Double L & T Pte Ltd v Balwant Singh

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date06 May 1996
Date06 May 1996
Docket NumberCivil Appeals Nos 128 and 129 of 1995
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Balwant Singh
Plaintiff
and
Double L & T Pte Ltd
Defendant

[1996] SGCA 31

Yong Pung How CJ

,

Lai Kew Chai J

and

Goh Joon Seng J

Civil Appeals Nos 128 and 129 of 1995

Court of Appeal

Land–Adverse possession–Conversion of land into registered land–Whether qualified certificate of title issued–Adverse possession before land became registered land–Whether requisite period of 12 years' possession completed–Whether adverse possessor's rights extinguished before conversion to registered land–Whether s 50 Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 1994 Rev Ed) applied to defeat adverse possessor's accrued claim–Section 50 Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 1994 Rev Ed)–Land–Adverse possession–Conversion of land into registered land–Whether qualified certificate of title issued–Adverse possession before land became registered land–Whether requisite period of 12 years' possession completed–Whether adverse possessor's rights extinguished before conversion to registered land–Whether s 177 (3) Land Titles Act 1993 (Act 27 of 1993) applied to preserve adverse possessor's claim–Section 177 (3) Land Titles Act (Act No 27 of 1993)

One Thulasi Velayutham (“Thulasi”) entered into occupation of a plot of land (“Lot 235-25”) whose owner was one Dr V K Samy. The disputed plot was unoccupied and the appellant annexed the disputed plot to his lot. The appellant thus claimed to have been in uninterrupted possession of the disputed plot since September 1973. Thulasi obtained a consent judgment declaring him the owner in fee simple of Lot 235-25 by way of adverse possession and he conveyed Lot 235-25 (including the disputed plot) to the respondent. The consent judgment and the conveyance were registered in the Registry of Deeds.

On 1 March 1994, the Land Titles Act 1993 (Act 27 of 1993) (“the 1993 LTA”) came into force and the 1993 LTA became the Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 1994 Rev Ed) (“the new LTA”) with effect from 15 March 1994. On 20 June 1994, Lot 235-25 including the disputed plot was brought under the provisions of the new LTA with the respondent as the registered proprietor under a qualified certificate of title. The appellant lodged a caveat against Lot 235-25 claiming an interest in the disputed plot as an adverse possessor.

The court below held that s 50 of the new LTA abolished the appellant's claim by way of adverse possession of the disputed plot which became registered land on 20 June 1994 and s 177 (3) of the 1993 LTA did not apply to preserve the appellant's claim. The appellant appealed.

Held, allowing the appeals:

(1) As of 1 March 1994, there were three categories of adverse possession claims: (a) for land held under the common law system the adverse possessor must have 12 years of adverse possession to be able to make a claim and rely on s 177 (3) of the 1993 LTA to preserve his possessory title; (b) for registered land held under the provisions of the repealed LTA, the adverse possessor could rely on ss 172 (7) and 172 (8) of the new LTA; and (c) for registered land held under the provisions of the new LTA, no adverse possession claims were allowed unless s 172 (7) or 172 (8) of the new LTA applied: at [24].

(2) Based on a plain reading of s 50 of the new LTA, it was applied only in respect of adverse possession which had not crystallised into a possessory title when the land became registered land and not to adverse possession that had so crystallised. In the latter situation, the title of the documentary owner would already have been extinguished at the time of conversion to registered land: at [26].

(3) As the appellant had completed the requisite period of 12 years' possession before the land was brought under the repealed Act and a qualified certificate of title issued, his interest would still subsist. There had been 12 years of adverse possession before the land became registered land and the rights of the documentary owner would already have been extinguished before the conversion to registered land. Accordingly s 50 of the new LTA would not apply to defeat the appellant's accrued claim. His claim in those circumstances was preserved by s 177 (3) of the 1993 LTA: at [31].

Constitutional Reference No 1 of 1995 [1995] 1 SLR (R) 803; [1995] 2 SLR 201 (folld)

Tan Eng Khiam v Ultra Realty Pte Ltd [1991] 1 SLR (R) 844; [1991] SLR 798 (refd)

Van Den Bosch v Australian Provincial Assurance Association Ltd [1968] 2 NSWR 550 (folld)

Wong Kok Chin v Mah Ten Kui Joseph [1992] 1 SLR (R) 894; [1992] 2 SLR 161 (refd)

Interpretation Act (Cap 1, 1985 Rev Ed)s 9A

Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 1985 Rev Ed)s 42

Land Titles Act 1993 (Act 27 of 1993)s 177 (3) (consd)

Land Titles Act (Cap 157, 1994 Rev Ed)s 50 (consd);ss 172 (1),172 (7),172 (8)

Limitation Act (Cap 163,1985 Rev Ed)ss 9, 18

Revised Edition of the Laws Act (Cap 275, 1995 Rev Ed)s 5

Davinder Singh (Drew & Napier) and Samuel Chacko (Manjit, Samuel & Partners) for the appellant in CA 128/1995

Davinder Singh and Andre Maniam (Drew & Napier) for the appellant in CA 129/1995

Tan Kok Quan and Marina Chan (Lee & Lee) for the respondent in both appeals.

Goh Joon Seng J

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court):

The parties

1 The appellant (“Balwant”) in both appeals was the defendant in Originating Summons No 293 of 1995 (“OS 293”) and the plaintiff in Originating Summons No 412 of 1995 (“OS 412”). The respondent (“Double L”) in both appeals was the plaintiff in OS 293 and the defendant in OS 412. The appeals were against the decisions of the High Court in allowing Double L's claim in OS 293 and dismissing Balwant's claim in OS 412.

The facts

2 Some time in 1941, one Thulasi Velayutham (“Thulasi”) entered into occupation of the plot of land known as Lot 235-25, Mukim 27, in the District of Tanah Merah Kechil, estimated to contain an area of 2,409.3m2 (“Lot 235-25”). Thulasi built on Lot 235-25 a single storey wooden house. The house was occupied by him and members of his family. His occupation was apparently known to the owner, Dr V K Samy. The latter took no steps to evict Thulasi or in any way to assert his rights to Lot 235-25. In fact, the last that Thulasi heard of Dr VK Samy was that he had moved to England in 1950.

3 In 1971, Balwant purchased the land comprised in Lot 3886, Mukim 27, (“Balwant's lot”) with a house to be known as 114 Jalan Langgar Bedok then under construction. On completion of construction, Balwant went into occupation on 18 July 1973. Contiguous to Balwant's lot was a triangular plot with an area of about 70.4m2 (“the disputed plot”) which formed part of Lot 235-25. The disputed plot had been enclosed on two sides by chainlink fences, including that bordering Balwant's lot and a retaining wall on the third side. According to Balwant, the disputed plot was unkempt. Since it was unoccupied, in September 1973 he removed the chainlink fence bordering his lot and thereby annexed the disputed plot to his lot. He thus claimed to have been in uninterrupted possession of the disputed plot since September 1973. In addition he had spent considerable sums of money and effort in maintaining and beautifying the disputed plot, having turfed it with carpet grass. On 17 December 1993, L P Thean J (as he then was) in an action between Thulasi and the estate of Dr V K Samy granted Thulasi a consent judgment declaring him the owner in fee simple of Lot 235-25 by way of adverse possession. On the same day, Thulasi conveyed Lot 235-25 (including the disputed plot) to Double L. The consent judgment and the conveyance were registered in the Registry of Deeds on 22 December 1993.

4 On 1 March 1994, the Land Titles Act No 27 of 1993 (“the 1993 LTA”) came into force. Section 172 (1) of the...

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