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A tenant/lessee is entitled to challenge the derivative title of an Assignee/Vendee of the original landlord; SC.

Supreme Court of India


The SC {VINAY EKNATH LAD v. CHIU MAO CHEN} holds that it is not the law that in a landlord-tenant suit the landlord cannot be called upon at all to prove his ownership of a premises, but onus is not on him to establish perfect title of the suit property.

It was further held that the principle of estoppel bars a tenant from questioning the title of landlords. This is incorporated in Section 116 of the Evidence Act. But this principle cannot be made applicable straightaway in the case when the main defence set up by the tenant is that he had acknowledged the said partnership firm as the landlord but questioned the locus standi of the plaintiffs, who operated under the same trade name. In absence of attornment or public notice of dissolution, the defendant had no way of having knowledge of change of landlord of the subject-premises from partnership firm to a coownership concern. The co-ownership firm admittedly was not the defendant’s landlord at the time of commencement of the lease. Thus, identity of the landlord stood altered, though the seventeen individuals continued to operate under the same trade name. For this reason, the very fact that rent was continued to be paid to Sri Sabari Corporation cannot constitute acceptance of the original plaintiffs as the landlord by the defendant. 

It was held that the tenant/lessee is entitled to challenge the derivative title of an Assignee/Vendee of the original landlord (Lessor) of the demised property in an action brought by the Assignee/Vendee against the tenant for his eviction from the demised property under the Rent laws. This right of a tenant is, however, subject to one caveat that the tenant/lessee has not attorned to the Assignee/Vendee. In other words, if the tenant/lessee pays rent to the Assignee/Vendee of the tenanted property then it results in creation of an attornment between the parties which, in turn, deprives the tenant/lessee to challenge the derivative title of an Assignee/Vendee in the proceedings.

In the present case, as the material documents were not on record and exhibited, the matter was remanded back to the HC for deciding the application for taking on record the documents and then decide the matter in view of evidence on record.

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