In India, HC judge recuses in Rent Act case

 

 

 

 

By: Abhinav Garg, TNN

NEW DELHI: A petition challenging the Rent Control Act, 1958, has been transferred to another bench because one of the judges hearing the case is a tenant who pays rent for a property falling under this Act.

A bench of chief justice D Murugesan and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw on Friday transferred the batch of petitions filed by women landlords in the capital to another bench, after the petitioners sought recusal of justice Endlaw.

Citing the assets/properties declared by justice Endlaw under the Right to Information Act and posted on the HC website, advocate Shobha Aggarwal, president, Committee For Repeal of Delhi Rent Control Act and one of the petitioners, had urged the judge to recuse from hearing the case.

In the recusal application, Aggarwal contended she learnt from the disclosures made under the RTI Act that justice Endlaw’s assets in real estate or investments include an old tenancy premises in the Walled City area.

She said the premises were earlier occupied by the judge’s father. Pointing out that the property is known to be under rent control, the application cited this as “one of the several grounds for justice Endlaw to recuse himself from the case”.

Elaborating the reasons for seeking recusal, the application argued that if the HC were to declare Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958 unconstitutional, “tenants like justice Endlaw would have to vacate the premises immediately. Thus, there is a natural apprehension in the minds of the petitioners that because of the conflict of interest involved, justice may elude them.”

In 2010, the HC had decided to entertain the petition challenging the DRC Act, 1958, which is being keenly followed by beleaguered landlords who have been getting paltry rents for the prime properties they let out. It had then issued notices to the Centre and Delhi governments asking them to furnish a reply.

Through a series of rulings, the Supreme Court has already tilted the balance in favour of landlords — allowing them to invoke need as a ground even for commercial properties. The only defence still available to a tenant for not paying market rent is the DRC Act which places a ceiling on rent in the capital.

Arguing that DRCA should be done away with as it is a five-decade old Act that fails to adhere to the present rent structure, the petitioners have given examples of prime properties where tenants have been paying paltry rents for years and can’t be evicted. The Act, passed way back in 1958, is an archaic legislation liable to be struck down as unconstitutional and violative of Article 14, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India, the petitioners argue. “Lakhs of landlords who own property worth crores are getting monthly rents of Rs 400, Rs 600 or at the most Rs 1,200 and are living in a miserable state as they do not get the worth of their property,” the petitioners lament, adding tenants, who would have otherwise had to shell out about Rs 2-4 lakh rent for the same properties, are paying a pittance to the landlords.

 

Source: The Times of India

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