SL CoA | Mere allotment of parking area by competent authority of Railways is a private affair; Held, mandamus lies to secure performance of a public duty

Court of Appeal of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: Mahinda Samayawardhena, J. entertained a writ petition where the petitioner sought, certiorari and to compel the Commercial Superintendent of Sri Lanka Railways by mandamus to allow him to continue to use the parking area which was allotted to him for the said purpose.

The petitioner contended that the Deputy Commercial Superintendent of Railways had allotted him a temporary parking area in the premises of the Wadduwa Station on a rental basis for the term of 1 year. The said document which gave authorization to the petitioner to run such parking area also had a condition that whenever required the petitioner will hand over unconditionally the allotted area back to the respondent. In the instant writ, the petitioner was aggrieved by the said condition imposed on him. He further contended that the parking area had been used to earn his living and now such a decision of the respondent will put him and his family in jeopardy.

The respondent contended that though by the informal document, temporary permission was given to the petitioner (to do business) only for one year; he had continued to use that area beyond the said permissible term for four years. Commercial Superintendent of the Railways had asked the petitioner to hand over the possession of the parking area to the Railway Master of the Wadduwa Railway Station as that area is required to the Railway Department.

The Court observed that, it was quite obvious that the order issued for dispossession cannot be quashed by certiorari as the said decision was neither illegal nor unjustifiable. By informal document, the petitioner had been temporarily allowed to use the State land for a period of one year, and thereafter he used it for another around four years (by payment of a monthly rent) without any objection from the respondents. The Court noted that such an allotment was temporary hence the argument of the petitioners was not sustainable. “There is no room for the petitioner to have a legitimate expectation that he could continue to use the State land in the Wadduwa Railway Station premises to carry out a business for a profit forever.”

The Court further held that, there was absolutely no public duty on the part of the General Manager/Commercial Superintendent of Sri Lanka Railways to allow the petitioner to occupy the said State land to conduct his private business. Nor the petitioner had any legal right to insist on the said officials to do so. Court observed that such writ had no public interest and was a merely private affair.[Kapuseekuge Sunil Fernando v. General Manager of Sri Lanka Railways, 2019 SCC OnLine SL SC 5, decided on 04-06-2019]

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