Whether the tenants as well as licencees, who are protected under the respective State Laws could be called unauthorised occupants on applying the provisions prescribed under the Public Premises Act
Whether the rights of an occupant/licensee/ tenant protected under a State Rent Control Act (Bombay Rent Act, 1947 and its successor the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999, as in the instant case), could be adversely affected by application of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 (‘PPA’ for short)? OR in other words – whether the tenants as well as licencees, who are protected under the respective State Laws could be called unauthorised occupants on applying the provisions prescribed under the Public Premises Act to their premises as ‘belonging’ to a Government Company, and if so from what date.
PPA became effective after repealing the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1958, its predecessor Act and carries a provision that it shall be deemed to have come into force on the 16th day of September, 1958 except sections 11, 19 and 20 which shall come into force at once (i.e. from 23.8.1971), which in effect meant that although the provisions with respect to eviction under the Act of 1971 deemed to have come into force from 16.9.1958, they will apply to the concerned premises only from the date when they become public premises.
In the present matter, the point of controversy or dispute was on the applicability of PPA on the contention as to whether by taking over of the management of the erstwhile Company (An Insurance Company) can confer an authority upon the claimant to claim that the premises belong to it to initiate eviction proceedings under PPA against the occupant claiming protection under the welfare enactment (Rent Law) passed by the State Legislature.
The management of the Insurance Company was taken over by the Central Government with effect from 13th May, 1971 and has appointed the custodian to take all such necessary steps required to safeguard the property of the erstwhile insurance Company, though it was a transitory arrangement.
PPA providing for a speeder remedy cannot render the provisions of the welfare provisions nugatory and thus the next question arose to resolve the controversy was whether legislation can be given a retrospective effect? The answer to this was no unless it is specifically provided for and that too not beyond the period provided therein.
In the above scenario, the status of the occupant was that of a deemed tenant under the Rent Act and based thereupon he could not be said be in unauthorised occupation and his such right cannot be taken away by giving any retrospective effect to the provisions of PPA.
As observed, pursuant to criticism received on improper use of powers under the PPA, the Central Government itself had issued the guidelines vide Resolution No. 21012/1/2000-Pol.1, dated 30th May, 2002, published in the Gazette of India, Part I, Sec.1 dated 8th June, 2002, though only advisory in character, are summarised as under:
• Act aims to evict :
o totally unauthorised occupants of the public premises or sub-letees, or
o employees who have ceased to be in their service, and thus ineligible to occupy the premises.
• Provisions of PPA should not be resorted to
o With a commercial motive, or
o Secure vacant possession of the premises in order to accommodate their own employees, where the premises were in occupation of the original tenants to whom the premises were let out
either by the public authorities, or
by persons from whom the premises were acquired, indicating thereby the predecessors of the public authorities.
• To resume possession in certain situations, where the tenants are protected under the State Rent Control Act prior to the Public Premises Act becoming applicable, the public authorities will have to move under the Rent Control Acts on the grounds which are available to the private landlords.
• The release of premises or change of tenancy should be decided at the level of Board of Directors of Public Sector Undertakings.
• All public undertakings have been instructed that they should review all pending cases before the Estate Officer or Courts with reference to these guidelines, and withdraw the proceedings against genuine tenants on grounds otherwise than as provided under the guidelines.
What came out as a conclusion (in reference to the present case and in general perspective as well), the Government Companies and Public Corporations are covered under Public Premises Act, 1971 from 16.9.1958 and effective this date they would be entitled to claim the application of the Public Premises
[Dr. Suhas H. Pophale vs. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. and its Estate Officer]