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Present; Jayewardene A.J.ASSISTANT GOVERNMENT AGENT, MATARA, v.PEDRIS.*189—(7. R. Matara, 12,440.
Land Acquisition Ordinance—Court of Requests—Award exceedingRs. 300—Jurisdiction—Security for costs of appeal—Crown—Public officer.
The question of jurisdiction of a Court of Requests in respectof a proceeding under the Land Acquisition Ordinance is decidedeither by the amount claimed by the claimant before the Govern-ment Agent, or if no claimant attends, by the amount offered bythe Government Agent. The fact that owing to some circumstanceor other the amount ultimately awarded exceeds Rs. 300 cannotdivest the Court of jurisdiction where it originally had jurisdiction.
The Assistant Government Agent, who appeals against anorder of the Court under the Land Acquisition Ordinance, neednot give security for costs of appeal.
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rj^HE facts are set out in the judgment.
Soertsz, for the respondent, took two preliminary objections to thehearing of the appeal:—The Commissioner of Bequests had nojurisdiction to entertain this reference, inasmuch as the amountclaimed is in excess of the monetary jurisdiction of a Court ofBequests. Besides, the appellant has not given security for therespondent’s costs of appeal.
J. E. M. Obeyesekere, for the Crown, appellant.—The jurisdictionof a Court of Bequests in a reference under the Land AcquisitionOrdinance is governed by section 3 of Ordinance No. 41 of 1917. ACourt of Bequests has jurisdiction where the amount claimed beforethe Government Agent does not exceed Bs. 300, and also where theamount tendered by the Government Agent does not exceed Bs. 300if no claimant has attended. Here, there is no evidence; to showthat the claimant claimed a sum in excess of Bs. 300, and it musttherefore be presumed that the reference was rightly made.
Security for respondent’s costs of appeal need not be given wherethe Crown is the party appellant, vide S. C. No. 340; D. C. Colombo,31,856; 8. C. Minutes, November 28, 1911. Here the AssistantGovernment Agent must be considered to be acting on behalf of theCrown in terms of the mandate issued to him by His Excellency, theGovernor.
Soertsz in reply.
October 1, 1923. Jayewabdene A.J.—
This is an appeal from an order under the Land AcquisitionOrdinance, No. 3 of 1876. The Assistant Government Agent of- Matara, under a mandate issued to him by the Governor, proceededto acquire certain blocks of a land called Samarasinghe PathiranageRatmalawatta, described as lots Nos. 2 and 3 in preliminary planNo. 23. The claimants to the lots were summoned to submit theirclaims, and the defendant in the case came forward as the claimantto these two lots. The Crown offered Bs. 100 as compensation, butthe claimant did not accept this figure, and the matter had to bereferred to Court. It does not appear how much the defendantclaimed for the lots Nos. 2 and 3. In his answer to the libel filedin the Court of Bequests, he took the objection that the Court hadno jurisdiction to hear and determine the cases as the subject-matter of the action was above the value of Bs. 300. It nowhere-appears in the record what sum the defendant claimed as compen-sation for these two lots. In his answer, however, he .claimedBs. 1,000. The amount of compensation due to him was dulyinvestigated, and the assessors unanimously found that he was’entitled to a sum of Bs. 800. The learned Judge, disagreed with
AssistantGovernmentAgent,Matara, v.Pedris
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Jayewar*DENE A.J.
AssistantGovernmentA genttMatarat v.Pedris
the assessment of the assessors, and thought that the amount offeredby the Crown was reasonable. The learned Judge, instead ofentering up judgment in favour of the claimant for the sum ofRs. 800, dismissed the plaintiff’s libel of reference on the ground thathe had no jurisdiction to award any sum exceeding Rs. 300, that is,he thought he had no jurisdiction to grant the amount which theassessors found, and which he was bound to award to the claimantby virtue of section 2 of Ordinance No. 6 of 1876. I do not think iti$ possible to say that the Commissioner had no jurisdiction to awardthis sum. Under Ordinance No. 3 of 1876 land acquisition caseshad to be investigated before the District Court only, but byOrdinance No. 41 of 1917, section 3, which amended section 11 ofthe principle Ordinance, the Government Agent was authorized toinstitute his libel of reference in a Court of Requests, first, wherethe amount claimed as compensation by the person or personsinterested; or, second, if no claimant has attended, the amountdetermined by the Government Agent under section 8 does notexceed Rs. 300.
In this case Mr. Soertsz, for the respondent, supports the learnedCommissioner’s decision, not on the ground given by the Commis-sioner, but’ on the ground that his client when he appeared beforethe Government Agent claimed a sum of Rs. 1,000 as compensation,the same amount which he claims in his answer. If there had beenany evidence at all in the case to show that the claim of the defend-ant before the Assistant Government Agent exceeded Rs. 300, Iwould have been compelled to hold that the Commissioner ofRequests had no jurisdiction. But counsel has searched in vainthrough the record to find any statement regarding the amountclaimed by the defendant before the Government Agent. -But nosuch statement appears anywhere, it is quite possible thatthe claimant might have claimed anything between Rs. 100 andRs. 300, or between Rs. 300 and Rs. 1,000. Therefore, I am unableto give effect to Mr. Soertsz contention. I think the learned Com-missioner was also not correct in holding that he had no jurisdictionto award Rs. 800, because the question of jurisdiction is decidedeither by the amount claimed by the claimant when he appearedbefore the Government Agent, or, if no claimant attends, by theamount offered by the Government Agent. The fact that owingto some circumstance or other the amount ultimately awardedexceeds Rs. 300 cannot in my opinion divest the Court of juris-diction where it originally had jurisdiction. It is very likely thatthe claim by the defendant was Rs. 1,000 when he attended beforethe Government Agent, but I’cannot go upon probabilities whenany doubt as to it could have been set at rest by the defendanthimself stating to Court or in his. answer the amount which heclaimed and which he says ousts the jurisdiction of the Court ofRequests.
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There is another objection taken by Hr. Soertsz, namely, that nosecurity for costs has been given by the appellant, the AssistantGovernment Agent, and therefore the appeal ought to be dismissed.I am not certain that the Assistant Government Agent, acting underthe provisions of the Land Acquisition Ordinance, is called upon togive security for costs. I think the Assistant Government Agent isthere acting for andon behalf of the Grown, and as an officerexpressly authorized under the Ordinance to take steps on themandate issued by the Governor. I have been referred to acase which is unreported—S. 0. No. 340; 8. C. Minutesf November 28,1911; D. G. (Colombo), 31,856—where it was held that the Crownis not liable to. give security for costs in appeal. That caseis not a direct authority here, because there the party appealingwas the Grown- Here it is the Government Agent authorized bythe Ordinance. But I think the principle of that oase applies to allpublic officers suing or being sued as representing the Grown, notby virtue of their being recognized agents, but by virtue of theirexercising certain powers conferred on them by law. Howeverthat may be, if the objection was a sound one I would have beenprepared to send the case back for the Court to obtain the necessarysecurity from the appellant under the powers conferred on thisCourt by Ordinance No. 42 of 1921, which entitles the Court to giverelief against all defects and omissions in the matter of givingsecurity. But counsel for the respondent does not wish me toadopt this course, which I would have had to adopt if he had pressedhis objection as to want of security and I found it valid. TheGrown also says that the award of Rs. 800 by the assessors isexcessive, and wishes me to investigate the question of the reasonable-ness of the compensation on this appeal. But I. do not proposeto do that. I propose to send the case back for the learned Com-missioner to enter up an award in terms of section 2 of OrdinanceNo. 6 of 1877. When that award is made, it will be time enoughfor the Assistant Government Agent to appeal, if so advised.The order in this case, therefore, will be that the learnedCommissioner do enter up an award for Rs. 800 in favour ofthe claimant in terms of section 2 of Ordinance No. 6 of 1877. Asthe appeal has been necessitated by the action of the Commissionerhimself, I think that the cost of this appeal should abide the event.An order for costs in the Court of Requests should be entered up inaccordance with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Ordinance.
Sent back.
AssistantGovernmentAgent,Matara, v.Pedris