Irish Land Commission and Board of Public Works v Ruane

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date17 February 1938
Date17 February 1938

High Court.

Irish Land Commission and Board of Public Works v. Ruane
THE IRISH LAND COMMISSION AND THE BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS
Plaintiffs
and
ANDREW J. RUANE, Defendant (1)

Landlord and tenant - Action for recovery of possession - Rent Restriction Acts - Whether Irish Land Commission bound by the Acts - Statutory position of Irish Land Commission - Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1923 (No. 19 of 1923), sect. 4, sub-sect. 1 (e).

Appeal from the Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs claimed possession of the premises No. 19 Eyre Square, Galway, held by the defendant from them at the yearly rent of £30.

The defendant's only defence was that his tenancy was protected by the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts. The Circuit Court Judge (Judge Wyse Power), holding that the plaintiffs, being a department or agent of the State, were not bound by those Acts, granted a decree of ejectment against the defendant. From that decision the defendant appealed (2).

The facts appear sufficiently for the purpose of this report in the judgment of Johnston J.

The Irish Land Commission, suing in ejectment, is bound by the provisions of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts.

So held by the High Court.

Constitutional status of the Irish Land Commission considered.

Quaere:—Whether the State, like the Crown, is not bound by Acts unless expressly named or by necessary implication referred to therein.

Cur. adv. vult.

Johnston J. :—

This matter came before the Circuit Court Judge by a civil bill for ejectment for overholding upon the expiration of a notice to quit.

The premises consist of the house No. 19 Eyre Square, in the town of Galway, less one room in that house. Mr. Ruane, the defendant, was taken into the employment, as a fishery inspector, of the Congested Districts Board (which was constituted as a statutory body for the relief of distress in the west of Ireland by the Purchase of Land Act, 1891, and became a corporate body by virtue of the Land Act of 1909). The Board acquired a leasehold interest in the house in 1913, the term being for 555 years and the

rent payable £30 yearly. The house (less one room) and the garden were let by the Board to Ruane by an agreement, dated July 21st, 1913, on a tenancy from year to year at a rent of £30, determinable by either party by the service of a three months notice to quit or surrender. This agreement was an ordinary agreement of letting, containing the usual clauses (including a clause prohibiting assignment and sub-letting) and undoubtedly it created in Mr. Ruane an ordinary tenancy from year to year, but subject to the following defeasance clause:— "In the event of the death of the tenant or his ceasing to be employed by or leaving the service of the Board the tenancy hereby created shall without any notice determine 14 days after the death of the tenant or the date on which he leaves the Board's service."

In connection with the tenancy thus created I should like to quote the following proposition from the judgment of Tindal C.J. in the leading case of Hughes v. Overseers of the Parish of Chatham(1). He says:— "There is no inconsistency in the relation of master and servant with that of landlord and tenant. A master may pay his servant by conferring upon him an interest in real property, either in fee, for years, at will, or for any other estate or interest, and if he do so, the servant then becomes entitled to the legal incidents of the estate as much as if it were purchased for any other consideration."

In my opinion the plaintiffs are entitled to a decree in ejectment subject to the one question which has been raised by the defendant. He says that, as a result of the tenancy which was so created and in the light of what took place subsequently, he is entitled to rely upon the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts, and accordingly that the action should be dismissed. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, claim that the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts are not applicable in cases where the Crown or the State is the landlord, and are not binding upon the Crown or the State, and they claim that they are entitled in the present case to rely upon that immunity.

It has been held, and I think that it is well established, that under ordinary circumstances these Acts are not binding upon the Crown: Clark v. Downes(2), Clark v. Mead(3)and Wirral Estates, Limited v. Shaw(4); but the question remains whether this important prerogative immunity can be relied upon by statutory bodies such as the Congested

Districts Board and the Irish Land Commission. In the case of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Trustees v.Cameron(1) Blackburn J., who read the judgment of the majority of the Judges who had been called in to assist the House, said at p. 464: "So far the ground of exemption is perfectly intelligible, but it has been carried a good deal farther, and applied in many cases in which it can scarcely be said that the Sovereign or the servants of the Sovereign are in occupation. Long series of cases have established that where property is occupied for the purposes of the government of the country, including under that head the police, and the administration of justice, no one is rateable in respect of such occupation." The Lord Chancellor (Lord Westbury) in advising the House said at p. 501 that "The only occupier exempt from the operation of the Act is the King, because he is not named in the statute, and the direct and immediate servants of the Crown, whose occupation is the occupation of the Crown itself, also come within the exemption." Lord Cranworth also puts the matter very clearly at page 508.

Now, the Congested Districts Board, established by the Act of 1891, could in no sense be described at any stage of its career as a direct and immediate servant of the Crown, and it never served any governmental purpose. No doubt it was endowed by Parliament for the carrying on of its work with public funds, and no doubt it was subject to a certain control by the Lord Lieutenant; but it was established and existed as an ameliorative body carrying on a great eleemosynary work in the west of Ireland and it had no governmental functions whatever. It was decided by the House of Lords in Clanricarde v.Congested Districts Board(2) that the Board was a statutory administrative body having compulsory powers to take land. Lord Loreburn said (at p. 45): "When an administrative body is authorised by statute to take land compulsorily for specified purposes, the Court will interfere if it uses those powers for different purposes." The King's Bench Division held on a case stated by Ronan L.J., in the case of O'Malley v. Congested Districts Board(3), that the Board was rateable in respect of a fishery which they owned and which, during the year in question, they were unable to let. It was held that they were in "occupation,"and liable for the rates claimed. It never occurred to anybody, neither to counsel for the Board nor to any member of the Court, to suggest that the Board was entitled to

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2 cases
  • Cork County Council and Burke v Commissioners of Public Works and Others
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