Sunday, 16 October 2016

What is “Doctrine of tenant’s estoppel” ?

During the course of its judgment, this Court dealt with “tenant’s estoppel”
as statutorily recognized in Section 116 of the Evidence Act and observed as
under:-
“10. Since the doctrine of “tenant’s estoppel” could throw light
on the question as to what can make a landlord to succeed in
enforcing his right to recover possession of accommodation
from a tenant under clause (b) of Section 23-A of the Act, it
would be advantageous to refer to its scope and applicability,
before taking it up for our consideration.
11.“Doctrine of tenant’s estoppel” which governs the
relationship of landlord and tenant is founded on a contract of
tenancy entered into by them, is well settled. Jessel, M.R., who
adverted to that doctrine in Stringer’s Estate, Shaw v.
Jones-Ford LR 6 Ch D 1:37 LT 233
 explains it thus:
 “Where a man having no title obtains possession of land
under a demise by a man in possession who assumes to give him
a title as tenant, he cannot deny his landlord’s title, as, for
instance, if he takes for twenty-one years and he finds that the
landlord has only five years’ title, he cannot after five years set
up against the landlord the jus tertii, though, of course, the real
owner can always recover against him. That is a perfectly
intelligible doctrine. He took possession under a contract to pay
rent so long as he held possession under the landlord, and to give
it up at the end of the term to the landlord, and having taken it in
that way he is not allowed to say that the man whose title he
admits and under whose title he took possession has not a title.
That is a well-established doctrine. That is estoppel by contract.”
12. Indeed, the said doctrine of tenant’s estoppel, finds statutory
recognition in Section 116 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, for
short ‘the Evidence Act’, in that, it states that “no tenant of
immovable property, or person claiming through such tenant,
shall during the continuance of the tenancy, be permitted to deny
that the landlord of such tenant had, at the beginning of the
tenancy, a title to such immovable property”.
13. This Court in Sri Ram Pasricha v. Jagannath(1976) 4 SCC 184
, has also
ruled that in a suit for eviction by landlord, the tenant is
estopped from questioning the title of the landlord because of

Section 116 of the Act. 
Non-Reportable
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.7360 OF 2016
(Arising out of SLP(Civil) No.9418 of 2011)
Ambika Savaria & Ors. 
Versus
Sanjay Sharma & Ors. 

Uday Umesh Lalit, J.
Citation:AIR 2016 SC 3681

1.  This appeal challenges correctness of the judgment
and order dated 20.10.2010 passed by the High Court of Chhattisgarh at
Bilaspur allowing Second Appeal No.242 of 1989 and setting aside
concurrent decisions of the Trial Court and Lower Appellate Court granting
decree of eviction in favour of the appellants.
2. Civil Suit No.67-A of 1979 was filed by Vasudev Shyamji and Govind
Shyamji, the predecessors of the appellants seeking eviction of one
Bhanaram Sharma, predecessor of the respondents from suit house which
was described in the plaint as the front portion of house No.189/1, Ward
No.18, Raigarh. The eviction was sought on grounds including bona fide
need. In paragraph 2 of his written statement Bhanaram stated, “……..It is
specifically denied that the plaintiffs are owners of house No.189/1 in Ward
No.18 of Raigarh Town. This being a suit for eviction of a tenant the question
of ownership is not relevant to the suit.”
3. Thus though it was denied that the plaintiffs were owners of the suit
house, in the very next sentence defendant Bhanaram asserted that the
question of ownership was not relevant in the instant suit. Bhanaram entered
the witness box and in his cross-examination admitted that the lease from
Nazul Department stood in the name of plaintiffs and that the witness himself
had produced the same in some other proceedings. It was further accepted
that he had paid rent by money orders sent in the name of Shyamji Gangji,
father of the plaintiffs.
4. The aforesaid suit was re-numbered as Civil Suit No.417A of 1986.
After considering the evidence on record the Trial Court by its judgment and
order dated 21.01.1987 decreed the suit principally on the ground that the
plaintiffs required the suit house for reconstruction and for bona fide need. 
5. The matter having been carried in appeal by Bhanaram, the Lower
Appellate Court also considered the question regarding ownership of the suit
house. While considering the evidence of Bhanaram, it observed, “……This
witness has also admitted that lease from nazul of this property was also
accepted in the name of plaintiffs and he himself has produced that lease on
his behalf in other civil court.” The Lower Appellate Court affirmed the
view taken by the Trial Court and dismissed Civil Appeal No.3A/87 vide its
judgment and order dated 20.03.1989.
6. The heirs of Bhanaram namely the respondents being aggrieved, filed
Second Appeal No.242 of 1989 in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur.
This appeal came to be allowed by the High Court vide judgment and order
dated 20.10.2010. It was observed by the High Court that for a plaintiff to
succeed in seeking eviction of tenant on the ground of bona fide need under
Section 12(1)(e) of the Chhatisgarh Accommodation Control Act, 1961
(hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) it was incumbent to establish that he
was owner of the accommodation in question. After considering the evidence
on record, particularly that of defendant Bhanaram it was observed:
“Evidence of this witness, pleadings and evidence of
defendant Bhanaram Sharma clearly reveal that father of
Vasudev Shyamji i.e. Shyamji Gangji was landlord of the
suit accommodation, but was not owner of the suit
accommodation. In his detailed evidence, Vasudev
Shyamji has not stated anything to show that how he
became owner of the suit accommodation.”
According to the High Court, the fact that defendant Bhanaram used
to pay rent of the suit house to the father of the plaintiffs, was not sufficient
to prove ownership over the suit house especially when ownership was
under dispute and the plaintiffs had not adduced any evidence to prove the
issue of ownership.
7. The aforesaid judgment of the High Court is presently under appeal.
We heard Mr. Kamal Mohan Gupta, learned Advocate in support of the
quotation and Mr. Ujjal Banerjee, learned Advocate for the respondents.
Relying on the decision of this Court in Anar Devi(Smt) v. Nathu Ram1
it
was submitted by Mr. Gupta, learned Advocate that the defendant was
estopped from questioning the title of the plaintiffs and that the High Court
was in error in allowing the second appeal. Mr. Banerjee, learned Advocate
supported the view taken by the High Court and submitted that no evidence
whatsoever was led to prove ownership of the suit house which was
necessary in view of Section 12(1)(e) of the Act.
1
 (1994) 4 SCC 250 Page 5
5
8. The relevant provision, namely, Section 12(1)(e) of the Act is as
under:
 “12. Restriction on eviction of tenants – (1)
Nothwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in
any other law or contract, no suit shall be filed in any
civil Court against a tenant for his eviction from any
accommodation except on one or more of the following
grounds only, namely:
…………………………………………
(e) that the accommodation let for residential purpose is
required bona fide by the landlord for occupation as a
residence for himself or for any member of his family, if
he is the owner thereof, or for any person for whose
benefit the accommodation is held and that the landlord
or such person has no other reasonably suitable
residential accommodation of his own in his occupation
in the city or town concerned;
……………………………………………..”
9. In Anar Devi’s case the provision which came up for consideration
was Section 23-A(b) of M.P. Accommodation Control Act which was as
under:-
“23-A. Special provisions for eviction of tenant on ground of
bona fide requirement.— Notwithstanding anything contained
in any other law for the time being in force or contract to the
contrary, a landlord may submit an application, signed and
verified in a manner provided in Rules 14 and 15 of Order VI of
the First Schedule to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (V of
1908) as if it were a plaint to the Rent Controlling Authority on
one or more of the following grounds for an order directing the
tenant to put the landlord in possession of the accommodation,
namely—
(a)………..
Explanation….
(b) that the accommodation let for non-residential purpose of
continuing or starting his business or that of any of his major
sons or unmarried daughters, if he is the owner thereof or for
any person for whose benefit the accommodation is held and
that the landlord or such person has no other reasonably
suitable non-residential accommodation of his own in his
occupation in the city or town concerned:
 …………………………………..….”
10. The relevant provision in the instant case, namely, Section 12(1)(e) of
the Act is pari materia with Section 23-A(b) which was considered in Anar
Devi’s case. The expression, “if he is the owner thereof” is common and
identically placed. Para 18 of the decision in Anar Devi’s case discloses that
the respondent-tenant had acknowledged the ownership of the
accommodation as that of the appellant and had regarded her as the landlord
in his counter notice. In the circumstances it was held that the respondent
was not entitled to deny the title of the appellant to the accommodation.
During the course of its judgment, this Court dealt with “tenant’s estoppel”
as statutorily recognized in Section 116 of the Evidence Act and observed as
under:-
“10. Since the doctrine of “tenant’s estoppel” could throw light
on the question as to what can make a landlord to succeed in
enforcing his right to recover possession of accommodation
from a tenant under clause (b) of Section 23-A of the Act, it
would be advantageous to refer to its scope and applicability,
before taking it up for our consideration.
11.“Doctrine of tenant’s estoppel” which governs the
relationship of landlord and tenant is founded on a contract of
tenancy entered into by them, is well settled. Jessel, M.R., who
adverted to that doctrine in Stringer’s Estate, Shaw v.
Jones-Ford2
 explains it thus:
 “Where a man having no title obtains possession of land
under a demise by a man in possession who assumes to give him
a title as tenant, he cannot deny his landlord’s title, as, for
instance, if he takes for twenty-one years and he finds that the
landlord has only five years’ title, he cannot after five years set
up against the landlord the jus tertii, though, of course, the real
owner can always recover against him. That is a perfectly
intelligible doctrine. He took possession under a contract to pay
rent so long as he held possession under the landlord, and to give
it up at the end of the term to the landlord, and having taken it in
that way he is not allowed to say that the man whose title he
admits and under whose title he took possession has not a title.
That is a well-established doctrine. That is estoppel by contract.”
12. Indeed, the said doctrine of tenant’s estoppel, finds statutory
recognition in Section 116 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, for
short ‘the Evidence Act’, in that, it states that “no tenant of
immovable property, or person claiming through such tenant,
shall during the continuance of the tenancy, be permitted to deny
that the landlord of such tenant had, at the beginning of the
tenancy, a title to such immovable property”.
13. This Court in Sri Ram Pasricha v. Jagannath3
, has also
ruled that in a suit for eviction by landlord, the tenant is
estopped from questioning the title of the landlord because of
2
 LR 6 Ch D 1:37 LT 233
3
 (1976) 4 SCC 184Page 8
8
Section 116 of the Act. The Judicial Committee in Kumar
Krishna Prasad Lal Singha Deo v. Baraboni Coal Concern
Ltd.4
, when had occasion to examine the contention based on the
words ‘at the beginning of the tenancy’ in Section 116 of the
Evidence Act, pronounced that they do not give a ground for a
person already in possession of land becoming tenant of another,
to contend that there is no estoppel against his denying his
subsequent lessor’s title. Ever since, the accepted position is that
Section 116 of the Evidence Act applies and estops even a
person already in possession as tenant under one landlord from
denying the title of his subsequent landlord when once he
acknowledges him as his landlord by attornment or conduct.
Therefore, a tenant of immovable property under landlord who
becomes a tenant under another landlord by accepting him to be
the owner who had derived title from the former landlord,
cannot be permitted to deny the latter’s title, even when he is
sought to be evicted by the latter on a permitted ground.
14. The scope and applicability of the doctrine of “tenant’s
estoppel” being what we have said of it, we shall now proceed to
consider the aforesaid question which has arisen with reference
to the right of landlord under Section 23-A(b) of the Act in the
matter of recovery of possession of the accommodation from the
tenant.”
11. In the instant case though defendant Bhanaram in his written
statement had denied ownership of the plaintiffs he went on to add, “This
being a suit for eviction of a tenant, the question of ownership is not relevant
to the suit”. In his cross-examination he clearly admitted that the lease from
Nazul Department stood in the name of the plaintiffs and that the witness
himself had produced that document in some other proceedings. He had
4
 AIR 1937 PC 251
further admitted that he used to pay rent by money orders in the name of the
father of the plaintiffs. On facts, it must be held that defendant Bhanaram
had without any doubt regarded the plaintiffs as landlords and owners of the
suit house. This matter is thus fully covered by the decision of this Court in
Anar Devi’s case and it was not open to defendant Bhanaram to question the
ownership of the plaintiffs-landlords.
12. In the circumstances, the view taken by the High Court while setting
aside the concurrent decisions of the Courts below was not correct and
justified. We, therefore, allow this appeal. While setting aside the judgment
under appeal, we restore the decisions of the Trial Court and the Lower
Appellate Court passed in the instant case.
13. Since respondents are in occupation of the suit house for last more
than 40 years, we deem it appropriate to grant them time upto 31st August,
2017 to vacate and hand-over peaceful possession of the suit house to the
appellants subject to the respondents filing usual undertakings within four
weeks from the date of this judgment. In case no such undertakings are filed
by each of the respondents within the time so stipulated, the appellants shall
be free to execute the decree for eviction of the suit house.
14. The appeal stands allowed in the aforesaid terms without any order as
to costs.
………………………………J.
 (C. Nagappan)
………………………………J.
(Uday Umesh Lalit)
New Delhi,
August 09, 2016
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