The Galle Face Case


SCFR 47/2004

The Environmental Foundation Limited v. The Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka and others

The Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) filed an application in the Supreme Court, in the public interest seeking disclosure of the vesting order issued under the Urban Development Authority (UDA) Law, vesting Galle Face Green in the UDA. The agreement entered into by the UDA with a private company to lease out the Green. The UDA was the 1st respondent while the 2nd respondent was the EAP Network (Pvt) Ltd.

The court made an interim order directing the UDA to refrain from putting into operation any lease or any kind of arrangement affecting the use, occupation and management of the area described as the Galle Face Green.

The interim order did not make specific reference to the impugned Agreement since it was not in the public domain at that time and the petitioner had been denied access to it, being the alleged infringement of the constitution. The Agreement was subsequently produced by EAP Network (Pvt) Ltd.

After the respondent failed to produce any grant, lease or order by which Galle Face Green was vested in the UDA, the court declared that the UDA had no power to enter into the Agreement with EAP Network (Pvt) Ltd.

The Court declared that the Galle Face Green should be maintained as a public utility in continuance of the dedication made by Sir Henry Ward and necessary resources for this purpose should be made available by the Government of Sri Lanka, being the successor to the Colonial Governor who made the dedication to the “Ladies and Children of Colombo”.

The 1st respondent was directed to pay the petioner (EFL) a sum of Rs. 50,000/- as costs.

For more information about this case, please download the handbook “Some Significant Environmental Judgements in Sri Lanka” by visiting our publications page.


Significance of the Case

EFL instituted this case in Public Interest seeking disclosure of information about the Lease Agreement between Urban Development Authority (UDA) and a private company to lease out Galle Face Green which has been maintained as public utility for more than 150 years. The Supreme Court decided that the purported lease agreement between Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the private company was ultra vires the powers of UDA and same to be of no force or avail in law and Galle Face Green should be maintained as a public utility.