In a significant pro-landlord ruling, the Delhi High Court has said a tenant cannot refuse to vacate a house just because the lease deed does not specify the period for which the premises has been let out.
Observing that absence of a specified period in the lease deed cannot be construed as 'perpetual' (permanent) tenancy, Justice Manmohan Singh said that even if no right to terminate the tenancy by the landlord was mentioned in the lease deed, such a right existed.
The ruling brings down the curtains on a 12-year-old legal battle between M.P. Khurana and K.S. Baweja - owners of a commercial property in New Friends Colony and his tenant firms - Modi Chemicals, Modi Carpets and Modi Industries - which in turn are said to have sub-let a portion of it on the ground floor to the Barista Espresso Bar. All of them will have to vacate the premises in six months.
The ruling assumes importance in view of the fact that there are a large number of cases where, due to the absence of specified period of tenancy in the lease deed, tenants - residential and commercial - refuse to vacate.
Tenancy in Delhi is governed by the Delhi Rent (Control) Act, 1958. Earlier, specifying the period of tenancy was not generally done. "But by an amendment in 1988, it was specified that tenancies involving a monthly rent of Rs 3,500 and above would be governed by a lease deed between landlord and tenant," said advocate Arun K Varma, who represented the owners.
"This judgment comes as a relief to owners of such properties. They can seek eviction of these tenants without fear of the lease deed being silent about the period for which the premises were rented out originally," says Varma.
The Modis had argued that landlords had no right to evict them as the lease deed did not specify a period and, therefore, they had become perpetual tenants.
Citing the Transfer of Property Act, the court said: "Unless there is a contract to the contrary, specifically saying that the Lessor (owner) has no right to terminate tenancy, the Lessor has a right to terminate any tenancy and such a right is a statutory right."