16 April 1982
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal Civil 1533 of 1980








CITATION:  1982 AIR 1091            1982 SCR  (3) 670  1982 SCC  (2) 210        1982 SCALE  (1)366  CITATOR INFO :  D          1987 SC 514  (5)

ACT:      Delhi Rent  Control Act,  1958-S.  14(1)(d)-Application for ejectment of tenant-Tenant ceasing to reside in premises for over six months-When maintainable.      Words  and   pharases-’Members  of  family’-Who  are-S. 14(1)(d) of Delhi Control Act, 1958.

HEADNOTE:      A landlord  is entitled  to recover  possession of  the premises let  for residential  purpose under  s. 14(1)(d) of the Delhi  Rent Control  Act, 1958,  if  he  can  show  that neither the  tenant nor  any member  of his  family has been residing therein  for a  period of  six  months  immediately before the date of the filing of the application.      The appellant  took the  house in  question on lease in May, 1961  and lived  there with  his parents, sisters and a brother. He  went to  Canada in  1971, leaving behind in the house, his  mother and  brother, who  continued to  pay  the rent.      The landlord  filed an  application  for  ejectment  of tenant under  s. 14(1)(d)  of the  Delhi Rent Control Act in September 1972  contending that  with the  migration of  the tenant to  Canada, his  mother  and  brother  could  not  be treated  as   members  of   the  appellant’s   family.   The application was  dismissed by  the Rent Controller who found that the  mother, brother  and sister  of the appellant were undoubtedly residing in the disputed premises along with the appellant and  continued to  reside there  even on  the date when the action for ejectment was brought.      The landlord’s  appeal against  the order  of the  Rent Controller was  allowed by  the Rent  Control Tribunal which ordered eviction of the family members of the appellant from the tenanted house.      The appeal  of the  family members against the order of eviction was  dismissed by the High Court on the ground that after the  exit of  the main  tenant to  Canada, neither the mother nor the brother or the sister could be legally termed as a member of the family of the appellant.      Allowing the appeal, 671



^      HELD: 1. (a) The Act affords intrinsic evidence to show that the  non-applicants were  undoubtedly  members  of  the family residing  in the  house and the migration of the main tenant to Canada would make no difference. [674 H]      (b) The  term ’family’ has to be given not a restricted but a  wider meaning. There are abundant authorities to show that the  term  ’family’  should  always  be  liberally  and broadly construed  so as  to include  near relations  of the head  of   the  family.   A  beneficial  provision  must  be meaningfully construed  so as  to advance  the object of the Act. [676 F; 678 E]      Price v. Gould and Ors., [1930] Vol. 143 Law Times 333; G.V. Shukla  v. Shri  Prabhu Ram  Sukhram Dass  Ojha, [1963] P.I.R. (Vol. LXV) 256; Govind Dass and Ors. v. Kuldip Singh, A.I.R. 1971 Delhi 151 and Hira Lal and Ors. v. Banarsi Dass, [1979] 1 R.L.R. 466 referred to.      (c) The Act has manifested its intention by virtue of a later amendment.  The definition  of ’tenant’ inserted in s. 2(1) of  the Act  by the  Amending Act  18 of 1976 expressly included ’parents’  in sub-clause  (iii)  thereof  and  also indicated that  apart from the heirs of the tenant specified therein, even  those persons  who had been ordinarily living in the  premises with the tenant would be treated as members of the family. [675 B; 677 H; 678 A]      2. (a)  The legislature has advisedly provided that any member of  the family  residing therein  for a period of six months immediately  before the  date of  the filing  of  the action would  be treated  as a  tenant. The stress is not so much on  the actual  presence of  the tenant  as on the fact that the  members of  the family actually live and reside in the tenanted  premises. Clause (d) of s. 14(1) of the Act is a  special  concession  given  to  the  landlord  to  obtain possession  only  where  the  tenanted  premises  have  been completely vacated by the tenant. [676 G-H; 677 A]      (b) The  landlord had  failed to  prove  the  essential ingredients of  clause (d)  of s.  14(1) of the Act so as to entitle him  to evict  the members of the family of the main tenant. It  could  not  be  said  that  when  the  appellant migrated to  Canada, he had severed all his connections with his mother  so that  she became  an absolute stranger to the family. Such  an  interpretation  is  against  our  national heritage and  could never have been contemplated by the Act. [680 B; 675 B]

JUDGMENT:      CIVIL APPELLATE  JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 1533 of 1980.      From the  Judgment and  Order dated  the 20th February, 1980 of  the High  Court of Delhi at New Delhi in S.A.O. 149 of 1979.      S.K. Mehta for the Appellant.      Yogeshwar Prasad,  Ravinder Bana  and Mrs. Rani Chhabra for the Respondent.      The Judgment of the Court was delivered by 672      FAZAL ALI,  J. This appeal by special leave is directed against a judgment dated February 20, 1980 of the Delhi High Court decreeing  the landlord’s  suit for  ejectment of  the tenant.      The facts  giving rise  to the  present litigation  are summarised in  the judgments  of the Rent Controller and the High Court and need not be repeated.



    Shorn of  details, the position seems to be that Baldev Singh took the premises on rent on May 12, 1961 at a monthly rental of  Rs. 95/-.  At the  time when the tenancy started, the tenant was living in the tenanted house with his father, mother, two sisters and a brother. The tenant himself was at that time a bachelor but seems to have married subsequently. One of his sisters was married in this very house.      As it  happened, in  1971 the  tenant  went  to  Canada followed by  his wife and children. It is alleged that after having gone  to Canada,  the husband alongwith his wife took up some  employment there.  Admittedly. the  tenant did  not return to  India after  1971. While  leaving for  Canada the tenant had left his mother and brother in the house who were regularly  paying  rent  to  the  landlord.  There  is  some controversy as to whether or not the mother and brother, who were left behind, were being supported by the tenant or were living on  their own  earnings  or  by  the  income  of  the property left  by the  tenant in  India. Such  a controversy however, is  of no  consequence in  deciding the question of law which arises for consideration in this case.      On September 27, 1972 the landlord filed an application for ejectment  of the  tenant on  the ground  of  bona  fide requirement and  non-residence of  the tenant  under clauses (d) and  (e) of  sub-section (1)  of section 14 of the Delhi Rent Control  Act, 1958  (hereinafter  referred  to  as  the ’Act’). The  fundamental plea taken by the landlord was that with the  exit of the tenant from the house it became vacant and his mother and brother who were left behind could not be treated as  members of  the family. Hence, in the eye of law the tenanted premises must be deemed to have fallen vacant.      The suit was resisted by the mother, brother and sister of the  tenant who averred that even if the tenant alongwith his wife  and children  had  shifted  to  Canada,  the  non- applicants were  continuing to live in the tenanted premises and as they had been paying rent 673 to the  landlord regularly, who had been accepting the same, no question of the tenancy becoming vacant arose.      Thus, the  entire case  hinges on the interpretation of the word  ’family’ as  also clauses (d) and (e) of s. 141(1) of the  Act. So  far as  clause (e)  is concerned,  both the courts below  found as a fact that the landlord was not able to prove  his bona  fide necessity.  Therefore,  as  far  as ground (e) is concerned, the same no longer survives in view of the  findings of  fact recorded  by the courts below. The only question  that remains  to be considered is whether the landlord can bring his case for eviction within the ambit of clause (d) of s. 14(1) which may be extracted thus:           "14 (1)  Notwithstanding anything  to the contrary      contained in  any other  law or  contract, no  order or      decree for  the recovery  of possession of any premises      shall be  made by  any court or Controller in favour of      the landlord against a tenant:           Provided  that   the   Controller   may,   on   an      application made  to him in the prescribed manner, make      an order for the recovery of possession of the premises      on one or more of the following grounds only, namely:           XX                  XX                 XX           (d) that  the premises  were  let  for  use  as  a      residence and  neither the tenant nor any member of his      family has  been residing  therein for  a period of six      months immediately before the date of the filing of the      application for the recovery of possession thereof;      A close  analysis of  this provision  would reveal that before  the  landlord  can  succeed,  he  must  prove  three



essential ingredients-      (1)   that the  premises were  let out  for  use  as  a           residence,      (2)   that the  tenant after  having taken the premises           has ceased to reside, and      (3)  that apart from the tenant no member of his family           also has  been residing for a period of six months           immediately before  the date  of the filing of the           application for ejectment. 674      It is manifest that unless the aforesaid conditions are satisfied the  landlord cannot  succeed in  getting a decree for ejectment. In the instant case, while it is the admitted case of  the parties  that the  tenant had shifted to Canada alongwith his wife and children, yet he had left his mother, brother and  sister in the house, hence the second essential condition of clause (d) continues to apply with full force.      The  learned   counsel  for   the  appellant,  however, submitted  that   the  mother,   brother  and   sister  were undoubtedly living  with the  tenant and  so  long  as  they continued to reside in the tenanted premises, there could be no question  of the  premises falling  vacant. To  this, the counsel for  the landlord countered that neither the mother, nor the  brother nor  the sister  could in law be treated as members of  the family  of the  tenant after  he had himself shifted to a country outside India. Even though while he was living in  Delhi, he was in Government service. Thus, it was argued that  in the eye of law, the so-called family members would lose  their status  as members  of the  family of  the tenant  and  would  be  pure  trespassers  or  licensees  or squatters.      While the  suit of  the landlord  was dismissed  by the Rent Controller,  the  Rent  Control  Tribunal  allowed  the appeal and  directed eviction  of the  family members of the tenant under  clause (d)  of s. 14(1) of the Act. The family members of  the tenant  then went  up in  appeal to the High Court which  also affirmed  the findings of the Tribunal and upheld the  order of  eviction passed  by it. The High Court was also  of the view that after the exit of the main tenant from India  to Canada,  neither the mother, nor the brother, nor the  sister could  be legally  termed as a member of the family of the tenant.      We have  heard counsel  for the  parties and  given our anxious consideration  to all  aspects of  the matter and we feel that  the High Court has taken a palpably wrong view of the law  in regard to the interpretation of the term ’member of the family’ as used in clause (d) of s. 14(1) of the Act. In coming  to its  decision, the  High Court  seems to  have completely overlooked  the dominant  purpose  and  the  main object of  the  Act  which  affords  several  intrinsic  and extrinsic evidence  to show  that  the  non-applicants  were undoubtedly members  of the family residing in the house and the migration  of the  main tenant  to Canada  would make no difference. The  word ’family’  has been  defined in various legal dictionaries and several 675 authorities of  various courts  and no  court has  ever held that mother  or a brother or a sister who is living with the older member  of the family would not constitute a family of the said member. Surely, it cannot be said by any stretch of imagination that  when the  tenant was  living with  his own mother in  the house and after he migrated to Canada, he had severed all  his connections  with his  mother so  that  she became  an   absolute  stranger   to  the  family.  Such  an interpretation is  against our  national heritage and, as we



shall show,  could never  have been  contemplated by the Act which has  manifested its  intention by  virtue of  a  later amendment.      Coming now  to (the  definitions, we find that in Words and Phrases (permanent Edition-volume 16) at pp. 303-311 the word ’family’ has been defined thus:           "The  father,   the  mother,   and  the   children      ordinarily constitute a "family".           "The word  "family" embraces  more than  a husband      and wife and includes children."           "A "family"  constitutes all who live in one house      under one head."           "Father and  mother of  two illegitimate children,      and children  themselves, all living together under one      roof, constituted a "family."                                                (pp. 303-304)           "The word  "family" in  statute authorizing use of      income  for   support  of  ward  and  "family"  is  not      restricted to  those individuals  to whom  ward owes  a      legal duty  of support,  but is  an expression of great      flexibility and  is liberally  construed, and  includes      brothers and  sisters in  poor financial  circumstances      for whom  the insane  ward, if  competent,  would  make      provision."                                                     (p. 311)           "The general or ordinarily accepted meaning of the      word "family",  as used  in Compensation  Act, means  a      group, comprising  immediate kindred, consisting of the      parents and  their children,  whether  actually  living      together or not."                                                     (p. 343)                                              (Emphasis ours) 676      Similarly,  in   Webster’s  Third   New   International Dictionary, the word ’family’ is defined thus:           "Family-household including  not only the servants      but also  the head  of the household and all persons in      it related  to him  by blood  or marriage...a  group of      persons of common ancestry."                                                     (p. 821)                                          (Emphasis supplied)      In Chambers  Twentieth Century  Dictionary (New Edition      1972), the word ’Family’ has been defined thus:           "family-the household,  or all  those who  live in      one house (as parents, children, servants): parents and      their children)"      In Concise  Oxford Dictionary (Sixth Edition), the same definition appears  to have  been given of the word ’family’ which may be extracted thus:           "family-Members of a household, parents, children,      servants, etc.  set of  parents  and  children,  or  of      relations, living  together or  not; persons  children.      All descendants of common ancestor."      A conspectus  of the  connotation of  the term ’family’ which emerges from a reference to the aforesaid dictionaries clearly shows  that the  word ’family’ has to be given not a restricted but a wider meaning so as to include not only the head of  the family  but all members or descendants from the common ancestors who are actually living with the same head. More particularly,  in our  country, blood  relations do not evaporate merely  because a member of the family-the father, the brother or the son-leaves his household and goes out for some time.  Furthermore, in our opinion, the legislature has advisedly used  the term  that  any  member  of  the  family residing therein  for a  period of  six  months  immediately



before the date of the filing of the action would be treated as a  tenant. The  stress is  not  so  much  on  the  actual presence of  the tenant  as on  the fact that the members of the  family   actually  live  and  reside  in  the  tenanted premises. In  fact, it  seems to  us that  clause (d)  of s. 14(1) of  the Act  is a  special  concession  given  to  the landlord  to  obtain  possession  only  where  the  tenanted premises have 677 been completely  vacated by  the  tenant  if  he  ceased  to exercise  any  control  over  the  property  either  through himself or through his blood relations.      In fact, a controversy arose as to what would happen to the members of the family of the tenant if while residing in the premises  he dies  and in  order to resolve this anomaly the legislature  immediately stepped  in  to  amend  certain provisions of  the Act and defined the actual connotation of the term  ’members of  the family’.  By virtue  of Act 18 of 1976 the  definition of  "Tenant"  was  inserted  so  as  to include various  categories of  persons. Sub-clause (iii) of clause (i)  of section  2 of  the Act  actually mentions the persons who  could be regarded as tenant even if main tenant dies. This sub-clause may be extracted thus:           "(1) "tenant" means any person by whom or on whose      account or  behalf the rent of any premises is, or, but      for a special contract, would be, payable and includes-      (i) a sub-tenant;      (ii) any  person continuing  in  possession  after  the           termination of his tenancy; and     (iii) in the event of the death of the person continuing           in  possession   after  the   termination  of  his           tenancy, subject  to the  order of  succession and           conditions specified, respectively, in Explanation           I and  Explanation II  to this  clause such of the           aforesaid person’s-           (a)  spouse,           (b)   son or daughter or, where there are both son                and daughter, both of them,           (c)  parents,           (d)   daughter-in-law,  being  the  widow  of  his                predeceased son,           as had been ordinarily living in the premises with           such person  as a  member or members of his family           up to the date of his death, but does not include,           ....."      It would appear that parents were expressly included in sub-clause (iii).  It has also been provided that apart from the heirs 678 specified in  clauses (a)  to (d)  (extracted  above),  even those persons who had been ordinarily living in the premises with the  tenant would  be treated as members of the family. The statement  of objects and reasons for this amendment may be extracted thus:           "There has been a persistent demand for amendments      to the  Delhi Rent  Control Act,  1958 with  a view  to      conferring   a    right   of    tenancy   on    certain      heirs/successors of a deceased statutory tenant so that      they may  be protected  from eviction  by landlords and      also for  simplifying the  procedure  for  eviction  of      tenants in case the landlord requires the premises bona      fide for  his personal  occupation. Further, Government      decided on  the 9th  September, 1975  that a person who      owns his  own house  in his place of work should vacate      the Government accommodation allotted to him before the



    31st December,  1975. Government considered that in the      circumstances,  the   Act  required   to   be   amended      urgently."      If this  was the  intention  of  the  legislature  then clause (d)  of  section  14(1)  of  the  Act  could  not  be interpreted in  a manner  so as to defeat the very object of the Act. It is well settled that a beneficial provision must be meaningfully construed so as to advance the object of the Act, and  curing any lacuna or defect appearing in the same. There  are  abundant  authorities  to  show  that  the  term "Family" must  always be  liberally and broadly construed so as to include near relations of the head of the family.      In Hira  Lal & Ors. v. Banarsi Dass(1) even the learned Judge who  decided that  case had  observed at page 472 that the  term   "members  of   the  family"  on  the  facts  and circumstances of  the case  should not  be  given  a  narrow construction.      In Gobind  Dass &  Ors. vs.  Kuldip Singh(2) a Division Bench of  Delhi High  Court consisting  of H.R. Khanna, C.J. (as he  then was)  and Prakash  Narain, J. while recognising the necessity  of giving  a wide  interpretation to the word "family" observed as follows:           "I  hold   that   in   the   section   now   under      consideration the  word "family"  includes brothers and      sisters of the deceased 679      living with  her at the time of her death. I think that      that meaning is required by the ordinary acceptation of      the word  in this  connection and  that the legislature      had used  the word "family" to introduce a flexible and      wide term."      In Mrs.  G. V.  Shukla v.  Shri Prabhu Ram Sukhram Dass Ojha(1) Mahajan, J. (as he then was) observed as follows:           "Therefore, it must be held that the word ’family’      is  capable   of   wider   interpretation,   but   that      interpretation must have relation to the existing facts      and circumstances proved on the record in each case."      Even as  far back as 1930, Wright, J. in Price v. Gould & Ors  (2) (a  King’s Bench  decision) had clearly held that the word  "family" included brothers and sisters and in this connection observed as follows:           "I find  as a  fact that  the brothers and sisters      were residing  with the  deceased at  the time  of  her      death..It has  been laid  down that the primary meaning      of the  word "family"  is children,  but  that  primary      meaning is clearly susceptible of wider interpretation,      because the  cases decide  that the  exact scope of the      word  must   depend  on   the  context  and  the  other      provisions  of   the  will  or  deed  in  view  of  the      surrounding circumstances."           ...                ...               ....      "Thus, in Snow v. Teed (1870, 23 L.T. Rep. 303; L. Rep.      9 Eq.  622) it was held that the word "family" could be      extended beyond not merely children but even beyond the      statutory next of kin."      In view,  however, of the very clear and plain language of clause  (d) of section 14(1) of the Act itself, we do not want to burden this judgment by multiplying authorities.      On a  point of  fact, we  might mention  that the  Rent Controller had  given  a  clear  finding  that  the  mother, younger brother  (Davinder Kumar  Bangia) and  sister (Vijay Lakshmi) were  undoubtedly residing in the disputed premises alongwith the main 680 tenant and  continued to  reside there even on the date when



the action for ejectment was brought.      In these  circumstances, we are satisfied that the view taken by  the High  Court is legally erroneous and cannot be supported. The  landlord has  miserably failed  to prove the essential ingredients  of clause (d) of section 14(1) of the Act so  as to entitle him to evict the members of the family of the main tenant.      We therefore, allow this appeal, set aside the judgment and order  of the  High Court  and dismiss  the  plaintiff’s action for  ejectment and  restore the  judgment of the Rent Controller. In the peculiar circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to cost. H.L.C.                                       Appeal allowed. 681