Band club property owners file constitutional case to protest unfair law

Owners of De Paule band club property accuse government of infringed their right to a fair hearing, their right to property and their right not to be discriminated against

The owners of the property housing the De Paule band club are fighting back to reclaim ownership of the premises after the justice minister Owen Bonnici announced a retroactive law that breached their right to private property.

The owners have argued they were discriminated against after winning a case to evict the band club from their property, only for the government to introduce a new law disallowing evictions of band clubs.

The De Paule band club had been taken to court by its landlord after it demolished a dividing wall to join its main premises with an adjacent building it had purchased, and failed to inform all the parties who owned a share of the property it was renting.

On the 23rd April 2018, the Court of Appeal ordered the De Paule band club's eviction from the property, giving it until September 2018 to leave the premises. 

However, on 10 July 2018, before this eviction could be enforced, Government enacted a law amending the Civil Code and introduced additional restrictions on leases made to band clubs. Essentially, the rules now disallow the eviction of band clubs, even if obtained in court - if the eviction was not a result of a failure to pay rent.

This retrospective amendment neutralised the right the owners of the property which currently houses the De Paule club to get their property back.

Now the owners of the property have filed a Constitutional court case against the Attorney General and the Socjeta Filarmonika Antoine De Paule claiming that this amendment has breached their fundamental human rights. 

In a Constitutional application filed Dr. Paul Cachia, who is representing the owners of the property, is arguing that this recent law has infringed their right to a fair hearing, their right to property and their right not to be discriminated against, as well as the owners’ right to an effective remedy, under the European Convention Human Rights and the Constitution. 

“The principle of legal certainty, which is a fundamental requirement of the rule of law, is part of the individual’s right to a fair trial,” Cachia said. “One of the requisites for the fulfilment of legal certainty is the finality of a court decision. The notion of foreseeability is also a cardinal requirement for the attainment of the principle of legal certainty as it underlines the principle that laws need to ensure that an individual can foresee the consequences that can arise out of their application. In this case, the recent, retrospective amendment goes against the abovementioned principles and thus is in breach of the owners' fundamental human rights. “

Cachia is also arguing that since this is the only known case where an eviction was ordered by Court, only to have this right suppressed by legal amendments, the owners are also claiming that they were discriminated against.