The Apex Court held that when original tenant dies, the legal heirs inherit the tenancy as joint tenants and occupation of one of the tenant is occupation of all the joint tenants. It was held that an eviction petition against one of the joint tenant is maintainable as there is unity of title amongst all the joint tenants.
The said judgment was pronounced by the Supreme Court in the matter of Suresh Kumar Kohli Vs. Rakesh Jain Civil Appeal No. 3996 OF 2018 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) No. 5489 OF 2014), decided on 19.04.2018.
The appellant herein is owner of the suit property. The suit premises was leased out to Respondent No. 2 and the father of the Respondents wherein they started a family business. The Respondent No. 1 was also subsequently inducted a partner in the family business. In 2009, the appellant owner sent a legal notice to Respondent No. 2 and father of Respondents terminating the tenancy. Father of the Respondent No. 1 died after a year of the notice. Upon failure to vacate the premises, the appellant filed an eviction petition under Section 14(1)(e ) and Section 25-B of the Delhi Rent Act, 1958 which was decreed in the favour of the appellant. The said judgment attained finality after being reaffirmed by the High Court in subsequent revision petitions preferred by Respondent No. 2. At the stage of execution, Respondent No. 1 herein filed objections under Section 47 Order XXI Rule 26(1) before the Additional Rent Controller, New Delhi claiming that he was a necessary party as he inherited rights in a joint family business and he was not aware of the pendency of the eviction proceedings. The Additional Rent Controller rejected the objection petition filed by Respondent No. 1 herein which came to be subsequently challenged by Respondent No. 1 in CM (Main) before the High Court. Learned single Judge of the High Court allowed the petition filed by the Respondent No. 1 herein. Aggrieved by the judgment, the appellant preferred this appeal by way of special leave before the Apex Court.
The Apex Court was thereby called upon to answer the questions – firstly, whether the eviction petition was maintainable in the absence of Respondent No. 1 and secondly, whether the status of the heirs and legal representatives of the deceased tenant will be of joint tenants or of tenants-in-common.
In order to arrive at the conclusion, the Apex Court discussed in detail the difference in the concepts of tenancy in common and joint tenancy. In joint tenancy, the tenants have unity of title, unity of commencement of title, unity of interest, unity of equal shares in the joint estate, unity of possession and right of survivorship. On the other hand, in Tenancy-in-common there is unity of possession but no unity of title, i.e. the interests are differently held and each co-tenant has different shares over the estate. The Court further noted that tenancy rights, being proprietary rights, by applying the principle of inheritance, the shares of heirs are different and ownership of leasehold rights would be confined to the respective shares of each heir and none will have title to the entire leasehold property. Therefore, the estate shall be divided among the co-tenants and each tenant in common has an estate in the whole of single tenancy. Consequently, the privity exists between the landlord and the tenant in common in respect of such estate.
The Apex Court summed up the legal position by observing that when original tenant dies, the legal heirs inherit the tenancy as joint tenants and occupation of one of the tenant is occupation of all the joint tenants. It is not necessary for landlord to implead all legal heirs of the deceased tenant, whether they are occupying the property or not. It is sufficient for the landlord to implead either of those persons who are occupying the property, as party. There may be a case where landlord is not aware of all the legal heirs of deceased tenant and impleading only those heirs who are in occupation of the property is sufficient for the purpose of filing of eviction petition. An eviction petition against one of the joint tenant is sufficient against all the joint tenants and all joint tenants are bound by the order of the Rent Controller as joint tenancy is one tenancy and is not a tenancy split into different legal heirs.
Therefore the Court held after a perusal of the lease deed that the suit premises was let out jointly to late father of the Respondents and Respondent No. 2. Thus, both of them were joint tenants and upon the death of his father, Respondent No. 1 inherited the tenancy as joint tenant only.