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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 6, CMC – The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Wednesday ruled that a man who had been occupying land in Guyana since 1989 can initiate court proceedings for trespassing after indicating that two land titles obtained by two other people were fraudulently obtained.
The CCJ, Guyana’s highest court, found that the titles in the possession of Bhagwantlall Mossai and Alvin Alves, for land at Lot 14 Mortice, Mahaicony River in Guyana should be cancelled.
It said that while Chandra Ramotar Singh did not have official title, he was in occupation of the property in 1989 when he agreed to buy the land from some of the heirs of the previous owner.
The CCJ heard that Alves and Mossai and his brother, Ramrattan Mossai, had conspired to defraud Singh.
In 1994, Alves applied to the Land Court for title and fraudulently claimed that he was in possession of the land. The Land Court, being unaware that Singh was the person in possession, granted Alves a declaration of title, allowing him to sell the land to Bhagwantlall Mossai.
But when Mr. Singh became aware of these activities, he filed court proceedings against Alves and Bhagwantlall Mossai in 2003. He claimed damages in trespass and fraud but did not seek the cancellation of the fraudulent titles.
Nevertheless, the trial judge, Justice Bovell-Drakes, having found fraud on the part of Alves and the Mossai brothers cancelled the fraudulent titles.
The Court of Appeal in Guyana, by a majority, declined to cancel the fraudulent titles, because among other things Singh had not asked for them to be cancelled in his claim and because the claim was out of time.
Madam Justice Cummings-Edwards, who was Acting Chief Justice at the time, did not agree with the majority.
In its ruling, the CCJ found that Singh had capacity to commence court proceedings for trespass and fraud and that he was not out of time for filing his 2003 action. The CCJ also ruled that Justice Bovell-Drakes was correct in cancelling the fraudulent titles.
In the ruling, the CCJ also decided an important point of procedural law, that is, that the Court of Appeal of Guyana had no power to extend the time for the filing of an application in that Court for permission to appeal to the CCJ.