Bempi v. Davith (Atukorale, J.)
Bempi Singho v. Davith Singho
COURT OF APPEAL.
WTHIALINGAM, J. AND ATUKORALE, J.
C.A. (S.C.) 678/75 (F)—D.C. BALAPITIYA 1994/.
OCTOBER 24, 1978.
Paddy Lands Act, sections 4 (1A), 4 (9), 14 (1), 19 (1)—Action by tenantcultivator in District Court for damages caused by wrongful eviction—Jurisdiction of Court to entertain such action.
A person who is a tenant cultivator within the meaning of the PaddyLands Act can maintain an action in an appropriate civil Court fordamages that may be caused to him as a result of a wrongful eviction.
Case referred to
(1) Hendrick Appuhamy v. John Apptihamy (1966) 69 N.L.R. 29 : 71C.L.W. 97.
E■ A. G. de Silva with Miss D. Seneviratne, for the appellant.
No appearance for the respondent.
Cur. adv. vult.
November 22, 1978.
The appellant appeals from a judgment of the learned DistrictJudge ordering him to pay the respondent a sum of Rs. 872 asdamages for unlawful eviction from a paddy field. The respon-dent filed this action stating that he was the tenant cultivatorof a certain paddy field and that he prepared the field for culti-vation and sowed paddy therein on 10.5.1972- The appellant on10.10.1972 unlawfully entered the field and ploughed it again andthereby caused loss and damage to the respondent. In his plaintthe respondent prayed for a declaration that he was the tenantcultivator of the field and for restoration of possession anddamages. The appellant in his answer denied that the respondentwas the tenant cultivator. It would appear from the evidence ledat the trial that the respondent on 21.5.1972 made a written com-plaint to the Assistant Commissioner of Agrarian Services noti-fying of his eviction from the paddy field—vide P6. The AssistantCommissioner who held an inquiry into the complaint under theprovisions of the Paddy Lands Act by his order dated 24.3.‘.973held that the respondent was the tenant cultivator and that hehad been evicted by the appellant—vide P8. The plaint in thepresent action was filed on 30.3.1972, that is about 3 months afterthe written complaint (P6) to the Assistant Commissioner. Thetrial commenced on 30.3.1975. On that day issues were framedand the respondent confined his case to damages only, apparentlyin view of the above finding by the Assistant Commissioner, h>his favour.
Sri Lanka Law Reports (1978-79) 2 S. L. R.
The only submission made by learned counsel for the appellantwas that the respondent cannot maintain this action in view ofthe fact that the Paddy Lands Act contained a special and theonly procedure open to a tenant cultivator in the event of hiseviction from the land. He cited the judgment of His LordshipSansoni, C. J.(l) in support of his contention. In that casethe owner of a paddy, field sought to eject the tenant cultivatoron the ground that the latter failed to cultivate the field diligently.After a consideration of the provisions of the Paddy Lands Actthe Chief Justice came to the conclusion that the landlord mustresort to the machinery set out in the Act itself if he wants toevict the tenant cultivator or to have the field properly cultivated.We are in respectful agreement with that decision. Section 4(1) ofthe Act gives a tenant cultivator the right to occupy and use theland in accordance with the provisions of the Act and statesfurther that he shall not be evicted therefrom. It also prohibitedevery person from interfering in the occupation and use of theland by the tenart cultivator. The only manner in which a tenantcultivator can be deprived of his right either unaer section14(1) when the landlord gives written notice of his desire to beowner cultivator or under section 19 (1) when the tenantcultivator is not cultivating land in accordance with the principlesof good paddy cultivation. In either case the Act lays down theprocedure to be followed before eviction of the tenant cultivator.It is thus quite clear that no landlord can institute action in theregular courts to eject his tenant cultivator.
The matter for our decision, however, is whether a tenantcultivator can maintain in court a claim for damages for unlawfuleviction. Section 4 (1A) of the Act provides the machinery bywhich a tenant cultivator who has been evicted can obtain forhimself restoration of the use and occupation of the land. Section4 (S) makes it an offence for any person to interfere with the useand occupation of the land by a tenant cultivator. Such a personon conviction after a summary trial before a Magistrate becomesliable to a fine not exceeding five hundred rupees and in defaultto imprisonment to a term not exceeding one month. The questionfor determination is whether the provisions of the Paddy LandsAct, particularly in view of the procedure set out in section 4(1A) and the penalty imposed by section 4 (9) oust the jurisdic-tion of a civil court to grant damages caused to a tenant cultivator
Bempi v. Davith (Atukorale, J.)
as a result of his being unlawfully evicted. A perusal of thevarious sections of the Paddy Lands Act makes it quite clear thatthe whole object was to provide the maximum amount of securityof tenure for tenant cultivators. Section 4 (1) of the Act gives atenant cultivator an absolute legal right to occupy and use theland for the purpose of paddy cultivation. In the instant case inthe exercise of this right the respondent prepared the land forcultivation and in fact sowed paddy therein. He was entitled todo so and in the normal course he would have reaped the cropand enjoyed the benefit of his labour but for the appellant’swrongful act. Thus the respondent has a valid cause of actionagainst the appellant to claim the damages which resulted fromthe appellant’s wrongful act. The Act does not provide for anyrelief to be granted to a tenant cultivator from the date of hiseviction until he is restored to the enjoyment of his rights. Section4 (1A) sets out the procedure for regaining the lost right of userand occupation. Section 4 (9) penalises a person who interfereswith the enjoyment by a tenant cultivator of his rights. Neithersection gives any relief to a tenant cultivator for the loss hesustains as a result of being evicted. I do not think that thelegislature by prescribing a penalty in section 4 (9) intended todeprive a tenant cultivator of the right to institute action in acourt for damages for wrongful eviction. The maximum fine thatcan be imposed on a wrongdoer under that section is Rs. 500. Nopart of this fine is payable to the tenant cultivator. The fine thatis prescribed does not take into consideration the enormity ofthe damage that may be caused to a tenant cultivator. Unless atenant cultivator is permitted to recover damages in a civil courta scheming landlord can set at naught the benefit of the statutoryprotection given to a tenant cultivator under the Act by causingthe cultivation to be damaged every season until the tenantcultivator is compelled to abandon the land out of sheer frustra-tion. For the above reasons we are of the view that a tenantcultivator can maintain an action in an appropriate civil courtfor damages that may be caused to him as a result of a wrongfuleviction. Accordingly we dismiss this appeal. There will be nocosts of appeal.
VYTHIALINGAM, J.—I agree.