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Present: Schneider J.
WICKREMENAYAKE v. EDIRISINGHA.
199—C. R. Tangalla, 11,844.
Court of Requests—Action for damages—No prayer—Title—Jurisdiction—Value of land.
Where in an action in the Court of Requests for the recoveryof damages, arising out of the wrongful possession of land, morethan Rs. 300 in value, the plaintiff claimed less than Rs. 300without a prayer for declaration of title and where the defendantin his anwer disputed the plaintiff’s title,—
Held, that the Court of Requests had no jurisdiction to try thecase.
A PPEAL from a judgment of tho Commissioner of Requests,A Tangalla.
Weerattooriya, for plaintiff, appellant.
Soertsz, for defendant, respondent.
^November 30, 1928. Schneidee J.—
The plaint in this action contains every allegation which- isfound in an ordinary action for declaration of title to land and forrecovery of damages for a trespass.
It sets out the title of the plaintiff, his ouster, and the natureand quantum of the damages. But the prayer for a declarationof title and for restoration to possession is omitted and damagesonly are asked for. To account for this variation there is anallegation that the defendant gave up possession, thereby implyingthat at the time of the institution of the action he did not disputethe title of the plaintiff to the land or his right to the possessionof it.
In his answer the defendant denied wholesale tho allegationsin the plaint. He denied in specific terms the plaintiff’s title andouster, and in effect asserted that the land described in the plaintwas his and possessed by him as such.
The argument appears to have been addressed to the Judgeof the lower Court that the plaintiff’s action was for damages only,and as the amount claimed did not exceed Rs. 300 the Court ofRequests had jurisdiction to try it although the value of the land
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■was admittedly above Rs. 300. He held against this contentionand dismissed the action. This appeal is from that dismissal.On appeal it was submitted that the action had been wrongfullydismissed as the question of title was only “ incidental ” to theplaintiff’s substantive claim, which was for damages. The caseof Rasiah Joseph v. Punchi Appukamy1 and that of Podi Singhoet al. v. Perera Appukamy,2 which is cited and followed in that case,were relied upon in support of this contention.
It appears to have been decided in both those cases that a Courtof Requests has jurisdiction to hear and determine an actionfor damages not exceeding a sum of Rs. 300 although the titleto the land for a trespass committed in regard to which the damagesare claimed is disputed and the value of the land exceeds Rs. 300,because in such a case the Court is compelled incidentally “ toexpress an opinion ” on the ownership of the land. It was submittedthat the present case cannot be differentiated from the formerof those cases.'. That submission appears to be right. But it alsoappears to me impossible to adopt the view that the Court in thiscase is merely compelled to express an opinion upon the ownershipof the land in order to determine the claim for damages. Courtsof Requests derive their general jurisdiction from the provisionsof section 77 of the Courts Ordinance, No. 1 of 1889. It confersjurisdiction on them to hear and determine the following classesof actions subject to a monetary limitation of Rs. 300 :—
Actions in which the claim is for “ debt, damage, or demand.”
Actions in which the title to, interest in, or right to, the
possession of any land is in dispute.
Actions for the partition or sale of land.
The question in this case is whether this is an action in whichthe title to or possession of land in value over Rs. 300 is in dispute.There can be but the one answer to it, that it is.
Before the Court can determine that the plaintiff is entitled toclaim any damages it must decide the issue whether the plaintiffis the owner of the land. The question of title is a substantiveissue in the action. It is incidental in one sense, in that theplaintiff’s prayer is only for damages, but it is nevertheless anissue.
I entirely agree with the learned Commissioner that it is thereal issue in the action. The principle governing this and similaractions has to my mind been correctly stated in Silva v. Fernando,3where it was pointed out that it is not the relief actually prayed for
2 (1926) 5 Times of Ceylon L. R. 46.
2 11 N. L. R. 376.
1 (1927) 29 N. L. R. 159.
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but what is involved in the decision of the action which determinesits monetary value. The same principle isr to be found statedin the case of Dingiri Appuhamy v. Appuhamy.1
It would open the doors to flagrant evasion of the salutarylimitations placed by the Courts Ordinance regarding jurisdictionif under the guise of a claim for damages only, Courts of Requestsare held to have jurisdiction to determine questions involvingtitle to land over Rs. 300 in value.
The appeal fails, and is dismissed with costs.
(1913) 3 Court of Appeal Cases S7.
WICKREMENAYAKE v. EDIRISINGHA