Man to proceed with judicial review

THE High Court in Lautoka has allowed a man to proceed with his judicial review case against a decision made by the iTaukei Lands & Fisheries Commission to remove his name from the iTaukei register known as the Vola ni Kawa Bula (VKB).

On September 16, 2021, the chairman of the TLFC removed Nemani Lalabalavu’s registration in the VKB under Tokatoka Nalotulevu of Solevu Village, Malolo.

Mr Lalabalavu was born on July 22, 1974. His biological father was a Ratu Sevanaia Varani who was registered in the VKB under Tokatoka Namatua.

He claimed he was adopted by Ratu Filipe Nabola and one Salanieta Tanumi under traditional protocol.

Mr Lalabalavu’s birth certificate recorded Ratu Filipe and Adi Salanieta as his father and mother respectively.

“This is a situation where an iTaukei child was formally adopted by the family of his paternal grandmother, and registered into that tokatoka accordingly,” said Justice Anare Tuilevuka in his ruling.

“That adoption was carried out in accordance with native custom and tradition and later formalised under the Adoption Act.

“The iTaukei Lands Act also allows registration of children into the mother’s family in the case of an illegitimate child, and also in accordance with custom and tradition as could happen to a Fijian whose mother is an iTaukei and whose father is of other race.

“In this case, the decision by TLFC to remove Lalabalavu from his adoptive father’s (paternal grandmother’s) tokatoka was made without proper consultation, if at all, and without giving Lalabalavu the opportunity to be heard on it.

“Accordingly, the decision was made arbitrarily, in breach of natural justice and was unreasonable and unlawful.

“Accordingly, Lalabalavu was denied an opportunity to be heard and to argue that his adoption into the family of his paternal grandmother, and his registration into the tokatoka, was regular in accordance with custom and tradition.

“I am of the view that Lalabalavu has sufficient interest and that he has an arguable case.”

Justice Tuilevuka granted leave for Mr Lalabalavu to pursue the judicial review and stayed the decision of the TLFC until further orders.

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