Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Louis vs Association Socio Culturel de Tranquebar

Legal Matters

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Louis had entered a habere facias possessionem application before her Ladyship G. Juggessur-Manna whereby it was requesting the Court to issue an order against the Association Socio Culturel de Tranquebar, Port Louis to quit, leave and vacate the building found on a portion of State Land. The Association which is one duly registered with the Registrar of Association has been resisting the application.

By way of background, habere facias possessionem is a Latin term which means “that you cause to have possession” and such application is one whereby a party seeks to obtain possession of the property in dispute as in the present case.

The case of the Roman Catholic Diocese was presented as follows. Since 29 September 1987, it was the lessee of a portion of State land located at Tranquebar, Port Louis. The said lease was renewed on 28 January 2014 for a period of about nineteen years and will expire on 30 June 2032. The Diocese further stated that it built a community centre, known as Tranquebar Rotary Village Corps on that land.

As regards the Association, its version is that on 29 September 1987, a lease was granted to the Committee of Tranquebar Chapel for a period of 20 years. In 1986, with the help of the Rotary Club of Port Louis, Mr. Eddy Sadien, a social worker, Mr Parmesiven Mootien, a seasoned mason and inhabitants of Tranquebar constructed a community centre for the inhabitants of Tranquebar.

The centre was inaugurated in 1991 and since then it was managed and administered by the Association. While the Association agreed that the applicant (the Roman Catholic Diocese) has a clear and unambiguous title to the land in lite, it (the Association) was claiming a “droit de superficie” and a “droit de retention” over the building.

The Roman Catholic Diocese did not dispute the fact that from 1987 to 2007, the State land in lite was leased to Committee of Tranquebar Chapel. Her Ladyship observed that, the applicant did not establish whether the Committee of Tranquebar Chapel was an emanation of the applicant.

She further observed that, in contrast, the Association has adduced evidence that the community centre was constructed by third parties and was entrusted to the Association for the benefit of the inhabitants of Tranquebar.

Reference was made to the case of Ramnauth v Ramnauth [1969 MR 31] by her Ladyship where the learned Judge stated: “An examination of (French) case law and of our own shows that a confusion is sometimes made between those facts that would, if established constitute a defence or “contestation” and those that would tend to show that defence or “contestation” is invoked seriously and bona fide. A mere statement of those of the former kind will not suffice. There must in addition be averred such facts and circumstances as are likely to help the court or judge in assessing the seriousness of the defence.”

In view of the above, her Ladyship G. Juggessur-Manna ruled that the Association Socio Culturel de Tranquebar, Port Louis has raised a serious and bona fide defence to the application and declined the order requested by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Louis. Had the Roman Catholic Diocese managed to establish that the Committee of Tranquebar Chapel stemmed from it, the outcome could have been possibly been different.

* Published in print edition on 4 March 2015

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