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1902.claims, if they are forcedintothisfour-cornered fight. The
March 86.provisions of this Ordinancehavebeen described as ‘stringent,’
—and its consequences ‘ perilous ' (vide 3N. L. R. 175). I uphold
the objection. My order isthatthiscase be confined to the
first claimant.”
The Government Agent appealed.
Fernando, C.G., for appellant.
Morgan, for respondent.
26th March, 1902. Middleton, J.—
In this case there is an appeal by the Government Agent ofSabaragamuwa against an interlocutory order made by the DistrictJudge of Ratnapura on a reference under consolidated Ordinances,which is now No. 1 of i897. The facts of the case werethat there were two plots of land, Nos. 45 and 46, and for thesetwo plots of land there were three claimants for No. 46 andone claimant for No. 45. The District Judge had a preliminaryobjection taken before him that the claimants’ claim is notthe same; that they are different parties and claiming underdifferent titles, all of whom had been made plaintiffs. That wasthe preliminary objection taken in the case, when it came on forhearing before the District Judge, by, I presume, the proctor forthe defendants. The District Judge made an order in whichhe upheld the objection. Tfis order was that this case be confined'to the claim of the first claimant, and I presume that it washis intention by that order simply that the case as regardsthe first claimant to No. 45 should be heard first. What was to bedone afterwards, we are in the dark about.
So far as I am able to read this Ordinance of 1897, I think it isan Ordinance the object of which is to clear titles to lands in theColony, lands which the Government claim as Crown lands andlands of which there are occupiers who say they are their property.The object of the Ordinance was simply to provide a summary andan expeditious method of finding out who are the persons entitledto the land. Now, unfortunately, in this Ordinance, which is one toprovide a summary procedure, technical terms such as “ plaintifiE ”and “ action ” have been introduced. By the use of these techuicalterms in the proceedings which were before the District Judge,one would be led to suppose the proceedings were in the natureof a formal action, although I should say it was intended bythe Ordinance that the inquiry was to be certain, expeditious, andinexpensive, and, so far a6 possible, one that would be finished inthe District Court. Now, reading the sections of that Ordinance
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which have been quoted to me, especially sections 6 and 7, it isclear that the Government Agent has to refer to the names of theclaimants, but that he may also refer the names of any other personswhom he has reason to think have any interest in the land, so that,I presume, if these names were referred to the District Judge,notices would be sent to them, and they would have an opportunityof filing statements showing whether they made any claims, and,if so, the extent of that claim. Section 16 lays down the procedure'at the hearing. That, so far as one can see, is very ample, and, tomy mind, gives a very considerable discretion to the District Judge,who is entrusted with the inquiry, as to the way in which it shouldbe conducted. It seems to me that here the learned District Judgehas done no more than exercised his discretion. I cannot myselfsay that I altogether agree with him on the lines in which thatdiscretion has been exercised, because I cannot myself see how theinquiry will proceed after he has disposed of the claim of the firstclaimant. I should have thought that a better, a more expedient,and more fitting course to have followed would have been for theJudge to take the case of each piece of land, ascertain the claims ofthe Crown and the claimants to it, and then frame issues as to theclaim made by each party to each piece of land, and, having heardeach of the claimants on their claim and their evidence, he wouldbe in a position to adjudicate upon the rights of any one or otherof them to each piece of land. This, 'I think, might well havebeen done in the case of the land – No. 46, where there were threedifferent claimants to the ownership of the land. I see no difficultyin the claimants assisting in the framing of issues, puttingforward their evidence, and calling witnesses to prove their claimsas against the Crown and as regards the other claimants. Theycould be examined and cross-examined, one claimant could cross-examine the other claimants, and be cross-examined by them andby the Crown, and the whole inquiry might proceed as if it wereone case. To my mind there is no difficulty in that procedure,but as this is an order in which the learned Judge has exercised hisdiscretion, I do not think we should interfere wjth his discretionso far as this particular order is concerned, but I would like toindicate my view as to what the course of proceedings should bein an inquiry where there are different claimants to one land. Ihave not touched upon the question as to the use of the words" plaintiff ” and “ defendant,” because, although these words areintroduced in the law, and although it was said that these proceed-ings are to be governed by the provisions in section 13 of theOrdinance, which enacts that in “ references instituted under thisOrdinance the proceedings shall be regulated, as far as they can be,
1902.March 29.
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March 26.
by the Code of Civil Procedure,” I myself will never believe thatit was ever intended that inquiries under this Ordinance were tobe strictly in the nature of actions. They were mere summaryinquiries to determine the rights of claimants as against theGovernment regarding the piece of land in dispute.
The order, in my opinion, should not be interfered with.
Moncrbiff. J.—I am of the same opinion.