Public Premises Act would be equally applicable to the legislations made by the State legislature of the State of Punjab in respect of the two enactments under consideration, that is, the East Punjab Rent Act and the Religious Premises Act doubt, in this decision it has been observed that the underlying reason for exclusion of property belonging to the from the ambit of the Rent Control Act is that the government while dealing with the citizens in respect of property belonging to it would not act as a private landlord but would act in public interest, albeit this reasoning would equally apply to “religious institutions” as defined. The religious institutions as held are meant to carry out public purpose and the legislature can proceed accordingly that the religious institutions would act in public interest for which they were established. valid grants, leases and allotments are not construed and treated as unauthorised occupation. It is only when the terms of the grant, lease or allotment are not adhered to or have been determined or the period of allotment, lease or grant as fixed has come to an end, that the person in occupation is treated to be in unauthorised occupation. This is a pre-condition which confers the right on the religious institution to seek eviction of a person in unauthorised occupation of the religious premises. Further, an order passed by the Collector is appealable before the Commissioner and if still aggrieved, a tenant can invoke the writ jurisdiction of the High Court, as mentioned above.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3674 OF 2009
HARBHAJAN SINGH ETC. ….. APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
STATE OF PUNJAB AND OTHERS ….. RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
SANJIV KHANNA, J.
The afore-captioned Civil Appeal impugns the judgment
dated 6th July 2006 passed by the High Court of Punjab and
Haryana which dismissed five writ petitions challenging the vires
of the Punjab Religious Premises and Land (Eviction and Rent
Recovery) Act, 1997 (‘Religious Premises Act’, for short).

  1. The appellants before us are tenants in occupation of shops
    located in Gurudwara Singh Sabha, a gurudwara at Kukar Majra,
    G.T. Road, Mandi Gobindgarh, District Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab.
    The appellants claim that they were inducted as tenants during the
    period 1965-69 by Gurudwara Singh Sabha. However, no formal
    lease or agreements were executed and albeit, over a period of
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 1 of 29
    time, rents were progressively increased. The appellants further
    claim that they are small businessmen carrying on trade primarily
    connected with steel industry, while one of the appellants runs a
    dhaba. By the letter dated 2nd March 1978, the appellants were
    informed that the affairs of the gurudwara had come under the
    control of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (‘SGPC’
    for short) and they should, therefore, pay the rent to SGPC. It is
    alleged that the appellants have been paying rent to SGPC or the
    manager of the gurudwara but receipts have not been regularly
    issued.
  2. In the year 1997, SGPC had filed an eviction petition against one
    of the appellants, Harbhajan Singh, under Section 13 of the East
    Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 (‘East Punjab Rent Act’,
    for short) on two grounds, viz., (i) failure to pay rent, and (ii) SGPC
    needed the property for construction of shops. Harbhajan Singh
    had, thereafter, deposited arrears of rent on the first date of
    hearing. The eviction proceedings, however, had remained
    pending and were not decided.
  3. On 29th January 1998, the Religious Premises Act was enforced,
    and thereby introduced a summary procedure for evicting
    unauthorised occupants from the premises/property belonging to
    the religious institutions. Thereafter, SGPC had filed ejectment
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 2 of 29
    petitions under the Religious Premises Act before the Collector for
    eviction of the appellants stating that the appellants were in
    unauthorised occupation. The appellants, on receipt of notices
    from the Collector under Section 4 of the Religious Premises Act,
    had filed the writ petitions challenging the vires of the enactment
    before the High Court, which by the impugned judgment have
    been dismissed. The primary challenge before the High Court
    was to the explanation to clause (a) to Section 3 of the Religious
    Premises Act on the ground that the provision creates an
    unintelligible classification to the disadvantage of the tenants who
    are otherwise entitled to equal protection as other tenants under
    the East Punjab Rent Act.
  4. The pleas raised by the appellants were rejected by the Division
    Bench of the High Court after referring to the object and purpose
    behind the impugned enactment, that is, to preserve the property
    of religious institutions, by observing that public at large has an
    inherent interest in the “religious institutions” which were prone to
    maladministration and mismanagement. Referring to the definition
    of “unauthorised occupants”, it was observed that a person who is
    in occupation of the premises belonging to a “religious institution”
    on a valid allotment, lease or grant is not to be treated as an
    “unauthorised occupant” for the period of allotment, lease or grant.
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 3 of 29
    The explanation states that mere payment of rent by the tenant
    who is in unauthorised occupation shall not raise any presumption
    that such person had entered into possession as an allottee,
    lessee or under a grant. Referring to the detailed and
    comprehensive procedure for eviction under Sections 4 and 5 of
    the Religious Premises Act, it was held that the Collector has to be
    satisfied that the opposite party was in “unauthorised occupation”
    and only thereupon an eviction order can be passed after
    following the due procedure. A person aggrieved against the
    order passed by the Collector can file an appeal before the
    Commissioner under Section 8 of the Act. Referring to the factual
    matrix, the High Court has observed that all contentions on merits
    should be raised before the authorities under the Religious
    Premises Act, in accordance with law.
  5. The primary contention raised by the appellants before us is that
    as tenants they are entitled to protection against eviction under
    the East Punjab Rent Act, which protection it is submitted cannot
    be withdrawn and taken away under the Religious Premises Act.
    Further, the definition of “unauthorised occupants”, as a result of
    explanation to clause (a) of Section 3, is highly unjust and unfair
    as a tenant who has been paying rent over a long period is
    deemed to be in “unauthorised occupation” because of the
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 4 of 29
    termination of the lease, licence or grant, or the time stipulated in
    the lease, license or grant has come to an end. This it is
    submitted is unjust and unfair. The Religious Premises Act creates
    an artificial classification as tenants of land and buildings
    belonging to or owned by “religious institutions” are no longer
    entitled to protection under the East Punjab Rent Act though such
    protection continues to be available to other tenants. Expansion
    or construction of a new building by a religious institution as was
    pleaded by SGPC in their eviction petition under the East Punjab
    Rent Act would not justify eviction. There is no public purpose or
    objective in enacting the law, that is, the Religious Premises Act,
    which has become a calculable device and means to increase
    income of the religious institutions. This Court in Ashoka
    Marketing Ltd. and Another v. Punjab National Bank and
    Others1
    had examined and rejected the challenge to the vires of
    the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act,
    1971 (‘Public Premises Act’, for short) after recording that the
    property belonging to the government would fall under a separate
    class and that the government, while dealing with the citizens in
    respect of the property belonging to it, would not act for its own
    purpose as a private landlord but would act in public interest. This
    is a crucial distinction between the government and private
    1
    (1990) 4 SCC 406
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 5 of 29
    landlords and, therefore, for the same reasoning in inverse, the
    present appeal should be allowed as the Religious Premises Act
    creates an artificial distinction and discriminates against the
    tenants of “religious institutions”, though “religious institutions” as
    landlords are not a separate class. Thus, the Religious Premises
    Act should be declared unconstitutional and illegal as it violates
    Article 14 of the Constitution.
  6. The respondents, namely, the State of Punjab and also SGPC,
    have contested the said submissions and contentions. Their
    submissions and contentions would be noticed in the subsequent
    portion and in our reasoning below.
  7. The East Punjab Rent Act was enacted in the year 1949, soon
    after the Partition, with a view to protect tenants and to curtail the
    right of the landlords to seek eviction notwithstanding the contract
    under the provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882,
    (“Transfer of Property Act”, for short) which is a general enactment
    regulating landlord and tenant relationships. There cannot be any
    doubt that the State legislature, that is, the Legislative Assembly of
    the State of Punjab is entitled to enact the Religious Premises Act,
    despite the fact that they had enacted the East Punjab Rent Act.
    We must accept and take judicial notice by acknowledging that the
    State legislature while enacting the Religious Premises Act was
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 6 of 29
    aware that it has enacted East Punjab Rent Act, an existing
    statute governing landlord and tenant relationship. However, the
    State legislature in its wisdom has deemed it appropriate to enact
    a law in respect of land and buildings belonging to “religious
    institutions”. The vires of the Religious Premises Act, a special
    enactment concerning landlord and tenant relationships, cannot
    be challenged on the ground that there are already two other
    enactments governing general landlord and tenant relationships
    (Transfer of Property Act and East Punjab Rent Act). The
    Constitution confers the power and authority on the State to enact
    two separate enactments on a similar subject if they seek to
    achieve different objectives and protect and preserve different
    sets of rights and make necessary classification to serve such
    varied ends. The Religious Premises Act, unlike the East Punjab
    Rent Act and the Public Premises Act, concerns itself with the
    administration of premises belonging to religious institutions and
    seeks to regulate their rights as landlords vis-à-vis the tenants in
    occupation. In this regard, reference can be made to the object
    and purpose behind enacting the Religious Premises Act, which is
    as follows:
    “Since long various religious institutions have been
    representing to the Government for vacation of their
    premises under unauthorised occupation. On careful
    thought being given by the Government, the State
    Government is of the opinion that the religious
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 7 of 29
    institutions are facing a lot of difficulties in this behalf. It
    is, therefore, expedient for the State Government to help
    the religious institutions in getting their premises which
    are under unauthorised occupation vacated through
    summary proceedings. Hence, the Punjab Religious
    Premises and Land (Eviction and Rent Recovery) Bill,
    1996.”
  8. Section 2(d) of the Religious Premises Act defines “religious
    institution”. Section 2(e) defines ‘religious premises’ and Section 3
    defines “unauthorised occupation of religious premises by a
    person”. These provisions read as under:
    “(d) “Religious Institution’ means any gurudwara,
    temple, church, mosque, temple of Jains or Budhas –
    which is registered under the provisions of the
    Societies Registration Act, 1860 (Central Act No. XXI of
    1860) or is established under any statute and includes
    any other place of worship by whatever name, it may
    be called, which is registered as aforesaid or is
    established under any statute;
    (e) “religious premises”, means any land whether used
    for agricultural or non-agricultural purposes, or any
    building or part of a building belonging to a Religious
    Institution and includes, –
    (i) the garden, grounds and out-houses, if any,
    appertaining to such building or part of a building;
    and
    (ii) any fittings affixed to such building or part of a
    building for the more beneficial enjoyment thereof;”
    xxx
  9. Unauthorised occupation of religious premises. – For
    the purposes of this Act, a person shall be deemed to
    be in unauthorised occupation of any religious
    premises-
    (a) where he has, whether before or after the
    commencement of this Act, entered into possession
    thereof otherwise than under and in pursuance of any
    allotment, lease or grant; or
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 8 of 29
    (b) where he, being an allottee, lessee or grantee has,
    by reason of the determination or cancellation of his
    allotment, lease or grant in accordance with the terms
    in that behalf therein contained, ceased, whether
    before or after the commencement of this Act, to be
    entitled to occupy or hold such religious premises; or
    (c) where any person authorised to occupy any
    religious premises has, whether before or after the
    commencement of this Act, –
    (i) sub-let, in contravention of the terms of allotment,
    lease or grant, without the permission of the Religious
    Institution, the whole or any part of such religious
    premises; or
    (ii) otherwise acted in contravention of any of the
    terms, express or implied, under which he is authorised
    to occupy such religious premises.
    Explanation. – For the purpose of clause (a), a person
    shall not merely by reason of the fact that he has paid
    any rent be deemed to have entered into possession
    as allottee, lessee or grantee.”
    “Religious institution” means any gurudwara, temple, church,
    mosque or temple of Jains or Buddhists which is registered under
    the provisions of the Societies Registration Act or established
    under any statute. It also includes any place of worship by
    whatever name called which is registered as aforesaid or
    established under any statute. The definition is clear and no
    contention or issue is raised that the definition of the term
    “religious institution” is vague or incomprehensible. Similarly, the
    expression “religious premises” has been defined in clear terms to
    mean land used for agricultural or non-agricultural purposes or
    any building or part of the building belonging to a religious
    institution. The definition clarifies that the expression “religious
    premises” would include garden, ground and out-house or any
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 9 of 29
    fittings in the building or part of the building for more beneficial
    enjoyment. The expression “unauthorised occupation” is of some
    importance in view of the challenge and the contentions raised. A
    person is deemed to be in unauthorised occupation of any
    religious premises if he has, before or after commencement of the
    Religious Premises Act, entered into possession of a land or
    building belonging to a religious institution otherwise than under or
    pursuant to any allotment, lease or grant. A person who enters
    into possession of the land or building belonging to or owned by a
    religious institution and has valid and subsisting allotment, lease
    or grant is clearly not an unauthorised occupant. Such allottees,
    lessees or persons in whose favour there is a grant, allotment or
    lease that entitles the person to retain possession are fully
    protected and cannot be evicted. In other words, primacy to the
    terms of allotment, lease or grant is not interfered, and is duly
    accorded. The terms of the allotment, lease or grant would be
    binding. Clause (b) states that if the allotment, lease or grant has
    been determined or cancelled whether before or after the
    commencement of the Religious Premises Act, occupation of the
    person would be treated as unauthorised occupation. Clause (c)
    states that where a person is authorised to occupy any religious
    premises, before or after commencement of the Religious
    Premises Act, has sublet the religious premises in contravention of
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 10 of 29
    the terms of allotment, lease or grant, or otherwise acted in
    contravention of the terms, express or implied, he shall be treated
    as an “unauthorised occupant”. No contention, issue or objection
    has been raised viz. clause (c) to Section 3. Explanation to
    Section 3 states that for the purpose of clause (a), which makes
    the term of allotment, lease or grant as a basis for determining
    whether a person is in authorised or unauthorised occupation,
    shall not be affected by the mere reason or the fact that such
    person has paid rent and, therefore, is deemed to have entered
    into possession as an allottee, lessee or guarantee. In other
    words, payment of rent would not be a determinative and relevant
    factor in deciding the issue and question of “unauthorised
    occupation”. The tenure of allotment, lease or the grant and terms
    and conditions as agreed or stated, and not mere payment of rent
    would be the crucial and determinative criterion.
  10. Under Section 4 of the Religious Premises Act, a religious
    institution can make an application before the Collector if it is of
    the opinion that any person is in unauthorised occupation of any
    religious premises, situated within the Collector’s jurisdiction. The
    Collector thereupon is required to issue notice in writing calling
    upon the person to show-cause why the eviction order should not
    be made. Sub-section (2) prescribes the requirement of a notice
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 11 of 29
    and sub-section (3) to Section 4 prescribes the manner in which
    the notice is to be served. Under Section 5, the Collector is
    authorised and is competent to pass an order of eviction after
    considering the cause, if any, shown by the person to whom notice
    under Section 4 has been issued and after examining the
    evidence that may be produced by such person. The person in
    occupation has to be given reasonable opportunity of being heard.
    The statutory requirement is that the Collector should be satisfied
    that the religious premises are in unauthorised occupation before
    he can make the order of eviction. The Collector must also record
    reasons. The Collector is required to pass an order within a
    period of 45 days from the date of receipt of the application under
    Section 4 and the order passed has to be affixed on the outer door
    or on some other conspicuous part of the religious premises. If a
    person fails to comply with the order of eviction within 30 days
    from the date of the order, the Collector, or any other officer duly
    authorised by him, can evict the person and deliver possession of
    the religious premises to the religious institution. He is entitled to
    use force as may be necessary. The tenant, if aggrieved, can file
    an appeal against the Collector’s order before the Commissioner.
    Thereafter, the tenant is entitled to also invoke the writ jurisdiction
    of the High Court under Articles 227 and 226 of the Constitution of
    India if the grievance still persists.
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 12 of 29
  11. The issue of whether the properties of the religious institutions for
    the purpose of rent control legislations can be treated as a
    separate category is no longer res integra as this aspect was
    examined in several decisions where this Court has held that
    separate classification of properties of religious institutions for rent
    legislations will pass a challenge under Article 14 of the
    Constitution. In State of Andhra Pradesh and Others v.
    Nallamilli Rami Reddi and Others2
    , this Court was faced with a
    challenge to the validity of Section 82 of the Andhra Pradesh
    Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act,
    1987 which had cancelled the leases of tenants of properties
    belonging to or given or endowed for the purpose of any charitable
    or any religious institution or endowment falling under the
    enactment, notwithstanding the prevailing tenancy laws in the
    State of Andhra Pradesh, in order to augment the rents payable
    for such properties which stood frozen on account of the tenancy
    laws and since sale of such lands was not feasible. While
    examining the question of religious institutions as a separate and
    distinguishable class, this Court had expounded on the scope of
    Article 14 of the Constitution and the kind of classification that
    would stand the test of Article 14 of the Constitution, as under:
    2 AIR 2001 SC 3616
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 13 of 29
    “8. What Article 14 of the Constitution prohibits is
    “class legislation” and not “classification for purpose of
    legislation”. If the legislature reasonably classifies
    persons for legislative purposes so as to bring them
    under a well-defined class, it is not open to challenge
    on the ground of denial of equal treatment that the law
    does not apply to other persons. The test of
    permissible classification is twofold: (i) that the
    classification must be founded on intelligible differentia
    which distinguishes persons grouped together from
    others who are left out of the group, and (ii) that
    differentia must have a rational connection to the object
    sought to be achieved. Article 14 does not insist upon
    classification, which is scientifically perfect or logically
    complete. A classification would be justified unless it is
    patently arbitrary. If there is equality and uniformity in
    each group, the law will not become discriminatory,
    though due to some fortuitous circumstance arising out
    of peculiar situation some included in a class get an
    advantage over others so long as they are not singled
    out for special treatment. In substance, the differentia
    required is that it must be real and substantial, bearing
    some just and reasonable relation to the object of the
    legislation.”
    Holding the above, this Court in Nallamilli Rami Reddi (supra)
    had reversed the decision of the Division Bench of the Andhra
    Pradesh High Court observing that religious institutions fall into a
    separate category and land or property held by them have a
    special character. Clearly, the tenants under a religious institution
    would form a separate class by themselves and such
    classification, if made, would achieve the object of promoting the
    interests of the religious institutions. Therefore, classification of
    properties of “religious institutions” as a separate and distinctive
    class of properties would not fall foul or be violative of Article 14 of
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 14 of 29
    the Constitution. It was elucidated that whether a tenancy act
    should be applicable to religious institutions or should be kept out
    is not an aspect which the Court would decide. It is instead for the
    legislature to determine the extent of applicability of such tenancy
    laws to religious institutions and the extent of protection that
    should be made available. This Court has, therefore, rejected the
    argument that religious institutions as landlords or tenants of
    religious institutions cannot be treated and regarded as a separate
    category in respect of whom protection as available to other
    tenants under the rent law would not be available. Such
    classification cannot be a ground or the basis to interfere with the
    validity of an act or provision. However, the Courts can interfere
    when the policy is irrational. Summing up the ratio, this court in
    Nallamilli Rami Reddi (supra) had held:
    “15. We may sum up the upshot of our discussion:
  12. That charitable or religious institutions or
    endowments fall into a separate category and form
    a class by themselves. If that is so, tenants coming
    under them also form a separate class. Therefore,
    they can be treated differently from others.
  13. In operation of the Act it is possible that it may
    result in hardship to some of the tenants but that by
    itself will not be a consideration to condemn the
    Act.
  14. The manner in which the charitable or religious
    institution or endowment would deal with the
    properties that are resumed after the provisions of
    Section 82 of the Act come into force by cancelling
    the existing leases, is in the region of speculation.
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 15 of 29
  15. Fresh tenancy can be entered into and there is no
    material before the court as to what was the rent
    paid by tenants at the time when the Act came into
    force, in terms of Section 18(2) of the Act or as
    provided under the Andhra Act or under the
    Telangana Act. In the absence of such a material, it
    would be hazardous for the court to reach any
    conclusion, one way or the other, to state that the
    tenants would be frozen and, therefore, there is no
    likelihood of charitable or religious institution or
    endowment getting higher rents. If there is no
    material one way or the other, the presumption that
    the Act is good should prevail.
  16. It is a matter of policy with the legislature as to
    whether all provisions of the Tenancy Acts should
    be exempt in its application to the charitable or
    religious institution or endowment in their entirety.
  17. The identification of “landless poor persons” and
    protection given to them is justified as enunciated
    earlier.
  18. It will be very difficult to predict at this stage that the
    result of Section 82 of the Act would be so
    hazardous as not to achieve the object for which it
    was enacted. It would not only result in displacing
    the old tenants by new tenants, it may also achieve
    other social objectives in another manner. If
    appropriate provisions are made under the Rules
    and if the leases are given to small holders of land,
    another social objective could be achieved.
  19. In what manner charitable or religious institution or
    endowment would deal with matters of this nature
    is mere guesswork at this stage. On some
    hypothetical approach the High Court could not
    have declared a law to be invalid.”
    Therefore, it was clearly held that tenants of religious
    institutions fall in a separate class which is identifiable. Further,
    on the question, whether cancellation of a “lease” in their favour
    would achieve the objectives of the act in question, it was
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 16 of 29
    observed, that there was no material before the Court to show that
    such cancellation would not carry out the purposes of the
    “religious institutions”.
  20. There have been number of central and state legislations wherein
    religious institutions with or without other charitable organisations
    have been treated as a separate and distinct class and accorded
    legal treatment concomitant to such distinctiveness within the
    scope of the same enactment or other enactments. {See –
    Sections 11 and 115BBC, the Income Tax Act, 1961; Karnataka
    Rent Act, 1999 and Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and
    Charitable Endowments Act, 1997; Orissa Hindu Religious
    Endowments Act, 1951; Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious
    Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1984 as amended in
    2018; Uttar Pradesh Urban Buildings (Regulation of Letting, Rent
    and Eviction) Act, 1972 and Goa, Daman and Diu Buildings
    (Lease, Rent and Eviction) Control Act, 1968, among others}.
  21. We would like to refer to a decision of this Court in S.
    Kandaswamy Chettiar v. State of Tamil Nadu and Another3
    wherein challenge was made to the exemption granted to
    buildings owned by Hindu, Christian and Muslim religious public
    trusts and public charitable trusts from the provisions of the Tamil
    3 AIR 1985 SC 257
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 17 of 29
    Nadu Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1960, by delegated
    legislation, in the form of an exemption notification issued under
    Section 29 of the above Act. A three Judge Bench of this Court in
    S. Kandaswamy Chettiar (supra) referred to the judgment of a
    five Judge Bench of this Court in P.J. Irani v. State of Madras4
    wherein identical provisions contained in earlier enactment,
    namely, the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1959
    were upheld in the context of Article 14 of the Constitution of India
    on the basis that the Preamble and operative provisions of that Act
    gave sufficient guidance for exercise of discretionary power
    vested with the State Government. Whether a notification
    granting exemption to buildings belonging to charities, religious or
    secular institutions would violate the equal protection mandate of
    Article 14, it was observed, that Article 14 requires that the
    classification must be based on rational grounds, that is, grounds
    germane to carrying out the policy or the purpose of the Act and
    by way of illustration it was stated that if such exemptions were
    granted in favour of all the buildings belonging to charities,
    religious or secular institutions, such classification would be
    reasonable and proper being based on intelligible differentia
    having nexus to the object sought to be achieved. Rent Act, it was
    observed, would unquestionably be a piece of beneficial
    4 AIR 1961 SC 1731
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 18 of 29
    legislation intended to remedy the two evils, that is, rack-rentingꟷ
    extraction of exorbitant rents and unreasonable eviction orders
    generated by a largescale influx of population to big cities and
    urban areas post the Second World War creating acute shortage
    of accommodation in such areas. Rent enactments overtly protect
    the rights of the tenants in occupation of buildings in such areas
    from being charged unreasonable rents and from being
    unreasonably evicted. Therefore, such enactments even protect
    tenancy after determination or end of their contractual periods by
    enlarging the definition of the term ‘tenant’. At the same time, the
    rent enactments often contain other significant provisions which
    indicate that the legislature itself felt that there may be areas and
    cases where these two evils were neither prevalent nor
    apprehended, and as such landlords’ freedom need not be
    curtailed at all. It is in this context that several enactments give
    wider latitude to the landlords of religious, charitable, educational
    and other public institutions if the possession is required for
    purposes of such institutions. In other words, the legislature is
    entitled and can make rational classification of buildings belonging
    to government and those belonging to religious, charitable,
    educational and other public institutions which are accorded
    different treatment on the well-founded assumption that such
    landlords are not expected to and would not indulge in rackCivil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 19 of 29
    renting or unreasonable eviction. Relying upon the observations
    in P.J. Irani (supra), it was held that constitutional validity of
    granting exemption to buildings belonging to charities, religious or
    secular institutions, from rent control legislation, would not offend
    the equal protection clause of Article 14 of the Constitution as it is
    a reasonable classification based on intelligible differentia and
    also satisfies the test of nexus as such institutions not only serve
    public purpose but disbursement of their income is governed by
    the objects for which they are created. The income and activities
    are not for private benefit. Reference in this regard was made to
    the counter affidavit wherein the government had explained that
    they were satisfied that the rents received by exempted religious
    institutions were very low, meagre and that the provisions of
    fixation of fair rent under the rent act would not meet the ends of
    justice and would in fact result in the tenant exploiting the
    situation. Consequently, withdrawal of protection to the tenants of
    such buildings was justified. It was observed in S. Kandaswamy
    Chettiar (supra) as under:
    “11… In our view, the aforesaid material clearly shows
    that buildings belonging to such public religious and
    charitable endowments or trusts clearly fell into a class
    where undue hardship and injustice resulting to them
    from the uniform application of the beneficial provisions
    of the Act needed to be relieved and the exemption
    granted will have to be regarded as being germane to
    the policy and purposes of the Act. In other words the
    classification made has a clear nexus with the object
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 20 of 29
    with which the power to grant exemption has been
    conferred upon the State Government under S.29 of
    the Act.
    xx xx xx
    14… It is obvious that if the trustees of the public
    religious trusts and public charities are to be given
    freedom to charge the normal market rent then to make
    that freedom effective it will be necessary to arm the
    trustees with the right to evict the tenants for nonpayment of such market rent. The State Government
    on materials before it came to the conclusion that the
    ‘fair rent’ fixed under the Act was unjust in case of such
    buildings and it was necessary to permit the trustees of
    such buildings to recover from their tenants reasonable
    market rent and if that be so non-eviction when
    reasonable market rent is not paid would be
    unreasonable and if the market rent is paid by the
    tenants no trustee is going to evict them. It is,
    therefore, clear that granting total exemption cannot be
    regarded as excessive or unwarranted.
  22. Apart from this aspect of the matter it is
    conceivable that trustees of buildings belonging to such
    public religious institutions or public charities may
    desire eviction of their tenants for the purpose of
    carrying out major or substantial repairs or for the
    purpose of demolition and reconstruction and the State
    Government may have felt that the trustees of such
    buildings should be able to effect evictions without
    being required to fulfil other onerous conditions which
    must be complied with by private landlords when they
    seek evictions for such purposes. In our view,
    therefore, the total exemption granted to such buildings
    under the impugned notification is perfectly justified.”
  23. These two judgments were followed by the two Judge Bench
    decision of this Court in Christ the King Cathedral v. John
    Ancheril and Another5
    wherein similar exemption notification
    5
    (2001) 6 SCC 170
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 21 of 29
    under the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1965
    granting exemption in public interest to the buildings of all
    churches/mosques of all minority religions and of all Dioceses,
    Archdioceses, Monasteries, etc. was challenged. One of the
    contentions raised was that no data or material was produced by
    the State and hence the decision and ratio in S. Kandaswamy
    Chettiar (supra) would not be applicable. Rejecting the said
    contention, it was observed:
    “6. The law had been stated by this Court to the effect
    that public religious or charitable endowments or trusts
    constitute a well-recognised group which serves not
    only public purposes, but disbursement of their income
    is governed by the objects with which they are created
    and buildings belonging to such endowments or trusts
    clearly fall into a class distinct from the buildings owned
    by private landlords. It is in respect of three areas a
    regulation would be made under the Act, as has been
    done in other similar enactments and these areas are:
    (i) with respect to regulation of lease of buildings
    (residential or non-residential); (ii) control of rent of
    such buildings; and (iii) control of eviction of tenants
    from such buildings. A public trust, as has been held in
    S. Kandaswamy Chettiar case is not likely to act
    unreasonably either in the matter of enhancement of
    rent or eviction of tenants being institutions of religion
    or charity. On that basis, this Court upheld the validity
    of the exemption granted under the Tamil Nadu Act in
    favour of such trust or endowment. In the present case,
    the contention has been specifically put forth that the
    appellants fall into that very category which came up
    for consideration before this Court in S. Kandaswamy
    Chettiar case. Therefore, no distinction can be made
    between that class of owners of the buildings in that
    case and in the present case. We do not understand as
    to what other material was required by the Court in a
    matter of this nature if the contention put forth before
    this Court is not that churches or mosques, dioceses,
    archdioceses, monasteries, convents, wakfs and
    madarsas are not religious and charitable in nature.
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 22 of 29
  24. Shri Nageswara Rao, the learned counsel
    appearing for the contesting respondents submitted
    that there is total non-application of mind by the
    Government in the matter of grant of exemption and
    the guidelines indicated in S. Kandaswamy Chettiar
    case have not been followed in the present case and,
    therefore, the exemption should not have been granted
    in the present case. In S. Kandaswamy Chettiar case
    an affidavit had been filed as to the lower rents that
    were being paid and that the tenants were exploiting
    the situation and had brought the charitable institutions
    to a situation of helplessness and that position not
    having been challenged the Court made those orders.
    If we bear in mind the fact that the purpose of the Act is
    apparently to prevent unreasonable eviction and also
    to control rent and if the trustees of religious and public
    charities are given freedom to charge normal market
    rent with the further freedom to evict the tenants for not
    paying such market rent, the result would be unjust and
    cause hardship to them. But apprehension, by itself, is
    not sufficient. There is no material on record to show
    that in any of these cases the landlords would resort to
    such a course of action. On the other hand, if the
    building belonging to such public trust or religious
    institution is exempt from the Act, the purpose of the
    trust could be carried out much better, is quite clear. If
    that is the object with which the Government has
    granted exemption, we do not think there is any reason
    to quash the notifications impugned before the High
    Court.
    xx xx xx
  25. An argument is sought to be raised on the basis of
    ownership of property that there should not have been
    a distinction as is being made in the present case. That
    was the very basis of distinction made in case of
    statutory bodies like the Housing Board, local
    authorities which was noticed in Jayakaran v. Kerala
    Health R & W Society case or registered wakfs which
    was considered in Lakshmanan v. Mohamood. When
    such bodies or institutions fall into a distinct class by
    themselves and exemption granted to them would
    serve a public purpose, namely, to carry out the objects
    of the trust or the endowment or religious activity in a
    broad sense, we do not think that the fine distinction
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 23 of 29
    sought to be made by the High Court in this regard is
    justified.
  26. Appropriate at this stage would also be reference to two earlier
    decisions of this Court which had examined the provisions of the
    rent control legislations, namely, Kewal Singh v. Smt. Lajwanti6
    and Ravi Dutt Sharma v. Ratan Lal Bhargava7
    .
  27. In Kewal Singh (supra), the challenge made was to the provisions
    of summary eviction in case of bona fide requirement under the
    Delhi Rent Control Act, 1958. It was observed that the rent control
    legislations are a piece of social legislations and are meant mainly
    to protect tenants from frivolous evictions but, at the same time,
    they must do justice to the landlord and to this extent the
    enactment should avoid placing such restrictions on their right to
    evict the tenants so as to destroy the legal right to property.
    Therefore, the landlords have been given certain statutory rights
    under the rent enactments to seek eviction and these provisions
    provide relief. In the absence of such rent control legislations, a
    landlord has the right in law to evict the tenant either on the
    termination of tenancy by efflux of time or other grounds after
    giving notice under the Transfer of Property Act. Such rights have
    been curtailed by the rent control legislations to give protection to
    6 AIR 1980 SC 161
    7 AIR 1984 SC 967
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 24 of 29
    tenants having regard to the genuine and dire needs but these
    should not be construed to destroy the rights which have been
    given to the landlords. It was observed:
    “21. There is yet another important aspect of the matter
    which may be mentioned here. Prior to the enactment
    of the rent control legislation in our country, the
    relationship of landlord and tenant was governed by
    our common law viz. the Transfer of Property Act
    (Sections 107 to 111). The tenant was inducted with
    his tacit agreement to be regulated by the conditions
    embodied in the contract and could not be allowed to
    repudiate the agreement reached between him and the
    landlord during that period. The tenant was, therefore,
    bound in law to vacate the premises either voluntarily
    or through a suit after he was given a notice as
    required by the Transfer of Property Act under the
    terms and conditions of the lease. However, as a piece
    of social reform in order to protect the tenants from
    capricious and frivolous eviction, the legislature
    stepped in and afforded special protection to the tenant
    by conferring on him the status of a statutory tenant
    who could not be evicted except under the conditions
    specified and the procedure prescribed by the Rent
    Control Acts. Thus to this extent, the agreement of
    lease and the provisions of the Transfer of Property Act
    stood superseded. At the same time, the Rent Control
    Acts provided the facilities of eviction to the landlord on
    certain specified grounds like bona fide personal
    necessity or default in payment of rent, etc. Thus any
    right that the tenant possessed after the expiry of the
    lease was conferred on him only by virtue of the Rent
    Control Act. It is, therefore, manifest that if the
    legislature considered in its wisdom to confer certain
    rights or facilities on the tenants, it could due to
    changed circumstances curtail, modify, alter or even
    take away such rights or the procedure enacted for the
    purpose of eviction and leave the tenants to seek their
    remedy under the common law.
  28. Thus, we do not see how can the tenant challenge
    the validity of such a provision enacted by the
    legislature from which the tenant itself derived such
    rights.”
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 25 of 29
  29. Similar are the observations of this Court in Ravi Dutt Sharma
    (supra) which had quoted several passages from Kewal Singh
    (supra) to observe that it is open to the legislature to pick out one
    class of landlords out of several covered under a specific provision
    of a rent enactment so long as they form a class by themselves
    and the legislature was free to provide benefit of a special
    procedure to them in the matter of eviction against the tenants as
    long as the legislation had the object to achieve and a special
    procedure has reasonable nexus to the object to be achieved.
  30. In Ashoka Marketing Ltd. (supra), the five Judge Constitution
    Bench of this Court had upheld applicability of the Public Premises
    Act to a corporation established by a Central Act that is owned
    and controlled by the Central Government, therein a nationalised
    bank. After referring to several judgments, this Court had
    explained the effect of Article 14 of the Constitution observing that
    the two statutes, namely, the Rent Control Act and the Public
    Premises Act were enacted by the same legislature, that is, the
    Parliament, in exercise of powers for matters enumerated in the
    Concurrent List. The Public Premises Act being a later enactment
    would prevail over the provisions of the Rent Control Act in
    respect of public premises. Referring to the provisions of the Rent
    Control Act, it was observed:
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 26 of 29
    “55. The Rent Control Act makes a departure from the
    general law regulating the relationship of landlord and
    tenant contained in the Transfer of Property Act
    inasmuch as it makes provision for determination of
    standard rent, it specifies the grounds on which a
    landlord can seek the eviction of a tenant, it prescribes
    the forum for adjudication of disputes between landlords
    and tenants and the procedure which has to be followed
    in such proceedings. The Rent Control Act can,
    therefore, be said to be a special statute regulating the
    relationship of landlord and tenant in the Union territory
    of Delhi. The Public Premises Act makes provision for a
    speedy machinery to secure eviction of unauthorised
    occupants from public premises. As opposed to the
    general law which provides for filing of a regular suit for
    recovery of possession of property in a competent court
    and for trial of such a suit in accordance with the
    procedure laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, the
    Public Premises Act confers the power to pass an order
    of eviction of an unauthorised occupant in a public
    premises on a designated officer and prescribes the
    procedure to be followed by the said officer before
    passing such an order. Therefore, the Public Premises
    Act is also a special statute relating to eviction of
    unauthorised occupants from public premises. In other
    words, both the enactments, namely, the Rent Control
    Act and the Public Premises Act, are special statutes in
    relation to the matters dealt with therein. Since, the
    Public Premises Act is a special statute and not a
    general enactment the exception contained in the
    principle that a subsequent general law cannot derogate
    from an earlier special law cannot be invoked and in
    accordance with the principle that the later laws
    abrogate earlier contrary laws, the Public Premises Act
    must prevail over the Rent Control Act.”
  31. What has been said about the Public Premises Act would be
    equally applicable to the legislations made by the State legislature
    of the State of Punjab in respect of the two enactments under
    consideration, that is, the East Punjab Rent Act and the Religious
    Premises Act. No doubt, in this decision it has been observed that
    the underlying reason for exclusion of property belonging to the
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 27 of 29
    government from the ambit of the Rent Control Act is that the
    government while dealing with the citizens in respect of property
    belonging to it would not act as a private landlord but would act in
    public interest, albeit this reasoning would equally apply to
    “religious institutions” as defined. The religious institutions as held
    are meant to carry out public purpose and the legislature can
    proceed accordingly that the religious institutions would act in
    public interest for which they were established. {See above S.
    Kandaswamy Chettiar (supra) and Christ the King Cathedral
    (supra)}
  32. As noticed above, valid grants, leases and allotments are not
    construed and treated as unauthorised occupation. It is only when
    the terms of the grant, lease or allotment are not adhered to or
    have been determined or the period of allotment, lease or grant as
    fixed has come to an end, that the person in occupation is treated
    to be in unauthorised occupation. This is a pre-condition which
    confers the right on the religious institution to seek eviction of a
    person in unauthorised occupation of the religious premises.
    Further, an order passed by the Collector is appealable before the
    Commissioner and if still aggrieved, a tenant can invoke the writ
    jurisdiction of the High Court, as mentioned above. Therefore,
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 28 of 29
    power of judicial review is always available and can be exercised
    by the High Court when required and necessary.
  33. Accordingly, we do not find any merit in the present appeal and
    the same is dismissed. However, in the facts of this case, there
    would be no order as to costs.
    ………………………………..J.
    (N. V. RAMANA)
    ………………………………..J.
    (SANJIV KHANNA)
    ………………………………..J.
    (KRISHNA MURARI)
    NEW DELHI;
    DECEMBER 04, 2019.
    Civil Appeal No. 3674 of 2009 Page 29 of 29