Sub-Tenancy [Indian Law Encyclopedia]

Tanmoy Supreme  Court in Bharat Sales Ltd. vs. Life Insurance Corporation of India (1998) 3 SCC 1, while dealing with the case of sub-letting succinctly explained the concept of sub-letting and what are its attributes.

Justice Sagir Ahmad, speaking for the Two Judge Bench, held as under:

“4. Sub-tenancy or sub-letting comes into existence when the tenant gives up possession of the tenanted accommodation, wholly or in part, and puts another person in exclusive possession thereof. This arrangement comes about obviously under a mutual agreement or understanding between the tenant and the person to whom the possession is so delivered. In this process, the landlord is kept out of the scene. Rather, the scene is enacted behind the back of the landlord, concealing the overt acts and transferring possession clandestinely to a person who is an utter stranger to the landlord, in the sense that the landlord had not let out the premises to that person nor had he allowed or consented to his entering into possession over the demised property.

It is the actual, physical and exclusive possession of that person, instead of the tenant, which ultimately reveals to the landlord that the tenant to whom the property was let out has put some other person into possession of that property. In such a situation, it would be difficult for the landlord to prove, by direct evidence, the contract or agreement or understanding between the tenant and the sub-tenant. It would also be difficult for the landlord to prove, by direct evidence, that the person to whom the property had been sub-let had paid monetary consideration to the tenant. Payment of rent, undoubtedly, is an essential element of lease or sub-lease.

It may be paid in cash or in kind or may have been paid or promised to be paid. It may have been paid in lump sum in advance covering the period for which the premises is let out or sub-let or it may have been paid or promised to be paid periodically. Since payment of rent or monetary consideration may have been made secretly, the law does not require such payment to be proved by affirmative evidence and the court is permitted to draw its own inference upon the facts of the case proved at the trial, including the delivery of exclusive possession to infer that the premises were sub-let.”