1. The captioned writ petitions are materially connected in respect of the Gas Agency conducted by the petitioner in W.P.(C) No.31777 of 2018 and non-renewal of the lease agreement by the landlord, who is the petitioner in the connected writ petition, and is arrayed as 2nd respondent in the writ petition filed by the tenant. Therefore, I heard them together and propose to deliver this common judgment. Material facts for the disposal of the writ petitions discernible from W.P.(C) No.31777 of 2018 are relied upon for disposal of the cases.
2. Petitioner is awarded with the distribution of Indane Liquefied Petroleum Gas by the Indian Oil Corporation, in the year 1994, which has its godown in a rented premises owned by the 2nd respondent. According to the petitioner, 2nd respondent is not willing to extend the lease period as the petitioner had made arrangements for shifting the godown to a new premises. However, the Chief Town Planner had illegally declined approval for the new premises, against which, petitioner has secured Exts.P3 and P4 judgments, however, the writ appeals filed against those judgments are pending consideration. But, now as a pressure tactics to evict the petitioner, 2nd respondent sent Ext.P2 complaint to the 1st respondent, who in turn sent Ext.P1 e-mail, threatening to suspend the agency, unless the matter is settled with the 2nd respondent within three days. Case projected by the petitioner is that, such insistence made is arbitrary and unjustified, and if the agency is closed, it will cause irreparable loss and injury to the petitioner, its employees and the customers.
3. W.P.(C) No. 35370 of 2018 is filed by the landlord seeking direction to respondents 1 to 3, i.e., the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and its officers to conduct an enquiry through the Vigilance Wing of the IOC, to ascertain the illegal business partnership of the 5th respondent, i.e., the proprietor of the Gas Agency and take appropriate action in the event of any contravention of the Gas Cylinders Rules, 2016 (in short, 'the Rules, 2016'), and further to direct the 4th respondent to cancel or suspend the licence of the godown premises in the absence of any renewed lease agreement with the petitioner, and to declare that the 5th respondent cannot run the gas godown in the premises in question in the absence of consent and fresh lease agreement.
4. The landlord has filed a counter affidavit in W.P.(C) No.31777 of 2018 basically raising the contentions put forth in the writ petition filed by the landlord.
5. I have considered the rival submissions made across the Bar and perused the pleadings and the documents on record.
6. The discussion of facts made above would make it clear that, so far as the claim raised in W.P.(C) No.31777 of 2018 is concerned, it is seeking to quash Ext.P1 e-mail communication issued by the Indian Oil Corporation, enquiring with the petitioner as to the status of the new Godown construction, and also enquiring about the extension of the lease by the land owner. It is also mentioned thereunder that, as the land owner is not expected to extend the lease period, the Explosive Licence cannot be renewed. Therefore, according to learned counsel for the petitioner, there is every likelihood of suspension of the licence by the company, taking into account the stipulations contained under Rule 49 of the Gas Cylinders Rules, 2016 (in short, 'the Rules, 2016').
7. Rule 49 deals with application for licence or approval. Sub-rule (1) stipulates that: “A person intending to obtain or renew a licence or approval under these rules, shall submit an application in writing, to the Chief Controller or Controller” along with various documents. Clause (v) of sub-rule(1) of Rule 49 is relevant to the context, which read thus: “ownership proof for legal and physical possession of the land, where such facilities are proposed to be set up”. Relying upon the said provision, landlord contends that since the lease is not renewed by the landlord, petitioner is not entitled to continue in the premises. It is also submitted that a portion of the land let out to the petitioner is sold by the landlord to a third person, and if he makes any construction in the said property, it will materially affect the safety feature of the godown conducted by the petitioner.
8. Learned counsel appearing for the Indian Oil Corporation submitted that, they are only concerned with the continuance of the Gas Agency in accordance with the Rules, and they have no intention to suspend the licence, if the licence conditions are in order. It is true, the landlord has filed Ext.P4 representation before the 2nd respondent, basically stating that the lease arrangement by and between the parties have expired, and it is not extended. It is also stated in the said representation that the landlord is not willing to give further consent letter or execute another agreement with the Gas dealer.
9. Having evaluated the rival contentions put forth by the respective counsel, I am of the considered opinion that, since the Gas dealer was put in possession of the godown and premises by executing a lease agreement and the said dealer is in possession of the property and the godown premises, no forcible eviction is possible. What I could gather from Rule 49 of the Rules, 2016, is that, it is a composite provision for “obtaining” and “renewing” a licence or approval, and therefore, clause (v) of sub-rule (1) of Rule 49 will have to be appreciated taking into account the said aspect. On a reading of clause (v), it is clear that it deals with a situation when an application is submitted for issuance of a licence and at that point of time, the dealer has to produce proof for legal and physical possession of the land, where the facilities are proposed to be set up. If the said provision is read otherwise, and it is made an imperative condition for renewal of licence, then the consequences will be disastrous, especially due to the fact that, when the contractual tenancy ceases, the tenant becomes a statutory tenant as per the provisions of the Kerala Buildings (Lease & Rent Control) Act, 1965 (in short, 'the Act, 1965'). Therefore, the said provision has to be read down to mean so.
10. Accordingly, I hold that sub-rule (v) of Rule 49(1) of the Rules, 2016, is a mandatory requirement at the time of issuance of licence and the company is not at liberty to insist the dealer to secure a fresh lease deed from the landlord, especially in circumstances where disputes are existing by and between the tenant and the landlord. It is clear from the pleadings put forth by the landlord in the counter affidavit as well as in the writ petition that there are serious disputes existing by and between the landlord and the tenant, and therefore, the company cannot insist the petitioner-tenant to produce any fresh lease arrangement from the landlord. So much so, since the tenancy continues by virtue of the enabling provisions of Act, 1965, the petitioner-tenant is in possession of the premises, in accordance with law, which thus means, if the dealer/tenant is otherwise qualified, the nonproduction of lease deed by itself shall not stand in the way of the authority renewing the licence.
11. So also, from Ext.P4 representation in W.P.(C) No.35370 of 2018 submitted by the landlord before the 2nd respondent, it is clearly discernible that the sole grievance of the landlord is non-renewal of the lease. Therefore, it cannot be said that anything survives to be considered in the said representation than the one decided by this Court as above. If the landlord has a
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ny other grievances with respect to conduct of the Gas Agency, in violation of any other Rules, the landlord will be at liberty to raise the same. 12. Taking into account the aforesaid legal and factual aspects, I am of the considered view that the insistence made as per Ext.P1 e-mail in W.P.(C) No.31777 of 2018 cannot be sustained, being illegal and irrational. Accordingly, Ext.P1 therein will stand quashed. The reliefs sought for in W.P.(C) No.35370 of 2018, in view of the findings made above, have no sustenance. I also make it clear that the findings and observations made above to dispose of the writ petitions, will not stand in the way of the landlord taking any action against the dealer/tenant, in accordance with law. Resultantly, W.P.(C) No.31777 of 2018 is allowed and W.P.(C) No.35370 of 2018 is dismissed.