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Jammu and Kashmir Houses and Shops Rent Control Act, 1966 does not apply to premises taken on rent by the Government: High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Srinagar

The question as to whether Jammu and Kashmir Houses and Shops Rent Control Act, 1966 applies to premises taken on rent by the Government, was examined by the HIGH COURT OF JAMMU & KASHMIR AND LADAKH AT SRINAGAR, by a bench consisting of HON’BLE MR JUSTICE SANJAY DHAR, in the matter of Shamsher Singh vs. Union of India & Ors. [OWP No.551/2014], on 24.12.21.

The facts of the case were that a building known as “Sukh Niwas” situated at Rajbagh, Srinagar, along with land underneath and appurtenant thereto was taken on rent by the respondents in the year 1968 on monthly rent. On 30.06.2004, petitioner served a notice through his Advocate upon respondent asking him to pay the arrears of rent @ Rs.50,000/ from the date the same has remained unpaid and also to vacate the premises and to hand over its possession to the petitioner within a period of one month from the date of receipt of the notice. A Board of Officers of Gulmarg Winter Project was appointed and authorized to conduct negotiations with regard to the settlement of rent. The Committee members held negotiations with petitioner and came to the conclusion that an amount of Rs.40,000/ per month should be paid to him as rent. In the meanwhile, respondents without paying rent @ Rs.40,000/ per month as was recommended by the Board of Officers of Gulmarg Winter Project, vacated the said building in the month of December, 2004. Thereafter petitioner again served a notice through his counsel upon respondent bringing to his notice all the facts and a request was made to get the loss caused to the building assessed and to pay arrears of rent along with interest @ 18% within a period of one month from the date of receipt of the notice.

Despite receipt of notice dated 30.03.2005, no steps were taken by the respondents to pay the arrears of rent. In the meanwhile, in the year 2008, petitioner became owner of the property in question in his own right. After becoming owner of the property in question, petitioner again approached the respondents requesting them to pay damages on account of loss caused to the building as well as arrears of rent. Due to the persistent requests of the petitioner, a Committee was constituted by the respondents in the year 2011 to discuss the issue. However, the Committee did not meet and no action in the matter was taken. Ultimately petitioner served a notice dated 12.02.2014 through his counsel upon the respondents asking them to settle his claim pertaining to loss caused to the building and payment of arrears of rent of the building at enhanced rate of Rs.50,000/40,000 per month.

The Learned Counsel for the Petitioner, Mr. M. A. Qayoom, put forth that accordingly, the petitioner has sought a direction upon respondents to pay the compensation on account of loss caused to the building in question by their overt and covert acts of omission and commission to be assessed by a team of experts. A further direction has been sought upon the respondents to pay arrears of rent of the building for the period commencing from 12/1989/04/1991 to December, 2004, to the petitioner @ Rs.50,000/Rs.40,000 per month along with interest @ 18% per annum.

The Learned Counsel for the Respondents, Mr. T. M. Shamsi, contended that the present petition has raised questions of fact which cannot be decided upon by the Court in the current proceedings. Further, it was contended that the petition suffered from delays and laches. It was also argued that since the question of enhancement of rent and other ancillary subject matters are governed by the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Houses and Shops Rent Control Act, 1966, as such, the instant petition is not maintainable.

The Honourable High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Srinagar, held that the preliminary objection raised by the respondents about the maintainability of the writ petition on the ground that subject matter of the same can be agitated by petitioner before the forum provided under the Jammu and Kashmir Houses and Shops Rent Control Act, 1966, is without any substance. Relying on precedents, it was held that the aforesaid legislation does not apply to the premises taken on rent by the Government. The Court however acknowledged the delay on the part of the petitioner in seeking remedy. Additionally, the question as to whether petitioner is entitled to recovery of arrears of rent from the respondents and if so, at what rate and for which period, was considered, and it was held that the same is not tenable. It was held that as far as part of claim of the petitioner is concerned, the same involves determination of intricate and complicated questions of fact which cannot be done in these proceedings. Thus, the writ petition was partly allowed and the respondents were directed to pay an amount of Rs.2,59,500/- as arrears of rent to the petitioner along with interest @6% per annum from the date rent had become due till the date of its actual payment. Further, it was held that so far as the claim of the petitioner regarding compensation for alleged damage caused to the demises premises is concerned, it is provided that the petitioner shall be at liberty to avail the appropriate remedy available to him under law.

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Judgement reviewed by Bhargavi

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