Sunday, November 1, 2015


The Constitutional Court has ordered the Land Registrar to transfer back a plot of land sold to PS (Principal Secretary) Maryse Berlouis by the government in 2010, and has ordered the former to return the land to its rightful owner within 30 days of its retransfer.

The court made the order on Tuesday when it said the sale of the land in question was illegal and in violation of the petitioner’s right to property.

It explained that the land was sold to PS Berlouis whilst protracted negotiation was underway, meaning the government was already under obligation to return it to its former owner.

Under the constitution, more specifically Schedule 7, the government is obligated to return land to former owners, in instances where it is undeveloped or there is no plan for development.

The court concluded that in selling it to PS Berlouis five years ago, the government deliberately ignored the constitution which says land cannot be returned in two instances, when it is in the public interest, or when it is developed or there is a future plan for development.

Schedule 7 was thought up to exclusively limit the free rein the government enjoyed during one party state to acquire land.

It imposes that land acquired prior to 1993 is returned to rightful owners, or in the event this is not practical, owners are compensated for losses incurred.

The underlying principle of the Schedule is to assert that no more land is acquired by the state unless it is in the public interest, or to correct injustices of the past when those whose land was taken could not seek recourse.

In that instance the court explained that in the case of the land sold to PS Berlouis, the transfer did not convey any lawful title onto her, since the transfer was illegal to being with in the first place.

It accordingly declared the transfer null and void, noting that the court cannot rely on its own illegal act not to transfer the land back to the petitioner.

The petitioner’s claim throughout the 8-years the trial has been ongoing was that the sale was illegal since it failed to award proper regard to the country’ constitution, which says the government has a constitutional obligation to return land acquired under the one party rule to the people who held ownership of these lands prior to July of 1993.

It was argued that in awarding the land to PS Berlouis, the state rendered a favour to the PS, insisting that people of her status should not be in position to purchase land from the government.

 Furthermore it claimed that the sale placed the government in a position to later claim that it is not in a position to return the land, as it no longer held its deed.

This is exactly the position the government took in court, leading the latter to conclude that the transfer was done in bad faith.

PS Berlouis for her part claimed she was a bona-fide purchaser of the land, asserting that she paid a sum of R175,000 for the transfer.

The court however said her claim is very much in doubt, given that she was a high government official at the time of the purchase, being the Principal Secretary for Investment, Entrepreneurship, Development and Business Innovation.

It said the least the PS could do is to advance a claim through a civil suit, which anyhow cannot overturn the ruling of the Constitutional Court, for the petitioner holds the supreme rights to the land, and not her.

Speaking to LSH afterwards, a jubilant petitioner said he had waited eight years for the good news.

Source: Le Seychellois Hebdo