On 14.11.2019, CJI Ranjan Gogoi along with Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Sanjiv Khanna refused to strike down Section 13-B of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949 (Rent Act) merely because it grants a right to claim eviction to a certain group of landlords, i.e. Non-Resident Indians.
A plea was made before the Supreme Court to strike down the aforementioned Section 13-B as it could be used to extend to other landlords. The Court found this plea to be without substance and said, “It rests with the legislature to make laws and extend it to other similarly situated persons. The rent act(s) invariably give similar rights by a controlled mechanism and alluded riders to various other classes/groups of landlords, namely, government servants, members of armed forces, the retired or soon to retire employees of the Central and the State Governments, widows, etc.”
The Court further held that “the right of Non-Resident Indians to initiate eviction under the summary procedure provided in Section 18-A of the Rent Act is not an unfettered and absolute right.” The Section in itself needs a plethora of conditions that need to be satisfied before one can invoke the law. The conditions check the abuse and unfair utilization of the law. Moreover the requirement should arise from a genuine need of the dependant or the Non-Resident Indian himself. The landowner in question needs to own the land for a minimum of 5 years before he can file an eviction suit. The utility of the law also has an upper cap. The restrictions stipulate that a person can use it only once in his lifetime and only for one specific building. It also lays down constraints regarding re-sale and re-letting of the property. There is a final requirement where the property needs to possessed for a minimum of three months after the possession is taken.
Thus the Court noted that the conditions attached with the Section suggest that “Section 13-B serves a specific policy objective to ensure the right of Non-Resident Indians to occupy their property in the Union Territory of Chandigarh and the State of Punjab as the case may be, after “returning” to their country.... Section 13-B cannot, therefore, be treated as an arbitrary classification that infringes and violates Article 14 of the Constitution.”
Case reference- Ram Krishan Grover v. Union of India, Civil Appeal mo. 8597 of 2019.