Non-payment of house rent not a criminal offence, says SC

Is non-payment of rent a criminal or civil offence? The Supreme Court has handed down a landmark ruling in favor of tenants saying that this case cannot be brought under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) if a tenant fails to pay rent. The Supreme Court made the statement while quashing a recent case filed by a landlord against a tenant it was hearing from. Non-payment of rent may give rise to civil proceedings but not to criminal proceedings.

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In a case where an FIR had been filed against a tenant under Sections 403 (misappropriation of property) and Section 415 (deceit), the SC was hearing an appeal against an order of the Allahabad High Court. The Allahabad HC had refused to void the FIR against the tenant after which the case reached the Supreme Court.

Failure to pay rent may have civil consequences but is not a criminal offense under the ICC

Annulling the owner’s FIR, the Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Bela M Trivedi said, per Live Law, “We are of the opinion that no criminal offense is established, even though we accept the factual assertions made in the Complaint, which has been filed as a First Information Report. Non-payment of rent may have civil consequences but is not a criminal offense under the Indian Penal Code 1860 ( abbreviated “IPC”) Mandatory legal requirements for the offense of cheating under Section 415 and the offense of misappropriation under Section 403 of the IPC are missing.

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The SC further added that the dispute over outstanding rent arrears and release of the premises will be settled through civil proceedings.

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