The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Dr Suhas H Pophale v Oriental Insurance Company Limited and its Estate Officer finally answered the much debated question of whether the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971, applies to the occupant/licensee/tenant of public premises protected under a state rent act.
The Supreme Court held that in future the following two categories of occupants/licensees/tenants of public corporations are to be excluded from the coverage of the central act: (1) those who were in occupation of the public premises prior to 16 September 1958, when the central act became applicable; and (2) those who came into occupation after that date but prior to the date on which the premises became public premises and are protected occupants under the provisions of the state rent act.
Eric Voller was the original tenant of Indian Mercantile Insurance Company, the predecessor in title of Oriental Insurance, in respect of the premises, a flat in Mumbai. In December 1972, Voller executed a leave and licence agreement in favour of Pophale for a term of two years and gave Pophale exclusive possession of the flat. In 1973, Voller sought to transfer the tenancy of the flat to Pophale. Indian Mercantile accepted Pophale as its tenant and started accepting rent directly from him. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government had inserted section 15-A in the then Bombay Rent Act, with effect from 1 February 1973, to protect the licensees in occupation of any premises, by virtue of which Pophale became a deemed tenant of the flat.
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