03 October 1996
Supreme Court


Case number: C.A. No.-012733-012735 / 1996
Diary number: 3521 / 1995
Advocates: NARESH K. SHARMA Vs






DATE OF JUDGMENT:       03/10/1996




JUDGMENT:                       J U D G M E N T S.B. Majmudar. J.      Leave  granted   in  all   these  three  Special  Leave petitions.      By consent  of learned advocates of parties the appeals were finally  heard and are being disposed of by this common judgment.      The  contesting   parties  in  these  appeals  are  two universities, namely,  Himachal Pradesh  University,  Shimla and Punjab University, Chandigarh. The dispute centers round the  ownership   and  possession   of  immovable  properties situated at  shimla in  the State of Himachal Pradesh. These properties consist  of  St.  Bernard.  Building  and  Dingle Lodge, located  at Upper  Kaithu, Shimla.  It is the case of the appellant-university  that these  properties have vested in it  by virtue  of  Section  8  of  the  Himachal  Pradesh University Act, 1970 (hereinafter referred to as ’the Act’). The  respondent-  university  opposes  this  contention  and submits that  these properties  belonged to  the respondent- university and  their possession by the appellant-university was  only  as  tenant.  The  contention  of  the  appellant- University has  stood rejected  in the proceedings initiated before the  Trial Court and subsequently in the hierarchy of proceedings in  further appeal  and revision before the High Court. Decrees for possession have come to be passed against the appellant-university  by the  Trial Court as well as the Appellate Court  and which  have got  confirmed by  the High Court.      There separate  proceedings which  have culminated into these  three  appeals  were  initiated  by  the  respondent- university   against    the   appellant-university.    First proceeding was  an application  for eviction  filed  by  the respondent-university  under  Himachal  Pradesh  Urban  Rent Control Act  praying for  an order of eviction on the ground that the  appellant-university had  not paid rent in respect of these  premises. It  was also  alleged that it had sublet the premises to other persons without the written consent of the landlord,  respondent-university. Two  other suits  were also  filed   by  the   respondent-university   before   the Subordinate  judge,   1st  Class  (I),  Shimla  against  the



appellant-university and  another for recovery of possession of two  suites, namely,  suite no.  2 and suite no. 4 in the very same St. Bernard Building together with damages for use and  occupation.   In  these   two  suits   the  respondent- university  contended   that  it   owned  the  property  and appellant was a tenant on payment of rent and it had already surrendered its  tenancy qua these suites to the respondent. That accordingly the suites were locked and subsequently the appellant-university or  its servants  broken open the locks and had  occupied the  suites and  also caused  damage t the articles. Punjab  University thus  prayed  for  recovery  of possession of  the suites  and also  claimed damages. In all these proceedings  common defence  was put  forward  by  the appellant-university, namely,  by virtue of Section 8 of the Act these  properties had vested in the appellant-university and, therefore,  the  respondent-university  had  no  right, title or  interest therein. This defence was rejected by the Trial Court  and it  was held that respondent-university was the owner  of these  premises and  the appellant  was only a tenant as  it had  defaulted in payment of rent, application for eviction  was required  to be allowed and the suits were also required to be decreed as the appellant had no right to remain in  the possession  thereof.  The  appeals  preferred against decrees  in the suits got dismissed by the Appellate Court. Similarly  the order  passed in  eviction proceedings also got  confirmed by  the Appellate  Court and that is how the appellant-university  filed two  second appeals  against decrees passed  in title  suits of the respondent-university and also moved a revision application against the decree for possession as  granted in  eviction proceedings  by the Rent Controller. As  all these  three proceedings  raised  common contention between  the parties they were heard together and were disposed  of by  the common judgment of the High Court. The second  appeal as  well as  revision application  of the appellant-university were  dismissed and  that  is  how  the appellant-university   is   before   us   in   the   present proceedings.      The  short   question  which   was   placed   for   our consideration by  the learned  counsel  for  the  appellant- university was  whether the  appellant-university had become the owner  of the  suit properties by virtue of Section 8 of the Act.  It was vehemently submitted by the learned counsel for the  appellant-university that  in view  of the  express language of  the said Section all the assets and liabilities of Punjab  University Regional  Centre  for  post  Graduated Studies and Punjab University Evening College, Shimla vested in the appellant-university. That these two centres were run by the  respondent-university prior  to the  application  of Section 8  of the  Act. That  earlier Shimla was also a part and parcel  of Punjab  State and  by virtue  of  the  Punjab Reorganisation Act,  1966 (hereinafter  referred to  as  ’as Reorganisation Act’)  part of  the territories of the Punjab State got  bifurcated  and  a  separate  State  of  Himachal Pradesh  was  ultimately  constituted.  That  by  virtue  of Section  72   of  the   Reorganisation  Act  the  appellant- university became  a successor  of the Punjab University qua its  earlier  functioning  and  operation  at  Shimla.  That entitled  the   appellant  to  step  in  the  shoes  of  the respondent-university   qua    these   premises    and   the institutions which were earlier belonging to the respondent- university and  which were functioning at Shimla fell within the  local   jurisdiction  of   the  appellant,   successor- university. This  was the legal effect of Section 72(1) read with Section  72(3) of  the Reorganisation  Act. It was next submitted that  once that happened by virtue of Section 8 of



the Act  all  the  assets  and  liabilities  of  the  Punjab University Regional  Centre for  Post Graduate  Studies  and Punjab University  Evening College,  Shimla got  statutorily vested  in   the  appellant-university.   That   these   two institutions of  the Punjab University were being run at the suit   premises    and,   therefore,   the   suit   premises automatically got  vested in  the appellant-university. That due to  some misconception about the correct legal position, the  Vice   Chancellor  of   the  appellant-university   had acknowledged that  the appellant-university  had  no  right, title or  interest in  the  suit  premises  and  was  to  be permitted to  continue as tenant thereof but having realised the legal  position payment  of rent  for occupation  of the premises was  suspended by the appellant-university and that there could  not be  any estoppel  about the  correct  legal position  as   envisaged  by  Section  8  of  the  Act  and, therefore, the  High Court  was in  error in taking the view that Section  8 did  not apply  to the  facts of the present case and that the suit premises did not vest in ownership of the appellant-university.      On the  other hand  learned counsel for the respondent- university submitted  that since  last number  of years  the appellant-university had  treated respondent as the owner of the premises  and had  acknowledge that they were tenants of the premises.  That the  subsequent somersault  taken by the appellant-university  was   not  legally  sustainable.  That Section 8  of the  Act could  not apply  to the facts of the case as  correctly held  by the  High Court  for the  simple reason that  the appellant had not established by any cogent evidence that the concerned Centre for post Graduate Studies and the  Evening College  at Shimla  belonged to  the Punjab University. That  on the  contrary the  finding of the Trial Court was  that this  Centre and College were tenants of the building belonging  to the  Punjab University  and hence the building could  not  vest  in  the  appellant-university  by virtue of  section  8.  It  was  also  submitted  that  even assuming that the Centre and the College were departments or limbs of  the Punjab  University there  was nothing  on  the record to  show that  the premises in question in which this Centre and  College were  located belonged to either of them or had  become the  assets of  either of  them. Even on that ground, therefore,  Section 8  would be  out of picture. The appellant, therefore,  continued to be tenant in arrears and was  rightly  ordered  to  be  evicted  from  the  premises. Similarly the  suits in  favour of  the respondent were also decreed  as   the  appellant  had  no  right  to  remain  in possession of  these two suites which were subject-matter of the Civil Suits.      In  order  to  resolve  this  controversy  between  two contesting universities  it is  necessary to  keep  in  view certain introductory  facts. Before  1966 Shimla was part of Punjab State  and Punjab  University was the only university which was  functioning both at chandigarh and also at shimla which was  within  its  territorial  jurisdiction.  It  also appears  that  the  respondent-university  was  running  two centres at  Shimla, one being the Punjab University Regional Centre for  post Graduate  Studies and  another being Punjab University Evening College, Both these institutions were run by the  respondent-university at  St. Bernard  Building  and Dingle Lodge  situated at Shimla. These premises were gifted to the respondent-university by a registered Gift Deed dated 7th December  1959 marked  as Ex,  PW1/A. The said Gift Deed was made  by Pt. Thakur Datt Sharma of Dharmarth Trust, Thus from 7th  December 1959  the suit  premises  came  into  the ownership of  respondent-university as  a donee and in those



premises  the   respondent   was   running   the   aforesaid institutions at  Shimla. In  1966 the bigger State of Punjab came to  be bifurcated  and on  account of reorganisation of the State  two separate  State of Punjab and Haryana and New Union  Territories  of  Chandigarh  and  some  part  of  the existing Himachal  Pradesh State  territory  then  known  as union Territory  of Himachal  Pradesh came to be formed. The latter territory  subsequently became  the State of Himachal Pradesh. Section  72 of  the  Reorganisation  Act  on  which strong reliance  is placed  by the  learned counsel  for the appellant along  with its  sub-sections (1) and (3) reads as Under :      "72.  General   provisions  as   to      statutory cooperations, (1) Save as      otherwise expressly provided by the      foregoing provisions  of this part,      where    any     body     corporate      constituted  under  a  Central  Act      State Act or provincial Act for the      existing State  of  Punjab  or  any      part thereof  serves the  needs  of      the  successor  State  or  has,  by      virtue of the provisions of part II      become    an    inter-State    body      corporate, then, the body corporate      shall, on  and from  the  appointed      day,  continue   to  function   and      operate in  those areas  in respect      of which  it  was  functioning  and      operating immediately  before  that      day, subject  to such directions as      may from  time to time be issued by      the Central Government, until other      provision is made by law in respect      of the said body corporate.      (2)...      (3) For  the removal of doubt it is      hereby declared that the provisions      of this section shall apply also to      the Punjab  University  constituted      under  the  Punjab  University  Act      1947, (East  Punjab Act  7 of 1947)      the Punjab  Agricultural University      constituted   under    the   Punjab      Agricultural University  Act, 1961,      (Punjab Act  32 of  1961)  and  the      Board   constituted    under    the      provisions of  part III of the Sikh      Gurdwaras Act,  1925 (Punjab  Act 8      of 1925)."      In view  of the  aforesaid statutory  provisions of the Reorganisation Act  it becomes  clear that from 1966 onwards the  erstwhile   Punjab  University  was  succeeded  by  the appellant-university  insofar   as   its   functioning   and operation at  Shimla were  concerned. Upto  this stage there cannot be  any serious  dispute between the parties. However the real  dispute between  the  parties  centers  round  the operation of Section 8 of the Act which reads as under :      "8.   Transfer    of   assets   and      liabilities  and  of  employees  of      certain   institutions    to    the      University. On  the commencement of      this   Act,    the    assets    and      liabilities of  Punjab  University-      Regional Centre  for post  Graduate



    Studies,  Shimla   and  the  Punjab      University Evening College, Shimla,      shall  stand   transferred  to  and      shall vest  in the  University,  in      accordance  with   the  terms   and      conditions   mutually   agreed   to      between  the   University  and  the      Punjab University,  Chandigarh. All      officers  and  other  employees  of      these institutions  holding  office      as  such   immediately  before  the      commencement of this Act, shall, on      such   commencement    become   the      officers and other employees of the      University;      provided that :-      (1) such  officers and employees of      the  above-mentioned   institutions      shall be  allowed  to  exercise  an      option whether  or  not  they  wish      their services  to be taken over by      the University;      (2) the existing rights and service      conditions of  such  employees  who      opt for  service in  the University      shall be protected;      (3) any  service  rendered  by  any      such  officer   or  other  employee      before such transfer of his service      to the  University shall  be deemed      to   be    service   rendered    in      connection with  the administration      of the University, on the condition      that  their   leave,  pension   and      provident   fund    and    gratuity      contribution  in   respect  of  the      service rendered  by  them  to  the      Punjab   University,    Chandigarh,      shall   be    reimbursed   to   the      University    by     the     Punjab      University, Chandigarh;      Provided further  that in the event      of any dispute or difficulty in the      matter  of  implementation  of  the      provisions  of   this  section  the      matter shall  be  referred  to  the      Central Government,  whose decision      shall be final."      A mere  look at  the aforesaid provision shows that out of  different  institutions  belonging  to  the  respondent- university which  might be  functioning at  Shimla or in any other  part   of  Himachal  Pradesh  which  came  under  the operational jurisdiction  of appellant-university  by virtue of Reorganisation  Act, the  Legislature  of  the  State  of Himachal  Pradesh   in  its   wisdom   selected   two   such institutions which were earlier run by the Punjab University at Shimla,  namely, Punjab  University Regional  Centre  for post Graduate Studies and Punjab University Evening College, Shimla for the purpose of vesting its assets and liabilities in the  successor-university,  namely,  the  appellant,  For applicability of  section 8  of the Act to the suit premises two conditions  are required  to be  satisfied, (i) that the concerned  two   institutions  at  Shimla  belonged  to  the erstwhile Punjab  University; and  (ii) that  the assets and liabilities of  these  two  institutions  included,  amongst



others, the  suit premises, namely, St. Bernard Building and Dingle Lodge  wherein they  were run so that they could also vest in  the appellant-university  as successor-in-title  to the respondent-university,  So  far  as  the  aforesaid  two conditions for  applicability of  Section 8 are concerned it may be  noted that  the learned  Appellate Judge came to the following finding:      "While deciding   issue  No. 1, the      learned Rent  Controller  had  held      that  the  respondent  is  not  the      owner of  premises in  question but      is only  a tenant  thereof and  the      relationship of landlord and tenant      exists between  the  parties.  This      finding objections on behalf of the      respondent despite  opportunity nor      has been  assailed at  the time  of      arguments.  I   do  not   find  any      infirmity in  the findings returned      by  the  Rent  Controller  on  this      issue and  accordingly confirm  the      same."      This finding  of the appellate Court was not challenged by the  appellant-university in  appeal as  clearly noted by the Appellate  Court in  paragraph eleven  of its  judgment. However as the said contention which went to the root of the matter was  allowed to be urged by the High Court in further appeals and  revision we  have considered this contention on its own  merits. While  considering this contention, we must observe that the finding reached by the Trial Court that the institutions, namely,  Centre for  post Graduate Studies and the Evening  College, Shimla  were the tenants of the Punjab University, cannot  be sustained in the light of the express language  of   Section  8  of  the  Act.  Section  8  itself contemplates that  these  institutions  belonged  to  Punjab University otherwise  there would  have been no occasion for the Legislature to lay down that the terms and conditions of vesting of  these institutions  in the  appellant-university would be mutually agreed to between the appellant-university on the  one hand  and Punjab  university, Chandigarh  on the other.  Implicit   in  this   provision  is   the  statutory assumption that  these institutions which were run at Shimla belonged to  the respondent-university,  That  also  contra- indicates the  contention of  the respondent-university that it was  the landlord  of the  premises and the centres which were run therein were its tenants, It has to be kept in view that it  is nobody’s  case that  these two  centres had  any legal entity  or were  corporation soles.  It appeared  they were just  the limbs  of respondent-university and were part and parcel  of its  own establishment  and organisation.  We must, therefore,  hold disagreeing  with the  Trial Court as well as  the High  Court that the Punjab University Regional Centre for  post  Graduate  Studies  and  Punjab  University Evening College  at Shimla  which were being run at the suit premises belonged  to respondent-Punjab  University and were owned by  it.  The  first  condition  for  applicability  of Section 8,  therefore, stands  satisfied. However  the  real difficulty  centers   round  applicability   of  the  second condition which  must  also  be  cumulatively  found  to  be satisfied before  the sweep  of Section 8 can be effectively utilised  by   the  appellant-university   for  proving  its ownership over  the suit  premises. It  must, therefore,  be shown  by   the  appellant-university   that  not  only  the aforesaid  two   institutions  at  Shimla  belonged  to  the respondent-university but  the suit  premises wherein  these



institutions were functioning and located also formed a part and parcel of the assets of the said two institutions. It is obvious that unless they belonged to these institutions they would not get vested by the statutory operation of Section 8 in  the   appellant-university.  Learned   counsel  for  the appellant despite  his best  efforts could not point out any relevant  evidence  for  showing  that  the  suit  premises, namely, the  St. Bernard Building and the Dingle Lodge which admittedly belonged  to the respondent-university as per the Gift Deed of 1959 had at any subsequent time got handed over in the  ownership of  the aforesaid  two institutions run by the respondent-university  at Shimla.  In  other  words  the ownership of  these suit  premises continued  to remain with the respondent-university  wherein  these  two  institutions were  permitted  to  be  run  by  the  respondent-university presumably  as  its  licensees.  All  the  assets  of  these institutions comprising  of movable  properties and  cash as well as  other furnitures  and  fixtures  located  at  these premises might  have got  vested in the appellant-university along with  the liabilities  of these institutions by virtue of Section  8 but  the further  question  whether  the  very building in  which these  two institutions  were functioning had also  got  transferred  in  ownership  from  the  Punjab University to  these two  institutions and  had thus  become their assets was required to be answered in the light of the available  evidence  on  record.  Learned  counsel  for  the appellant was  not able  to enlighten  us on this aspect. He could not  point any  evidence to  show as to when if at all respondent-university divested  itself of  its ownership  of these premises  and vested  it in these tow institutions. On the contrary  the evidence  on  record  suggested  that  the appellant-university consistently  took the  view that  even though the  institution with  assets and  liabilities  might have vested in the appellant-university by virtue of Section 8 the  ownership of the building had not got vested in these institutions which  had no  independent legal existence. And that is how years back the Vice Chancellor of the appellant- university by  letter Ex,  P-8 had requested the respondent- university to  permit the  appellant-university to  continue these institutions  in the  suit premises  for some time and had agreed  to pay  rent and  that is  how by  Ex. P-11  the respondent-university having  accepted this  request of  the vice chancellor of the appellant-university had decided that the suit  premises may  be placed  at the  disposal  of  the appellant-university for  a period  of two years on the same terms on  which they  were made available to Centre for post Graduate  Studies   and  the   Evening  College.   It  must, therefore, be  held that  the appellant-university failed to establish the  second condition  for  the  applicability  of Section 8  of the  Act, namely,  that the suit premises were belonging to  these two  institutions and  were forming part and parcel  of  their  assets  at  Shimla.  It  is  easy  to visualise  that  respondent-university  could  run  its  own institutions  which   may  also   be  treated   as  its  own departments at  Shimla either in a rented premises or in its own premises  by permitting  the concerned  institutions  to occupy them  on  their  behalf,  but  for  applicability  of Section 8 and for statutory vesting of these premises in the appellant-university it  must be shown that by any overt act on  the   part  of   the  respondent-university   which  was admittedly the  owner of the premises it had parted with its ownership in  favour of  these institutions  or had  treated them as  the full  owners thereof  so that  the institutions could be said to be having the premises themselves as a part and parcel  of their own assets. Till that stage was reached



statutory  vesting  of  these  premises  in  the  appellant- university by  virtue of  Section 8 could not be reached. On this aspect,  therefore, in  the  absence  of  any  relevant evidence on  record no finding could be reached in favour of the appellant.  Learned advocate for the appellant submitted that he has got evidence by way of public documents to point out that  the respondent-university  used to sanction grants for running these institutions at Shimla. Even assuming that to be  so all  that could be held in favour of the appellant is that  these  institutions  belonged  to  the  respondent- university. But  we have  shown earlier that by itself would not be  sufficient for  attracting   Section 8  of the  Act. Further requirement  of Section  8 was  to the  effect  that these suit  premises wherein these institutions were located must have  become part  and parcel  of the  assets of  these institutions. As that second and more important condition is found to  be lacking  in the  present  case  the  appellant- university cannot  get the  benefit of  statutory vesting of these premises  in its  favour by virtue of Section 8 of the Act. The  sole basis of the defence of the appellant against the legal  actions taken  out  by  respondent-university  is found to  be unsustainable.  Consequently no  relief can  be given to  the appellant-university  on that ground. There is no dispute  that the  appellant-university had not paid rent to the  respondent  for  the  concerned  period  and  was  a defaulter. Hence  on merits  also it  could not be said that the Trial  Court as well as the appellate Court and the High Court had committed any error in decreeing the suits as well as eviction  proceedings initiated by the respondent against the appellant.      In the result these appeals fail and are dismissed. There shall be no order as to costs.