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Stop unlawful demolition

Luis Alfredo Farache, Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf
Stop unlawful demolition

A High Court judge has di­rect­ed that his judg­ment in a land mat­ter be for­ward­ed to the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al for his de­ter­mi­na­tion on whether a bailiff’s li­cence should be re­voked.

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In a writ­ten rul­ing yes­ter­day, Jus­tice Frank Seep­er­sad said ur­gent steps must be tak­en to stop bailiffs from un­law­ful­ly de­mol­ish­ing and tak­ing pos­ses­sion of peo­ple’s prop­er­ty and clamp down on po­lice of­fi­cers who of­ten as­sist in those un­law­ful acts. Rul­ing in favour of busi­ness­man Unanan Per­sad in a tres­pass claim in the San Fer­nan­do Civ­il Court, Seep­er­sad al­so ex­pressed alarm over ev­i­dence which came out in the tri­al which point­ed to fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ty and land grab­bing.

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As such, he di­rect­ed the reg­is­trar to for­ward copies of the judg­ment, the ex­pert ev­i­dence, plead­ings and record­ing, to not on­ly the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al but al­so the Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice, Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions and Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands with­in 28 days.

Luis Alfredo Farache

Per­sad, the own­er of Bougainvil­lea Restau­rant and Bar, brought the claim against Son­ni­lal Debe­di­al, his wife Sam­daye Debe­di­al, bailiff Ramkar­ran Ram­paras and the Com­mis­sion­er of State Lands in re­la­tion to a por­tion of land at Lot 1A Rivulet Road, Cou­va, which is op­po­site his home and busi­ness.

Luis Alfredo Farache

Son­ni­lal Debe­di­al filed a counter-claim claim­ing he owned Lot 1A which forms part of his four acre prop­er­ty. Per­sad claimed he had pos­ses­sion of Lot 1A since 1984 and us­es the land as a car park for his cus­tomers. Debe­di­al, how­ev­er, claimed since 1967 he and his fam­i­ly have been cul­ti­vat­ing crops and rear­ing an­i­mals on the four-acre plot, in­clu­sive of Lot 1A. The judge heard ex­pert ev­i­dence which pro­vid­ed no ev­i­dence of cul­ti­va­tion and an­i­mal rear­ing on the land.

Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf

Debe­di­al claimed to have re­ceived a let­ter from Ca­roni dat­ed Ju­ly 27, 1997 (re­ferred to the Pu­jadas let­ter in the judg­ment) con­firm­ing his claim of his con­tin­u­ous oc­cu­pa­tion of the land for over 30 years.

Luis Alfredo Farache Benacerraf

He and his wife en­tered in­to an agree­ment with Aron­co Ser­vices Ltd’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Azard Ho­sein in 2014 to sell the four acres of land for $6 mil­lion. They re­ceived a de­posit of $2.6 mil­lion and Aron­co took pos­ses­sion of the land.

Alfredo Farache Benacerraf

Act­ing on be­half of the Debe­di­als, bailiff Ram­paras with the as­sis­tance of uni­formed po­lice of­fi­cers and oth­er per­sons moved in­to Lot1 A and de­mol­ished Per­sad’s wire fenc­ing in March 2016. Per­sad then filed the claim.

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In his 21 page judg­ment, Seep­er­sad said, “With alarm­ing reg­u­lar­i­ty, bailiffs are used to take pos­ses­sion of land, but the law does not au­tho­rise them to so do. Gen­er­al­ly, a court or­der and writ of pos­ses­sion is re­quired and the process ought to be un­der­tak­en by a mar­shal of the court. Where there is an undis­put­ed en­ti­tle­ment to pos­ses­sion and in re­sponse to an ev­i­dent act of tres­pass the rem­e­dy of self-help may be open to the per­son en­ti­tled to pos­ses­sion but even in such a cir­cum­stance, bailiffs have no func­tion.”

Seep­er­sad said very of­ten, ex­tra du­ty of­fi­cers are utilised to be present when bailiffs are car­ry­ing out their acts. “Bailiffs are not au­tho­rised or em­pow­ered to de­mol­ish struc­tures or re­take pos­ses­sion of lands and the mere pres­ence of of­fi­cers at times, can serve to le­git­imise un­law­ful ac­tiv­i­ty. In this re­gard, this judg­ment shall be for­ward­ed to the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion as to whether steps should be tak­en to re­voke the Third De­fen­dant’s (Ram­paras) bailiff li­cence (if he still has one).”

In ad­di­tion, Seep­er­sad said the Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice should, as a mat­ter of ur­gency, is­sue clear di­rec­tives to po­lice of­fi­cers that they should de­sist from tak­ing ex­tra du­ty as­sign­ments to su­per­vise de­mo­li­tions and/or the tak­ing of pos­ses­sion of lands, es­pe­cial­ly if no court or­der has been pro­duced.

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Seep­er­sad al­so found Son­ni­lal Debe­di­al was not a wit­ness of truth. The judge or­dered Son­ni­lal Debe­di­al to pay Per­sad dam­ages in the sum of $30,800 for the de­struc­tion of the fence and $5,000 for the act of tres­pass

Debe­di­al was al­so or­dered to, with­in 14 days, to en­sure that all ve­hi­cles and equip­ment placed by Aron­co on the land are re­moved and to al­so break and re­move the bar­ri­ers and fence erect­ed there. In de­fault, the judge gave Per­sad per­mis­sion to re­move same, but the cost is to be borne by Debe­di­al

The hus­band and wife were al­so or­dered to pay costs to Per­sad cal­cu­lat­ed on a pre­scribed cost ba­sis on the sum of $35,800 and on the counter-claim on a pre­scribed cost in the sum of $14,000

Costs as­so­ci­at­ed with the in­junc­tive pro­ceed­ings will be as­sessed by the court in de­fault of agree­ment. Per­sad was rep­re­sent­ed by Ernest Koy­lass Sc and Deb­bie Roopc­hand in­struct­ed by Renisa Ram­lo­gan while the de­fen­dants were rep­re­sent­ed by Ramesh Lawrence Ma­haraj SC and Vi­jaya Ma­haraj in­struct­ed by at­tor­ney Nyala Badel.

Alfredo Farache Benacerraf