Sang Fat Company Ltd v. Rajlal (Mauritius)  UKPC 4 (21 January 2003)
Privy Council Appeal No. 87 of 2001
Sang Fat Co. Ltd. Appellant
Rajlal Aodhora Respondent
THE SUPREME COURT OF MAURITIUS
JUDGMENT OF THE LORDS OF THE JUDICIAL
COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL,
Delivered the 21st January 2003
Present at the hearing:-
Lord Bingham of Cornhill
Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe
Sir Martin Nourse
[Delivered by Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe]
"(1) The present lease is made for a period of three years, renewable thereafter.
(2) The tenant rents the building for the purposes of a hotel business including a restaurant and a boarding house.
(3) The costs of all repairs shall be borne by the tenant.
(5) The company shall enjoy the above mentioned buildings as it so wishes.
(6) The rent has been fixed at 2,000 rupees payable at the end of each month, as from the month of September.
(7) The company shall have the rights to innovate or repair in wood the buildings for the purpose of improvement."
Clause 7 incorporates an agreed correction of the translation in the record.
"Si, pendant la durée du bail, la chose louée est détruite en totalité par cas fortuit, le bail est résilié de plein droit; si elle n'est détruite qu'en partie, le preneur peut, suivant les circonstances demander ou une diminuition du prix, ou la résiliation même du bail. Dans l'un et l'autre cas, il n'y a lieu à aucun dédommagement."
English translation of Article 1722 Code Civil Mauricien (CCM):
"If during the currency of the lease, the thing leased is totally destroyed by accident, the lease is automatically rescinded. If it is destroyed in part, the lessee may, depending on the circumstances, claim either a reduction of the rent or the rescission of the lease itself. In either case, there shall be no claim for compensation."
"The report of the constat made by the usher Eddoo indicates clearly that out of the three buildings leased to the defendant, the main building has been completely destroyed. On the other hand the photographs produced indicates clearly the extent of the repairs carried out by the defendant after the fire.
True it is that the agreement reached between the parties gave the defendant certain rights to repair the building with a view to improving same. That right was limitative and did in no way confer the rights on the defendant to put up additions and causing structural repairs."
He then referred to article 1722 and to some authorities on the topic of total loss. He concluded that the landlord had made out his case and that the tenancy had come to an end. He made orders for possession, for restoration of the premises to their original state, and for Rs10,000 damages.
"(a) Notwithstanding any rule of law or enactment, the court shall, irrespective of the amount of rent claimed, have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any matter or action arising out of, or brought under, this Act, on the plaint of any landlord or tenant, and, in the exercise of that jurisdiction, shall have all the powers the court has in civil cases.
(b) Except where, in the opinion of the court, the application or plaint was frivolous, no costs shall be allowed in any such proceedings other than proceedings under section 20(1)(a)."
"any rent lawfully due from the tenant has not been paid, or any other obligation of the tenancy, whether under the contract of tenancy or under this Act, so far as is consistent with this Act has been broken or not performed."
Paragraph (h) covered the case where the premises were in such a dilapidated condition that the repairs required to put it in tenantable condition could not be effected without the tenant vacating the premises (but neither side placed any reliance on that paragraph, either before their Lordships or below).
"(1) The Intermediate Court or a District Court shall have jurisdiction in any action by a landlord to obtain cancellation of a lease, with or without damages, or to recover possession of real property from a tenant or occupier, including an action where the value of the property exceeds the prescribed amount.
(2) Where the yearly rent or rental value of the property does not exceed the prescribed amount and the sum claimed for damages, if any, and for rent do not together exceed the prescribed amount, the cancellation of any lease, damages and possession of real property from a tenant or occupier may be claimed in the same plaint in which rent is claimed.
(3) This section shall not affect the operation of the Landlord and Tenant Act."
Section 11 of the latter provides as follows:
"(1) (a) No plaintiff shall divide any cause of action for the purpose of bringing two or more suits, but a plaintiff who has a cause of action for more than the prescribed amount may abandon the excess, and may, on proving his case, recover an amount not exceeding the prescribed amount.
(b) The judgment of the court upon such plaint shall be in full discharge of all demands in respect of such cause of action, and entry of the judgment shall be made accordingly.
(2) The plaintiff may join several causes of action in the same plaint provided they do not exceed the jurisdiction of the court."
"We were also addressed on the issue of reasonableness of the order. We agree that, although the learned Magistrate did not expressly state that he addressed his mind to the issue, it was reasonable to make the order prayed for, when we look at the evidence on record. See Vaghjee v Gopee 1960 MR 40 and Durocher v Shanghai Company Ltd. 1960 MR 164. The learned Magistrate did say very clearly in his judgment that he Appellant had no right to put up additions and cause structural repairs to be made on the building. Clearly the subject matter of the lease had been substantially affected, rendering it untenantable."