David Christian Wong Mun Fong Liu Sing Chuen (Applicant) v Louis Francis Chotway Wong Min Fong (Respondent), in the presence of 1. The Curator of Vacant Estates, 2. The Ministere Public, 3. Ah Shin Liu Sing Chuen acting in the capacity of sub-guardian to the ‘majeure en tutelle’ Gisele Elie Liu Sing Chuen ( Co-Respondents)
It is an application under article 439 of the Code Civil before the Honorable Judge In Chambers for an Order authorizing the Applicant to apply for the Division in Kind of four portions of land, with all that may depend therefrom or form part thereof, among the parties entitled thereto, and in case they cannot be divided, for an Order authorizing their sale by way of licitation.
The Applicant and Co-Respondent No.3 are respectively the appointed guardian and sub-guardian of the majeure en tutelle , Gisele Elie Liu Sing Chuen, who is one of their heirs entitled to apprehend the estate of late Paul Marcel Wong Mun Fong and late Sin Shee Ah You. The Respondent is the other heir entitled to the same estate. According to the Applicant, the majeure en tutelle is no longer willing to remain in a state of indivision and it is in her best interests to proceed with a division in kind. The Respondent who is the brother of the majeure en tutelle, is resisting the application on the ground that his sister cannot express her civic rights, and because the guardian had petitioned for the division in kind in bad faith and out of mischief. He avers that this court should take into account the conduct of the guardian and sub-guardian.
The respondent referred to an emphyteotique lease agreement entered into by the guardian on the 1st May 2007 and averred that the guardian and sub-guardian are not acting in the best interest of the majeure en tutelle so that they should be allowed to proceed with any division in kind. He maintained that an application will be made for the revocation of the guardian and sub-guardian although at that time of the hearing this was not done. The Applicant avers in turn that co-heirs should not remain in a state of indivision as they are each entitled to their share of the succession and that his mother therefore had the right to ask for the division in kind. As her guardian, he was also legally entitled to make the application on her behalf.
Article 397 of the Code Civil provides that the Judge in Chambers exercises ‘une surveillance generale sur les administrations legales et les tutelles. S’il l’estime necessaire, il fait appel au service du Ministere Public..’ Under article 413, ‘Le juge en Chambre peut, en considerant les aptitudes des interesses et la consistance du patrimoine a administrer, decider que la tutelle sera divisee entre un tuteur a la personne et un tuteur aux biens’ There is nothing in this application which indicates that the guardianship was so divided by the Judge in Chambers at the time of appointment, as Mr Bhanji Soni for the respondent seems to suggest.
Under article 418, the functions of the sub-guardian are to ‘surveiller la gestion tutelaire et a representer le mineur lorsque ses interest seront en opposition avec ceux du tuteur’
Under article 422, the judge in chambers can decide ‘de soumettre la gestion tutelaire au coontrole du curateur aux bien vacants’.
Article 425 provides that ‘ le tuteur prendra soin de la personne du mineur et la representera dans tous les actes civils,… il administrera ses biens en bon pere de famille et repondra des dommages et interest qui pourraient resulted d’une mauvaise gestion…’
Under article 429 ‘ le tuteur accomplit seul, comme representant du mineur, tous les actes d’aministration…..’, whereas under article 431, ‘le tuteur ne peut, sans y etre autorise par le Judge en Chambre, faire des actes de disposition au nom du mineur’.
Finally, article 439 of the Code provides that ‘ le tuteur ne peut, sans l’autorisation du Judge en Chambre, introduire une demande en partage dirigee contre le mineur, mais il pourra, sans cette autorisation, repondre a une demande en partage dirigee contre le mineur’. The parties do not dispute that these provisions apply to a majeure en tutelle under article 503 of the Code Civil.
In this case therefore, the Order appointing the guardian and sub-guardian has conferred on them the gestion tutelaire of the majeure en tutelle, which gestion tutelaire is further subject to the control of the curator of Vacant Estated, since there has been no revocation of the guardian’s or sub-guardian’s appointment.
It is also trite law under article 812 of the Code Civil that ‘nul ne peut etre constraint a demeurer dans l’indivision, et le partage peut etre toujour provoque….’
Moreover, the Curator of Vacant Estates and the Ministere Public (co- respondent nos 1 and 2) have both filed favorable conclusions.
Decision of the Court
The Court authorized the applicant to apply for the division in kind of the four potions of land in lite, with all that may depend therefrom or form part thereof, among the parties entitled thereto.
Attorney for David Christian Wong Mun Fong Liu Sing Chuen (Applicant): Mrs Anju.k.Ghose