Case dragged for 30 yrs: SC slaps ₹1L fine, orders tenant to pay 11-yr rent

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A tenant, who deprived a landlord of his property for around three decades, has been slapped with a penalty of ₹1 lakh by the Supreme Court, which also ordered him to cough up the rent for the past 11 years at the market rate.

The bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R Subhash Reddy called it a “classic case” of how judicial processes could be abused by a person to rob someone else of his entitlement. “This is a classic case of how civil proceedings can be prolonged ad infinitum (indefinitely), causing grave injustice to one of the parties. We are not satisfied with merely dismissing the special leave petition as some signal must be sent to discourage this nature of litigation,” said the bench in its order.

The bench ordered that the property — a shop in West Bengal’s Alipore — be handed over to the landlord within 15 days of the apex court order being placed before the trial court there.

Dismissing the petition by Debasish Sinha, nephew of the original tenant who claimed to be a business partner of his uncle, the court ordered him to shell out rent at the market rates since March, 2010, when he appeared before the executing court to stop the eviction proceeding. The bench said Sinha must pay up within three months.

“The petitioner (Sinha), for wastage of judicial time and for dragging on the proceedings, be burdened with costs of ₹1 lakh to be paid to the respondent (landlord) within the same period of three months,” the top court recorded in its order on Monday.

The shop in Alipore was leased out to Sinha’s uncle in 1967 for a period of 21 years by one Labanya Prava Dutta. After completion of the lease period, the landlord sought to get the property evicted in 1988 but to no avail. A suit for evicting the tenant was filed in 1993 which was decreed in favour of the landlord in August 2005 by a civil court in Alipore.

This order was challenged up to the Supreme Court by Sinha’s uncle but the eviction order was upheld by all superior courts. In 2009, the landlord had to again go to a court for getting the tenant evicted by filing execution proceedings.

At this stage, Sinha showed up, claiming himself to be a nephew of the original tenant and a partner in the business that was run by him with his uncle from the same property. Sinha said that since he was not a party to the proceedings earlier, the eviction order did not apply to him.

Sinha’s attempt to contest the main order of eviction was repelled first by the executing court in September 2011 and subsequently by an appellant court in April 2016. He then approached the Calcutta high court, which also dismissed his plea in November 2019. All this while, the possession remained with Sinha.

Against the high court order, Sinha moved the Supreme Court, which condemned the tenant for dragging the dispute by filing cases after cases and issued the order imposing penalty on him.

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