Sri Lanka Law Reports
[1983) 2 Sri L R.
COURT OF APPEAL
L. H. DE ALWIS. J. AND SIVA SELUAH. J.C. A. 58/76 A. T.
ANURADHAPURA NO. 4/v/3(3)/96FEBRUARY 02 1983
Agricultural Tribunal — Failure to give reasons —Question of law.
Natural Justice — Bias
Preliminary objection of bias had been taken at Agricultural Tribunal hearing asthe brother of the respondent was a member of the Tribunal and had engagedhimself actively on behalf of the tenant cultivator and attempted to oust theappellant from the field. The objection was overruled without reasons. Noreasons were given for the order holding respondent to be the tenant—cultivator.
When an allegation of bias is made the Court looks on the impressiongiven to other people. If right-mirrded persons would think that, inthe circumstances there was a real likelihood of bias on his part he
Karawita v. Abeyratne (L. H. OeAlwis. J.)
should not sit. And. if he does sit, his decision cannot stand. Justice must berooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people goaway thinking The Judge was biased'.
The tribunal is under a duty to give reasons for its conclusion becauseunder s.3(3) of the Agricultural Lands Law an appeal lies on a question of law.
A question of law arises where the facts relied upon by the Tribunal areunsupported by the evidence and includes also wrong inferences drawn fromthem. The absence of reasons entitles a Court to assume that the Tribunal hadno good reason to give and was acting arbitrarily.
Cases referred to:
Metropolitan Properties Co. Ltd. v. Lannon [ 1969J 1 QB 577
Reg. v. Barnsley Licencing Justices [ 1960] 2 QB 167
Simon v. Commissioner of National Housing 75 NLR 471APPEAL from order of Agricultural Tribunal.
J.W. Subasinghe. S.A. with MissE. M.S. Edirisinghe for appellant.
N. R. M. Daluwatte for respondent.
Cur. adv. vult
March 23. 1983L. H. DE ALWIS, J.
.This is an appeal from the order of the Agricultural Tribunal ofAnuradhapura dated 2.2.76 holding that the Applicant-Respondent is the 'ande' (tenant) cultivator of the field in disputeand ordering that his 'ande' rights be restored to him.
The Respondent made an application to the AgriculturalTribunal on 7.6.1975 complaining that he was evicted by theappellant on 10.10.73 from a field called Samaraweera Kotuwain extent 1 A. 1R.
At the hearing of the appeal the order of the Tribunal waschallenged on the grounds that 1
(1)One of the members of the Tribunal was biased against theappellant.
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[1983J 2 Sri L. R.
No reasons were given by the Tribunal in its order for itsconclusion.
The Agricultural Tribunal had no jurisdiction to entertainthe application because the appellant is a permit holder ofthe field in question under the Land DevelopmentOrdinance (Cap. 464), and the respondent thereforecannot claim to be a tenant cultivator of that field in viewof the provisions of the Land Development Ordinance.
The application to the Agrjcultural Tribunal was made bythe respondent over a year after the alleged eviction and istherefore out of time, in terms of section 3(4) of theAgricultural Lands Law No. 42 of 1973.
There is no evidence of the letting of the paddy field to therespondent in terms of section 3(1) of the Paddy Lands ActNo. 1 of 1958.
At the very commencement of the proceedings on 20.12.75the appellant referred to a letter dated 8.12.75 sent by him to theTribunal and objected to Mr. S. Sivagnanasunderampulle sittingon the Tribunal on the grounds of his alleged bias against him. Inhis letter he made the allegation that the brother of that memberhad actively engaged himself on behalf of the tenant cultivatorand had attempted to oust the appellant from this field. Theobjection was overruled without any reasons being given by theTribunal which then proceeded to inquire into the tenantcultivator's complaint.
In Metropoliton Properties Co. Ltd., v. Lannon (1) LordDenning M. R. at page 599 referring to Devlin J's dictum in Reg.v. Barnsley Licencing Justices (2) said : "In considering whetherthere was a real likelihood of bias, the Court does not look at themind of Justice himself or at the mind of the Chairman of theTribunal, or whoever it may be, who sits in a judicial capacity. Itdoes not look to see if there was a real likelihood that he would,or did. in fact favour one side at the expense of the other. TheCourt looks at the impression which would be given to other people.
Karawita v. Abeyratne (L. H. De Alwis. J.)
Even if he was as impartial as could be. nevertheless if right-minded persons would think that, in the circumstances, therewas a real likelihood of bias on his part, then he should not sit.And if he does sit. his decision cannot stand . . . The Court willnot inquire whether he did. in fact favour one side unfairly.Suffice it that reasonable people might think he did. The reasonis plain enough. Justice must be rooted in confidence andconfidence is destroyed when right-minded people go awaythinking The Judge was biased' "
In the present case there was an allegation against one of themembers of the Tribunal, that his brother had taken an activepart on behalf of the respondent to evict the appellant from thefield in question. Beyond overruling the objection raised by theappellant, no denial of the allegation was made by the memberconcerned and recorded by the Tribunal. In the circumstancesthe allegation stands uncontroverted and whether or not theparticular member of the Tribunal was actually biased or notagainst the appellant is immaterial. Reasonable and right-mindedpeople would think that he was biased.
There were several other fields in the area in which theappellant was involved in disputes with tenant cultivators. In anunreported case, C.A. (S.C.) No. 236/76 A.T. AnuradhapuraCase No. 4/v/3(3) 106. where the same member sat on theTribunal in regard to one such dispute, a similar allegation wasmade against him and that was one of the reasons why the orderof the Tribunal was set aside by this Court. See also Simon v.Commissioner of National Housing (3).
The second ground on which the appellant seeks to set asidethe order of the Agricultural Tribunal dated 2.2.76 is that noreasons are given by the Tribunal for its conclusion. Fourwitneses gave evidence for the respondent and two for theappellants at the inquiry and the evidence ran into 8 closelytyped pages. But the order of the Tribunal is in inverse proportionto the length of the proceedings, and consists of only four lines.Those four lines contain for the most part a repetition of thefinding by the Tribunal that the respondent has proved that he is
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 2 Sri L. R.
the tenant cultivator of the field. No reasons whatsoever aregiven as to how the Tribunal reached that conclusion. There is noanalysis or evaluation of the evidence. The Tribunal is under aduty to give reasons for its conclusion, because under section 3
of the Agricultural Lands Law, an appeal lies to this Court ona question of Law. A question of Law arises where the facts reliedupon by the Tribunal are unsupported by the evidence andincludes also wrong inferences drawn from them. WadeAdministration Law 4th Edition page 271. In the absence of anexamination and assessment of the evidence by the Tribunal it isnot possible for this Court to consider whether the Tribunal'sreasoning and conclusion are correct. The absence of reasons,entitles a Court to assume that the Tribunal had no good reasonto give and was acting arbitrarily. Wade ibid page 358. This isanother circumstance that supports the allegation of bias.
On these two grounds alone the Order of the AgriculturalTribunal cannot be allowed to stand. In view of the order Ipropose to make, it is unnecessary to Consider the other groundsurged by the appellant. I
I set aside the Order of-the Agricultural Tribunal dated 2.2.76and send the case back for a fresh inquiry by the appropriateauthority under the Agrarian Services Act No. 58 of 1979, whichis the Law that is now applicable.
SIVA SELLIAH, J. — I agree
Order of the Agricultural Tribunal set aside.
Case sent back for fresh trial.
KARAWITA v. ABEYRATNE