Delhi court pulls up Miniso Life Style for non-payment of rent

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NEW DELHI: A Delhi court has pulled up a subsidiary of Japanese designer lifestyle brand Miniso for non-payment of rent for leased property here during the COVID-19 lockdown, saying the company had no dearth of money and directed it to clear all arrears within seven days.

The court said in its interim order that there was no dearth of money with Miniso Life Style Pvt Ltd and was successfully running business at almost 10 similar premises on rent in Delhi.

District Judge Raj Kumar Chauhan directed Miniso Life Style to pay the rent to Uma Sharma, Varun Prakash and Puneet Prakash for its rented premise at south Delhi’s Greater Kailash.

The court directed the company in its August 6 order to pay the rent arrears for the lockdown as well as post lockdown period, April to July, within seven days, failing which the petitioners may take the necessary actions under law.

“The respondent (Miniso Life Style) is also doing its business in post lockdown from the tenanted premises. Even on that account also no case is made out for suspension of rent during the lockdown period and there is no justified reason with the respondent for non-payment of the rent during the post lockdown period as they are enjoying the premises and doing their business from it.

“Since no reasons have been assigned for non–payment of rent for the post lockdown period, the payment of rent for the period will be strictly as per lease agreement between the parties. Petitioners are even entitled to the penal interest for non-payment of rent,” the court said in its order.

It, however, said that the observations in the interim order were prima facie in nature and would not prejudice either party before the Arbitral Tribunal.

It further took note of the fact that Sharma was a senior citizen and the rent amount was the only source of income for her as well as for her son who was suffering from COVID-19 contagion.

Sharma and her son Varun claimed in their petition that the monthly rent of the leased out property was Rs 9,75,000 plus taxes per month, which was divided equally among the three petitioners in the case.

On March 23, the head of business development of Miniso Life Style had through an e-mail requested them to consider waiver of rent for lockdown period April and May, the petition said.

It further said that in April, Sharma agreed to waive the penal interest on the delayed payment which was 18 percent per annum.

In June, the head of the business development sent a proposal that they would be paying 70 percent of the arrears of rent for the month of April and 90 percent of the rent for June and July 2020, it added.

The petitioners conveyed 15 percent rebate from April to May 2020 but till date the company did not clear the arrears of rent and stopped taking calls from the petitioners, it claimed.

Following this they moved court seeking an interim order for securing the amount of Rs 19.50 lakh in dispute before Arbitral Tribunal.

The third petitioner Punnet had moved the court seeking interim order directing the company to pay Rs 15.34 lakh as pending rent from April to July.

They also sought an interim order of protection in favour of the petitioners to restrain the respondent from creating any third party right in the property and causing damage to the property, stock, fittings and fixtures in any manner till the final disposal of Arbitration matter.

The company objected to the maintainability of the petitions stating that clause 12 of the Lease deed provided eventualities wherein the rent payable shall be suspended till such time as the premises was once again rendered fit for use.

The court said the company cannot claim waiver of the rent under clause 12 as there was only mere temporary non-use of the premises and the lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic was not covered under it.

“Since the suspension of rent is not permissible in these facts and circumstances, respondent at the most could have sought for some postponement or relaxation in the schedule of payment owing the lockdown. This court has tried to facilitate amicable settlement of the dispute between the parties. Matter was even referred to mediation where it could not be settled,” it said.

The court said that it even tried to facilitate the parties to arrive to a judicial settlement of their dispute and with the persuasion of the court the landlords (petitioners) even agreed to waive the rent for the month of April and May provided the company start making payment of the due rent for the post lockdown period from June onwards.

It noted that the company has not paid even the rent for the post lockdown period and its head of business development could not agree for settlement despite seeking adjournment for taking instruction from the higher authority of the company.

Source: Press Trust of India