Babulall v Public Trustee; Harry v Public Trustee

CourtCaribbean Court of Justice
Docket NumberCCJ Application No. GYCV2015/002; GY Civil Appeal No. 10 of 2010; CCJ Application No. GYCV2015/003; GY Civil Appeal No. 9 of 2010
JudgeAnderson, J. CCJ.
Judgment Date27 Jul 2015
JurisdictionCaribbean States

Caribbean Court of Justice

Saunders, J. CCJ.; Anderson, J. CCJ.; Justice Rajnauth-Lee, J. CCJ.

CCJ Application No. GYCV2015/002; GY Civil Appeal No. 10 of 2010; CCJ Application No. GYCV2015/003; GY Civil Appeal No. 9 of 2010

Babulall
and
Public Trustee
Harry
and
Public Trustee
Appearances

Mr R Satram, Mr C V. Satram and Mr M Satram for the applicants.

Mr Robin Stoby SC, Mr Mohamed Khan and Mr Kashir Khan for the respondent.

Real Property - Landlord and tenant — Appeal — Notice to quit — Special leave to appeal in “as of right” cases — Whether Committee erred in declining jurisdiction — Whether applications decided on their merits — Whether Court erred in ordering the Committee to issue notices to quit — Powers and duties of Committee arose and became exercisable only where relationship of landlord and tenant existed — Evidence before Committee sufficiently credible to decline exercise of its jurisdiction in relation to application before it — Appeals allowed.

JUDGMENT SUMMARY

[1] The respondent commenced proceedings on the 29th of May 2001 before the Rice Assessment Committee for Essequibo (the Committee) seeking leave to issue notices to quit in relation to rice lands occupied by the appellants, pursuant to the Rice Farmers (Security of Tenure) Act (the Act), Cap. 69:02 section 29(2)(a), (c), (d), (h) and (m). The appellants claimed to have purchased the lands from the respondent and therefore argued that they were not tenants. The Committee failed to find the relationship of landlord and tenant and declined jurisdiction to hear the matter. The respondent's appeal to the Full Court was dismissed on the ground that the relief sought by the respondent should have been by way of prerogative writ and writ of certiorari to quash the decision of the Committee. The respondent subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal which held that the Committee had jurisdiction and that the applications before the Committee were wrongly decided on their merits. The court directed the Committee to issue notices to quit to the respondent at their next sitting, in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

[2] The appellants sought special leave to appeal both the decisions and the order of the Court of Appeal. The preliminary point taken by the respondent that the appellants ought to have sought leave as of right instead of special leave to appeal was dismissed. The Court noted that a litigant can forego an appeal as of right and instead seek special leave directly from the Court: Griffith v. The Guyana Revenue Authority (2006) 69 W.I.R. at 19. However in so doing, the litigant runs the risk of his application being dismissed if the Court is not satisfied that there is a realistic possibility of the substantive appeal succeeding. In that event the litigant cannot thereafter seek to revive the option to appeal as of right: System Sales Limited v. Arletta Brown- Oxley [2015] CCJ 1 (AJ). The Court granted special leave to appeal and treated the hearing of the application as the hearing of the appeal itself. It allowed both appeals and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal.

[3] The Court held that the Committee was justified in declining to exercise jurisdiction to issue the notices to quit, as the question of whether there was a landlord and tenant relationship between the parties was unresolved because there was credible evidence tendered to the Committee that the appellants were purchasers and not tenants. The Court observed that based on sections 51(1) and 51(3) of the Act along with section 3(3) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Petty Debt) Act, the Committee has no cognizance “of any action in which any incorporeal right or title to any immovable property, is or may be in question.” Therefore once there was some credible evidence that the issue of title to the lands had arisen between the parties, the Committee would be justified in refusing to exercise jurisdiction. The Court noted that there was evidence that the appellants bought the lands from the respondent, paid the purchase price and were allowed to continue in possession. Although under the Roman Dutch System of land law in Guyana equitable interests in land, such as would arise upon the conclusion of an agreement for sale and the payment of a purchase price, are not recognized: Ramdass v. Jairam (2008) 72 W.I.R. 270; Ross v. Sinclair (No. 2) (2009) 75 W.I.R. 343 and Ramkishun v. Fung Kee-Fung, a purchaser is entitled, to seek an order for specific performance. Thus the Court held that the respondent was estopped from treating a purchaser in possession as a mere tenant who may be evicted for non-payment of rent.

[4] The Court further noted that, contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeal, the applications were not decided on their merits as the Committee did not consider a number of factors pursuant to section 29(2) of the Act. In addition, the Committee must have been satisfied that the application for leave to issue a notice to quit was made in good faith. Furthermore, the Court held that the respondent must have complied with the procedural requirements of section 40(2) of the Act. The Committee made no such inquiries in relation to the applications filed against the appellants.

[5] Regarding the issue of the correct procedural route to challenge a decision of the Committee, the Court had regard to section 26(1) of the Act which provides a right of appeal to the High Court by any landlord or tenant who is dissatisfied with “a decision” of an assessment committee under the Act. The term “decision” is not expressly defined in the Act and must therefore be understood in light of the scope of determinations that the Committee may make. A determination of whether the relationship of landlord and tenant exists is “incidental” to the carrying out of the powers and duties of the Committee and is therefore a “decision” within the meaning of section 26(1). It follows that a decision of the Committee on the question of its jurisdiction to hear an application can be challenged on appeal: John Nagreadie v. Noor Abjal (1972) 20 W.I.R. 91; Chung v. London [1966] L.R.B.G. 1119; and Sase Budhoo v. Budhai Singh (1976) 24 W.I.R. 54.”

[6] The Court held that the Court of Appeal erred in ordering the Committee to issue notices to quit to the respondent. The Court observed that under the Act the Committee may grant leave to the landlord to issue the notice to quit if it is satisfied that the conditions in section 29 (1) of the Act have been met, and the landlord must ensure that the notice conforms to the requirements of section 40(2). The Committee has no authority itself to issue a notice to quit to a tenant and ought not to have been ordered to do so by the Court of Appeal.

[7] The Court therefore granted the appellants special leave to appeal and allowed the appeals. The judgment of the Court of Appeal was set aside and the decisions of the Rice Assessment Committee were restored.

Anderson, J. CCJ.
INTRODUCTION
1

On 14th January 2015, the Court of Appeal of Guyana ordered the Rice Assessment Committee for Essequibo (the Committee) to issue notices to quit to Chandra Babulall and Winston Harry (the applicants) with respect to parcels of rice lands which they occupied in Section A, Plantation Annandale, Essequibo, Guyana. In so ordering, the court reversed the decisions of the Committee, given in July 2002. The Committee had ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear the applications made by the respondent, who is the Public Trustee, for leave to serve the notices. These applications had been brought by the respondent in her capacity as Administratrix of the estate of Mary Chan (deceased), the owner of the entire 65 acre Plantation. The applicants, by separate applications filed on 16th February 2015, sought special leave from this Court to appeal the Court of Appeal's decisions on the ground that they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Committee as they were purchasers in possession and not tenants. They also sought an order directing that the hearing of the application for special leave be treated as the hearing of the substantive appeal.

2

The applications were opposed by the respondent on the basis that the grounds of appeal disclosed that the applicants had appeals as of right and therefore they ought not to have proceeded by way of special leave. The respondent also argued that an important condition for special leave, i.e., a realistic prospect of success, had not been met since the applicants were tenants and they had produced no credible evidence of having purchased the lands such as copies of any agreements for sale or the terms and conditions upon which the alleged agreements had been made.

3

The applications were consolidated and heard on 3rd June 2015. The Court had earlier indicated to counsel that if special leave to appeal was granted the hearing of the applications for special leave would be treated as the hearing of the substantive appeals. The litigants were forewarned that they should deploy at the special leave hearing all such arguments as they might have submitted if the actual appeals were being heard. Ultimately, we decided that in each case special leave to appeal should be granted, the appeals would be allowed, the judgments of the Court of Appeal set aside and the decisions of the Rice Assessment Committee restored. We also ordered that costs be paid by the respondent to be taxed if not agreed. We undertook then to give written reasons for our decision and we do so now.

APPLICATION FOR SPECIAL LEAVE TO APPEAL IN “AS OF RIGHT” CASES
4

The respondent referenced Section 6(1) of the Caribbean Court of Justice Act 2005, Cap. 3:07 (the CCJ Act) which provides that an appeal lies to this Court from decisions of the Court of Appeal “as of right” where the appeal involves directly or indirectly a claim or question respecting property of the value of not less than one million dollars. The respondent argued that the instant...

To continue reading

Request your trial