A domestic help who continue to stay in a flat in south Mumbai even after the death of her employer 12 years ago has been declared a trespasser by the Bobmay high court.
Justice Atul Chandurkar declared that the 48-year-old woman’s continued occupation of the flat in Sir Shapoorji Broacha Baug in Girgaum was illegal and gave her three months’ time to move out with her family.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the trustees of Bai Bhichaiji H Bennet Trust, which owns the property. The woman, whose mother worked as a sweeper in the building, said she had been living in the flat for over 25 years and was a tenant.
The bench referred to judgments of the court that “a domestic servant could not be included to be a member of the family howsoever long that association might exist” and that a watchman, caretaker or a domestic help employed to look after the property could never acquire an interest in the property. “Once it is found that the (woman) was merely a servant of (the employer) as admitted by her, coupled with the fact that there was no blood relationship between them, it becomes obvious that on (his) death the status of the woman becomes that of a trespasser,” said the judge. The court ruled that on the employer’s death, the maid’s occupation of the house became illegal and she was liable to be evicted.
The flat was occupied by the original tenant prior to 1982. When he died without leaving any heirs, his friend and wife started living in the flat and claimed tenancy rights. The second tenant died in 2006 and the woman who was their domestic help claimed tenancy rights. She cited a 2006 suit filed by the second tenant in which she is mentioned as his employee to support her claim. The woman further said that though she was not a Parsi, she was living in the flat for over 12 years and was deemed tenant under the Maharashtra Rent Control Act.
The trust’s plea to declare the woman a trespasser was dismissed by a trial court on the grounds that they had accepted rent from the second tenant till November 2005.
“It is well settled that mere acceptance of rent without anything further by itself would not be a determining factor to confer tenancy rights,” said the HC bench, while striking down the trial court order.