SC on Status of Legal Representatives after Death of Statutory Tenant


April 24, 2018

Case name: Suresh Kumar Kohli v. Rakesh Jain

Date of Judgment: April 19, 2018

The issue in the case related to the status of the succeeding legal representatives after the death of the statutory tenant. To settle the issue, the Court noted that two capacities required consideration in the case i.e. tenancy-in-common and joint tenancy, and the rights that one holds in these two different capacities.

Who is a Statutory Tenant?

At this stage it would be relevant to elucidate on the concept of statutory tenant. The Supreme Court in the case of Smt. Gian Devi Anand vs Jeeevan Kumar and Others[1]  had expounded on the term “statutory tenant” to hold that the term “statutory tenant” is used in English Rent Act and though this term is not to be found in the Indian Legislations, in the judgments of the Supreme Court and also various High Courts in India, this term has often been used to denote a tenant whose contractual tenancy has been terminated but who has become entitled to continue to remain in possession by virtue of the protection afforded to him by the statutes in question; namely, the various Rent Control Acts prevailing in different States of India.

Bench’s Verdict

  • The Supreme Court noted that fundamentally, the concepts of joint tenancy and tenancy-in-common are different and distinct in form and substance. The incidents regarding the co-tenancy and joint tenancy are different: joint tenants have unity of title, unity of commencement of title, unity of interest, unity of equal shares in the joint estate, unity of possession and right of survivorship.
  • That tenancy-in-common is a different concept. There is unity of possession but no unity of title, i.e. the interests are differently held and each co-tenant has different shares over the estate. Thus, the tenancy rights, being proprietary rights, by applying the principle of inheritance, the shares of heirs are different and ownership of leasehold rights would be confined to the respective shares of each heir and none will have title to the entire leasehold property. Therefore, the estate shall be divided among the co-tenants and each tenant in common has an estate in the whole of single tenancy. Consequently, the privity exists between the landlord and the tenant in common in respect of such estate.
  • That when original tenant dies, the legal heirs inherit the tenancy as joint tenants and occupation of one of the tenant is occupation of all the joint tenants. It is not necessary for landlord to implead all legal heirs of the deceased tenant, whether they are occupying the property or not. It is sufficient for the landlord to implead either of those persons who are occupying the property, as party. There may be a case where landlord is not aware of all the legal heirs of deceased tenant and impleading only those heirs who are in occupation of the property is sufficient for the purpose of filing of eviction petition. An eviction petition against one of the joint tenant is sufficient against all the joint tenants and all joint tenants are bound by the order of the Rent Controller as joint tenancy is one tenancy and is not a tenancy split into different legal heirs. Thus, the plea of the tenants on this count must fail.

 

 

 

 

[1] 1985 AIR 796

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Shilpi Sharan

- Shilpi Sharan is the Editor at Vakilno1.com - an Advocate with extensive knowledge in myriad fields of Law. She has a flair of writing and has legal publications in national and international law magazines to her credit. She focuses on legal research and aims at raising public awareness of laws in India.