Tag Archives: Wilful Failure

Failure to Pay Rent – Deliberate Default

In Santosh Mehta v. Om Prakash, (1980) 3 SCC 610, it was held that the power to strike out a party’s defence is an exceptional step and has only to be exercised where a “mood of defiance” and “gross negligence” on the part of the tenant is detected. It was held as under: “We must adopt a socially informed perspective while construing the provisions and then it will be plain that the Controller is armed with a facultative power. He may, or may not strike out the tenant’s defence. A judicial discretion has built-in self-restraint, has the scheme of the statute in mind, cannot ignore the conspectus of circumstances which are present in the case and has the brooding thought playing on the power that, in a court, striking out a party’s defence is an exceptional step, not a routine visitation of a punitive extreme following upon a mere failure to pay rent. First of all, there must be a failure to pay rent which, in the context, indicates wilful failure, deliberate default or volitional non-performance. Secondly, the section provides no automatic weapon but prescribes a wise discretion, inscribes no mechanical consequence but invests a power to overcome intransigence. Thus, if a tenant fails or refuses to pay or deposit rent and the court discerns a mood of defiance or gross neglect, the tenant may forfeit his right to be heard in defence. The last resort cannot be converted into the first resort; a punitive direction of court cannot be used as a booby trap to get the tenant out. Once this teleological interpretation dawns, the mist of misconception about matter-of-course invocation of the power to strike out will vanish. Farewell to the realities of a given case is playing truant with the duty underlying the power. Dina Nath v. Subhash Chand Saini, (2019) 9 SCC 477

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