Co-cathedral foundation joins lawsuit filed by Valletta gold shops
The foundation, which is entrusted with the management of St John’s Co-Cathedral, has been admitted to a court case in which several shop tenants in Valletta are claiming that their right to a fair trial was violated by a court that has separate proceedings for the eviction performed.
The approval was granted in a partial judgment by the First Hall, Civil Court, which has constitutional jurisdiction.
The lawsuit was filed by a group of jewelers and other tenants of shops near St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. The lawsuit is an offshoot of a separate case before the Administrative Court in which the tenants are challenging an eviction order from the state agency.
St John’s Co-Cathedral Foundation, which administers the cathedral under a church-state agreement signed in 2001, was not a party to the proceedings before the tribunal.
In court, the tenants’ lawyers argue that an eviction notice can only be issued by the owner. However, the long-debated question of whether the concathedral is owned by the state or the church remained unanswered.
The lawyers for the tenants therefore applied to the arbitral tribunal to stay the proceedings until the question of ownership was clarified.
The tribunal rejected that request last March.
In this decision, however, the court did not limit itself to the procedural question of the suspension or termination of the proceedings, but dealt with the main issue of the legal dispute.
In response, the tenants argued that the arbitration panel’s verdict effectively decided the case, although evidence and submissions are ongoing. They argued that this affected the outcome of the case and therefore requested the dismissal of the judge presiding over the tribunal to ensure a fair hearing. This application was also rejected.
The tenants then brought their complaint to the Constitutional Court, claiming that their right to a fair trial had been violated and demanding appropriate remedy and damages. The lawsuit was directed against the public prosecutor and the state authority.
The judge noted that… for better or for worse, it [the foundation] was put in charge of managing St. John’s Co-Cathedral, adding that the foundation could also collect rent from tenants
It sparked an application by the foundation to be admitted as a party in the litigation between the tenants and the other parties.
The Act granted this right of admission to “any person who demonstrates to the satisfaction of the court that he has an interest in a proceeding already pending between other parties…”.
Such admission is possible even if the case has reached the appeals process, noted Judge Toni Abela, head of the First Hall of the Civil Court.
In this case, the proceedings were still in the first instance.
A necessary condition for admission was that the party demonstrated that it had a subjective right that should be supported or defended.
In this case, it was the Foundation that initiated proceedings before the tribunal, having requested eviction by letter to the Lands Commissioner in July 2003.
The judge noted that “…for better or for worse, it [the foundation] has been entrusted with the administration of St. John’s Co-Cathedral,” adding that the foundation can also collect rent from tenants.
The court was satisfied that the Foundation had a legal interest and not just an interest in the outcome of this infringement case, because whatever happened in this case could affect its rights as administrator of the Co-Cathedral.
The court said that your application for approval should be granted.
The case will continue in February.
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