THE Governor General and the Cabinet of Ministers have been named in a civil lawsuit filed by Exquisite Homes Limited, a company which had spent about EC$5 million in preparation of constructing two and three-bedroom homes on 52.6 acres of land in Belair, Castries for low income earners.
The lawsuit is in response to Government’s decision to acquire the Belair lands which includes the 52.6 acres of land Exquisite Homes Limited had purchased from Geest Industries Estate Limited for $1.5 million, the agreement of which was executed 16 December, 2013.
However, that agreement was not completed due to the length of time that elapsed between Exquisite Homes Limited and the Development Control Authority (DCA) over negotiations regarding the former’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study that the latter rejected. The negotiations between the two parties were futile. This led Exquisite Homes Limited to challenge, in court, the DCA’s decision to reject its EIA. The court quashed the DCA’s decision.
This led to the execution of another agreement on 27 June, 2019 with Geest Industries Estates Limited for purchase of the same set of lands, this time for $1, 150, 000.00.
The affidavit in support of Exquisite Homes Limited’s application noted that the second agreement was to complete Exquisite Homes Limited’s development plans for the land, which was to construct two and three-bedroom houses for low income earners, spending to date approximately EC $5 million on plans, designs, business planning, consultancy, pre-project planning, constructability and analysis, as well as administrative and other costs.
According to the affidavit, Exquisite Homes Limited was very close to achieving DCA approval for its planned development when its directorship learnt that the land it had entered into an agreement for with Geest Industries Estates Limited was compulsorily acquired by the Government.
Exquisite Homes Limited is contending that the acquisition was not in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act for the following reasons according to the affidavit which was filed through the Civil Court:
“The Land was not acquired for a public purpose. The acquisition was prompted by Geest Industries Estates Limited because Geest was in financial or other problems. The acquisition was to bail Geest out of the problems it had encountered. Since the declaration of the acquisition, Geest Industries Estates Limited had closed its operations and is no longer a going concern.”
Further, Exquisite Homes Limited challenges that the acquisition process was not conducted in accordance with Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act. As part of the deal struck with the Government and Geest Industries Estates Limited, no compensation will be paid by Government to Geest Industries Estates Limited.
“It is customary for the Government to make an allocation in the Budget for properties it intends to acquire compulsorily – no such budgetary allocation had been made in respect to this acquisition. Under the constitution the Government is required to compensate the owner for such an acquisition within a reasonable time.”
Exquisite Homes Limited also noted that the action by the government in compulsorily acquiring the land was irrational, unreasonable, ultra vires and an abuse of power.
It was further stated in the affidavit that the compulsory acquisition of the land (Parcel 314) will cause Exquisite Homes Limited to lose in excess of $13,000,000 both in what it has spent on the project so far and the projected income to be derived from the project. The acquisition has also put Exquisite Homes Limited in a state of bankruptcy.
Exquisite Homes Estates Limited is seeking Leave of Court to make a claim for Judicial Review and seeks the following:
A declaration that the advice of the Cabinet of Ministers resulting in the declaration by the Governor General dated the 8th July, 2019 that the acquisition property shall be compulsorily acquired for a public purpose is null and void and without legal effect.
A declaration that the declaration by the Governor General dated the 8th July, 2019 under Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act and published in the Official Gazette in Volume 189 dated the 16th July, 2019 is a derogation from the provisions of Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act and is therefore null and void and without legal effect.
A declaration that the advice of Cabinet and the decision of the Governor General to compulsorily acquire the acquisition property derogates from the law, and was irrational, unreasonable and an abuse of power.
A declaration that the decision of the Governor General to compulsorily acquire the acquisition property is ultra vires according to Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act.
A declaration that the compulsory acquisition of the land was procedurally improper.
An order of Certiorari to quash the decision of the compulsory declaration.
An order mandamus directing the Registrar of Lands to restore the acquisition property to the original owner.
They are also seeking Damages and Costs.
Exquisite Homes Limited has also hauled Geest Industries Estates Limited and the Attorney General to court for damages for breach of contract and the tort of unlawful interference with contractual relations. The company is claiming a total of $14,148,747. This sum was accumulated after certain things were taken into account like court fees, service, legal practitioners fixed cost, interest rate of 6 percent per annum from 8th July 2019 to 8 February 2020 at $2,246 per day and continuing.