Time and again, parties have come to a stalemate in determining whether the lack of consent to an agreement over leasehold land renders any pre-consent agreements for the sale or purchase of leases void. This situation has led to numerous disputes that remain unresolved due to personal or financial circumstances affecting the involved parties. Consequently, not only do public policy issues arise, but an inadvertent obstacle is also added to economic and land development in Fiji. 

 The Supreme Court in its recent decision has provided a much-needed clarity on the issue of enforceability of contracts where consent has not been applied. Additionally, the court provided guidance on how a party can assert a claim for specific performance.  

To fully appreciate the significance of this case and the underlying issue, let’s delve into the proceedings—from the High Court to the Supreme Court. 


Naicker v Karan [2019] FJHC 969 


Case Background:  

The plaintiff, Ranganna Naicker, sought (amongst other things) specific performance of an agreement to transfer State Land Lease from the first defendant, Ami Chand Karan, who is the executor and trustee of an Estate. 

The first defendant obtained a loan of $15,000.00 from the plaintiff. The first defendant could not repay the loan and he requested the plaintiff to purchase the property for $20,000.00. The plaintiff agreed to buy the property for $20,000.00, and paid the balance $5,000.00 to the first defendant making $20,000.00. 

While the application for transfer of the lease was in progress, the lease expired and the first defendant was issued a new lease in its place. After the issuance of the new lease, the second/ nominal defendant Director of Lands requested the parties to amend the previously submitted transfer document to reflect the new description of the land as it appears in the new lease issued to the first defendant.  

It was when the plaintiff asked the first defendant to sign the amended transfer documents, that he refused to sign. 


Legal Issue:  

The first defendant failed to transfer the land after receiving payment and new lease being issued, citing lack of written consent from the Director of Lands. Counsel for the first defendant submitted that the dealings between the parties with the State land was invalid as there was no consent of the Director of Lands. 


Court’s Decision:  

The consent was never denied by the Director of Lands. The parties were requested to submit the correct application for consent to transfer with the transfer documents for further processing. 

The property is still available for transfer. The transfer documents were not processed as the first defendant refused to sign the correct transfer documents. The current application for consent to transfer documents were requested by the Director of Lands to be submitted for transfer of the lease to the plaintiff as the description of the property was changed after the first defendant got the new lease. 

The court granted specific performance, ordering the first defendant to complete the land transfer to the plaintiff. There is no alternate adequate remedy in the form of damages, as it is not possible to purchase a substitute land in the market. The property has been unique for the plaintiff. He has been living on the property; he has renovated the lease which is on the property. 


The first defendant must facilitate the transfer of the lease to the plaintiff within 2 months and pay costs of $3,000.00. 


Karan v Naicker [2022] FJCA 173 

Case Overview:  

This appeal to the Court of Appeal by Appellant/ Original First Defendant challenges the High Court decision ordering specific performance of a contract for the purchase of a State Land Lease. 


Legal Issue: 

 The appellant argued that the contract was void due to lack of written consent from the Director of Lands as required by law. 


Court’s Decision:  

The Court of Appeal found that the agreement was unenforceable without the Director’s consent, overturning the High Court’s order for specific performance. 



The Court allowed the Respondent/ Original Plaintiff to remain on the land as a bona fide occupier until the agreed debt ($20,000.000) was cleared by Appellant/ Original First Defendant, after which the Respondent/ Original Plaintiff must vacate. 


Naicker v Chand [2024] FJSC 11 


Case Overview:  

Appeal to Supreme Court by Petitioner/ Original Plaintiff Ranganna Naicker who sought specific performance for a land transfer agreement with Respondent/ Original First Defendant Ami Chand, which was complicated by the need for consent from the Director of Lands. 


Supreme Court Judgment:  

The Supreme Court granted specific performance, ordering the transfer of the lease to Naicker, subject to the Director of Lands’ consent (emphasizing the importance of clear orders for specific performance and directing steps to obtain the Director of Lands’ consent for the lease transfer). Chand to pay to Naicker’s legal costs incurred in the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court assessed at $10,000.00. 


Key Legal Points:  

The enforceability of the lease transfer agreement hinged on the Director of Lands’ consent. The Supreme Court clarified that the agreement was not null and void due to the lack of initial consent.  


In the Supreme Court’s words: 


  • “The lesson to be learned is that when a court makes an order for specific performance, it must spell out in clear and precise language what it is that the defendant is being required to do. The failure to do that in this case has resulted in an appeal which might otherwise have been avoided. For these reasons, I would make an order which has the effect of resurrecting the order for specific performance made by Ajmeer J, but making it clear that it can only take effect once the Director of Lands has given his consent to the transfer of the new lease to Mr Naicker, and I would order Mr Chand to take all steps necessary to enable the Director of Lands to give that consent.” 


  • “I have not overlooked the argument that the absence of consent made the agreement to transfer the lease not merely unenforceable, but null and void. Had it been null and void, the subsequent consent of the Director of Lands to the transfer of the lease could not have saved the agreement. This argument tracks the actual language of section 13 which is that “any sale, transfer, sublease, assignment, mortgage or other alienation or dealing effected without such consent shall be null and void.” The mere fact that the consent of the Director of Lands to the transfer had not been obtained could not on its own have rendered the transfer null and void. 



Millbrook Hills Law Partners had represented the plaintiff Ranganna Naicker in High Court jurisdiction. If you find yourself in a similar position, please feel free to contact us for assistance. We’re here to provide guidance, advocate for your rights, and help you navigate complex legal matters. 


DISCLAIMER: No lawyer-client relationship is formed between Millbrook Hills Law Partners and the reader of this article. This article is for educational and/or general information purposes only. It is not intended as legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied upon or treated as a substitute for specific advice. Millbrook Hills Law Partners accepts no responsibility for any loss arising from reliance on the information contained in this article.