Supreme Court terms petitions against NJAC “Premature”

Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association vs. Union of India, decided on 25 august 2014, writ  petition (c) no. 762, 771, 773-775 of 2014

The Supreme Court vide its order dated 25 August 2014 refused to admit petitions and intervene on  the issue of constitutional validity of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 (hereinafter referred to as the “Bill”) on the ground that the  petitions are “premature”.

The Bill was introduced in conjunction with the Constitutional (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014, aimed  at establishing the National Judicial Appointments Commission (hereinafter referred to as “NJAC”) by which collegium system for appointment of judges  in higher judiciary was proposed to be scrapped and replaced by a new mechanism under NJAC.

The proposed NJAC will be a six-member body, headed by the Chief Justice of India. Besides the  Chief Justice of India, the judiciary would be represented by two senior judges of the Supreme  Court. Two eminent personalities and the Law Minister will be the other members of the proposed  body.

The petitions allege that NJAC strikes at the independence of the judiciary and the separation of  powers between the executive and judiciary, both of which are part of the basic structure.

The Supreme Court, while dismissing the petitions held that the Bill had not yet received presidential assent and said that the questions of law  raised by the petitioners could be argued after the Bill receives the presidential assent.

Supreme Court clarifies the Doctrine of Estoppel

Kamaljit Singh vs. Sarabjit Singh, decided on 2 September 2014, civil appeal no. 8410 of 2014 (arising out of s.l.p. (c) no. 19532 of 2011)

The present case strikes the manifest error by various courts in its earlier decisions in holding  that the landlord was obligated to prove his title over property, no matter the tenant admits the  existence of jural relationship of landlord and tenant. Section 116 of the Evidence Act deals with estoppel against tenants and of licensees or persons in  possession. The rule embodied in Section 116 simply prevents the tenant in occupation of the  premises from denying the title of the landlord who let him into possession, just as it applies to  a mortgagor or a mortgagee, vendor or a vendee, bailer or a bailee and licensor or a licensee. The rationale underlying the doctrine of estoppel against the tenant’s denial of title of his  landlord was stated by Jessel. M.R. in Re: Stringer’s Estate, LR Ch 9 as under:

“Where a man having no title obtains possession of land under a demise by a man in possession who  assumes to give him a title as tenant, he cannot deny his landlord’s title. This is perfectly  intelligible doctrine. He took possession under a contract to pay rent so long as he held  possession under the landlord, and to give it up at the end of the term to the landlord, and having  taken it in that way he is not allowed to say that the man whose title he admits and under whose  title he took possession has not a title. That is a well-established doctrine. That is estoppel by  contract.”

There is considerable authority for the proposition both in India as well as in U.K. that a tenant  in possession of the property cannot deny the title of the landlord.

The Supreme Courts clarified that the general principles of Evidence Act including the doctrine of  estoppel enshrined in Section 116 are applicable even to the tenants occupying properties of the  Non-Resident Indians. Section 13-B of  East Punjab Urban Land Restriction Act, 1949 is a beneficial  provision intended to provide a speedy remedy and right to recover immediate possession of property to NRIs who return to their native places and need  property let out by them for their own requirement or the requirement of those who are living with  and economically dependent upon them. If ordinarily a landlord cannot be asked to prove his title  before getting his tenant evicted on any one of the grounds stipulated for such eviction, we see no  reason why he should be asked to do so only because he happens to be a Non-Resident Indian.