The Delhi High Court has said the power/discretion for waiving of rent vests first with the landlords, who are contractually entitled to the same while dismissing a PIL with cost of Rs 10,000 which sought directions to waive rent payable by tenants during period of coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The Court said, “it ought to be kept in mind that court cannot do charity at the cost of others. Charity beyond law is an injustice to others. If the landlord is entitled to receive the rent/consideration in accordance with law as per the contractual agreement entered between the parties concerned, then, the Court cannot, by a general order of the nature sought by the petitioner, waive such amount.”
The court said that it will be “extremely slow in interfering with the contractual terms which have been entered into by the parties to the contract”.
A bench headed by the Chief Justice DN Patel & Justice Prateek Jalan said, “it is not a public interest litigation, but, it is publicity interest litigation.”
The Court noted in its order, “The petition proceeds on the presumption that tenants alone are suffering from financial hardship, or from the economic consequences of the pandemic and consequent lockdown. However, it ought to be kept in mind that even the landlords can be financially dependent on the rent, e.g. when the rented premises is given by a widow or by a retired person having no other means of income and when they are solely dependent on the rent, for their livelihood. Similarly, there are several instances where rented premises are occupied by the tenants who are running shops, malls and doing other commercial activities. Without going through specific facts of each and every case, no dispute in relation to payment of rent and eviction thereof can be decided by the Court between tenants and landlord.”
“Thus, whenever a landlord expects eviction of the premises on the basis of non-payment of the rent, in such eventuality, the Court has to appreciate the proved facts of that particular case. For canvassing an argument of waiver of rent, proof of facts is a must. There cannot be lumpsum/general submission and that too in a public interest litigation, that rent should be waived and there can be no eviction, on ground of non-payment of the rent for tenants who are poor,” it said by the Court.
The petition also sought directions for constitution of a ‘Rent Resolution Commission’ for the purpose of resolving individual cases regarding the rent paid during the period of lockdown. “It is good to hear the party in person, at length, on the issue raised, but, we see no reason to constitute such ‘Rent resolution Commission’ and provide for all mechanism of appointment of the members therof, procedure for removal thereof, fixationof salary thereof etc. Arguments can be “free style”, but, no “free style orders can be passed,” said the Court.
The Court said, “we hereby dismiss this writ petition with costs of Rs.10,000/- to be deposited with Delhi State Legal Services Authority within a period of four weeks of resumption of physical functioning of the Courts. This amount will be utilized for COVID relief and welfare measures.”
The plea was filed by Advocate Gaurav Jain who had sought the court’s direction prohibiting the eviction of the tenants on the grounds of non-payment of rent till this crisis caused by the pandemic lasts.
The petitioner also prayed the court for directing authorities like District Magistrate, Police etc The petitioner also prayed the court for directing authorities like District Magistrate, Police etc to engage sufficient number of patrolling vehicles mounted with loudspeakers for the task of making people aware about the orders related to the issue of rent, and make a general appeal to all the landlords to show some gentility and empathy towards their tenants by waiving off their outstanding rent instead of coercing them to pay it immediately.
Read the Judgment here;
-India Legal Bureau
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