The First Hall of the Civil Court yesterday delivered judgment in a case filed in 1971 from a decision of the War Damage Commission computing compensation for damage incurred in World War II.
Mr Justice Noel Cuschieri delivered judgment in the case filed by Emanuele Barbara and continued by his heirs against the War Damage Commission.
Plaintiffs had submitted two claims for compensation to the commission in respect of premises at Timber Wharf, Marsa.
In the first they had claimed that they were entitled to Lm45,251.15 for the total reconstruction of part of their property. However, in 1966 the commission had concluded that plaintiffs were entitled to Lm28,485.
In the second claim plaintiffs had requested payment of Lm37,150 for their other property.
The commission had only paid plaintiffs a total of Lm28,485 in respect of the two claims.
Plaintiffs claimed in court that the conclusions reached by the commission were ultra vires and they requested the court to find that the commission had not acted in accordance with the law and that the sum of Lm28,485 awarded by way of compensation was manifestly unjust.
The court was further requested to order the commission to pay the difference between the sum of Lm28,485 and the compensation to which plaintiffs were entitled.
The commission submitted that the courts were not competent to hear the case as any appeal from a point of law decided upon by the commission had to be referred to the British Court of Appeal.
This plea was however dismissed by the First Hall of the Civil Court in a judgment delivered in 1972. However, on appeal the Court of Appeal ruled that the local courts were not competent to hear the case limitedly with respect to plaintiffs' last request for the courts to order the commission to pay the difference between the compensation awarded and what they thought they were entitled to.
Yesterday's judgment was therefore limited to a decision as to whether the compensation awarded by the commission was in accordance with the law.
Mr Justice Cuschieri noted that the court-appointed architect had concluded that in many aspects of its decision the commission had failed to respect the criterion of reasonableness established by law.
The architect, in fact, concluded that the commission had not acted in a just manner towards plaintiffs.
The court added that it was clear that the commission had failed to take into consideration various factors and circumstances.
As a result, the compensation awarded in favour of plaintiffs was far inferior to what they were reasonably entitled to.
Mr Justice Cuschieri concluded that the decision of the commission was manifestly unjust and ultra vires.
The decision was therefore declared to be null and void.
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