Enjoyment of peaceful tenancy a right
Section 108A( c) of the Transfer of Property Act, provides the covenant of quiet enjoyment of leased property by the lessee, provided there is no contract to the contrary between the lessor and the l essee and t he l essee has been performing all his obligations, including payment of rent. In other words, peace is an overriding prerogative of every tenant.
Even substantial interference is considered a breach of quiet enjoyment. In 1869, in the matter of Munee Dutt Singh versus William Campbell ( where t he l andlord had interfered with the tenant by collecting rent from his subtenants) it was held that the landlord’s act amounted to a breach. Further, in 1898, it was held that if a land had been let out for drying timber, the lessor could not use the adjoining land in such a manner that passage of air was blocked.
To put it simply, when a ten- ancy is created, the tenant has a right to enjoy the premises peacefully without interruption or interference by the landlord. However, there are obligations on the tenant as well. One such obligation is regular payment of rent. But does that mean if the lessee stops paying rent the landlord can cut off the electricity or water supplies?
In the matter of Santosh Kumar Krishna Kumar v Misrilal Nir malkumar, in 1 9 8 2 t h e G u w a h at i H i g h Court held that electricity is an essential item. The court also held that disconnection of a tenant’s electricity was a wrongdoing of grievous nature, and in such cases the court should issue an injunction. In Ram Chandra Bhagwan Das represented by Shri Bhagwan Das Agarwala v Pawan Kumar Agarwalla, in 1983, the court held that in a case of this nature, a mandatory temporary injunction can be granted to restore the supply of essential services like water supply and electricity. Affirming the above position, in 1993, the Guwahati High Court, in the matter of Ramjilal Sharma & Anr v Purushottamlal Shar ma (HUF) granted an injunction directing t he l andlord t o restore supply of water to the leased premises. The landlord would, however, be entitled to measures such as termination and damages and also eviction through the process of law. Equally, the lessee claiming breach of enjoyment would be entitled to an injunction to stop the landlord’s continued interference and also damages for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
Further, the lessee has no remedy against the lessor, if the enjoyment by the lessee is disrupted by the lessor under the compulsion to comply with another law. In the matter of Minto v Kalli Charan, in 1867, where the lessee was evicted under the Land Acquisition Act, it was held that the lessee had no cause of action against the lessor. However, in 1724, in the matter of Andrews v Paradise, where the act was that of the lessor himself, it was held that the lessee has the right to sue.
T he c ovenant of quiet enjoyment protects a lessee against the acts of a lessor but not against the acts of the third party. The interfer- ence, if caused, by the landl ord would be actionable against the landlord either under the lease or under section 108 A (c) of the Transfer of Property Act. However, if there was interference by a third party, such interference would be actionable against such third party alone and not the landlord and under the law of tort.
Before I explain further, I will briefly explain the meaning of a ‘tort’. A ‘tort’ is a civil actionable wrong against a party, with whom there is no contract and where damages are not defined. Most of the law of tort is judge-made and is not codified. Essentially, what this means is that if the peaceful or quiet enjoyment of a tenant was disturbed by a party other than the lessor, the lessee, may not have an action against the lessor but could proceed to sue the third party in an action under tort of nuisance.