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Legal systems in a country is important for the wellbeing of its citizens. Rules and regulations in a
country often creates peaceful living conditions for humans. These rules and regulations are created
for almost all possible living contexts such as Contracts, Businesses, Partnerships, Property,
Construction etc. In case of an issue regarding these rules and regulations, particular documents are
needed as proof. These documents should have a legal authority so as to confirm any kind of right,
claim or to act as proof which requires the registration of documents. Registration of documents also
require rules and regulations in order to avoid frauds and wrongdoing done using the authority. In the
Sri Lankan context, the Registration of Documents Ordinance is a method to amend and consolidate
the laws relating to the registration of documents. When there are more than one document relating
to claims and rights, the priority of these documents should be known to understand and issue rights.

In this report we have mentioned about the Prevention of Frauds Ordinance and related agreements,
Registration of Documents and Priority Concept for Registration of Documents.
5.0 Priority Concept under the Registration of Documents Ordinance
Registration of Documents is recording the matters of a document with an authorized and a legally
recognized officer and preserving the copies of the original document. The importance of registering
a document is to prevent any property conflict, fraud, conserve the evidence as proof, be assured of
the title and publicizing the information. The Registration of Documents Ordinance is known as an
Ordinance to amend and consolidate the laws relating to the Registration of Documents.

Registration of legal documents always require the priority of documents. When considering two
legally recognized documents it is important to understand the priority of these documents when faced
with an issue.

Priority is the right to be first or ahead of the rights or claims of others. When documents are
considered for a particular claim in legal state, the registration of them which creates a legal authority
for the documents would also require the priority concept in order to identify and supply the right.

As mentioned in the Registration of Documents Ordinance, there are several instances where the
priority for documents are given and, in some instances, they are declined as non-priority documents.

5.1 Registered and Unregistered Documents

The Registration of Documents Ordinance expects to give priority to documents which are registered
in contrast to the documents which are not registered and which cannot be legally recognized as proof
for any kind of claim or right. These registrations should be done in the proper folio in order to be
used as recognized documents.

5.2Prior Registration

When considering two documents which are used for a claim or right, a registered instrument is given
the priority over an unregistered document. The concept that the prioritized person on time would be
considered lawfully powerful is used for this priority concept.

“Registration of an instrument under this Chapter shall not cure any defect in the instrument or
confer upon it any effect or validity which it would not otherwise have except the priority
conferred on it by this section.” – Registration of Documents Ordinance, 7, (4)

As mentioned in the Ordinance, this rule has been deviated since 1st January 1864, where the rule was
created that the priority of time concept will not be legally recognized unless the documents are
registered under the Land Registration Ordinance.
Banda v Alitambi (1952) 54 NLR 249

The owner of the land sold the land to Alitambi and the deed of sale was registered on 1929.
Afterwards, the owner sold the same land to Banda and this deed of sale was registered on 1927 which
was earlier than the registration of the first sale. Court held that in consideration of the earlier
registered document, priority should be given to the second sale of land.

5.3 Valuable Consideration

It is required to have a Valuable Consideration in the transfer of instruments whether registered or

not in order to complete the priority concept of first-in-line registered documents. When there are
instances in which a property is sold as a deed and does not register and later the same property is
gifted and then registered, the priority would be given to the deed of sale due to the valuable
considerations made.

Fernando v Fonseka (1988) 1 CLR 82

The owner of the property sold it to one party through a deed of sale but the purchaser failed to register
the deed. The same property was gifted to another party and he managed to register his deed of gift.
But as the first purchaser of property had the valuable consideration over the property priority was
given to them.

5.4 Contrary Interest

Contrary interest should be existing over the same property at the same time in order to compare two
documents and to win the priority over the property. The contrary interest should be derived from the
same source.

5.5 Fraud and Collusion

When considering Fraud and Collusion of registered instruments, the priority of registration is not
considered as valid. If there has been a fraud or collusion in obtaining the registered instrument or in
securing its prior registration of instrument, the priority gained by the registered document against
the earlier unregistered document is defeated.

Abeysundara vs Ceylon Exports Ltd. (1935) 38 NLR 117

In 1908, a father has donated his tea estate to his son in which the mother accepted the deed on behalf
of the son as he was a minor. Father kept the deed of gift with him and sold the same tea estate to
another who has registered the deed of sale before the registration of the deed of gift. It was later
proved in the contest that the deed of sale with prior registration was guilty of fraud. Hence, supreme
court held that despite the prior registration of documents, the deed of sale is defeated by the deed of
There are several instances in which the priority of documents would not be achieved by instruments.
When the deed has been executed or registered with frauds and collusion, the documents would be
disregarded. Forged deeds also are not valid and they would not be considered as legally valid
documents. When the property is partitioned or when the documents are not submitted in the correct
folio, they would be disregarded as legal documents.

Individual Contribution – Rupasinghe P.A.S.C. 152705E

As my contribution, I have elaborated on the priority concept of the Registration of Documents.
Priority is given mainly to registered documents with proper folio and those which are without frauds
or collusion. There are several case laws such as Banda v Alitambi (1952) 54 NLR 249, Fernando v
Fonseka (1988) 1 CLR 82, Abeysundara vs Ceylon Exports Ltd. (1935) 38 NLR 117 which I have
elaborated under the relevant topic for more clarifications. Moreover, I was able to identify the
Prevention of Frauds Ordinance, contracts related to property, legal documents related to property,
Registration of Documents and also, I was able to properly be thorough with the priority concept of
Registration of Documents Ordinance.