Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking waiver of rent during lockdown period
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has dismissed a plea seeking directions to waive rent payable by tenants during the Covid-19 lockdown period stating that the powers for waiving rent vests first with the landlords, who are contractually entitled. The court said that it will be “extremely slow in interfering with the contractual terms which have been entered into by the parties to the contract”.
A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 on the petitioner stating that the plea seeking a waiver of rent is “thoroughly misconceived and baseless”. The court also said that the petition was a “Publicity Interest Litigation” and not a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
“If such type of general argument is accepted by this Court, that rent should be waived for all the tenants of Delhi who are poor for the month of April or/and May or/and June, it will lead to injustice,” the bench said onTuesday, the order of which was uploaded on Wednesday.
The court’s direction came while deciding a plea by a practising lawyer Gaurav Jain seeking to waive rent for the lockdown period for the tenants in the city.
On March 29, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had appealed to landlords not to force tenants for one-two months for rent and accept payments in instalments if the tenant is short on money. Later on April 22, 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 one month. “It required for the respective district magistrates to spread awareness about this directive and, in case of non-compliance, take legal action,” the order said.
However, the order is not valid in the present scenario as it was only for a month from the date of issuance and no further orders with respect to waiving of rent have been passed by the Delhi government after April.
On Tuesday, the bench said that it cannot do charity at the cost of others. It said that the plea 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 rent, that is when the rented premises is given by a widow or by a retired person having no other means of income and when they are solely dependent on the rent, for their livelihood,” it said.
The bench also said that there are several instances where rented premises are occupied by tenants who are running shops, malls and doing other commercial activities. It said that without going through the specific facts of each and every case, no dispute in relation to the payment of rent and eviction thereof can be decided by the court between tenants and landlord.
“There cannot be lumpsum/general submission and that too in a Public Interest Litigation, that rent should be waived and there can be no eviction on the ground of non-payment of the rent for tenants who are poor. Hence, this writ petition is devoid of any merits as a public interest,” the bench said.