am, therefore, of the view  that
           it was not a fit case for refusing to strike off the defence  of
           the  appellant  tenant  under  Section 15(7) of  the   Act.   I,
           therefore, set aside the Judgment and order of the Tribunal  and
           the Controller and strike off the defence of the appellant.’
      22. The High Court thus struck out the defence by substituting its own
      discretion in place of the Rent Controller and the  Tribunal  both  of
      whom had held that the default by the appellant was  not  wilful.  The
      main question was whether the appellant was entitled to  extension  of
      time in depositing the rent or should he be evicted for not depositing
      the rent for only one month in time particularly when the default  was
      not wilful or contumacious. At one time, we were  inclined  to  remand
      the case to the Rent Controller so that the appellant's plea regarding
      extension of time in depositing the rent for the  month  of  February,
      1972 may be  considered  but  having  regard  to  the  fact  that  the
      appellant had already pleaded those  facts  which  have  already  been
      considered by the High Court, we feel that it  would  not  be  in  the
      interest of justice now to remand the case as the High  Court  appears
      to be justified in coming to the conclusion  that  the  appellant  was
      negligent and careless as the rent could still  be  deposited  by  any
      other partner, if the attorney had  fallen  ill  or  one  partner  had
      forgotten the date of deposit. Any other explanation  offered  by  the
      appellant would be obviously  an  after  thought  and,  therefore,  as
      pointed out earlier, it will not serve any purpose to remand the  case
      to the Rent Controller. The result  is  that  the  appeal  has  to  be
      dismissed and is hereby dismissed but without any order  as  to  costs
      allowing three months time to the appellant to vacate the premises  on
      filing the usual undertaking to this  effect  in  this  Court  failing
      which the respondent-landlady will be entitled to  recover  possession
      from the appellant through police force.”
                                                          (emphasis is mine)
A perusal of the above conclusions, recorded  in  Jain  Motor  Co.,  Delhi’s
case  (supra)  reveals,  that  even  a  single  willful  default,  could  be
sufficient in striking out a tenant’s defence.
10.4. The interpretation with reference to striking out  the  defence  of  a
tenant under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act, also came up  for  consideration
before this Court in Aero Traders (P) Ltd. Vs. Ravinder Kumar  Suri,  (2004)
8 SCC 307, wherein, this Court opined as under:-
      “6. The question which, therefore, requires consideration  is  whether
      the appellant has made out any ground for exercising discretion in his
      favour of not striking out  his  defence.  According  to  Black's  Law
      Dictionary "judicial discretion" means the exercise of judgment  by  a
      judge or court based on what  is  fair  under  the  circumstances  and
      guided by the rules and principles of law; a court's power to  act  or
      not act when a litigant is not entitled to demand the act as a  matter
      of right. The word "discretion"  connotes  necessarily  an  act  of  a
      judicial  character,  and,  as  used  with  reference  to   discretion
      exercised judicially, it implies the absence of a hard-and-fast  rule,
      and it requires an actual exercise of judgment and a consideration  of
      the facts and circumstances which are necessary to make a sound,  fair
      and just determination, and a knowledge of the facts  upon  which  the
      discretion may properly operate. (See 27 Corpus  Juris  Secundum  page
      289). When it is  said  that  something  is  to  be  done  within  the
      discretion of the authorities that something is to be  done  according
      to the rules of reason  and  justice  and  not  according  to  private
      opinion; according to law  and  not  humour.  It  only  gives  certain
      latitude or liberty accorded by  statute  or  rules,  to  a  judge  as
      distinguished  from  a  ministerial  or  administrative  official,  in
      adjudicating on matters brought before him.
      7. In the present case, the finding of the Rent Controller and also of
      the Rent Control Tribunal is that the appellant set up a totally false
      plea of his having sent the rent  through  cheques  to  the  landlord.
      Apart from pleading that he had sent the amount  through  cheques,  he
      pleaded no other fact which could be taken into consideration  by  the
      Rent Controller for exercising discretion in his  favour.  It  may  be
      noted that the premises are commercial and are situate in Karol  Bagh,
      which is a prime business area of Delhi and the rent is a  paltry  sum
      of Rs. 30/- per month. But the appellant did not pay even  this  small
      amount of rent, which is virtually a pittance,  and  has  remained  in
      arrears for a long period of time. There is absolutely  no  ground  on
      which any discretion could be exercised in his favour. The High  Court
      was, therefore, perfectly justified in setting aside the order  passed
      by  the  Rent  Control  Tribunal  and  restoring  that  of  the   Rent
      Controller.”
                                                          (emphasis is mine)
10.5. Last of all reference may be made  to  the  recent  decision  of  this
Court in Amrit Lal Vs. Shiv  Narain  Gupta,  (2010)  15  SCC  510.   In  the
instant case the Rent Controller in exercise of  the  discretion  vested  in
him under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act, had struck off the defence  of  the
tenant.  The Appellate Authority, however,  reversed  the  judgment  of  the
Rent Controller.  Thereupon, the matter came  up  for  consideration  before
the High Court under Article 227 of the Constitution  of  India.   The  High
Court set aside the order passed by the  Appellate  Authority.   The  tenant
thereupon approached this Court, assailing the order  of  striking  off  his
defence.  While adjudicating  upon  the  controversy,  this  Court  held  as
under:-
      “11.  So far as the order striking out the defence of  the  tenant  is
      concerned, it is clear that as far back as on  27.10.1983,  the  trial
      court has passed a judicial order under  Section  15(1)  of  the  Act,
      directing the tenant to deposit the rent month by month.  Instead, the
      tenant defaulted in making the deposits for a period of  about  three-
      and-a-half years.  The learned counsel  for  the  appellant  submitted
      that striking out defence against eviction is an order  which  entails
      serious consequences on the tenant and ordinarily the  defence  should
      not be struck off unless the default is  contumacious  or  deliberate.
      Sub-section (7) of Section 15 confers a discretion on  the  Controller
      who may order the defence  against  eviction  to  be  struck  out  and
      proceed with the hearing of the application if a tenant fails to  make
      payment or deposit, as required by Section 15.  In the  present  case,
      the tenant stopped making deposits from the  month  of  October  1992.
      For the  period  between  October  1992  to  March  1993,  it  can  be
      understood that the tenant believing that there was a compromise,  did
      not make the deposit but the factum of compromise was disowned by  the
      landlord on 23-3-1993.  If the tenant believed bona  fide  that  there
      was a compromise, then, he should have acted accordingly and  paid  or
      tendered the rent to the landlord @ Rs.500 per month which was  agreed
      upon between the parties on his  own  saying.   If  the  landlord  was
      disputing  compromise,  then  the  tenant  should  have  tendered   or
      deposited the rent before the Controller.  There is a complete silence
      on the part of the tenant in paying or  tendering  the  rent  for  the
      period for which he has defaulted.  In such circumstances, the default
      in payment of rent cannot be said to be bona  fide.   The  proceedings
      before the Controller have unfortunately remained pending for  a  long
      time, almost 20 years by this time.




      12.   In the facts and circumstances of this case, it cannot  be  said
      that the High Court did not have jurisdiction or exceeded in  exercise
      of jurisdiction in entertaining the petition under Article 227 of  the
      Constitution and setting aside the order of  the  Appellate  Authority
      and restoring that of the trial court.”

                                                          (emphasis is mine)

11.   It is apparent, that this Court has clearly  opined,  that  the  power
vested under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act to strike off the  defence  of  a
tenant, is discretionary and not mandatory.  It is therefore  imperative  to
understand, that every  violation  in  implementation  of  the  direction(s)
issued by a Rent Controller under Section 15(1) of the Rent  Act,  will  not
ipso facto lead to the striking  out  the  defence  of  a  tenant.   A  Rent
Controller must exercise his discretion, keeping in mind the nature  of  the
non-compliance.  If the non-compliance is not serious, or is based  on  good
reason, a Rent Controller would not strike off the defence  of  the  tenant.
Only when the non-compliance of the order  passed  by  the  Rent  Controller
under Section 15(1) of the Rent Act, depicts  irrational  disregard  to  the
order, or when the non-compliance is repeated, or when no justification  has
been expressed for the same,  or  for  such  other  similar  reason(s),  the
discretion vested in Section 15(7) of the Rent Act, would entitle  the  Rent
Controller to strike off the defence of a tenant.  In a given  case  even  a
single default depicting willful, contumacious, or  negligent  and  careless
behaviour, could lead to the striking out  of  a  tenant’s  defence.  It  is
therefore apparent, that judicial discretion  exercised  in  such  a  matter
must be tempered with self-restraint, keeping in mind, that striking  out  a
tenant’s defence is an exceptionally harsh step, which ought  not  be  taken
in a routine and casual manner.   The  Court  must  carefully  evaluate  the
facts of the given case, before exercising its discretion.
12.   The question which arises for adjudication in the present  controversy
is, whether the Rent Controller, the Rent  Control  Tribunal  and  the  High
Court, were justified in the facts and circumstances of  the  instant  case,
in ordering (or upholding) the striking out the defence  of  the  appellants
herein.  Herein, the order dated 21.4.2008 passed  by  the  Rent  Controller
under Section 15(1) of the Rent Act, required  the  payment  of  arrears  of
rent claimed by the respondents (with effect from 1.11.2007  upto  date,  at
the rate of Rs.66/- per month), within 30 days (i.e.,  by  21.5.2008).   The
above order also directed the appellants to pay future rent at the  rate  of
Rs.66/- per month, “month by month”, by the  15th  day  of  each  succeeding
English calendar month.  It is not a matter  of  dispute,  that  arrears  of
rent though directed to be paid  from  1.11.2007  were  actually  paid  with
effect  from  1.1.2007,  on  21.4.2008   itself.    The   appellants-tenants
therefore, voluntarily paid ten months rent  in  excess  of  the  directions
contained in the order dated 21.4.2008.  In making  the  aforesaid  payment,
the appellants had exercised their discretion of caution, and had  deposited
arrears of rent with effect from 1.1.2007, as claimed  by  the  respondents.
The aforesaid discretion was exercised in the manner aforementioned  (as  is
disclosed in the reply filed by the appellants, dated 17.8.2009) keeping  in
mind the  fact,  that  the  respondents  had  not  issued  receipts  to  the
appellants,  despite  their  having  been  paid  rent  from  1.1.2007   upto
30.10.2007.  And therefore, they would not be able to  establish  the  above
position, through evidence.  It was only as a matter of prudence,  foresight
and precaution, that the appellants-tenants had tendered rent from  1.1.2007
even though the Rent Controller’s  order  required  the  appellants  to  pay
arrears from 1.11.2007.
13.   Having therefore discharged the liability  of  paying  of  arrears  of
rent, the next step in implementing  the  order  dated  21.4.2008  was  with
reference to the payment of future rent.  By the order dated 21.4.2008,  the
Rent Controller had directed the appellants to deposit future  rent  at  the
rate of Rs.66/- per month, “month by month”, before the  15th  day  of  each
succeeding English calendar month.  The Rent Controller had  definitely  and
precisely, fixed the date by which rent for each succeeding month had to  be
tendered by the appellants-tenants.  It was on account of the  alleged  non-
payment of the future rent, in compliance with the directions  contained  in
the Rent Controller’s order dated 21.4.2008, that the respondents  filed  an
application under  Section  15(7)  of  the  Rent  Act,  on  28.4.2009.   The
relevant  period  which  falls  for  consideration,  while  determining  the
default/failure/lapse relating to the non-payment of future  rent,  is  from
1.5.2008 to 31.3.2009.  From the pleadings before us, and the written  reply
filed by the appellants dated 17.8.2009 (to the  application  filed  by  the
respondents under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act), the factual position,  can
be summarized as follows:-

|S. No. |Month for which |Last date of |Actual date of|Whether rent paid|
|       |rent payable    |payment as   |payment of    |on time or in    |
|       |                |per order    |rent for the  |default of order |
|       |                |dated        |relevant month|dated 21.4.2008  |
|       |                |21.4.2008    |              |                 |
|1.     |May 2008        |15.06.2008   |27.06.2008    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|2.     |June 2008       |15.07.2008   |17.12.2008    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|3.     |July 2008       |15.08.2008   |17.12.2008    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|4.     |August 2008     |15.09.2008   |17.12.2008    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|5.     |September 2008  |15.10.2008   |17.12.2008    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|6.     |October 2008    |15.11.2008   |17.12.2008    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|7.     |November 2008   |15.12.2008   |05.05.2009    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|8.     |December 2008   |15.01.2008   |05.05.2009    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|9.     |January 2009    |15.02.2009   |05.05.2009    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|10.    |February 2009   |15.03.2009   |05.05.2009    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |
|11.    |March 2009      |15.04.2009   |05.05.2009    |Payment in       |
|       |                |             |              |default of order |


Based on the factual position extracted hereinabove, I  shall  endeavour  to
examine whether the discretion exercised by the  courts  below  in  striking
out the defence of the appellants is sustainable in law.
14.   First and foremost, it is essential to deal with  the  plea  canvassed
at the hands of the appellants, namely, that on some  occasions  whilst  the
rent was tendered on an earlier date, the receipt for the  same  was  issued
by the respondents on a later date.  The submission advanced  was,  that  it
was imperative while adjudicating the  present  controversy,  to  take  into
consideration  the  actual  date  of  tender  of  rent,  mentioned  by   the
appellants-tenants in their written reply, and not  the  date  indicated  in
the receipts acknowledging the  payment  of  rent.   The  courts  below  had
rejected the instant plea canvassed at the hands of  the  appellant.   I  am
satisfied, that the rejection of the plea by the  courts  below,  was  fully
justified.  In this behalf it may be noted, that the respondents had  sought
eviction of the appellants on account of non-payment of  rent,  with  effect
from 1.1.2007.  The reply of the appellants to the aforesaid assertion  was,
that they had actually paid rent upto 31.10.2007, and were in  arrears  only
with  effect  from  1.11.2007.   Despite  the   aforesaid   assertion,   the
appellants in the exercise of prudence, foresight and precaution, and  as  a
matter of abundant caution, had tendered arrears of rent (in furtherance  of
the order dated 21.4.2008 passed under Section 15(1) of the Rent Act by  the
Rent Controller), from 1.1.2007 to 30.4.2008, even  though  the  appellants-
tenants had been directed to  deposit  arrears  only  from  1.11.2007.   The
appellants have clearly expressed, that the  respondents  had  claimed  rent
even for the period (1.1.2007 to 31.10.2007) for which it had  already  been
paid.  Therefore, the appellants-tenants  tendered  ten  months  rent  twice
over, because of the fact that  the  respondents  had  not  issued  receipts
despite the payment of rent.  In  the  above  view  of  the  matter,  it  is
impossible to assume, that the appellants would  continue  to  repose  faith
and trust in the respondents, and unmindful of  the  consequences,  continue
to tender rent, without obtaining a receipt at the time of  tendering  rent.
Therefore the contention, that the appellants  had  tendered  rent  for  the
period from June 2008 to October 2008, for which a receipt was  issued  only
on 17.12.2008, cannot be accepted.  For all intents and purposes it  has  to
be assumed, that rent receipts were issued to the appellants  simultaneously
with the payment thereof.  It is in the above view of the matter,  that  the
chart depicting the payment of rent, in terms of the  order  passed  by  the
Rent Controller on 21.4.2008, is based on the date of issue of  receipts  by
the respondents.
15.   Before venturing to examine  the  controversy  on  its  merit,  it  is
necessary to  formulate  four  essential  components  of  consideration,  in
respect of the controversy in hand.  These, in  my  view,  have  necessarily
and mandatorily to be kept in mind while  dealing  with,  striking  out  the
defence of a tenant, contemplated under Section 15(7) of the Rent Act.   The
mandatory        components        are         expressed         hereunder:-
 (i)  Undoubtedly, the provisions of the Rent Act are  aimed  at  protecting
tenants, against unreasonable demands of landlords as  to  rents,  evictions
and repairs.  The spirit and purpose underlying the Rent Act,  is  aimed  at
protecting  tenants  against  arbitrary  and  unfair  demands  of  eviction.
Whilst protecting tenants, the legislature  has  also  incorporated  certain
provisions, including Section 15(7) of the Rent Act, for  curbing  abuse  of
the legal process, by tenants.  Section 15(7) of the Rent Act  is  aimed  at
enforcing tenants to make deposits or payments of  rent  (both  arrears  and
future) in compliance with directions issued by Rent  Controllers.   Section
15(7) of the Rent Act, vests a discretion with Rent Controllers,  to  strike
out  the  defence  of  tenants,  who  fail  to  make  payments  or  deposits
contemplated under Sections  15  (1)  and/or  (3)  of  the  Rent  Act.   The
landlord has no role in the matter.   It  is  the  inaction  of  the  tenant
itself, which would prompt a Rent Controller, to  strike  out  the  tenants’
defence.  Such action is permissible, if it is found  that  the  non-deposit
(in compliance  with  a  Rent  Controller’s  directions)  was  conscious  or
willful, and without any reasonable justification.  There is no question  of
any liberal approach towards a tenant, who fails to comply  with  directions
issued by the Rent Controller under Sections 15(1) and/or (3)  of  the  Rent
Act.  For, it is out of the tenant’s  own  actions,  that  the  consequences
arise.
(ii)  The relevant date for determining the disobedience of  the  tenant  is
singularly,  exclusively  and  solely  referable,  to  the  mandate  of  the
schedule of payment, contained in the order passed by the  Rent  Controller.
This is clearly apparent from the use of the words “if  a  tenant  fails  to
make payment or deposit as required …”.   Neither  the  date  of  moving  an
application under Section 15(7) is of relevance, nor the date on  which  the
Rent Controller passes an order striking out the  defence  of  a  tenant  is
germane/apposite for the instant consideration.  For that matter, any  other
date, besides the schedule of payment contemplated in the Rent  Controller’s
order, would be totally irrelevant,  for  the  purpose  of  a  determination
under Section 15(7) of  the  Rent  Act.                       (iii)      The
deposits and payments, required to be made by a tenant under Sections  15(1)
and/or (3) of the Rent Act, are attributable  exclusively  for  the  purpose
expressed by the tenant.  Therefore, if  a  payment  is  made  by  a  tenant
towards arrears of rent, the same cannot  be  assigned,  or  attributed,  or
credited, towards  future  rent.   Likewise,  the  vice  versa.   Therefore,
payment or deposit made by a  tenant  would  have  reference  only  to  such
purpose, as is ascribed by  the  tenant,  in  exercise  of  his  independent
discretion, at the time of making the deposit.                          (iv)
Acts of the tenant to make up deficiencies by making  deposits,  beyond  the
date/time contemplated by the  Rent  Controller,  could  be  treated  as  an
acceptable payment/deposit, if there is adequate and acceptable  explanation
for the  delayed  deposit.   And  not  otherwise.   For  the  above  reason,
subsequent acts of magnanimity shown by a tenant, to pay more than what  was
required by the Rent Controller (for that matter, many  folds  more,  as  in
the present case), would likewise be irrelevant.
16.    Whether  or  not,  the  courts  below  exercised   their   discretion
justifiably, in striking out the defence of  the  appellants  under  Section
15(7) of the Rent Act, is being examined hereinafter, keeping  in  mind  the
above parameters.       Future rent was payable in terms of the order  dated
21.4.2008, from the month of May, 2008.  The same  was  payable,  “month  by
month”, before the 15th day  of  each  succeeding  English  Calendar  month.
Only twelve intervening months had  lapsed  in  terms  of  the  order  dated
21.4.2008, when the  application  under  Section  15(7)  was  filed  by  the
respondents-landlords, on 28.4.2009.  It is apparent from  the  above  chart
(see paragraph 13 above), that the appellants did not comply with the  order
dated 21.4.2008, for making payments towards future rent, even for a  single
month, before the application under  Section  15(7)  of  the  Rent  Act  was
filed, by the respondents-landlords on 28.4.2009.  The  facts  expressed  in
the pleadings reveal, firstly, that the appellants-tenants did  not  deposit
any rent before the Rent Controller.   Secondly,  that  they  did  not  even
voluntarily tender rent by themselves  to  the  respondents.  Thirdly,  that
respondent no.1-Subhash Chand Saini, representing the  respondents-landlords
had himself approached the appellants, during the  period  under  reference,
for  collecting  rent.   Therefore  deposit/payment  of   rent   was   never
unilaterally made by the appellants-tenants.  Payments towards  future  rent
were made, only on the asking of the  respondents-landlords.   These  facts,
certainly demonstrate a foolhardy attitude, on the part of  the  appellants,
in the matter of  payment  of  future  rent.   In  view  of  the  parameters
expressed in paragraph 15 above,  the  relevant  date  for  determining  the
delinquency of the tenant (while passing an order  under  Section  15(7)  of
the Rent Act), is referable only to the schedule of payment mandated in  the
Rent Controller’s order dated 21.4.2008.  For the month of  May,  2008,  the
direction was to pay rent by 15.6.2008; for the month  of  June,  2008,  the
payment had to be made by 15.7.2008; for July, 2008, payment had to be  made
by 15.8.2008 ….., so on and so forth, and finally, for the month  of  March,
2009, the payment had  to  be  made  by  15.4.2009.   Payments  made  for  a
particular month on a date later than the one contemplated in the  order  of
the Rent Controller dated 21.4.2008, is liable to be treated  as  a  payment
in violation of Rent Controller’s order.  Not once, was  rent  paid  by  the
stipulated date.  The appellants were to pay only Rs.66  per  month,  for  a
shop located in a commercial area of  Delhi,  and,  there  was  a  continued
default in making even this meager payment, “month by month”.  Fourthly,  no
acceptable excuse has been tendered, for the delayed payment, pertaining  to
any of the twelve months under  reference.   There  is  therefore  no  doubt
about the fact, that the appellants  treated  the  directions  of  the  Rent
Controller  dated  21.4.2008,  with  absolute  casualness.   There   is   an
unequivocal inference of a clear disregard to the directions issued  by  the
Rent Controller.  The facts of this case depict a recalcitrant, as well  as,
a negligent and careless behaviour, at the hands of  the  appellants.   This
is not a case of a single lapse, but of persistent repeated and  unrelenting
default in the payment of future rent, for all the  months  intervening  the
date when the order under Section 15(1) of the Rent Act was passed, and  the
date when the application under Section 15(7) was filed by the  respondents-
landlords.  It is not possible to condone such indifference,  insensitivity,
disinterest and apathy to judicial directions.  Judicial discretion in  such
a  matter,  taking  into  consideration  the  defaults  committed   by   the
appellants-tenants, in my view, was legitimately  exercised  by  the  Courts
below, by striking out the defence of the appellants-tenants.
17.   Furthermore, in my view, payment voluntarily made  by  the  tenant  on
21.4.2008 towards arrears of rent, cannot be attributable or  assignable  or
creditable, towards future rent.  The said payment was made, in exercise  of
free discretion, towards arrears of rent.   It  shall  be  deemed  to  be  a
deposit by the tenant for that purpose,  and  for  no  other  purpose.   The
respondents-landlords filed an application under Section 15(7) of  the  Rent
Act on 28.4.2009 praying for striking out the  defence  of  the  appellants-
tenants for non-compliance  of  the  order  of  the  Rent  Controller  dated
21.4.2008.   Payments  made  by  the  appellants-tenants,  for  future  rent
payable upto 15.4.2009 (for the month of March, 2009),  after  the  date  of
filing of the application (on 29.4.2009), in my  considered  view,  are  not
relevant, for determining the issue in hand.  The date  on  which  the  Rent
Controller passed the order striking out  the  defence  of  the  appellants-
tenants, i.e. 14.9.2009,  has  absolutely  no  nexus  to  the  consideration
contemplated in Section 15(7) of the  Rent  Act.   The  offer  made  by  the
appellants-tenants to raise the rent by ten times  of  the  current  amount,
and to pay the same in advance for a period of five years,  is  nothing  but
an act of frustration, and is only aimed  to  prejudice  the  Court’s  mind.
Section 15(7) of the Rent Act does not contemplate condonation  of  payments
made in violation of the  directions  issued  by  the  Rent  Controller,  by
subsequent payments, even where the  tenant  accepts  to  make  a  voluntary
payment, many folds more than  what  is  due  to  the  landlord.   The  only
exception is when there is a reasonable  explanation  for  delayed  payment.
Unfortunately, there is no such explanation on  behalf  of  the  tenant,  in
this case.  In my considered view, therefore, the action of the  appellants-
tenants in not complying with the schedule  of  payment  expressed  in  Rent
Controller’s order dated 21.4.2008 (for paying future  rent),  consecutively
and repeatedly for 12 months, is  nothing  but  a  contumacious  failure  to
comply with the directions of the Rent Controller.
18.   The  instant  controversy  actually  demonstrates  how  a  tenant  has
effectively frustrated the legislative intent contemplated in Section  15(7)
of the Rent Act.   The  legislative  purpose  was,  to  curb  tendencies  of
tenants, from abusing the legal process.  As  already  noticed  hereinabove,
the respondents-landlords filed an  eviction  petition  in  November,  2007.
Based on the non-compliance of the directions issued by the Rent  Controller
(on  21.4.2008),  the  respondents-landlords   moved   an   application   on
28.4.2009, praying for striking out the defence of  the  appellants-tenants.
After the appellants-tenants  filed  their  reply  on  17.8.2009,  the  Rent
Controller allowed the above application, and struck off the defence of  the
appellants-tenants, by an order dated 14.9.2009.   The  order  of  the  Rent
Controller dated 14.9.2009 was assailed  by  the  appellants-tenants  before
the Rent Control Tribunal.  The prayer made by  the  appellants-tenants  was
rejected by the above Tribunal on 21.4.2010.   The  appellants-tenants  then
approached the High Court by filing a petition  under  Article  227  of  the
Constitution of India.  The High Court dismissed the petition on  10.5.2011.
 The said order was assailed by filing  a  Petition  for  Special  Leave  to
Appeal.  The matter has been pending disposal  in  this  Court  ever  since.
The appellants-tenants, despite  their  contumacious  disobedience,  of  the
directions contained in the order of the Rent  Controller  dated  14.9.2009,
have frustrated the process of law successfully, for about five years  (from
28.4.2009, i.e., the date on which the application under  Section  15(7)  of
the Rent Act was filed, till the disposal  of  the  present  Civil  Appeal).
The tenants have achieved, what the legislation aimed to avoid.
19.   In the above view of the matter, I am of  the  considered  view,  that
the order passed by the Rent Controller dated 14.9.2009,  which  was  upheld
by the Rent Control Tribunal (on 24.5.2010) and the High Court  (vide  order
dated 10.5.2011) calls for no interference whatsoever.
20.    For  the  reasons  recorded  hereinabove  the  appeal  fails  and  is
accordingly dismissed.

                                                              …………………………..J.

                                                      (Jagdish Singh Khehar)

New Delhi;

April 16, 2014.



























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