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Present : Lascelles C.J. and Ennis J.
LOKU BANDA et al. v. YAHAPELA VEDA et at.
213—C. B. KegaUa, 9,580.i
Village Tribunal—Caseinstituted inCourt of Bequests—Claimover
Bs. SO—No intention to evade jurisdiction by over-valuing claim.
Where a plaintiff bona fide, and without any intention of evadingthe jurisdiction of the Village Tribunal) claims more than Rs. 20 -in the Court of Bequests, but is able to make good his claim to apart only of his demand, the Commissioner iB not bound to transfer.the case to the Village Tribunal.
The circumstancethat a trialmay incidentally necessitate the
decision of issues involving matters of too great value to be withinthe jurisdiction of the Gansabha-wa is no bar to the decision ofthose issues bythe Gansabhawa,inorder toenable it toadjudicate
on the plaintiffs' claim which is well within its jurisdiction. Thedecision on the incidental issues will bind the parties only quoadtho plaintiff's claim in the particular case before the Court and nofurther.
HIS ease was referred to a bench of two Judges by Pereira J.by the following judgment:—
October 9, 1912. Pkbeiba J.—
In this case theplaintiffs claimedto be theproprietors ofa ninda-
gama, and sued the defendants as .nilakarayas of a panguwa to recovertram them the sum of Bs. 32 as the commuted value of services for theyears ending June,1907, and June, 1908. TheCommissionerhas held
that the nilakarayas have not commuted their services for a moneypayment, and that under section 24of“ The Service TenuresOrdinance-
1870,” the plaintiffs could recover only damages for non-performanceof the services for only one year, and he assessed these damages atBs. 16, andentered up decree accordingly. The defendantscontend
in this appeal that the case was thus brought within the jurisdictionof the Gansabhawa, and that the moment the Commissioner found thatthe damages recoverable by the plaintiffs amounted to only Bs. 16,he should have referred the plaintiffs to .the Gansabhawa.
The plaintiffs have taken objection to the decree under section 772of the Civil Procedure Code, on the ground that the Commissionerwas wrong in holding 'that the defendants had not commuted, and inftBftppfcfng the damages at Bs. 16. On both these points I – think thatthe Commissioner was right. There is nothing to show that thedefendants had actually commuted, although – the Commissionersappointed under the Ordinance had indicated in their register theanimal amount of money payment for which the services might becommuted. The Commissioner of Bequests has accepted this -annual
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Loku Bandav. YahapelaVeda
amount as a fair test of the damage sustained by the plaintiff in conse-quence of the non-performance by the defendants of services for oneyear. As observed already, I think that the Commissioner is right onboth these points, and I affirm his findings thereon.
The questionremains whether the defendants' appeal should succeed,
and the case should at this stage be referred' .to the Gansabhawa.Section 81 of “ The Village Communities Ordinance, 1889," is stronglyworded, andtheprovisionappears to meto be imperative. On
the question astothejurisdictionof theGansabhawa, counselfor
respondents refersmetoissues (5)and (6),“ whether therightto-
claim servicesiaprescribedby non-performance for over- ten years,"-
and " whether the plaintiffs or any of them are Owners of the ninda-gama "; and contends that both these issues involve matters of loogreat a value fordecisionby the Gansabhawa.In my opiniontheGan-
sabhawa has jurisdiction to decide both these issues in order to enableit to adjudicateontheplaintiffs'claim. Its decision onthesetwG
issues will be binding on the parties quoad the plaintiffs' claim forBs. 16 in this particular case and no further.
As, however, thequestionsinvolved here are questions ofsome
doubt and difficulty, I reserve them, under section 59 of the CourtsOrdinance, for decision by a bench of two Judges.
Bawa, K.C., for the appellants.—The damages awarded areBs. . 16, and the Village Tribunal alone had jurisdiction. Thejurisdiction of these Tribunals is not to be evaded on any pretextSection 34 of “ The Village Communities Ordinance, 1889," isimperative. Actions of this kind, if allowed, will render theOrdinance nugatory. The importance of the case is not an elementfor consideration by the President of the Tribunals. Appuhamyv. Louisa.*
W. Jgyewardene,. for. the respondents.—Every case must bejudged on its own merits. The question in each case is whetherthere was any intention to evade the jurisdiction of the VillageTribunal. If the plaintiff has instituted his action bona fide, it doesnot mat.ter that he succeeds only as to a sum under Bs. 20. BaiyaNona and another v. Fernando and another,4 and Rodrigo v.Girigom.'
Bawa, K.C., in reply.
Cur. adv. vultr.
October 10, 1912. Lascelles C.J.—
This is a question which has been reserved by my brother Pereiraunder section 52 of the Courts Ordinance, for the decision of twoJudges of this Court. The case is thus stated by the learned Judge.:—
In this case the plaintiffs' claimed to be the proprietors of a. ninda-gama, and sued the defendants as niiakarayas of a panguwa to recoverfrom them the sum of Bs. 32 as the commuted value of services for theyears ending June, 1607, and June, 1906. The Commissioner, has held
1 3 Bal. 179.2 1 Cur. L. R. 191.
» Weerakoon's Rep. 19.
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that the nilakarayas have not commuted their services for a money payment, 1918.and that under section 2d of “ The Service Tenures Ordinance-, 1870," the plaintiffs««
could recover only damages for non-performance of the services for only one qyear, and he assessed these damages at Bs. 16, and entered up decree accordingly.,
The defendants contend in this appeal that the case wsb thus brought within the Loku Banda.jurisdiction of the Oansabhawa, and that the moment the Commissioner found v*that the damages recoverable by the plaintiffs amounted to only Bs. 16, he should ***have referred the plaintiffs to the Gansabhawa.
The question for decision turns upon the construction of sections28 and 34 of “ The Village Communities Ordinance, 1889.” Theformer section assigns to the Village Tribunal “ all cases in which thedebt, damage, or demand shall not exceed twenty rupees.” Section34, after declaring that the jurisdiction conferred on Village Tribu-'nals is exclusive, and shall not be exercised by any other tribunalon any plea or pretext whatsoever, goes on to enact, “ that in orderto prevent the jurisdiction of these tribunals being evaded, it shallbe the duty of any Court, whenever it shall appear to them that any •case brought before , them is one properly cognizable by the VillageTribunal (and it shall be competent to a Commissioner of Bequeststo examine the parties at any stage of the case in order to ascertainthis), to stop the further progress of such oases and to refer theparties to the Village Tribunal, and to condemn the parties in costsas to such Court shall seem fit.”
Inasmuch as the ” demand ” in this case is for Bs. 32, it is clear,in the first place, that this action, when instituted, was not withinthe jurisdiction of a Village Tribunal. The contention of theappellants is that when the learned Commissioner, at the outsetof the case, decided that the services were .not commuted, and thatthe plaintiffs could therefore recover damages for one year only,it became his duty to transfer the case to tfce Village Tribunal.
The learned Commissioner refused to take this course because heconsidered the case too important to be tried by a Village Tribunal.
The reason given by the learned Commissioner is not a sound one,as the Ordinance does not allow the Commissioner to take intoconsideration the importance or difficulty of the case.
But what is the principle on which a Commissioner. of Bequestsshould act when- a claim originally beyond the jurisdiction of theVillage Tribunal is reduced in the course of the trial to an amountcognizable by the- Village Tribunal? The language of section 34,in my opinion, affords a clear answer to the question. The dutyimposed on the Commissioner is to prevent the jurisdiction of theVillage Tribunal being evaded by intentionally increasing the amountof the debt, damage, or demand. When the Commissioner dis-covers an attempt-to do this, it is his duty, under section 34, torefer the case to the Village Tribunal, and to condemn the plaintiffin costs. But there is nothing which obliges the Commissioner totransfer the trial to the Village Tribunal in the very common case
( «K) )1012. where a plaintiff, bona fide and without any intention of evadingthe jurisdiction of the Village Tribunal, claims more than Rs. 20,O.J.but is able to make good bis claim to a part only of bis demand,
j.,,—mfn This is the principle on which Grenier J. decided Raiya Nona andv. Yahavpela another v. Fernando and another 1 and Rodrigo v. Girigoris.2 TheseV*** decisions, in my opinion, are based on a sound interpretation ofsection 34, and they lay down a rule which is at once consonantwith the intention of the Legislature, and calculated to prevent theinconvenience of frequently referring part-heard cases to VillageTribunals.
In the present case there is no finding that the plaintiffs, in claimingdamages for two years, intended to evade the jurisdiction of theVillage Tribunal, and I am not prepared to hold that they had anysuch, intention. Indeed, having regard to the question of lawinvolved, I think that it is fairly clear that they had no suchintention, but were uncertain as to the period for which they couldclaim damages.
I am' in agreement with my brother on the other points withwhich he deals in his judgment, and I entirely concur in his viewthat the circumstance that a trial may incidentally involve a decisionon questions of titles of considerable importance is no bar to a casebeing tried in the Village Tribunal, if the case is otherwise cognizableby a Village Tribunal.
In the present case I am of opinion that it was not the duty ofthe Commissioner of Requests to refer the case to the VillageTribunal, and I would dismiss the appeal and also the cross appealwith costs.
I am entirely of the same opinion. The original demand was onewithin the jurisdiction of the Court of Requests, and it was notimpossible for the plaintiff to have recovered more than Rs. 20as damages had the amount been considered apart from the com-mutation value ” of the services. There was no intention to evadethe jurisdiction of the Village Tribunal, and the facts of the caseshow that it did not fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of theVillage Tribunal.
2 1 Cur. L. R. 191.
* Weerakoon's Rep. 19.