In a blow to tenants, the Supreme Court has ruled that landlord is the "best judge of his need" and entitled to take possession of his premises for bonafide personal reasons though not as a ploy to evict them.
The apex court said that merely because the tenant is living for several years, it does not mean that the landlord can be compelled to manage his own requirements in a smaller accommodation.
"The landlord is the best judge of his need, however, it should be real, genuine and the need may not be a pretext to evict the tenant only for increasing the rent.
"If the landlord wishes to live with comfort in a house of his own, the law does not command or compel him to squeeze himself and dwell in lesser premises so as to protect the tenant's continued occupation in tenancy premises," a Bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said in a judgement.
The apex court passed the judgement while allowing the landlord Yusuf Ali to take part possession of his rented premises from the tenant to run his own plastic goods units in Madhya Pradesh's Mhow town.
The Bench said that the landlord is entitled to the possession of his premises as long as it is bonafide and is able to convince the court that it is not a whim or fanciful possession.
"However, the bona fide requirement of the landlord must be distinguished from a mere whim or fanciful desire. It must be manifested in actual need... The need should be bona fide and not arbitrary and the requirement pleaded and proved must neither be a pretext nor a ruse adopted by the landlord for evicting the tenant.
"Therefore, the court must take relevant circumstances into consideration while determining the issue of bona fide need so that the protection afforded to a tenant is not rendered illusory or whittled down," the apex court said citing some of its earlier judgements.
In the instant case, Dinesh Kumar was running a shop at the 152sq.ft premises owned by Yusuf Ali from 1978.
In 2002, a trial court ordered Kumar's eviction on a suit filed by Ali for bonafide personal used on the ground that he wanted the premises for setting up his own plastic unit business, which he was presently operating from a small area adjoining a nala(drainage).
He had also claimed that his son Zulfiqar Ali based in Dubai would also join him in the business.
However, the first appellate court quashed the eviction order on the ground that Ali had no bonafide need and it was a ruse to enhance the rent.