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Charity beyond law is an injustice to others: Delhi HC dismisses PIL to waive off rent payable by tenants with costs

Aditi Singh

Remarking that charity beyond law is an injustice to others, the Delhi High Court has dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to waive off the rent of tenants who are facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. (Gaurav Jain vs UOI & Anr)

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Prateek Jalan in the PIL by Advocate Gaurav Jain.

The Petitioner had, inter alia, prayed for waiver of rent of tenants for the months of April to June, prohibition on eviction of tenants, constitution of ‘Rent Resolution Commission', one-time amnesty to the landlords or tenants etc.

The Petitioner also challenged Centre's May 17 order which recalled its earlier order on action against landlords who were evicting students and migrants from rented premises on account of failure to pay rent.

The Court, at the very outset, opined that the public interest litigation on behalf of the tenants in Delhi was thoroughly misconceived and baseless.

The Court stated that the general prayer for waiver of rent could not be granted while exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in a public interest litigation, especially in the absence of representation of the landlords in the city.

Observing that the payment of rent depended on a contractual arrangement between the tenant and the landlord, the Court remarked,

The powers/discretion for waiving of such consideration (rent) vests first with the landlords, who are contractually entitled to the same. This Court will be extremely slow in interfering with the contractual terms which have been entered into by the parties to the contract..It ought to be kept in mind that Court cannot do charity at the cost of others. Charity beyond law is an injustice to others.
Delhi High Court

The Court also rejected the prayer for the constitution of a "Rent Resolution Commission" for adjudicating upon disputes between tenants and landlord as it opined that it was an issue which fell within the domain the legislature/executive.

"Arguments can be "free style", but, no "free style" order can be passed..A binding adjudicatory mechanism of the kind sought by the petitioner cannot be equated with the mediation or conciliation process. No such order can be passed directing the respondents to constitute such a “Rent Resolution Commission”, without considering these issues in detail. Moreover, these are not issues for the Court in writ proceedings, but matters of policy.", the Court stated.

The plea for one-time amnesty was also dismissed on the ground that it was a policy decision that had to be taken by the Government authorities.

The Court stated that a lump sum or general submission, that too in a public interest litigation, for waiver of rent could not be entertained and observed,

The petition 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..for their livelihood..Without going through specific facts of each and every case, no dispute in relation to payment of rent and eviction thereof can be decided by the Court between tenants and landlord.
Delhi High Court

As and when any individual approaches with proper facts and averments, the Court would arrive at a decision in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policies, the Court added.

In view of the above, the Court stated that there were no reasons to interfere the May 17 order as well.

In the end, the Court claimed that the case at hand was not a public interest litigation but a "publicity interest litigation" and an abuse of the process of the law.

The Court thus dismissed the petition for being meritless and imposed costs of Rs 10,000 on the Petitioner for wasting judicial time.

As per the Court's direction, the amount shall be deposited with Delhi State Legal Services Authority within a period of four weeks of resumption of physical functioning of the Courts and be utilized for COVID-19 relief and welfare measures.

Read the Order:

Gaurav Jain vs UOI.pdf
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