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Maharashtra Slum areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971: ss. 4 and 2(e)(v) – `Slum area’ – `Occupier’ – `Trespasser’ – HELD: `Occupier’ as defined in Clause (v) of s.2(e) includes any person who is liable to pay to the owner damages for use and occupation of any land or building and would take within its fold and sweep a trespasser since such person is not only liable for damages for an act of trespass, but also liable to pay damages for use and occupation of land or building trespassed by him – It is immaterial whether damages for use and occupation are, in fact, claimed or not. ss. 4, 2(e)(v) and 22(1)(a) – `Slum area’ – `Occupier’ – Suit for eviction of trespasser – Prior permission of competent authority – HELD: Before initiation of any suit or proceedings for eviction of a trespasser who is `occupier’ within the meaning of s.2(e)(v), the written permission of the Competent Authority u/s 22(1)(a) is mandatorily required – In the instant case, though the `occupier’ is a trespasser, but the suit for her eviction was not maintainable for want of written permission of the competent Authority and was rightly dismissed by the trial court. Words and Phrases: `Trespass’ – `Trespasser’ – Connotation of. Plaintiff-respondent no. 1 filed a suit against the defendant-appellant and respondent no. 2, the Executive Engineer of the State Electricity Board, for declaration, possession and permanent injunction in respect of a room admeasuring 8′ x 10′ (the subject room) situate in the city of Pune. Her case was that she constructed the subject room in 1987, got electricity connection in her name, was paying taxes to the Municipal Corporation and had the photopass in her name; that she permitted her friend, the appellant, to stay temporarily in the subject room and when she was asked to vacate it, she refused denying the right of the plaintiff. It was stated that the defendant was neither a tenant nor a licensee but a trespasser and had no right to remain in possession of the subject room. The defendant- appellant contested the suit stating that she had the photopass for the subject room. She denied the room to have been constructed in 1987 and her status of a trespasser. She claimed that the subject room was situate in the slum area declared under the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 and the suit was not maintainable without the written permission of the Competent Authority in view of the prohibition contained in s. 22(1)(a) of the Act. The trial court accepted the title of the plaintiff over the subject room, but dismissed the suit holding that the suit without permission of the Competent Authority was not maintainable. On plaintiff’s appeal, the first appellate court decreed the suit holding that as the defendant was a trespasser, the permission of the Competent Authority was not necessary. The second appeal of the defendant having been dismissed by the High Court in limine, she filed the appeal. The question for consideration before the Court was: “is a trespasser covered by the definition of `occupier’ in s. 2(e) (v) of the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971” and if yes, “whether for his eviction from the land or building in a declared slum area, the written permission of the Competent Authority u/s 22(1) (a) of the 1971 Act is mandatorily required.” =Allowing the appeal, the Court HELD: 1.1 A `trespass’ is an unlawful interference with one’s person, property or rights. With reference to property, it is a wrongful invasion of another’s possession. [para 10] [194-F-G] Words and Phrases, Permanent Edition (West Publishing Company), pages 108 and 115; Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition), 1990, page 1504; Halsbury’s Laws of England; Volume 45 (Fourth Edition), page 631 – referred to. 1.2 The definition of `occupier’ in s. 2(e) of the Maharashtra Slum areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 is not exhaustive but inclusive. Clause (v) that reads, `occupier’, includes `any person who is liable to pay to the owner damages for the use and occupation of any land or building’ would surely take within its fold and sweep a trespasser since such person is not only liable for damages for an act of trespass but also liable to pay to the owner damages for the use and occupation of any land or building trespassed by him. It is immaterial whether damages for the use and occupation are in fact claimed or not by the owner in an action against the trespasser. Clause (v), includes a person who enters the land or building in possession of another with permission or consent but remains upon such land or building after such permission or consent has been revoked since after revocation of permission or consent, he is liable to pay damages for unauthorised use of land or building. The first appellate court relied upon Shanker Dagadu Bakade’s case which has already been overruled in Taj Mohamed Yakub and distinguished the latter on superficial reasoning without properly appreciating the statement of law exposited therein. The High Court failed to notice such grave error in the judgment of the first appellate court. [para 15] [198-B-G; 199-A-B] Taj Mohamed Yakub vs. Abdul Gani Bhikan (1991) Mh L J 263 – approved. Shankar Dagadu Bakade and Ors. vs. Bajirao Balaji Darwatkar 1990(2) Bom CR 38 – stood overruled. 2.1 Once it is held that a trespasser is included in the definition of `occupier’ in s. 2(e)(v) of the 1971 Act, what necessarily follows is that before initiation of any suit or proceeding for eviction of such trespasser, the previous written permission of the Competent Authority is required as mandated by s. 22(1). Section 22(1) starts with non obstante clause and it is clear from the provision contained in clause (a) thereof that no person shall institute any suit or proceeding for obtaining any decree or order for eviction of the occupier from any building or land in a slum area or for recovery of any arrears of rent or compensation from any such occupier or for both without the previous written permission of the Competent Authority. The use of words `no’ and `shall’ in sub-s. (1) of s. 22 makes it abundantly clear that prior written permission of the Competent Authority for an action under clause (a) thereof is mandatorily required and is a must. The role of the Competent Authority under the 1971 Act is extremely important as the legislature has conferred power on him to carry out execution of works in improvement of the slum. These provisions contained in s. 22 are salutary in light of the scheme of 1971 Act and have to be followed. [para 16] [199-B-H] 2.2 In the instant case, respondent no.1 set up the case in the plaint that the appellant was a trespasser in the subject room. The first appellate court has also recorded a categorical finding, which has not been disturbed by the High Court, that the appellant was occupying the subject room as trespasser. In the circumstances, the suit was clearly not maintainable for want of written permission from the Competent Authority and was rightly dismissed by the trial court. [para 17] [200-C] 2.3 The judgment of the High Court affirming the judgment of the first appellate court is set aside. The suit filed by respondent no.1 stands dismissed. However, this will not preclude respondent no.1 from instituting fresh suit or proceeding for eviction against the appellant after obtaining necessary written permission from the Competent Authority. [para 18] [200- D-E] Case Law Reference: (1991) Mh L J 263 approved para 15 1990(2) Bom CR 38 stood overruled para 15 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal No. 2789 of 2005. From the Judgment & Order dated 20.09.2004 of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay in Second Appeal No. 1125 of 2004. Ravindra Keshavrao Adsure for the Appellant. Punam Kumari for the Respondents.

Pune, India

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REPORTABLE

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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2789 OF 2005

 

Laxmi Ram Pawar …… Appellant

Vs.

Sitabai Balu Dhotre & Anr. …… Respondents

 
JUDGMENT

 

R.M. LODHA, J.
The decision in this appeal, in our opinion, turns upon the

answer to the following question : is a trespasser covered by the

definition of `occupier’ in Section 2(e)(v) of the Maharashtra Slum

Areas (Improvement, Clearance and Redevelopment) Act, 1971 (for

short, ` the 1971 Act’) and if yes, whether for his eviction from the

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land or building in a declared slum area, the written permission of the

Competent Authority under Section 22(1)(a) of the 1971 Act is

mandatorily required.

2. The aforesaid question arises in this way. The first

respondent–Sitabai Balu Dhotre filed a suit for declaration,

possession and permanent injunction in respect of a room

admeasuring 8 x 10 ft. situate in Survey No. 1001, Wadarwadi

bearing Hut No. 12/161/B/P/424, Taluka Haveli, Pune (for short,

`subject room’) against the appellant–Laxmi Ram Pawar and the

second respondent–the Executive Engineer, Shivajinagar, Sub

Division, Maharashtra State Electricity Board, Pune in the Court of

10th Joint Civil Judge, Junior Division, Pune. The case set up by the

first respondent was that the subject room was constructed by her in

1987; she got electricity connection in her name and has been paying

taxes to the Pune Municipal Corporation. She claimed that she was

having photopass in her name. According to her, she permitted the

appellant being her friend to stay temporarily for two months in the

subject room as she (appellant) was not having any shelter to live in.

After expiry of two months, the first respondent asked the appellant to

vacate the subject room but she requested the first respondent to
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allow her to stay in that room for some more time as she was

arranging for some alternative accommodation but later on, the

appellant denied the first respondent’s right in the subject room

necessitating the legal proceedings against her. The first respondent

averred that the appellant was neither tenant nor licensee but a

trespasser and has no right to remain in possession of the subject

room.

3. The appellant traversed the first respondent’s claim and

set up the case in the written statement that the subject room was

constructed by her in 1987 and she was holding a photopass for the

said room. She denied that she was a trespasser. She set up a plea

that subject room was situate in the slum area declared under the

1971 Act and the suit filed by the first respondent was not

maintainable without written permission of the Competent Authority

in view of the prohibition contained in Section 22(1)(a) of that Act.

4. On the basis of the pleadings of the parties, the trial court

framed the following issues :

“1. Does plaintiff prove that he has title over the
hutment bearing No. 12/261/B/P/424 situated at
S.No. 1001 Wadarwadi, Shivajinagar, Pune?

2. Does plaintiff further prove that defendant No. 1
is residing in the said hutment?

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3. Does plaintiff further prove that defendants are
trying to cut off the electric supply from the
electric meter No. 26540?

4. Whether the suit is tenable without permission of
competent authority?

5. Is plaintiff entitled to claim possession of the suit
hutment from defendant No. 1?

6. Is plaintiff entitled to claim permanent injunction
as prayed for?

7. What order and decree?”

5. After recording the evidence and hearing the parties, the

trial court recorded its findings in the negative in respect of issue nos.

1,3,5 and 6 and in the affirmative with regard to issue no. 2. While

dealing with issue no. 4, the trial court held that the suit without

obtaining the written permission from the Competent Authority was

not tenable. Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the suit on August

31, 2000.

6. The first respondent challenged the judgment and decree

passed by the trial court in appeal before the District Court, Pune

which was transferred to the court of the 8th Additional District Judge,

Pune for hearing and final disposal. The first appellate court reversed

the findings of the trial court on issue nos. 1 and 4 and held that the
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suit filed by the first respondent was maintainable without the

permission of the Competent Authority as she was a trespasser and

in case of trespasser in occupation of slum area governed by the

1971 Act, the permission of the Competent Authority was not

necessary. The first appellate court, thus, set aside the judgment and

decree of the trial court and decreed the suit filed by the first

respondent on July 30, 2004 and directed the appellant to deliver the

possession of the subject room to the first respondent within 60 days

therefrom.

7. Being not satisfied with the judgment and decree dated

July 30, 2004 passed by the first appellate court, the appellant

preferred second appeal before the High Court of Judicature at

Bombay but without any success as the second appeal was

dismissed in limine on September 20, 2004.

8. The answer to the question which has been framed by us

at the outset has to be found in light of the statutory provisions

contained in the 1971 Act. Section 2(e) of the 1971 Act defines

`occupier’ as follows :

“S.2(e) “occupier” indudes,-
(i) any person who for the time being is paying or is
liable to pay to the owner the rent or any portion of the
rent of the land or building in respect of which such rent

5
is paid or is payable;
(ii) an owner in occupation of, or otherwise using, his
land or building;
(iii) a rent-free tenant of any land or building;
(iv) a licensee in occupation of any land or building; and
(v) any person who is liable to pay to the owner
damages for the use and occupation of any land or
building;”

 

9. Section 3(1) empowers the State Government to appoint

the Competent Authority for the purposes of the 1971 Act. Section 4

provides for declaration of slum area/s by the Competent Authority

on its satisfaction to the aspects stated therein. Chapter VI of the

1971 Act deals with the subject titled `Protection of Occupiers in Slum

Areas from Eviction and Distress Warrants’. Section 22 which falls in

Chapter VI to the extent it is relevant for the present appeal reads as

follows :

 

“S.22. (I) Notwithstanding anything contained in any
other law for the time being in force, no person shall
except with the previous permission in writing of the
Competent Authority–
(a) institute, after commencement of the
Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance and
Redevelopment) Act, 1971, any suit or proceeding for
obtaining any decree or order for the eviction of an
occupier from any building or land in a slum area or for

 

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recovery of any arrears of rent or compensation from
any such occupier, or for both; or
…………………………. ………..

(2) Every person desiring to obtain the
permission referred to in sub-section (1)……..shall
make an application in writing to the Competent
Authority in such form and containing such particulars
as may be prescribed.

(3) On receipt of such application. the Competent
Authority, after giving an opportunity to the parties of
being heard and after making such summary inquiry into
the circumstances of the case as it thinks fit, shall, by
order in writing, either grant or refuse to grant such
permission.

(4) In granting or refusing to grant the permission under
clause (a) or (b) of subsection (1), . . . . . . . . the
Competent Authority shall take into account the
following factors, namely :-

(a) whether alternative accommodation within the
means of the occupier would be available to him, if he
were evicted;

(b) whether the eviction is in the interest of improvement
and clearance of the slum area;

(b-1)whether, having regard to the relevant
circumstances of each case, the total amount of arrears
of rent or compensation and the period for which it is
due and the capacity of the occupier to pay the same,
the occupier is ready and willing to pay the whole of the
amount of arrears of rent or compensation by
reasonable installments within a stipulated time;

(c) any other factors. if any, as may be prescribed.
……………….. ………… ……

 
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(5) Where the Competent Authority refuses to grant the
permission under any of the clauses of sub-section (/) it
shall record a brief statement of the reasons for such
refusal, and furnish a copy thereof to the applicant.”

 

10. A `trespass’ is an unlawful interference with one’s person,

property or rights. With reference to property, it is a wrongful

invasion of another’s possession. In Words and Phrases, Permanent

Edition (West Publishing Company), pages 108, 109 and 115, in

general, a `trespasser’ is described, inter alia, as follows:

“A “trespasser” is a person who enters or remains upon
land in the possession of another without a privilege to
do so created by the possessor’s consent or otherwise.
In re Wimmer’s Estate, 182 P.2d 119, 121, 111 Utah
444.”

“A “trespasser” is one entering or remaining on land in
another’s possession without a privilege to do so
created by possessor’s consent, express or implied, or
by law. Keesecker v. G.M. Mckelvey Co., 42 N.E. 2d
223, 226, 227, 68 Ohio App. 505.”
…………………………..

“A “trespass” is a transgression or wrongful act, and in
its most extensive signification includes every
description of wrong, and a `trespasser” is one who
does an unlawful act, or a lawful act in an unlawful
manner, to the injury of the person or property of
another. Carter v. Haynes, Tex., 269 S.W. 216, 220.”

 
8
11. In Black’s Law Dictionary (Sixth Edition), 1990, page

1504, the term `trespasser’ is explained as follows :

“Trespasser. One who has committed trespass. One
who intentionally and without consent or privilege enters
another’s property. One who enters upon property of
another without any right, lawful authority, or express or
implied invitation, permission, or license, not in
performance of any duties to owner, but merely for his
own purpose, pleasure or convenience”.

12. In Halsbury’s Laws of England; Volume 45 (Fourth

Edition), pages 631-632, the following statement is made under the

title `What Constitutes Trespass to Land’.

“Every unlawful entry by one person on land in the
possession of another is a trespass for which an action
lies, even though no actual damage is done. A person
trespasses upon land if he wrongfully sets foot on it,
rides or drives over it or takes possession of it, or expels
the person in possession, or pulls down or destroys
anything permanently fixed to it, or wrongfully takes
minerals from it, or places or fixes anything on it or in it,
or if he erects or suffers to continue on his own land
anything which invades the airspace of another, or if he
discharges water upon another’s land, or sends filth or
any injurious substance which has been collected by
him on his own land onto another’s land.”

 

In the same volume, page 634, under the title `trespass ab initio’, the

legal position is stated thus :
“If a person enters on the land of another under an
authority given him by law, and, while there, abuses the
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authority by an act which amounts to a trespass, he
becomes a trespasser ab initio, and may be sued as if
his original entry were unlawful. Instances of an entry
under the authority of the law are the entry of a
customer into a common inn, of a reversioner to see if
waste has been done, or of a commoner to see his
cattle.
To make a person a trespasser ab initio there
must be a wrongful act committed; a mere nonfeasance
is not enough.”

 

The aforesaid statement takes into consideration the Six Carpenters’

case1 wherein the general rule given is this, `when entry, authority or

licence is given to any one by the law, and he doth abuse it, he shall

be a trespasser ab initio’.

13. In Law Lexicon, The Encyclopaedic Law Dictionary by P.

Ramanatha Aiyar, 2nd Edition, Reprint 2000, page 1917, the word

`trespass’ is explained by relying upon Tomlins Dictionary of Law

Terms as follows:

“Trespass, in its largest and most extensive sense,
signifies any transgression or offence against the law of
nature, of society, or the country in which we live;
whether it relates to a man’s person or his property.
Therefore beating another is a trespass; for which an
action of trespass in assault and battery will lie. Taking
or detaining a man’s goods are respectively trespasses,
for which an action of trespass on the case in trover and
conversion, is given by the Law; so, also, non-
performance of promises or undertakings is a trespass,
upon which an action of Trespass on the case in
assumesit is grounded: and, in general, any
1
(1610) 8 Co Rep 146
10
misfeasance, or act of one man, whereby another is
injuriously affected or damnified, is a transgression, or
trespass, in its largest sense; for which an action will
lie.”

14. In Salmond on the Law of Torts, 17th Edition by R.F.V.

Heuston, 1977, page 41, the expression, `Trespass by remaining on

land’ is explained in the following manner :

“Even a person who has lawfully entered on land in the
possession of another commits a trespass if he remains
there after his right of entry has ceased. To refuse or
omit to leave the plaintiff’s land or vehicle is as much a
trespass as to enter originally without right. Thus, any
person who is present by the leave and licence of the
occupier may, as a general rule, when the licence has
been properly terminated, be sued or ejected as a
trespasser, if after request and after the lapse of a
reasonable time he fails to leave the premises.”

 

Under the title `Continuing Trespasses’, page 42, it is stated:
“That trespass by way of personal entry is a continuing
injury, lasting as long as the personal presence of the
wrong doer, and giving rise to actions de die in diem so
long as it lasts, is sufficiently obvious. It is well-settled,
however, that the same characteristic belongs in law
even to those trespasses which consist in placing things
upon the plaintiff’s land. Such a trespass continues until
it has been abated by the removal of the thing which is
thus trespassing; successive actions will lie from day to
day until it is so removed; and in each action damages
(unless awarded in lieu of an injunction) are assessed
only upto the date of the action. Whether this doctrine is
either logical or convenient may be a question, but it
has been repeatedly decided to be the law.”

 

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15. Insofar as the definition of `occupier’ in Section 2(e) of the

1971 Act is concerned, it must be immediately stated that the said

definition is not exhaustive but inclusive. Clauses (i) to (iv) of Section

2(e) definitely do not embrace within itself a trespasser but Clause

(v) that reads, `occupier’ includes `any person who is liable to pay to

the owner damages for the use and occupation of any land or

building’ would surely take within its fold and sweep a trespasser

since such person is not only liable for damages for an act of

trespass but also liable to pay to the owner damages for the use and

occupation of any land or building trespassed by him. It is immaterial

whether damages for the use and occupation are in fact claimed or

not by the owner in an action against the trespasser. By no stretch of

imagination, a trespasser could be taken out of the definition of

`occupier’ in Section 2(e)(v) of the 1971 Act. Clause (v), in our

opinion, includes a person who enters the land or building in

possession of another with permission or consent but remains upon

such land or building after such permission or consent has been

revoked since after revocation of permission or consent, he is liable

to pay damages for unauthorised use of land or building. The Division

Bench of the Bombay High Court in Taj Mohamed Yakub v. Abdul

 

12
Gani Bhikan2 has taken the view that a trespasser is included in the

definition of `occupier’ under Section 2(e)(v) of the 1971 Act which,

we hold, is the correct view. The contrary view taken by a Single

Bench of the Bombay High Court in Shankar Dagadu Bakade and

Ors. v. Bajirao Balaji Darwatkar3 is not right on this point and has

rightly been overruled by the Division Bench in Taj Mohamed Yakub2.

Strangely, the first appellate court relied upon Shanker Dagadu

Bakade’s case3 which has already been overruled in Taj Mohamed

Yakub2 and distinguished Taj Mohamed Yakub2 on superficial

reasoning without properly appreciating the statement of law

exposited therein. The High Court, unfortunately, failed to notice

such grave error in the judgment of the first appellate court.

16. Once it is held that a trespasser is included in the

definition of `occupier’ in Section 2(e)(v) of the 1971 Act, what

necessarily follows is that before initiation of any suit or proceeding

for eviction of such trespasser, the previous written permission of the

Competent Authority is required as mandated by Section 22(1).

Section 22(1) starts with non obstante clause and it is clear from the

provision contained in clause (a) thereof that no person shall institute

2
(1991) Mh L J 263
3
1990 (2) Bom CR 38
13
any suit or proceeding for obtaining any decree or order for eviction of

the occupier from any building or land in a slum area or for recovery

of any arrears of rent or compensation from any such occupier or for

both without the previous written permission of the Competent

Authority. The use of words `no’ and `shall’ in sub-section (1) of

Section 22 makes it abundantly clear that prior written permission of

the Competent Authority for an action under clause (a) thereof is a

must. The role of the Competent Authority under the 1971 Act is

extremely important as the legislature has conferred power on him to

carry out execution of works in improvement of the slum. Sub-Section

(2) of Section 22 requires the person desiring to obtain the

permission to make an application in writing to the Competent

Authority. As per sub-section (3) on receipt of such application, the

Competent Authority by an order in writing may either grant or refuse

to grant such permission after giving an opportunity to the parties of

being heard and after making such summary enquiries into the

circumstances of the case as it thinks fit. Sub-section (4) of Section

22 requires the Competent Authority to take into account the factors

set out therein for granting or refusing the permission. These

provisions contained in Section 22 are salutary in light of the scheme

 

14
of 1971 Act and have to be followed. It has to be held, therefore, that

for eviction of a trespasser who is `occupier’ within the meaning of

Section 2(e)(v) of 1971 Act from the land or building or any part

thereof in a declared slum area, the written permission of the

Competent Authority under Section 22(1)(a) is mandatorily required.

17. Insofar as present case is concerned, the first respondent

set up the case in the plaint that the appellant was a trespasser in the

subject room. The first appellate court has also recorded a

categorical finding, which has not been disturbed by the High Court,

that the appellant was occupying the subject room as trespasser. In

the circumstances, the suit was clearly not maintainable for want of

written permission from the Competent Authority and was rightly

dismissed by the trial court.

18. In view of the above, the appeal is allowed; the judgment

of the High Court dated September 20, 2004 affirming the judgment

of the 8th Additional District Judge dated July 30, 2004 is set aside.

The suit filed by the first respondent stands dismissed. However, this

will not preclude the first respondent in instituting fresh suit or

proceeding for eviction against the appellant after obtaining

 
15
necessary written permission from the Competent Authority. The

parties shall bear their own costs.

 

…………………….J.
(Aftab Alam)

 

………………….. J.
(R.M. Lodha)

NEW DELHI,
DECEMBER 1, 2010

 
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