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Nathi Devi vs Radha Devi Gupta (2005) 2 SCC 271

Material Facts
  1. The Case of "Nathi Devi vs Radha Devi Gupta, 2005" is a Judgement in reference to "Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958" (hereafter referred to as the Act).
  2. The timeline of the case suggest that the Property in question was under the ownership rights of one Parmanand Khemka whose monthly tenant was the Predecessor-in-interest of the Appellant, Nathi Devi. After her death, Nathi Devi became the Tenant and paid a monthly Rent amount of Rs. 7 to Parmanand Khemka. She enjoyed the tenancy rights for a period of 35 years.
  3. However, in April of 1982, the Landlord disappeared from the Scene leaving no one behind to accept the Rent of his Tenants. In the same year, the Respondent, Radha Devi Gupta purchased the said Property.
  4. It is important for the purpose of awarding the Judgement to note that the Respondent was a Widow and had purchased the Property with the view of obtaining immediate residence since she was unable to reside in the Property left behind by her Husband due to inconvenience created by Family Members.
  5. More than a decade later, in 1994, the Appellant received a Notice of Eviction claiming immediate residence by the Respondent as the owner of the Premises under Section 14D of Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958.
  6. The Appellant defended the Application of Eviction and the dispute was lodged with the Additional Rent Controller, Delhi.

Legal Issues
  1. Whether the Application of Eviction is maintainable under Section 14D of Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958?
  2. Whether establishing that the Premises were "let out" by her late Husband or by her is a prerequisite for availing the exception of Section 14D of the Act?

The Council for the Appellant contended that the Application for Eviction is not maintainable under Section 14D of the Act since the necessary elements required for bringing the section into limelight are not fulfilled.

According to the Council, apart from the Landlord being a Widow requiring the Premises for her own immediate residence, the Property in question MUST be let out by her deceased Husband or herself. This being a necessary element not being fulfilled, the notice for eviction under Section 14D cannot be carried through.

In regards to this argument, the Council referred to the Judgement of "Surjit Singh Kalra vs. Union of India[1]" stating that the legislative intent behind Section 14D is clear and unambiguous and this section applies to a separate section of Widows whose property in question is let out by her or by her deceased Husband. This being a pre-requisite for the bringing Section 14D into application. Considering that in the present case, the situation was not as such, the Notice of Eviction cannot be moved against the Appellant.

The Council further defended that since between the time period of 1982 to 1994, the Rent was never paid to the Respondent, therefore there did not exist any kind of Landlord-Tenant Relationship between the Parties in dispute. Since, no relationship of this sought existed in the first place, the Respondent, Radha Devi Gupta cannot be termed as the "landlord" of the Appellant.

As opposed to the Appellant's claim, the Council for the Respondent argued that the condition that the property in question must be let out by the Widow or her deceased Husband is NOT an essential element for bringing the Section into application.

Considering that the Landlord was a Widow and required the Possession of the Premises for immediate residence, the elements of the Section are fulfilled and the Notice of Eviction can be arrive into force.

The Respondent's Council took the reference of "Kanta Goyal vs. B.P. Pathak and Ors.[2]" In contending that the phrase mentioned in Section 14, "let out" is also applicable to a "transferee landlord" and it does not matter whether the property was let out by herself or her Husband.

The fact that she was the Landlord of the Property in question is sufficient to pass the Order of Eviction. The Council stated that the Appellant's defence did not raise any issue which can be tried in the Court of Law.

When the issue was initially raised in front of the Additional Rent Controller, the Order was passed in favour of the Respondent on the grounds that under Section 14D, only two essentials were required to be fulfilled:
  1. That the Landlord was a Widow,
  2. That the Property was required for her immediate residence owning to the absence of any other suitable premises.

When on appeal, the Case went to the High Court; the Honourable Court concurred with the Judgement of the Additional Rent Controller and ruled in favour of the Respondent. However, when on hearing the arguments from both the sides, the Court realised that the judgements referred to:
"Surjit Singh Kalra vs. Union of India" and "Kanta Goyal vs. B.P. Pathak and Ors." Are in fact contradictory and decided by a bench of three judges, the Court therefore allowed an appeal and the case was placed before a Five Judge Bench consisting of Honourable Chief Justice.

The Court analysed that the prime function of Judiciary is to interpret laws and this interpretation is to understand the real and true meaning behind the formation of any legislation. In case there exist any kind of ambiguity in the law, it is the role of the Judiciary to fill the gaps by analysing the Statute in its entirety to cancel out any kind of absurdity and vagueness. The Court referred to the Judgement of "Nasiruddin and others vs. Sita Ram Agarwal[3]" while laying down the purpose of interpretation.

The Court observed that the objective of "Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958" is to protect the rights of the Tenant from wrongful eviction. Sections 14A to 14D of the Act, present in Chapter III, lay down exception to the general rule of Section 14 which allows a certain class of Landlords to obtain immediate possession of the rented property for "bona fide purposes" and immediate residence.

While analysing the Case Facts of "Kanta Goyal vs. B.P. Pathak and Ors", the Court of Law held, that the judgement given this case was "compromised"; implying that a compromise was reached between the disputed Parties. While the Tenant was evicted from the Rented out flat, he rented out another empty suit in the same premises. The Council for Appellant had contended on this case that since the application of eviction was passed through in this case and the second application was not passed owning to Section 14A, the decision rendered by the Court in this case is at most an observation for the present situation; on which the Court of Law agreed.

Further, The Court of Law went on to analyze the judgement of "Surjit Singh Kalra vs. Union of India" and concluded that in Sections 14A to 14C, the phrase used is "Premises let out by him", which is unspecific as to by whom the Premises need to be let out. However, in Section 14D, the phrase used is "Premises let out by her or by her Husband" specifying the fact that by whom exactly the Property needs to be let out.

Now, while the Legislature intends to mean each and every word it includes in the legislation, the Court upheld the argument of the Appellant that statement that - whether the premises must be let out by Her or her deceased Husband is an essential or not, it is an essential for bringing Section 14D into application. Given the situation where the said statement was not an essential, the Section would not have been specific about the said question.

Therefore, since the Respondent, Radha Devi Gupta was a Transferee owner and not a Landlord by whom the Property was actually let out, she cannot avail the exception available under Section 14D and the notice for eviction is not maintainable. The decision rendered by the Additional Rent Controller and High Court was set aside.

Rule Of Interpretation:
The court while deciding the case of "Nathi Devi vs. Radha Devi Gupta" opted for the "Literal Rule of Interpretation". The literal interpretation analyses each and every word used by the Legislature in order to understand its ordinary meaning.

This is what the Court applied in this situation. It carefully analysed the phrase "Premises let out by her or by her Husband" and concluded that since the ordinary meaning of the phrase is to limit or rather specify the parties who can let out the premises under Section 14D, this is an essential element and not just a directory.

The Judgment of "Nathi Devi vs. Radha Devi Gupta" is a fairly recent judgement decided by the Court of law in 2005. The Judgement decided remains valid till date. It must be recognized that in this case the Court truly performed as the Interpreter of the Legislations ensuring that the true essence of the Legislation is met so that Justice could be delivered.

Even though both the Parties relied on decided Judgements to ensure their case, the Court intricately analysed their application in present situation. Interpreting each and every word in order to understand the true meaning was an exhaustive task which the Court accomplished successfully in the present cases.

  1. (1991) 2 SCC 87
  2. (1977) 2 SCC 814
  3. (2003) 2 SCC 577

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Aditie Sinha & Mr.Jay Wadhwa
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Authentication No: AP312036339426-30-0423

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