In its recent judgment in Subhash Chander and Ors v Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited,(1) the Supreme Court of India held that when a state rent control act provides for specific provisions pertaining to disputes between a landlord and tenant, the civil court has no jurisdiction to entertain and try such suits.


The predecessor in title of the appellants, the late Mr Vinod Kumar, gave on lease a 10,000-square- foot plot of land in Kaithal, Haryana to Burma Shell Oil Storage Distributing Company Ltd (Burma Shell) for a fixed period of 20 years starting from 1 April 1958. It also had an option to renew the lease for another 20 years. In 1976, the central government passed the Burma Shell (Acquisition of Undertakings) Act 1976 (the 1976 Act) and the tenancy was transferred to the respondent.

In 1978, at the time of expiry of the first term of 20 years, the respondent exercised the option for renewal of the lease and the lease term was extended for another 20 years until 1 April 1998. In January 1998, the appellants served a legal notice on the respondent to terminate the tenancy, and in August 1998 they filed a suit in the civil courts for possession.

The suit was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction as the eviction of a tenant is covered by the Haryana (Control of Rent and Eviction) Act 1973 (the 1973 Act). The subsequent appeal in the appellate court was also dismissed. The appellant then brought a second appeal before the High Court, which was dismissed in a judgment dated 8 July 2009. The appellant then brought an appeal of the assailing judgment before the Supreme Court.


The appellants submitted that under the provisions of the 1976 Act, the provisions of the 1973 Act were not applicable and that the observation of the lower courts that the respondent was a "statutory tenant" after the expiry of the lease deed was inconsistent with section 5(2) of the 1976 Act. The appellants argued that the respondent was a trespasser as no lease extension had been provided for by the appellants. The only remedy available for the appellants was to file a suit for possession of the property.

The respondent argued that, following the enactment of the 1976 Act, the respondent had been transposed as the tenant in light of the lease deed and that, following the determination of lease, the respondent was a statutory tenant and that the respondent could be evicted only if the provisions of section 13 of the 1973 Act were complied with. Thus, the civil court had no jurisdiction to try the suit.


The Court observed that there was no dispute about the title of the plot in dispute and the existence of the tenancy. It was further observed that the plot was present within the local jurisdiction of a municipal corporation to which the 1973 Act was squarely applicable. In light of the provisions of the 1976 Act, the Court opined that by virtue of sections 3, 5(2) and 7(3) of the 1976 Act, the statutory rights of Burma Shell with regards to the tenancy stood transferred to the central government. The central government had the absolute right to transfer it to the respondent corporation and that had been done, making the respondent the lessee with respect to the plot in dispute.

The Court then referred to the judgment of its constitution bench in the case of V Dhanapal Chettiar v Yesodai Ammal(2) and emphasised that even if a tenancy is determined under the provisions of the Transfer of Property Act 1882, the tenant still continues to be a tenant in light of the state rent acts, and the eviction of such tenant can only be carried out under the provisions of the state rent acts.

The Court eventually held that even though the 1976 Act had an overriding provision, the jurisdiction of the civil courts continued to remain barred because of the 1973 Act. The Court held that:

Being the complete code determining the rights of a tenant/landlord to the exclusion of the other laws, we find no error in the view expressed by the High Court in the impugned judgment holding that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is held to be barred and remedial mechanism for ejectment could be possible only under the provisions of the Act 1973.

The Court dismissed the appeal.

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(1) 2022 SCC online SC 98.

(2) (1979) 4 SCC 214.