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Anant Lal Goel vs Dr. Prem Shanker Agarwal

High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad|26 April, 1972


1. The plaintiff-appellant, Anant Lal Goel is the owner of the premises numbered 85-D and 85-E, K.P. Kakkar Road, Allahabad. The upper portion of the building, 85-D, is used by the appellant for residential purposes. 85-E consists of three shops on the ground floor. One out of the three shops on the ground floor was let out by him to the respondent under a registered lease deed dated 30-8-1951 for a period of three years with effect from 1-9-1951 on a monthly rent of Rs. 75/-. Admittedly, the respondent continued to remain in occupation of the shop as a month to month tenant on the same rent after the expiry of the period of three years. The landlord by notice dated 10-4-1961 (Ex. 1) terminated the tenancy and filed a suit for ejectment, arrears of rent and damages for use and occupation at the rate of Rs. 75/-. This suit was decreed by the trial court in toto. The trial court's decree has been reversed by the lower appellate court and the entire suit has been dismissed. The landlord has filed this second appeal praying that the trial court's decree be restored.
2. According to the appellant, the shop in question was under erection on 1-1-1951 and, the construction-work having been completed after that date, the provisions of the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act, 1947 (hereinafter called the Act) are not applicable to the case by virtue of Section 1-A thereof. The trial court accepted this plea. The lower appellate court has, however, held that the shop was not under erection on 1-1-1951 and that all the material construction work had been completed before that date. It is, therefore, an accommodation to which the Act applied. The main point for decision in this appeal is whether the provisions of the Act apply to the case or not.
3. Section 1-A was inserted in the Act by U. P. Act IX of 1951, published in the gazette dated March 15, 1951. It runs thus:
"Nothing in this Act shall apply to any building or part of a building which was under erection or was constructed on or after 1st January, 1951."
"Accommodation" as defined in Section 2 (a) by the Act, omitting the portions which are not relevant for purposes of this case, means "residential and non-residential accommodations in any building or part of a building..." The shop undisputably is an accommodation. Whether by virtue of Section 1-A the provisions of the Act applied to it or not is a question, the answer to which solely depends on the factual existence or non-existence of a state of things on a particular date, viz., whether it was under erection on 1-1-1951. The landlord has not contended that it was constructed after the said date. There are diverse findings on the question. Apparently they are findings of fact. It was, therefore, contended on behalf of the respondent that the finding of the lower appellate court on the point is not open to attack in second appeal. The contention is not wholly without force.
4. The learned Solicitor General, however, submitted on appellant's behalf that the finding being in respect of a jurisdictional fact its correctness can be questioned even in second appeal. The appellant according to the learned counsel, had otherwise fully established his legal right to the reliefs sought by him; the lower appellate court by recording an erroneous finding held that the provisions of the Act applied to the shop and failed to exercise its jurisdiction and power as a civil court by mis-applying Section 3 of the Act to the case. In support of this contention, reliance was placed on two Supreme Court decisions: (1) Chaubey Jagdish Prasad v. Ganga Prasad Chaturvedi, AIR 1959 SC 492; (2) Roshan Lal v. Ishwar Dass, AIR 1962 SC 646. Reliance was also placed on two decisions of Dhavan, J., -- (1) Jai Narain Tandon v. Ram Kishan Das, 1965 All LJ 794 and (2) Khiya Ram v. Prabha Devi, 1965 All LIR 1045 -- in which the learned Judge expressly held that a finding on a question whether a building was constructed before or after January 1, 1951 being a finding in respect of jurisdictional fact can be interfered with even in second appeal.
5. The point is not free from doubt. In the two cases noted above, the Supreme Court did not consider the legal position with reference to the powers of the High Court exercisable under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In both the cases, the matter had come up before the High Court in revision under Section 116, C. P. C. The cases arose out of proceedings or suits under specific provisions of special statutes,--the Act in the first case; and the Delhi and Ajmer Merwara Rent Control Act, 1947 in the second. The Supreme Court held that a finding that a building was constructed or was complete on or after a certain date being finding determinative on the question of jurisdiction exercisable under the particular Act is a finding in respect of a jurisdictional fact; the High Court as such could under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code examine the finding on merits for the purpose of satisfying itself whether jurisdiction was assumed or abrogated in consequence of an erroneous finding. The learned Counsel for the respondent however sought to draw support from the following observations occurring in paragraph 17 of the judgment in Roshan Lal's case, AIR 1962 SC 646 (supra):--
"We think that the High Court was in error in interfering with the finding of fact by the Rent Controller and the District Judge, in support of which finding there was clear and abundant evidence which had been carefully considered and accepted by both the Rent Controller and the District Judge." A reading of the entire paragraph 17, however, leaves no room for doubt that the aforesaid observation was made because the High Court had "referred merely to certain submissions made on behalf of the landlord and then expressed the opinion that what was done to second floor was mere improvement and not a new construction."
6. In spite of the above noted cases decided by the Supreme Court, the point still remains as to whether a finding that a certain building or part of a building was or was not under erection or was or was not constructed on or after 1st January, 1951 is open to reconsideration by the High Court under Section 100, Civil Procedure Code. No doubt on this point the appellant is supported by two decisions of Dhavan, J., referred to above. Still I venture to express my doubt. My reasons are two-fold: (1) the jurisdiction and power exercisable under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code are, in certain respects, basically different from those exercisable under Section 100; (2) a civil court is not a Court of limited jurisdiction and cannot be equated with courts or tribunals of limited jurisdiction. The civil court does not owe its jurisdiction to entertain a suit for ejectment on any provision of the Act or on the existence or non-existence of a certain fact, If an issue is raised in such a suit that it is barred by virtue of Section 3 of the Act, such issue is like any other issue arising in the suit. It does not affect its jurisdiction which, subject to the limitations mentioned in Section 9, Civil Procedure Code, is plenary in nature. It is not a matter of vesting of jurisdiction; It is a matter of exercise of jurisdiction. Such an issue is like an issue on a question of limitation or an issue based on Section 80, Civil Procedure Code. Such issues affect the result in the suit. When any such issue is answered against the plaintiff, the Court dismisses the suit not for lack of jurisdiction but because the law so provides. I do not, however, consider it necessary to refer the case to a larger Bench because after examining the matter on merits, I see no valid reason to differ from the finding of the lower appellate court that the shop was not under erection on or after 1-1-51.
7. In support of their respective contentions on the point of the applicability of the provisions of the Act, the learned counsel placed reliance on documentary and oral evidence both. Oral evidence is not of much Value or significance, nor can it be treated as reliable. The appellant examined only himself in support of his case; the respondent examined himself and two other witnesses.
8. The important documentary evidence on appellant's side consists of Ex. 4, Ex. 5, Ex. 6, Ex. 23 and Ex. 8 on the respondent's side the documents of importance are: Ex. A-1, Ex. A-2 and Ex. A-3.
9. Admittedly all the three shops on the ground floor were allotted under Section 7 of the Act by the Rent Control and Eviction Officer by an order dated 10-4-1950. One of the shops was directed to be let out by the landlord to the respondent. This order has not been produced by any party. It however appears that the appellant on receipt of a copy of the order had made certain representations, acting upon which the Rent Control and Eviction Officer decided to put the allotment order in abeyance for the time being. No copy of the representations has been filed, but a copy of the subsequent order dated 11-7-1950 has been filed. It is Ex. 5. It contains the following recital:--
"The case of the present allottee and the objection of the landlord put forward by him in his application dated 2-5-1950 addressed to the District Magistrate will be decided When the shops are completed."
Strong reliance was placed on Ex. 5. At best, it however, only shows that on 2-5-1950 the shop was not complete. Neither the appellant nor the respondent appears to have given any further intimation to District Magistrate. The allotment order was not vacated or withdrawn. Subsequently on 30-8-1951 the shop was let to the respondent by the appellant under a registered lease-deed, Ex. 4. In it there is no reference to the allotment order nor does it mention the date or time of the completion of the shop. By itself the document neither helps the appellant nor the respondent. Ex. 23 is a copy of a lease-deed dated 31-5-1951 under which the other two shops were let by the appellant to Delhi Cloth Mills Ltd., for a period of three years with effect from 16-6-1951. In it also there is no mention as to when the shops were constructed or completed. Exs. 6 and 7 are documents relating to assessment of house and water tax in respect of the shops as also the residential portion. Ex. 8 is a copy of the assessment order by the Income Tax Officer for the assessment year 1954-55. It mentions that the shop in question was finally constructed in August 1951 and the exemption period of this new construction expired in August 1953. It dues not show on what basis or material it was found that the shop was finally constructed in August, 1951. Possibly, it was based on the statement of the appellant himself.
10. The learned counsel for the appellant referred to the definition of the word 'building' in Section 2 (2) of the U. P. Municipalities Act. At the relevant time, the definition ran thus:-- Section 2 (2):
" 'building' means a house but, shed or other roofed structure, for whatsoever purpose and of whatsoever material constructed, and every part thereof, shall not include the tent or other such portable temporary shelter."
11. The submission was that under Section 2 (2) of the Act, an accommodation must necessarily be a building or part of a building and since the word 'building' has not been defined in the Act, and further since the Act applies primarily to all urban areas, the definition of the word 'building' in Section 2 (2) of the Municipalities Act would be material for the purposes of determining whether at a particular point of time, there existed a building or part of a building which under Section 2 (a) of the Act would be an accommodation. It was further submitted that under the Municipalities Act every building has to be assessed and the annual value thereof determined for the purposes of Municipal taxation. Therefore, in order to find out whether there did or did not exist any such building or part of a building as would constitute an accommodation, the date of the first assessment under the Municipalities Act would be a material factor. The learned counsel referred to Section 128, which empowers a Municipality to impose certain taxes including a tax on the annual value of buildings and water tax on the value of building, and to Section 140 which defines the expression 'annual value'. It was urged that the shop 85/E, although assessed for the first time on 30-3-1950 by a resolution, was actually under construction as noted in Ext. 7 and that the house tax and water tax were actually imposed thereon with effect from 1-4-1951, vide Ext. 6. On behalf of the respondent, on the other hand, reliance was placed on Exhibits A-1, A-2 and A-3. Ex. A-1 is a certified copy of an intimation sent by the Allahabad Municipality dated 28-2-1950 under Section 147 (d) of the Municipalities Act. It states that since the premises 85/D had been reconstructed, the new constructions were revalued and re-assessed as noted in the document. In this document 85/E was above as consisting of three separate shops, the rental value of each of which was shown at Rs. 75/- per month. The material words in the document are:--
"Aapake makan nambari 85/D ke do nambur kiye gaye ki haisiyat tabdiliyon naya bankar tayyar ho jane ke karan ......"
Est. A-1 thus clearly shows that for purposes of assessment or reassessment, the construction work of the entire building including the shops 85/E was complete before 28-2-1950. Ex. A-2 is a certified copy of a Khasra regarding water and house taxes of the building No. 85/E for the period for 1950 to 1955. Ext. A-3 is a certified copy of a notice issued to the appellant by the Tax Superintendent, Municipal Board, Allahabad intimating that the Finance Committee by a resolution 139 dated March 30, 1950 had assessed the building Nos. 85/D and 85/E at the annual value of Rs. 600/- and Rs. 2700/- respectively and that if the appellant had any objection, he might file the same within 15 days from the date of the receipt of the notice. This document also shows that subject to any objection by the landlord, the entire building, including the three shops No. 85/E was assessed to house tax and water tax. The parties filed a number of other documents in this connection but I do not consider it necessary to particularly refer to them. The documents already referred to above, to my mind, sufficiently show that for all practical purposes, the actual construction work of the entire building including the three shops on the ground floor was complete and that the structures which had come into existence certainly constituted building as defined in Section 2 (2) of the Municipalities Act. In this state of evidence, I do not see any sufficient ground to disagree with the view of the lower appellate Court that the shop of which the respondent was the tenant was complete and constituted an 'accommodation' and that it was not under erection on 1-1-1951 nor had it been constructed after that date.
12. That the entire masonry work was complete and that the shop was a roofed structure much before 1-1-1951 does not appear to have been very seriously disputed in the Courts below nor has any such effort been made before me. From the judgment of the lower appellate Court, it appears that on behalf of the plaintiff, great stress was laid on the fact that although the masonry work might have been completed before 1-1-1951, walls and ceiling had still to be plastered, the flooring work had to be completed and the doors still to be fixed, and that therefore, it could not be said that the shop actually was an accommodation before 1-1-1951. It was also urged that from the fact that, in spite of allotment order having been passed in favour of the respondent on April 10, 1950, no attempt or effort was made by the respondent to occupy the shop would show that actually the shop was not fit for occupation as an accommodation until after 1-1-1951. The respondent however, in his deposition stated that he was already in occupation of another accommodation in which he had his medical clinic and was in no hurry to occupy the shop at once. It has come in evidence that electric installations in the shop were made some time after 1-1-1951. In the circumstances, no special significance, to my mind, attaches to the fact that the respondent did not press for delivery of possession soon after the passing of the allotment order. I do not, therefore, find any cogent or acceptable ground to hold that the finding of the lower appellate court on the question is not supported by the evidence on record or is perverse.
13. An interesting argument was raised by the learned counsel for the appellant which to my mind does not appropriately arise in the case nor should be permitted to be raised at the stage of second appeal. It was submitted that the respondent having abandoned his right if any to occupy the shop under the allotment order and having specifically obtained a lease with effect from 1-8-1951 could not be permitted to raise a plea that the construction was an accommodation to which the Act applies. A party it was contended cannot be permitted to blow hot and cold at the same time. In other words, no party could be permitted to approbate and reprobate.
14. The doctrine of blowing hot and cold is only a form of estoppel. The doctrine of estoppel itself has been codified in Section 115 of the Evidence Act by embodying therein a rule of evidence for affording effective protection to a party who has been prevailed upon, induced or led to believe a thing to be true and to act upon such belief by the other party intentionally by his declaration, act or omission. Such protection is afforded by a mandate injuncting the concerned party from denying the truth of that thing in respect of which he engendered belief in the other party and got him to act upon such belief. No party, however, can invoke estoppel against another party unless a plea in that behalf has been taken thereby giving that party an opportunity to join issue on the point. The bar of estoppel is the ultimate legal consequence resulting from proof of a set of material facts and circumstances. Necessarily, in every case such facts and circumstances as are material must be pleaded and proved. In this case no foundation was laid in his plaint by the appellant nor was there any issue in regard to estoppel. The appellant, therefore, is not entitled to canvass in second appeal that the respondent was or is estopped from denying that the shop was under erection on 1-1-1951 and asserting that the Act applied to it
15. Apart from what I have stated above, I would also like to point out that here is a case in which each party can reasonably accuse the other of blowing hot and cold or of approbating and reprobating. If the respondent by obtaining a lease under Ext. 4 can accused of blowing hot and cold because he raised a plea that the Act applied to the shop, I think the appellant can equally be accused because even though he had raised an objection to the allotment order dated April 10, 1950, he himself did not pursue the matter nor satisfy the Rent Control & Eviction Officer that the shop Was under erection on and after 1-1-1951. In the lease-deed Ext 4, as already pointed out, there is no mention as to whether the shop Was under construction on or after 1-1-1951 nor does it mention that the shop is not governed by the provisions of the Act. For this reason also, it is not possible to hold that in reality the respondent approbated when the lease was executed that the Act did not apply to the shop nor did he reprobate when he pleaded that the Act applies to the shop. In fact, it was the appellant who himself pleaded in his plaint that the shop was an accommodation to which the Act did not apply. If the defendant respondent denied this allegation and asserted that it was an accommodation to which the Act applies, it cannot be said that he was going back upon some statement or assurance given by him earlier upon which the appellant had acted to his own detriment. The appellant himself knew the material facts personally and more fully and accurately than the respondent. No question of estoppel can therefore really arise.
16. For the reasons stated above, I hold that the lower appellate court rightly dismissed the suit for ejectment. In my opinion, however, it erred in dismissing the suit in toto. The trial Court had decreed the suit for ejectment, for recovery of Rs. 450/- on account of arrears of rent and for pendente lite and future damages for use and occupation at the rate of Rs. 75/- per mensem. The defendant filed an appeal which was valued at Rs. 900/- only, being one year's rent. The appeal thus was directed against the decree for ejectment. The learned counsel for the appellant urged that even if the relief of ejectment is denied to his client, he should not be made to suffer by being deprived of any amount which was or has become due to him on account of rent, if not by way of damages for use and occupation. The learned counsel for the respondent on behalf of his client stated that his client acknowledges his liability to pay the entire amount which has accrued due to the appellant on account of rent from the date of the filing of the suit up-till now and that he will pay the same. In the circumstances, while dismissing the appeal in so far as it was directed against the decree for ejectment, I partly allow the appeal. The suit is decreed for Rs. 450/- on account of arrears to rent and a further decree is passed in appellant's favour for the entire amount which has become payable on account of rent at the rate of Rs. 75/- per month from the date of the filing of the suit upto February 28, 1972. In case the entire amount is not paid by the respondent to the appellant by 31st July, 1972, the appellant will be entitled to recover the same by executing the decree after paying necessary court-fees as also to recover the amount of such court-fees besides costs on the total sum sought to be recovered by execution. In case the amount is paid voluntarily by the respondent by 31st July, 1972, each party shall bear his own costs throughout
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Anant Lal Goel vs Dr. Prem Shanker Agarwal


High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad

26 April, 1972
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