The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971
As per eminent Jurist and Advocate late Mr. N.A. Palkhiwala, there is no Act, more draconian post-independence than Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 hereafter referred to as “the P.P. Act”.
Due to the delay in disposal of cases between the landlord and tenant, whenever landlord was Central Government, the Government felt the necessity of quick eviction of unauthorized occupants, who invariably sought protection under State Rent Act and delayed the inevitable.
There were cases where Central Govt. employees after retirement, transfer or removal from service, continued to occupy their service apartments. Similarly the members of Parliament, after they ceased to be as such continued to occupy premises allotted to them.
To tide over such situations the P.P. Act was passed. The intention was never to dislodge genuine tenants, who were protected by State Rent Act.
However in 1980 the definition of public premises was amended and Government Companies, statutory Corporations including nationalized Banks were interalia brought within the scope of Public Premises and immediately thereafter the landlords started terminating the tenancies of genuine tenants and after the end of termination period started referring them as unauthorized occupants.
The definition of “Unauthorised Occupation” did not provide for any specific grounds for termination of tenancy of genuine tenants and it could be determined for “for any reason whatsoever”.
The biggest irony was that the Application for eviction by the landlord was to be made before one of their own officers, who was appointed as “Estate Officer”, who need not have any knowledge of law and was expected to act as a trial Court Judge by forgetting that he was officer of the landlord at all times except when he sat to hearthe eviction cases filed by his employer.
Obviously there was no chance for the genuine tenant to succeed before a bias authority and imaginary ground of eviction.
To top that, the tenant is supposed to prove the negative that he is not in unauthorized occupation by showing cause to the eviction notice and application. However in the case of genuine tenants, the Supreme Court interpreted in the matter of Nusli Wadia that it is for the landlord to prove that the tenant had become unauthorized occupant.
In a recent case of Dr. Phophale, the Supreme Court held that if the tenant is occupying the premises before 1958 or before the date on which landlord became public premises then the provisions of P.P. Act do not apply to such a case and the landlord will have to resort to State Rent Act for evicting the tenant.
A review petition has been filed in Supreme Court by the landlord i.e. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., and the same is likely to come up for hearing in near future and the result thereof is keenly awaited by the tenant community.
This article has been written by Rajan Jayakar, Advocate and Solicitor, and Trustee, V Citizens Action Network.
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