Fri, 19 Apr 2024 Today's Paper

Dispute over 90 perches of land ends after 52 years legal battle

18 February 2024 11:35 pm - 27     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Colombo, Feb. 18 (Daily Mirror)- The Supreme Court delivered a judgment in favour of the plaintiff party over a land dispute relating to a 90-perch plot of land in Kurunegala, which had traversed the halls of the courts for 52 years.

This case was first instituted in 1972 by the original plaintiff in the District Court of Kurunegala against the original defendant for a declaration of title to the land called “Damunugahamulawatta”, ejectment of the original defendant from the said land, restoration of possession and damages.

On March 29, 1976, the Kurunegala District Court delivered a judgment in favour of the plaintiff. Subsequently, the defendant filed an appeal before the Court of Appeal against the District Court judgment. On October 25, 1984 the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment of the District Court and sent the case back for a fresh trial (de-novo) on the basis that the District Court Judge had not taken into consideration several documents produced as evidence. 

Following the second trial, the District Court, by judgment dated 28 April 1997, held in favour of the plaintiff. The substituted defendant then preferred an appeal to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal, by judgment dated 02 December 2011, set aside the District Court judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to properly discharge the burden of proof to establish title and identity of the land in dispute. 

Being aggrieved by the Court of Appeal judgment, the substituted plaintiff (replacing the original plaintiff following his death) appealed to the Supreme Court. Leave to appeal was granted by the Supreme Court in this matter on May 6, 2013.

This  land dispute case was relating to Roman Law action called "rei vindicatio action". It is settled law that in order to succeed in a rei vindication action, the plaintiff must, firstly prove ownership of the property and secondly, that the defendant is in possession of the property. The burden of proof is placed on the plaintiff to prove ownership on a balance of probabilities.

The appeal was allowed by the Supreme Court three-judge-bench comprising Justices S. Thurairaja, A.H.M.D. Nawaz and Achala Wengappuli and delivered a judgment in favour of the substituted plaintiff. 

"As the original defendant did not claim for a declaration of title to the corpus and instead claimed for his rights as a lessee under the agreement executed between himself and the original owner, the substituted defendant cannot take up a position different to the original defendant," the Supreme Court held.


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  Comments - 27

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  • dinesh Monday, 19 February 2024 12:09 AM

    don't know whether to laugh or cry...

    Common sense Sri Lankan. Monday, 19 February 2024 12:09 AM

    Excellent and Common sense judgement.The law is an ass. A common man with average intelligence can see that the plaintiff is given back the land and thats it. No appeal should have been allowed. It’s with greediness the defendants go on in this Buddhist majority country. Hail ‘ rei vindicatio action. I hope all over Sri Lanka the district judges will pay 100% attention to ‘ rei Vindicatio’.

    Amul Kumara Monday, 19 February 2024 02:19 AM

    Excellent, 52 years, a land like no other.

    Dr. Amila Kankanamge Monday, 19 February 2024 02:20 AM

    Namal the future president will fix this.

    Doc Monday, 19 February 2024 03:23 AM

    Res ipsa liquita! A failed nation in every aspect.

    Kugan Monday, 19 February 2024 04:59 AM

    Proud to be. Took 52!yrs the lawyers fee would have cost more than the land value on the books still dutch law still thamasha Feb 4

    Lokka Monday, 19 February 2024 05:22 AM

    This is a pathetic case regarding land disputes. And this is only one instant in Sri Lanka. If you take 1000 cases only a fraction of it has been disposed of in a reasonable time frame. Justice delayed is justice denied. This is a classic case proving this saying!! Pitty all those seeking justice through our court system!!

    Lokka Monday, 19 February 2024 05:22 AM

    This is a pathetic case regarding land disputes. And this is only one instant in Sri Lanka. If you take 1000 cases only a fraction of it has been disposed of in a reasonable time frame. Justice delayed is justice denied. This is a classic case proving this saying!! Pitty all those seeking justice through our court system!!

    Be Fair Monday, 19 February 2024 07:51 AM

    Thats a very very long time for Justice

    sam silva2 Monday, 19 February 2024 08:01 AM

    a classic example of a failed court system.. wonder why people say they respect the verdict of the court when they shouldn't! and contest the incompetency of magistrates and judges. partially due to inability of a magistrate to delver the correct judgement PURELY due to his/her incompetency and due to corruption within the court system.

    Ram Monday, 19 February 2024 08:38 AM

    In my mind the CA should have considered the documents that were not considered by the DJ and given the decision. We see the SC in FR matters decide the issue on documents. The legal system in Sri Lanka has failed the litigants and passed the lawyers

    What a victory to celebrate! Monday, 19 February 2024 08:39 AM

    The owner of the land must have been rejoicing at the news, living in his tiny cottage after spending all this property and savings, paying the lawyers' fees. The lawyers may be living in mansions now!

    Jayantha Monday, 19 February 2024 08:46 AM

    So it was the apeal court which has unnecessary wasted the time when district court has solved the matter. Laws shouldbe updated by parliament to send home Judges who are wasting real owners money and time. Excellent job by the SC. Please take necessary action against the time waster and money waster at that big chair.

    Gonpala Balusinha Monday, 19 February 2024 08:55 AM

    Then what???

    N. N. Perera Monday, 19 February 2024 08:56 AM

    THERE IS NO LEGAL BATTLE. ONLY EXPOITATION OF CITIZENS IN SRI LANKA. SRI LANKAN COURT SYSTEM HAS TAKEN A GENERATION TO SOLVE LAND DISPUTE CASE. I WANDER HOW MANY PHOSTPHONEMENTS HAVE TAKEN DURING THE 52 YEARS.

    sachith Monday, 19 February 2024 09:01 AM

    Just think about the lawyers who handled this case for the both parties. Their two-three generations benefited from this single case.

    Shaq Monday, 19 February 2024 09:02 AM

    Hope this can be a precedent for other similar cases pending such as in Samagi Mawatha, Kawdana.

    Anura Jayantha Monday, 19 February 2024 11:12 AM

    In a country where law makers are crooks the law is manipulated, twisted and a blind is turned for their gain..

    Hari haran jaffna Monday, 19 February 2024 11:29 AM

    This madness still goes on and I am a victim of this injustice. The land bought by me had been already encroached without us knowing during war. The encroachers don’t have a shred of document to claim ownership. But the case still goes. It started in 2016 and I have spent over 20 lakhs. None are interested in solving this travesty of injustice. Century old laws that support the encroachment still left to mute injustice to legal owners

    Raven Monday, 19 February 2024 12:16 PM

    Can't the judges who postponed this case taken to court for delaying justice?

    Jayantha Monday, 19 February 2024 01:16 PM

    We need to send non lawyers to parliament next time mate to draft laws. Look how many are in and was in previous parliaments. They have not done anything useful to update the legal system. These kinds of brainless judges who drag cases or cannot give verdict on timely matte should be sacked and should not be allowed to function even as a lawyer. People will losse faith in these lower courts unless something is done against weak judges.

    Mfb Monday, 19 February 2024 12:34 PM

    How country can be developed by having very old laws. That is the reason 76 years the politicians played the game no one can send them to jail despite valid evidence such as Video, Audio evidence or Eye witnesses.

    Mfb Monday, 19 February 2024 12:37 PM

    By now both the lawyers must be Multi Millionaire.

    Danny Monday, 19 February 2024 01:11 PM

    A defendant who is in the occupation of the property deliberately appeal against the district court decision to frustrate the plaintiff. In the UK, whose law we follow, a defendant should act as per the lower court order before appeal. If a lower court, sends someone to prison, they must go to prison first and appeal, no bail in the interim. Our courts should follow the same.

    ANNECUNT Monday, 19 February 2024 02:18 PM

    NAMAL WILL NEVER BE THE PRESIDENT OF SRI-LANKA

    sugath Monday, 19 February 2024 03:27 PM

    I am sure that the plaintiff is now either dead or deaf due to old age.

    Lkf Monday, 19 February 2024 07:51 PM

    This judgement ought to come up in the Guiness book of Records.


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