The Division Bench of the High Court, though not required in law to do so, minutely scrutinized the evidence produced by the parties and concurred with the Rent Control Court and the Appellate Authority that the Respondents had succeeded in making out a case for eviction of the Appellant under Section 11(4)(v). The High Court referred to the expression “reasonable cause” used in Section 11(4)(v), the judgment in Paulina Joseph v. Idukki District Wholesale Co-operative Consumer Stores Ltd., (2006) 1 KLT 603 and observed:
Interpreting the scope and meaning of “reasonable cause” provided in Section 11(4)(v) of the Act a Division Bench of this Court in Paulina Joseph v. Idukki District Wholesale Co-operative Consumer Stores Ltd., 2006 (1) KLT 603, held that if there is a plausible explanation to the question why the business was not run in the premises continuously, it may be a relevant fact in considering whether there was reasonable cause for cessation of occupation. But it is held that existence of such reasonable cause depends on the facts and circumstances of each cases. It is further held that the occupation of the building depends on the purpose for which it is let and the purpose for which it is used. The nature of the business and the requirement of the physical presence or otherwise of the tenant in the building for the conduct of the business is a relevant fact. But in this case on considering the facts the requirement of physical presence is highly essential to observe that the tenant company is continuing in occupation, because the tenanted premises is occupied as their office and godown. The burden to prove that there is reasonable cause for non occupation is solely on the tenant when it is proved that there is cessation of physical occupation.
In Paulina Joseph v. Idukki District Wholesale Co-operative Consumer Stores Ltd. (supra), the Division Bench of the High Court referred to the dictionary meaning of the word “reasonable” and observed:
The question whether the tenant ceases to occupy the building continuously for six months is primarily a question of fact to be determined with reference to the facts available in each case. The scope of “occupation of the building” depends on the purpose for which the building is let and the purpose for which it is used. The nature of the business and the requirement of the physical presence or otherwise of the tenant in the building for the conduct of the business is a relevant fact. No straight jacket formula can be evolved in the matter of proof of cessation of occupation within the meaning of Section 11(4)(v) of the Act. This intention of the tenant, though not conclusive as such has also relevance in determining whether there was actual cessation of occupation within the meaning of Section 11(4)(v). When it is proved by the landlord that the tenant ceased to occupy the building continuously for six months, the burden of proving that there was reasonable cause for such cessation is on the tenant. reasonable cause is also a question of fact to be decided in the light of the facts proved in the case. No rigid formula can be evolved for proof of “reasonable cause”. The facts and circumstances of the case, the particular facts with reference to the business activities of the tenant, the nature of the business, the magnitude of the business, the circumstance which led to the cessation of occupation are all relevant in considering whether there was reasonable cause. If the cessation of occupation was due to circumstances beyond the control of the tenant, certainly the Courts would be inclined to accept the case of the tenant that cessation of occupation was not without reasonable cause. Financial constraint of the tenant by itself may not be a sufficient reason to hold that there was reasonable cause. But that is not completely irrelevant in considering the question. Whether the tenant is an individual or an organization controlled by the Government or a Co-operative society may also be relevant in considering the question of reasonable cause. If there is a plausible explanation to the question why the business was not run in the premises continuously, it may well be a relevant fact in considering whether there was reasonable cause for cessation of occupation under Section 11(4)(v), depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. In the given set of facts and circumstances, if it can be concluded that an ordinary prudent man would act in the manner in which the tenant did, it can be safely said that the cessation of occupation was with reasonable cause.
The question to be examined is whether on the facts of this case the tenant was successful in proving any such reasonable cause. The rent control petitions were filed during the years 2002 and 2003. It has come out in evidence that the tenant ceased to occupy the premises since last so many years from the date of filing of the rent control petition itself. Further it has come out in evidence that since the lapse of more than six years from filing of rent control petitions, still as on today, it is conceded that the company could not resume business of physical occupation at the tenanted premises. Therefore we have no hesitation to hold that the tenant was not successful in establishing any genuine intention or hope of reviving the physical occupation not it was successful it establishing any reasonable cause for the cessation of occupation.
In Ram Dass v. Davinder, (2004) 3 SCC 684, this Court interpreted Section 13(2)(v) of the Haryana Urban (Control of Rent and Eviction) Act, 1973 in terms of which an order of eviction could be passed against the tenant if he is shown to have ceased to occupy the premises continuously for a period of 4 months without reasonable cause. Respondent Davinder was tenant in the shop belonging to Appellant-Ram Dass. The Appellant filed a petition for eviction of the Respondent on the ground that he had ceased to occupy the shop for a continuous period of 4 months without any reasonable cause. The Rent Controller analyzed the pleadings of the parties and evidence produced by them and held that the Appellant has been able to prove that the Respondent had ceased to occupy the premises for a continuous period of more than 4 months and there was no reasonable cause for doing so. The plea of the Respondent that he had kept the shop closed intermittently due to sickness was not accepted by the Rent Controller. The Appellate Authority, on an independent evaluation of the evidence, confirmed the finding of the Rent Controller. The High Court allowed the revision filed by the Respondent and set aside the orders of the Rent Controller and the Appellate Authority. This Court reversed the order of the High Court and restored the one passed by the Rent Controller. The Court highlighted the distinction between the terms “possession” and “occupy” in the context of Rent Control Legislation in the following words:
The terms “possession” and “occupy” are in common parlance used interchangeably. However, in law, possession over a property may amount to holding it as an owner but to occupy is to keep possession of by being present in it. The rent control legislations are the outcome of paucity of accommodations. Most of the rent control legislations, in force in different States, expect the tenant to occupy the tenancy premises. If he himself ceases to occupy and parts with possession in favour of someone else, it provides a ground for eviction. Similarly, some legislations provide it as a ground of eviction if the tenant has just ceased to occupy the tenancy premises though he may have continued to retain possession thereof. The scheme of the Haryana Act is also to insist on the tenant remaining in occupation of the premises. Consistently with what has been mutually agreed upon, the tenant is expected to make useful use of the property and subject the tenancy premises to any permissible and useful activity by actually being there. To the landlord’s plea of the tenant having ceased to occupy the premises it is no answer that the tenant has a right to possess the tenancy premises and he has continued in juridical possession thereof. The Act protects the tenants from eviction and enacts specifically the grounds on the availability whereof the tenant may be directed to be evicted. It is for the landlord to make out a ground for eviction. The burden of proof lies on him. However, the onus keeps shifting. Once the landlord has been able to show that the tenancy premises were not being used for the purpose for which they were let out and the tenant has discontinued such activities in the tenancy premises as would have required the tenant’s actually being in the premises, the ground for eviction is made out. The availability of a reasonable cause for ceasing to occupy the premises would obviously be within the knowledge and, at times, within the exclusive knowledge of the tenant. Once the premises have been shown by evidence to be not in occupation of the tenant, the pleading of the landlord that such non-user is without reasonable cause has the effect of putting the tenant on notice to plead and prove the availability of reasonable cause for ceasing to occupy the tenancy premises.
Refer: Dunlop India Limited Versus A.A. Rahna and Another-(2011) 5 SCALE 312 : AIR 2011 SC 2198 : (2011) 5 SCC 778 : JT 2011 (5) SC 419
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