1. Three shop rooms situate in Kayamkulam Municipality are in the occupation of tenants, Ebrahim Ismail Kunju and Abdul Sathar Kunju, as regards one, Philipose John as regards the other, and G. Krishnan Kavayyathu in respect of the third. Phasila Beevi claims to have purchased the rights over one building under a document of 1985. The landlady desired surrender of the buildings. The tenants were disinclined to surrender. The inevitable proceedings for eviction were initiated. The prominent ground projected for seeking eviction was a bona fide need, as envisaged in Section 11(3). In R.C.P. 7 of 1987, Phasila Beevi is the petitioner. It was averred by her that her husband was dependant on her, and was intending to have a wholesale business. The fact that her husband was without any employment or occupation and that he had the financial capacity for investment of funds in a business were also stated therein. The husband himself is the petitioner in R.C.P. Nos. 6 and 9 of 1987. What is projected therein is his own need.
2. A petition I.A. No. 344 of 1988 was filed for joint trial of R.C.P. Nos. 6 and 9 of 1987 along with R.C.P. 7 of 1987. It was contended that the evidence is common in all the three cases. The application was opposed. The parties in the three cases are different; the evidence to be adduced is also different; there is no justification for joint trial; a joint trial will cause incalculable prejudice and damages to the tenants -- so went the grounds of Objection, The objections were overruled. The Rent Controller observed :
".........the nature of evidence to be adduced in all the cases is one and the same. Considering the convenience of the parties as well as the court this petition is allowed."
The appeal was dismissed. The Appellate Authority also took the view that "the nature of the evidence to be adduced is one and the same." An additional reason was advanced by the. Appellate Authority for sustaining the order of the Rent Controller directing joint trial :
"Moreover no prejudice will be caused to the appellants even if joint trial is allowed."
The common order directing joint trial is attacked in the revision.
3. There is a larger contention urged on behalf of the revision petitioner. That is about the absence of an enumerated power of the Rent Controller in permitting joint trial of the cases. It does not appeal to us. A narrower approach to the Act will prompt an authority to search the limited space of the statute and its scheme to find out an enabling power in relation to the joinder of trials. Such a narrow approach docs not commend over itself for our acceptance. A recent decision of the Supreme Court in M/s. Babu Ram Ram Gopal v. Mathura Dass, JT 1990 (3) SC 25 ; AIR 1990 SC 879, has emphasised the message underlying this socially benevolent legislation intended to relieve the weakest sections of the Society. In this connection, we would like to express our reservations in relation to many of the wide observations as contained in Kochappan Pillai v. Chellappan, 1976 KLT 1. Some of the findings have already become inoperative by the supersession of the views by those of the Supreme Court. As for example, the view that the Rent Controller cannot take note of the subsequent events. This was held to be an unsustainable proposition by the Supreme Court. We may also refer to the discussion on furnishing negative evidence as yet another area which appears to us to be unsound in law. So too is the view expressed there on the question of pleadings, We are not unaware of a recent Division Bench decision in Narayani v. District Judge, 1991 (1) KLJ 311, which has followed 1976 KLT 1 supra, and overruled Rangaier Sons (P) Ltd. v. Rukhiyabi, 1982 KLT 658 : AIR 1982 Ker (NOC)
147. with great respect, it has to be pointed out that some of the larger aspects have been discussed at greater length by Viswanatha Iyer, J. in C.R.P. No. 841 of 1978 and by the decision in 1982 KLT 658 supra. This trend is seen adopted by Padmanabhan, J. in Achamma v. Sankaran Nair, 1990 (1) KLT S.N. 26, Case No: 27 as well. Experience over the years would indicate that insistence on the adequacy pleadings made in 1982 KLT 658 supra and other decisions had disciplined the proceedings before the Rent Control authorities.
4. It will be wrong to ignore the increasing problem of shrinking space available for residence or for trade. Rent Control litigation has become, to many, a matter of survival in business and protection from starvation, Pleadings in such a litigation with far reaching effect cannot be permitted to be vague and indefinite, indubitably causing prejudice to the party who has to meet a case. Judicial discipline, however, impels us to await a deeper examination of the question by a larger Bench of this Court.
5. The increasing importance of the Tribunals in the vast changing life of the community cannot be ignored by a modern court. A modern ostrich even in the distant deserts may not make such limited use of its eyes. Many valuable rights of the modern citizen are deeply involved with the adjudicatory processes of the Tribunals. Many areas hitherto occupied by courts are now the domains of the Tribunals. A liberal appraoch towards their functioning and a larger view about the powers they need are the requirements of the times. A Tribunal should be facilitated to do all that a court could do in similar situations; and much more than that. Greater speed and a total liberation from the tentacles of technicalities, give a better look and greater efficiency for effectively manned Tribunals. If there be no statutory prohibition, the Tribunal should therefore normally be in a position to ordain its affairs and modulate its procedures in such a manner as to best subserve the interest of the public, and in particular the litigant public. Looked that way, even in the absence of an enumerated head of statutory power on the conjoint reading of Section 23 and the enumerated provisions of the C.P.C. referred to in that section, we would have permitted the Tribunal to pass an order which would better serve the interest of the litigant and of the Tribunal. However, the Rent Controller and the Appellate Authority should be circumspect in the invocation of the power and in the issue of an order invoking such a jurisdiction.
6. As to whether an order of joint trial is justified in the circumstances has to be determined with due advertence to the rights and obligations of the parties to the litigation and the effective and smooth functioning of the 'Tribunal' itself. Quite often, principles
which have been evolved in the course of centuries, with an enduring appeal and an enduring logical base, should be a good enough guide, in the exercise of the power of the Iribunal so conceived of and so conceded by decisions on the subject. (See Cheru Ouseph v. Kunjipathumma, 1981 KLT 495 : AIR 1981 Kerala 266.
7. The rule against hearsay as for example had been found to be useful in the working of a Tribunal, even when technically the provisions of the Evidence Act are not attracted in dealing with the matter before the Tribunal.
8. Both the authorities have proceeded on the assumption that only a common question of bona fide need arises in all the three cases. The mere fact that the three shop buildings are under a roof, which covers quite a number of rooms under it, does not justify a rush to joint trial. It is possible that owing to a variety of reasons, a common roof will be linked with a multiplicity of ownerships or possessions. The Rent Controller observed :
"All the three rooms are situated on the same roof as well."
(We would assume that the bad structure of the sentence was due to an oversight when the order was hurriedly scribbled. The Appellate Court, however, should ' have bestowed greater attention when it repeated the same idea with the same jarring wording:
"According to the petitioner, all the 3 rooms are situate on the same roof......"
Notwithstanding the existence of a common roof, the landlords can be different, due to the possible transactions and transfers relating to fractions of the building. Under the scheme of the enactment, even a portion of an original, building would itself come within the wide ambit of the term 'building' as defined in Section 2. The plurality of landlords and bf tenants in respect of smaller patches of shop buildings could be easily conceived of and come across. There is hardly any ground for ordering joint trial, when the grounds would be definitely different in relation to any individual landlord or any individual tenant, in respect of the allegations of aggressive pleading or differentialities in the defensive pleas.
9. Even when the ownership of a combination of buildings under the same roof, come to the husband and a wife each owning distinct buildings possessed by different tenants, the plea could be very different; the defence could be widely divergent; and the entire perspective may change from case to case. We may illustrate the emerging situation with reference to the facts arising from the order under attack. In the wife's petition projecting the husband's dependance and the need for his whole business, much more than a ordinary simple and straightforward case of 'own occupation' arises. Dependency --whatever be the shades of meaning and the scope of that term - is one aspect which has to be established by substantial and strong evidence. The existence and extent of dependency will necessarily vary.
10. Similarly, different tenants could have varying ranges of pleas depending upon their personal personalities. The decision in Kalawati Reja v. II Addl. Civil Judge, 1983 (2) RCJ 48 : 1983 Alt LJ 563. supports the view taken by us. In that ease, an order refusing consolidation of two proceedings under the U. P. Rent Control Act was upheld by the High Court. Consolidation of actions, it was noted, is not a matter of right and rested in the sound discretion of the court. The fact that two proceedings are not of a like nature was held to be a valid and vital factor for declining consolidation. In the background of these existing and live facts, a joint trial would work serious prejudice to the parties. Such an order cannot therefore be sustained either in principle or on precedent.
11. After the hearing was over and orders reserved, counsel for the respondent filed C.M.P. No. 741 of 1991, seeking to raise an additional contention. According to him, the order was not appealable and consequently the Appellate Order was one without jurisdiction. A revision is not maintainable at the instance of the tenants is the next submission. We are unable to permit this new plea, at this juncture. The appeal was filed long time back. its maintainability was not questioned at that time. The order permitting joint trial does involve a significance of a graver type than in relation to a simple and single piece of evidentiary material like a report of the Commissioner and the objection thereto or the remission thereof. The decision in Thomas John v. Kochammini Amma, 1991 (1) KIT 99, would not therefore apply to the present case. That apart this Court has got power under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution to correct an error of this nature which has been brought to the notice of the court.
12. In the result, we set aside the orders of the Rent Controller and of the Appellate Authority and allow the revision with costs. The petitions will be tried separately but expeditiously.