THE CHAIRMAN. JANATHA ESTATE DEVELOPMENTBOARD AND OTHERS
G. R S. OE SILVA. C.J..
KULATUNGA. J. ANDRAMANATHAN, J..
S.C. APPEAL NO. 94/95C.A. APPLICATION NO. 581/92DECEMBER 8, 1995.
Writ of Certiorari – Recovery of Government Quarters – Government Quarters(Recovery of Possession) Act No. 7 of 1969 as amended by Act No. 8 of 1981 -Sections 3 and 9 of the Act – Persons subject to a quit notice – Applicability ofSection 9 as amended – Reasons for issue of a quit notice.
By a Quit Notice served under Section 3 of the Government Quarters (Recoveryof Possession) Act, the appellant who was the Manager of the Dunsinane EstateCo-operative Society Ltd., was required to vacate the estate Quarters provided bythe Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) on the ground of cessation of hisemployment. The Dunsinane Estate was owned by the JEDB.
The power to issue a quit notice is not limited to a case where the person inoccupation is an employee of the estate, Quarters provided "to any person"by a public Corporation can be recovered under the Act,
A person who had been provided quarters prior to the date of Act. No. 8 of1981, which extends the definition of “Government Quarters' in Section 9 ofthe principal enactment to quarters provided by a public Corporation, wouldalso be subject to ejectment under the Act. The word ’Provided’ in Section 9should not be construed to mean "provided after the Act."
In determining the validity of the reason for issuing the quit notice, the reasonreferred to at paragraph IV of ‘Form B‘ in Schedule 'E' to the Act should not beread *ejusdem generis" with the reasons set out in paragraphs (1) – (111).The question is whether the reason is adequate, which is a matter that woulddepend on the facts and circumstances of each case.
APPEAL from the judgment of the Court of Appeal
S. Mahenthiran for appellant.
1st and 2nd respondents absent and unrepresented.
Romesh de Silva, P.C. with Palitha Kumarasinghe for 3rd respondents.
Cur. adv. vult.
The appellant has unsuccessfully sought to quash by way ofCertiorari in the Court of Appeal, a quit notice dated 02.06.92 servedon him in terms of S.3 of the Government Quarters (Recovery ofPossession) Act No. 7 of 1969 as amended. The said notice wasissued by the 1st respondent (Chairman, Janatha EstatesDevelopment Board, Nuwara Eiiya) who is a competent authorityunder S.9 of the Act to issue such notice. The appellant appeals tothis Court against the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
By the aforesaid notice the appellant was required to vacate theestate quarters on Dunsinane Estate, Pundaluoya which he wasoccupying. The said estate is owned by the 2nd respondent (JEDB)and is presently leased to the 3rd respondent company.
The appellant had been employed as the Manager of theDunsinane Estate Labourers’ Co-operative Society Ltd., which ismanaged by a committee of Management of which theSuperintendent of the estate is the ex-officio President. By letterdated 06.05.87 the Society terminated the employment of theappellant. However, pending an appeal by the appellant against hisdismissal to the Co-operative Employees Commission, which wasdismissed on 06.03.92 he had continued to occupy the quarters.Shortly prior to the said dismissal the Superintendent by his letterdated 18.02.92 requested the appellant to hand over the quarters onor before 25.03.92, as he had ceased to be an employee on theestate.
The appellant replied through an Attorney-at-Law who stated thatthe appellant was in occupation of the Co-operative Manager'squarters of which he had been placed in occupation by the Co-operative Society; that he had never been an employee of the estate;hence the JEDB had no power to serve a quit notice on him. TheSuperintendent replied stating that as the quarters belongs to theestate the appellant should vacate the same. The Superintendent’sposition was that the appellant's employment with the Co-operativeSociety did not affect the rights of the JEDB. This was followed by theimpugned quit notice.
S 3 of the Act empowers a competent authority to serve a quitnotice "on the occupier of any Government quarters". Under S.9 asamended by Act No. 8 of 1981 –
“Government Quarters" means any building, room or otheraccommodation occupied for the use of residence which isprovided by or on behalf of the Government or any publiccorporation to any person and includes any land or premisesin which such building or room or other accommodation issituated, but does not include any house provided by theCommissioner for National Housing to which Part V of theNational Housing Act applies".
It is thus clear that the power to serve a quit notice is not limited toa case where the person in occupation is an employee of the estate.Quarters provided "to any person" by a public corporation can berecovered under the Act.
Mr. Mahenthiran for the appellant referred to the definition of“competent authority" in S.9 of the Act as amended which providedinter alia, that in relation to quarters belonging to a publiccorporation, it means the Chairman of such corporation or anyofficer authorised by such Chairman to be a Competent Authority forthe purposes of the Act. Counsel submits that the ownership of thepremises is, therefore, a condition precedent to the right to haverecourse to the Act; but there is no proof that the premises inquestion belongs to the JEDB.
In view of the fact that as regards quarters provided by theGovernment, there is no reference to ownership, there is a doubt asto whether the right to recover premises under the Act is limited to
premises that “belong" to the Government or a public corporation inthe sense that such premises are owned by the Government or apublic corporation. Assuming that ownership is a pre-requisite, ) BIDof the opinion that in the instant case, there is proof of ownership t>vthe JEDB. Firstly, premises situated on the estate must presumablybe owned by the JEDB. Secondly, the Superintendent of the Estate inhis letter dated 26.02.92 specially claimed the quarters as belongingto the estate. This has not been contradicted in the reply sent to theSuperintendent by an Attorney-at-Law on behalf of the appellant.Appellant’s position was that the quarters were provided by the Co-operative Society and that he was not an employee of the JEDB. Inthe proceedings before us, Counsel for the appellant has speciallysubmitted that the quarters were not provided by or on behalf of theJEDB.
On the available material, it has been established that the quartersbelong to the JEDB. If so, the same has to be provided by or onbehalf of the JEDB and not by the Co-operative Society. Even if theCommittee of Management of the Society had placed the appellant inphysical occupation thereof, the appellant cannot urge, for thatreason, that the quarters were not provided by or on behalf of theJEDB, within the meaning of S.9 of the Act.
I have no doubt that the provision of quarters was a facilityprovided by the JEDB to the appellant who was the Manager of theCo-operative Society of which the estate labourers were members. Itwas an amenity provided by the JEDB for the benefit of estatelabourers.
In his written submissions, Mr. Mahenthiran has urged twoadditional grounds in support of the appellant’s case. The first ofthese grounds is that as at the date of Act No. 8 of 1981 which madethe recovery provisions of the Act applicable to public corporations,the appellant was already in occupation of the quarters. Theamendment not being retrospective, it cannot be used to evict him.Counsel further submits that the appellant first occupied the quartersin 1960. As such, the Government Quarters (Recovery of Possession)Act No. 7 of 1969 itself has no application to him.
The rule against retrospectivity is intended to protect vested rights.Maxwell (Interpretation of Statutes) 12th Ed. 216 states:
"In the words of Craies on Statute Law (6th Ed. 386) a statute isretrospective which takes away or impairs any vested rightacquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, orimposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect totransactions or considerations already past",
Act No. 7 of 1969 as amended does not seek to take away orimpair any vested right. It provides for a summary procedure for therecovery of Government quarters provided by or on behalf of theGovernment or a public corporation. A person who had beenprovided quarters prior to the date of the Act would also be subjectto be ejected under the Act. The word "provided" in S.9 should notbe construed to mean "provided after the Act".
A man who has been provided with Government quarters prior tothe date of the Act, cannot be said to have a vested right. If theappellant had been given quarters prior to 1969, that was not a“transaction already past", His right is a continuing right the exerciseof which would become subject to the Act.
The second new point raised is that the impugned quit notice doesnot state the reason for the issue of such notice. The reason stated inthe said notice is that the appellant’s services have been terminatedand hence he had no authority to continue to occupy the quarters.Schedule *E’, Form ‘A’ to the Act prescribes the Form of the quitnotice but it does not specify the nature of the reason which has to bestated. However, Counsel relies on Form ’B’ which is the Form to beused for making an application to a Magistrate for ejectment. Thereason for the issue of the quit notice has to be set out in suchapplication. At the foot of the said Form there is reference to thenature of the reason which has to be stated. Briefly, they are:
period of occupation of quarters has expired;
a transfer of the occupier from the station which qualified himto occupy Government quarters;
death of the occupier to whom the quarters was originallygiven;
any other reason which is considered adequate.
Counsel submits that the reason referred to at (iv) above should beread"ejusdem generis" with the reason at (i) – (iii). I cannot agree withthis submission. The reasons set out in Form 'B’ are not exhaustiveand are merely by way of illustration; and the reasons contemplated at
above need not be "ejusdem generis". The relevant question iswhether such reason is adequate, which is a matter that woulddepend on the facts and circumstances of each case.
In interpreting the Act, I have adopted the principle that words areto be construed in accordance with the intention as expressed, havingregard to the object or policy of the legislation, which in the instantcase is to facilitate the speedy recovery of Government quarters.
For the foregoing reasons, I hold that the impugned quit notice isvalid and that there are no grounds for quashing it by way ofcertiorari. Accordingly, I dismiss the appeal, but without costs.
G. P. S. DE SILVA C J. -1 agreeRAMANATHAN, J. – I agreeAppeal dismissed.
BALASUNDERAM v. THE CHAIRMAN, JANATHA ESTATE DEVELOPMENT BOARD AND OTHERS