By Pragya Singh
New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) The disputes between landlords and tenants should be settled within 60 days by special Rent Courts or Rent Tribunals which should be set up by the states and union territories for this specific purpose, according to a new law proposed by the central government.
At present, such cases fall under the jurisdiction of civil courts and take many years to be settled.
The draft law clearly states that civil courts will not be involved with the matters related to the disputes between the owners of the rented properties and the tenants.
"The Rent Court or, as the case may be, the Rent Tribunal shall endeavor to dispose the case as expeditiously as possible which shall not be more than a period of sixty days from the date of receipt of the application or appeal," the draft of Model Tenancy Act, 2019 says.
If a rent court or tribunal fails to dispose of the appeal within the period of two months, the draft calls for recording the reasons for the delay.
"Provided further that where any such application or the case may be, appeal could not be disposed of within the said period of sixty days, the Rent Court or, as the case may be, the Rent Tribunal shall record its reasons in writing for not disposing of the application or appeal within that period," it says.
"Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, in the areas to which this Act extends, only the Rent Court and no Civil Court shall have jurisdiction, except the jurisdiction of Rent Authority under Section 30, to hear and decide the applications relating to disputes between landowner and tenant and matters connected with and ancillary thereto covered under this Act," it adds.
It also added that the rent courts should be bound by the 'principle of natural justice' and not be bound by the procedure followed by the civil courts.
"Subject to any rules that may be made under this Act, the Rent Court and the Rent Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 but shall be guided by the principle of natural justice and shall have power to regulate their own procedure," it adds.
It also suggested that no more than three adjournments be allowed during the proceedings of such cases and penalise the party requesting more adjournments.
"The Rent Court shall not ordinarily allow more than three adjournments at the request of a party throughout the proceedings and in case he decides to do so, it shall record the reasons for the same in writing and order the party requesting adjournment to pay the reasonable cost," it said.
Expounding on the scope of powers available to the rent courts and tribunals, the draft states that these bodies would have the same powers as of the civil courts - in issuing summons, discovery and production of documents, issuing commissions for examination or investigation, setting aside or dismissing any application and executing its orders and decisions without reference to any civil court.
The draft law, which aims to promote rental housing in urban areas prepared by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, has been put in the public domain for suggestions from the stakeholders till August 1.
The suggestions will then be examined and the draft will be taken for the Union Cabinet's approval.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the 2019 Union Budget on July 5, announced that a model tenancy law will soon be finalised. The current tenancy laws are "archaic" as they do not address the relationship between the lessor and the lessee fairly, she had said.
The draft law accords powers to the states and the union territories to constitute a number of rent courts or tribunals that they feel are necessary.
In case the states/UTs do not have a rent court or a tribunal, the draft law suggests that they can designate any other court or tribunal as the Rent Court or Tribunal.
"A Rent Court may consist of two members to be appointed by the State/UT Government in consultation with the High Court," it said.
"The Rent Tribunal shall be headed by a Principal Appellate Member and comprise of two other Members, and the senior most judge shall function as Principal Appellate Member and shall have the power to transfer appeal cases from one member of the Appellate Tribunal to another member whenever deemed necessary," it added.