H. N. O. FERNANDO, C.J.—Gunadasa v. Rajapakse
1967 Present: H. N. G. Fernando, C.J., and Siva Supramaniam, J.
K. P. GUNADASA, Petitioner, and R. D. T. RA.JAPAKSEand 2 others, Respondents
S.C. 324j66—Application for a Mandate in the nature of a Writof Quo Warranto under section 42 of the Courts Grdi nance
Village Committee—Quorum for election of Chairman—Computation—VillageCommunities Ordinance (Cop. 207), ss. 17 (1), 17 (0), IS, 26.
Section IS of tho Villago Communities Ordinnnco provides as follows :—
“ No oloction of a Chairman shall bo hold at any mooting summoned undersection 17, unless thcro is present a quorum consisting of not )os3 thanhalf tho number of the members oloefod to tho Committee.”
Held, that if, prior to tho time of tho mooting, a member of tho Committeehas beon removed from office by order of tho Minister under powers vostod inhim, such non-existent member cannot bo counted in computing “ t.ho numberof the members elocted to tho Committco.”
Application for a writ of quo warranto.-'—–
E. Gooneralne, for the petitioner.
E. R. S. R. Coomaraswarntj, with D. T. P. Rajapakse, for the 1strespondent.
M.Kanagasunderam, Crown Counsel, with Ananda de Silva, CrownCounsel, for Hie 2nd and 3rd respondents.
Cur. adv. vult.
May 26, 1967. II. N. G. Fernando, C.J.—
The 1st Respondent to this application was unanimously elected to theoffice of Chairman of a Village Committee at a meeting at which therewere present 12 members of the Committee. The validity of his electionis now sought to be challenged on the sole ground that the election wasnot held in accordance with s. IS of the Village Communities Ordinance,which provides as follows :—
“ No election of a Chairman shall be held at any meeting summonedunder section 17, unless there is jmesent a quorum consisting of not lessthan half the number of the members elected to the Committee.”
The area for which the Committee is constituted consists of 25 Wards,and accordingly the total number of members of the Committee as fullyconstituted would be also 25 (s. S of the Ordinance). But at the timewhen the disputed election of a Chairman was held, only 24 memberswere in office, one member (the former Chairman) having been removedfrom the office by order of the Minister under powers vested in him. Tho
H. N. G. FERNANDO, C.J.—Gunadasa v. Itajapakse
Bubstantial contention for the petitioner has been that s. IS, in requiringa quorum of not less than half the number of members elected to theCommittee, required the presence at the meeting of at least 13 members,
c., not less than half the total number of members ('25) who could orshould be elected to represent all the Wards. For the Respondentsit was argued that “ number of members elected ” means the membersfor the time being elected.
Section 17 (5) provides that, where there is a vacancy in the office ofChairman, the Assistant Commissioner shall summon a meeting by noticesserved in accordance with sub-section (1). That sub-section requires anotice to be served “ on each elected member ” of the Committee. Sincethere was at this stage no member representing the Ward for which theformer Chairman had been the member, notices under sub-section (I) hadto be served on the 24 other members, and a 25th notice could not issue,for the obvious reason that there was no person entitled to receive it. Iftliens. 17 (1) required notices to be served only on 24 elected members, itis only reasonable to suppose that when s. 18 fixed not less than o?ie halfof the number of members elected as the quorum, the intention was torequire the presence at the meeting of not less than one half of the 24members on whom the notices had to be served. The variation oflanguage between “elected members of the Committee” (s. 17 (1))and “ members elected to the Committee ” (s. IS) is too slight to admitthe construction that these two phrases should be given differentmeanings.
In any event, the language of s. 18, in its ordinary grammaticalmeaning, does not admit of doubt. If one Ward of a Committee has nomember at any given time, then it would be unreasonable to hold that,nevertheless, a non-existent member must be counted in computing “ thenumber of members elected to the Committee”. If such had been theintention of the Legislature, s. IS should have been quite differentlyphrased.
The only doubt as to the meaning of s. IS arises not intrinsically, butbecause of different language used in s. 2G :—“ the number of membersof the Committee in office on the day of the meeting”. This languagewas introduced into what is the present s. 2G by an amendment of 1952of what was the formers. 21 (5) of the Ordinance in the edition of 1938.It has not been possible to ascertain why the change of language wasnecessary. But such a change, in a Section other than s. IS, affords nosufficient ground for giving to s. 18 a meaning different from that whicha.‘IS plainly bears.
I hold that the 1st Respondent was duly elected Chairman of thoCommittee. The application is dismissed with costs in sums of Rs. 157-50payable to the 1st Respondent and the 2nd Respondent respectively.
Siva Supbamaxiam, J.—I agree.
K. P. GUNADASA, Petitioner, and R. D. T. RAJAPAKSE and 2 others, Respondents