TLTB to pay $360k

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The Supreme Court of Fiji has ordered the iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) to pay $360,240 to a man who was evicted from a 13-acre native land in Nadi in 2000 after the agriculture lease was terminated.

The TLTB issued a 20-year lease certificate to Shanti Lal on April 30, 1986.

Mr Lal took the TLTB to court in July 2000 seeking compensation for improvements made to the land.

The Master of the High Court in Lautoka had awarded $360,240 to Mr Lal to compensate for buildings on the land ($83,000), damages for breach for buildings on the land ($8000), loss of income from sugarcane, farm animals, fruits and vegetables ($99,000), landowners trespass on land ($10,000), exemplary damages against TLTB ($20,000), interest at four per cent from the date of the writ to date of ruling ($138,240) and costs ($2000).

“As a general observation, this case highlights the need for the petitioner (TLTB) as the trustee of native lands under the iTaukei Land Trust Act, to make certain that its statutory obligations are observed and are carefully carried out,” stated judges Justice Anthony Gates, Justice Brian Keith and Justice Filimone Jitoko in the ruling.

“In this instance, what began in January 1971 as a three-acre tenancy-at-will (TAW), somehow through lack of due care and attention in the follow-up to an inspection report, was renewed for a term and when the new TAW was assigned, the acr­eage had increased to 13 acres. No proper inquiry as to the increase in the acreage was made, but the assignment was duly approved by the board.

“A TAW at common law, is a tenancy without a pre-determined term or duration of occupancy. It may be terminated by the landlord or tenant at any time. When the TAW was renewed for a 20-year term on 17 September 1982, it brought the tenancy within the ambit of the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1976.

“Furthermore, the TAW was issued for exclusive use for agriculture, and it specifically prohibited the construction of buildings on the land. Yet despite the inspection reports referring to the existence of buildings, including residence on the property, no notice of the breach of the tenancy conditions was ever made, or served on the tenants.

“The petitioner (TLTB) has a statutory duty and responsibility to ensure that the management of the native lands is carried out in a proper manner, in accordance with the law and in keeping with the trust placed upon it by the native landowners.

“Sadly, it does appear that it failed, in this instance.”

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