Hindustan Times (Amritsar) - - Front Page - Richa Banka richa.banka@htlive.com ■

Ten­ants in Delhi are li­able to pay rent for the pe­riod the city has been un­der lock­down, the Delhi HC has held, stat­ing that sus­pen­sion of rent is not per­mis­si­ble.

NEWDELHI: Ten­ants in the Cap­i­tal are li­able to pay rent for the pe­riod the city has been un­der lock­down, the Delhi High Court has held, stat­ing that sus­pen­sion of rent owed for that pe­riod is not per­mis­si­ble. The court, how­ever, said some re­lax­ation in the form of post­pone­ment of pay­ments can be granted.

A sin­gle-judge bench of Jus­tice Prat­i­bha M Singh said ten­ants can­not in­voke the doc­trine of sus­pen­sion of rent on the ba­sis of “a force ma­jeure event as they (the ap­pli­cants) do not in­tend to sur­ren­der the ten­anted premises and con­tinue to oc­cupy it”.

Force ma­jeure is a con­trac­tual pro­vi­sion al­lo­cat­ing the risk of loss, if per­for­mance be­comes im­pos­si­ble or im­prac­ti­ca­ble, es­pe­cially as a re­sult of an unan­tic­i­pated or un­con­trolled event.

“The ten­ants’ ap­pli­ca­tion for sus­pen­sion of rent is thus li­able to be re­jected inas­much as while in­vok­ing the doc­trine of sus­pen­sion of rent on the ba­sis of a force ma­jeure event, it is clear from the sub­mis­sions made that the ten­ants do not in­tend to sur­ren­der the ten­anted premises.

While hold­ing that the sus­pen­sion of rent is not per­mis­si­ble in th­ese facts, some post­pone­ment or re­lax­ation in the sched­ule of pay­ment can be granted ow­ing to the lock­down,” the court said in a 22-page judg­ment of May 21, up­loaded to the court’s web­site on May 22.

The court was hear­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion that had raised var­i­ous is­sues re­lated to the sus­pen­sion of pay­ment of rent, ow­ing to the na­tional lock­down, and le­gal­i­ties re­gard­ing the same.

On March 29, Delhi Chief Min­is­ter Arvind Ke­jri­wal had ap­pealed to land­lords not to force ten­ants to give rent for one or two months and ac­cept pay­ments in in­stal­ments if the ten­ant is short on money. Later, in April, an or­der by the Delhi Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity had called for “strict com­pli­ance” of direc­tions that land­lords will not de­mand rent from mi­grant work­ers and stu­dents for a month.

The latest judge­ment came on an ap­pli­ca­tion filed in a pend­ing plea by the owner of a shoe shop in Khan Mar­ket, who had sought sus­pen­sion of ₹3.5 lakh monthly rent, while also chal­leng­ing the evic­tion over non­pay­ment.

De­cid­ing on the fac­tor, Jus­tice Singh said: “The fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple would be that if the con­tract con­tains a clause pro­vid­ing for some sort of waiver or sus­pen­sion of rent, only then the ten­ant could claim the same…. How­ever, if the ten­ant wishes to re­tain the premises and there is no clause giv­ing any respite, the rent would be payable”.

Though the May 21 or­der talks about lease agree­ments in gen­eral, mak­ing it el­i­gi­ble for both res­i­den­tial as well as com­mer­cial prop­er­ties, the court said the present case of Khan Mar­ket is not cov­ered un­der the ex­ec­u­tive or­ders passed by the cen­tral and Delhi govern­ments.

A se­nior Delhi govern­ment of­fi­cial in the chief min­is­ter’s of­fice, ask­ing not to be named, said that they would ex­am­ine the or­der.

Re­act­ing to the or­der, Praveen Khan­del­wal, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of All In­dia Traders, said while the court granted time to ten­ants to pay rent, a mech­a­nism should be brought about so that the rent amount of the lock­down pe­riod can be paid in a six-month in­stal­ment pe­riod.

“A ma­jor chunk of our ex­pen­di­ture goes towards rent for shops. Also, as per the govern­ment’s direc­tions, we are bound to pay salaries to em­ploy­ees. In the light of this, a mech­a­nism should be brought about so that we can clear the rent dues in a six-month in­stal­ment,” he said.

Af­ter the lock­down was put into ef­fect, sev­eral stu­dent groups liv­ing in rented ac­com­mo­da­tions across the Cap­i­tal had writ­ten to Ke­jri­wal, ask­ing for help on sim­i­lar grounds.

Atul Goyal, Pres­i­dent of United Res­i­dents’ Joint Ac­tion, said there is a uni­lat­eral agree­ment be­tween ten­ants and their land­lords on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds and hence, both should chalk out a strat­egy on this.

In the mat­ter de­cided May 21, while the coun­sel for the pe­ti­tioner had sought a waiver on the rent and post­pone­ment of pay­ments, the ad­vo­cate for the land­lord had con­tended that mere sus­pen­sion of work would not give the lib­erty to ten­ants to not pay rent as the rev­enue streams of land­lords are also de­pen­dent on rent money.


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