The Delhi High Court has recently dismissed a public interest litigation seeking waiver of the rent for tenants who were facing financial hardship during the pandemic. (Gaurav Jain vs UOI &Anr)
Passing the order the Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Prateek Jalan remarked that charity beyond law is an injustice to others.
In thepetition advocate Gaurav Jain prayed for waiver of rent for the months of April to June, prohibition on eviction of tenants, constitution of ‘Rent Resolution Commission’, one-time amnesty to the landlords or tenants etc.
The Petitioner also challenged Centre’s May 17 order wherein it had recalled its earlier order according to which action was to be taken against landlords who were evicting students and migrants from rented premises on failure to pay rent.
The Court, prima facie, opined that the public interest litigation was thoroughly misconceived and baseless.
The Court observed that the prayer asking for waiver of rent could not be grantedunder Article 226 of the Constitution of India, especially in the absence of representation of the landlords.
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Pointing that the payment of rent depended solely on a contractual arrangement between the tenant and the landlord, the Court remarked,
The powers/discretion for waiving of such consideration (rent) vests first with the landlords, who are contractually entitled to the same. This Court will be extremely slow in interfering with the contractual terms which have been entered into by the parties to the contract.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.
While rejecting the prayer for the constitution of a “Rent Resolution Commission” for adjudicating such disputes as may arise between tenants and landlord as it fell within the domain the legislature/executive, the court held
“Arguments can be “free style”, but, no “free style” order can be passed.A binding adjudicatory mechanism of the kind sought by the petitioner cannot be equated with the mediation or conciliation process. No such order can be passed directing the respondents to constitute such a “Rent Resolution Commission”, without considering these issues in detail. Moreover, these are not issuing for the Court in writ proceedings, but matters of policy.”
On a similar note the plea for one-time amnesty was also dismissed as the decision regarding the same had to be taken by Government authorities.
Clarifying that a lump sum or general submissionfor waiver of rent could not be entertained the court observed,
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 rentfor their livelihood.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.
The court added that as and when any individual approaches with proper facts and averments, it would arrive at a decision in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policies and there was no reason to interfere the May 17 order as of now.
The court dismissed the case at hand claiming that it was not a public interest litigation but a “publicity interest litigation” and an abuse of the process of the law.The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the petitioner for wasting time of the court.
As per the Court, the amount has to be deposited with Delhi State Legal Services Authority within a period of four weeks from resumption of physical functioning of the Courts and is to be utilized for COVID-19 relief and welfare measures.
Read the petition here: