1965Present: Tambiah, J., and Slrlmane, J.HILDA PERERA, Appellant, and LAWRENCE PERERA, Respondent
S. G. 80 (Inty.)—D. G. Negombo, 441/MB
Debt Conciliation Ordinance (Cap. 81)—Sections 19 and 56—Bar of civil actions—Dale from which such bar operates.
Section 66 (a) (i) of the Debt Conciliation Ordinance reads as follows :—
“ No civil court shall entertain any action in respect of any matterpending before the Board. ’*
Held, that the date from which an application for relief under the DebtConciliation Ordinance is regarded as pending before the Board is the datewhen the application is received by the Board and not the date when it isentertained by the Board under section 19 of the Ordinance.
7.PPEAL from an order of the District Coui*t, Negombo.
E. B. Wikramanayake, Q.G., with S. W. Jayasuriya, for the defendant-appellant.
C. Ranganathan, for the plain tiff-respondent.
Gur. adv. vult.
April 6,1965. Tambiah, J.—
This is a mortgage action. The defendant made an applicationon 5.11.62 to the Debt Conciliation Board. In his application he setout certain matters and asked for certain reliefs. The application wasreceived by the Board on 6.11.62. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed thisaction to enforce the mortgage bond on 22.11.62. In April, 1963, theDebt Conciliation Board entertained this application.
The defendant filed answer and moved for dismissal of the actionon the ground that the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain this action,in view of the provisions of Section 56 of the Debt Conciliation Ordinance,Chapter 81. The relevant portion of Section 56 of the Debt ConciliationOrdinance reads as follows :—
“ No civil court shall entertain any action in respect of any matter
pending before the Board. ”
The learned District Judge has taken the view that an action is onlypending when the defendant has received notice of the action. He drewan analogy between the doctrine of lis pendens and the receipt of noticeof this application by the creditor and he held, therefore, that the actionwas maintainable. From this order, the defendant has appealed.
The short point for consideration is whether, when an applicationhad been received by the Debt Conciliation Board, Section 56 (a) (i)operates, or whether it operates only after the Board has entertained theapplication.
Mr. Wikramanayake, on behalf of the appellant, contended thatproceedings are initiated by an application, and, when the applicationis received by an officer of the Board, proceedings commence, and arepending before the Board. He submitted that the fact that the Boardhad to act under Section 19 of the Debt Conciliation Ordinance to con-sider whether it would entertain the application, does not, in any way,alter the situation.
Mr. Ranganathan, on behalf of the respondent, contended that thematter is only pending before the Board after the Board had entertainedthe application under Section 19 of the Debt Conciliation Ordinance.
The Debt Conciliation Ordinance was enacted to provide for theestablishment of a debt conciliation Board and other matters connectedwith the purposes for which it was established. It was clearly a pieceof legislation intended to give relief to debtors. The language of Section56 of the Ordinance is plain. It states that “ no civil court shall entertainany action in respect of any matter pending before the Board. ” By theword “matter”, is meant the particulars in the application. In myview, the moment the application is received by the Board, the mattersstated in the application are pending before the Board. Thereafter,it is for the Board to decide as to whether they wish to entertain theapplication or not. We are fortified in taking this view by the ruling inThe Agricultural and Industrial Credit Corporation of Ceylon v. de Silva1.In this connection, it is noteworthy that under Section 17 of the repealedPartition Ordinance, any alienation of undivided interests pending apartition action is null and void. It was held in Fernando v. Amarima 2that “ under the provisions of Section 17 of the Partition Ordinance,the date after which an alienation is void is the date of the filing of theplaint. ”
* (1922) 4 0. L. Rec. 135.
1 (1949) 41 C. L. W. 96.
If the contention of Mr. Ranganathan is correct, the relevant portionof Section 56 of the Debt Conciliation Ordinance would have read :“No civil court shall entertain any action in respect of any matterentertained by the Board.”
The function of a Court is not to legislate but to interpret the plainwords found in a Statute. If the interpretation given to Section 56 ofthe Debt Conciliation Ordinance by Mr. Ranganathan is adopted, greathardship would be caused to debtors who have already filed applicationsand which are awaiting attention by the Board. Due to various reasons,applications by debtors do not come before the Board for considerationfor a long period of time.
There is, therefore, no reason for us to place the construction urgedby Mr. Ranganathan in considering Section 56 (a) (i) of the Debt Conci-liation Ordinance.
For these reasons, we set aside the order of the learned District Judgeand dismiss the plaintiff’s action with costs in both Courts.
SiRiMAistE, J.—I agree.
HILDA PERERA, Appellant, and LAWRENCE PERERA, Respondent