(Port of Spain, Trinidad)The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ordered that the appellant, Ms. Rajpattie Thakur in her capacity as the executrix of the will of her mother, Mrs. Dolarie Thakur, be declared the rightful owner of land at Plantation Mon Desir, Canal No. 2 West Bank Demerara in Guyana. The disputed land had been used as a farm by the family for over 40 years. Mr. Bissoon Thakur who was Ms. Thakur’s father and Mrs. Thakur’s husband, went into occupation of the land in the 1970’s, with the permission of the owner of the land, Mr. Prince Maison. Mr. Thakur planted various crops without interruption until 1982. In that year, the land was sold to Mr. Basil Basdeo for non-payment of rates and taxes.
Mr. Basdeo obtained transport in 1982, which is a document under Guyanese law with transfers the ownership of the the land, and upon discovering the Thakurs’ occupation, threatened Mr. Bissoon Thakur with legal action to remove him from the land. Mr. Thakur ignored the threat but sought assistance from local bodies and Mr. Prince Maison to remain on the land. Mr. Basdeo’s threat to sue never materialized and Mr. Thakur, and his family, remained on the land until it was sold to the respondent, Mr. Deodat Ori in 1997.
When Mr. Ori visited the land later that year, he found Ms. Rajpattie Thakur’s brother, Jaipaul, on the land and asked him to vacate the land then, and again in September 1997. Two High Court actions were then instituted: including one by Mr. Basdeo and Mr. Ori against Mr. Jaipaul Thakur for trespassing on the land. The second High Court action was filed by the appellant and Mr. Jaipaul Thakur, where they sought a declaration that they were legally entitled to farm the land. They also filed a petition for prescriptive title in 2002, which allows people to apply for a title for land under stated conditions, though this was later withdrawn. Ultimately, the petition to which this appeal relates was filed in 2003.
At the Commissioner of Title proceeding, the Honourable Mr. Justice Rooplall found that Mrs. Dolarie Thahkur had continued possession of the land after her husband’s death in 1991 until her own death in 2003 which would meet the required period for a prescriptive title. However, the Court of Appeal in Guyana disagreed with Mr. Justice Rooplall that the requisite intention to be independent possessor of the land was proved. The court also felt that there were false statements and non-disclosures of facts by Ms. Rajpattie Thakur, and for that reason she should not have won the case.
On this issue, the CCJ, after a close examination of the record, disagreed with the Court of Appeal. The Court then considered whether Ms.Thakur was able to establish that her father and her mother had occupied the land from 1984 until their respective deaths and found that there “was more than enough evidence on record to support factual possession of the land at all material times”, in addition to an intention to hold the land as owner.
The order of the Court of Appeal was set aside and the order of the Commissioner of Title dated 14 July 2008, granting a declaration of title for the land in dispute to Ms. Thakur be reinstated. The CCJ also awarded basic costs for two attorneys to the Appellant.
The applications were determined by the Honourable Messrs. Justices Wit, Hayton, Anderson, Barrow and Mme. Rajnauth-Lee. Ms. Rajpattie Thakur was represented by Mr. Roopnarine Satram, Mr. Chandrapratesh Satram and Mr. Visal Satram while Mr. Mohabir Anil Nandlal and Mr. Manoj Naraya represented Mr. Ori. The full judgment of the Court, and a judgment summary, are available at www.ccj.org. –