Loh Khing Woon v Lai Kong Jin

CourtSupreme Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date23 September 1946
Docket NumberCase No. 138
Date23 September 1946
Singapore Colony, Supreme Court.

(Murray-Aynsley, C.J.)

Case No. 138
Loh Khing Woon
Lai Kong Jin and Another.

Belligerent Occupation — Nature and Effects — Commencement — Evidence — Japanese Occupation of Borneo and Singapore.

War — Effect on Contract of Agency — Power of Attorney — Principal in Territory under Belligerent Occupation — Abrogation of Agency — Belligerent Occupation — Nature of — Commencement of — Law of Singapore Colony.

The Facts.—The property at 149 Geylang Road, Singapore, the tenancy of which was in dispute in the present case, was owned by one Chung Ewe Seng who at all material times had lived in the island of Borneo and who prior to the outbreak of hostilities in the Far East had given a power of attorney to an agent empowering him, inter alia, to grant tenancies of the property. On October 1, 1945, the agent under the power of attorney had leased the premises at 149 Geylang Road to the plaintiff. Some time later the property had been taken over and let to the defendants by the Custodian of Property purporting to act under the powers conferred on him by section 8 (2) of the Custodian of Property Proclamation which provided as follows:

“The Custodian may take into his custody such British, Allied or neutral property (other than State property) of which the owner is absent from, and has no accredited representative in, the Settleme nt of Singapore, as in the opinion of the Chief Civil Affairs Officer is necessary either for the maintenance of services essential to the community or for the good administration of the Division.”

It was contended by the defendants that immediately upon the occupation of Borneo by the Japanese forces, an occupation which, it was argued, was consummated before the occupation of Singapore, the owner of the property became an enemy vis-à-vis his agent in Singapore. The legal consequence of this change in status was the termination of the power of attorney under which the agent let the premises to the plaintiff. It followed therefrom that the owner had no accredited representative in Singapore within the meaning of the Custodian of Property Proclamation at the time when the Custodian took over the property and let it to the defendants. The plaintiff argued that the contract of agency constituted an exception to the general rule whereby contracts are abrogated in such circumstances as the present and that it was not abrogated but merely suspended, being susceptible of revival on the cessation of...

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