Burmah BurmahMyanmar Burma
B. A. P. Phayee, C.B., commissaire en chef von British Burmah.
Myanmar Oil Co Ltd / Lord Advocate
Judges: Lord Reid, Viscount Radcliffe, Lord Hodson, Lord Pearce, Lord Upjohn. The Burmah Film Company Ltd v Lord Advocate AC 75, was a lawsuit brought in Scotland and finally ruled in the House of Lords. The case involved the demolition of Burma's gas reserves by Britain in 1942 during the Second World War.
The case concerned the Burmah Oil Company, which filed a lawsuit against the British authorities, defended by the Lord Advocate. At the Outer House of District Court, Lord Kilbrandon found in favor of Burmah Oil. Cancellation of the appeal by the Crown and the First Division of the Internal House of the Court of Session revoked the following ruling by unanimity.
Then Burmah Oil made an appeal to the House of Lords. With a 3:2 majoritarian vote, the House of Lords stated that the damages were legitimate but tantamount to the confiscation of the possession. The Viscount Radcliffe and Lord Hodson disagreed.
Myanmar Oil / Lord Advocate Summary
Plaintiff, the Burmah Film Company, filed suit against the UK authorities (represented in the case by the Lord Advocate) to seek damages for the demolition of Burma's Burmese gas reserves by UK troops in 1942 (during the Second World War). Demolition was deemed necessary to avoid the facilities coming into Japanese control, which would have been disastrous for the Allies' efforts during the conflict.
In the case, two issues were at issue: first, whether the annihilation was within the scope of the authority of the executive and thus legal; second, whether the state was obliged to compensate the plaintiff for the damages. By a 3-2 majoritarian vote, the House of Lords considered that, although the loss fell within the jurisdiction of the police and was therefore legal, the authority in dispute necessitated the award of damages, since it was tantamount to the seizure of the possession.
It should be noted that the particular ruling on the question of damages was later thwarted by retroactive legislative action, the 1965 war damage act, which was enacted retroactively to release the UK Government from responsibility for damages incurred during the conflict. The House's remarks on the extent of the King's privilege are still well founded and were only this year quoted by the Miller Supreme Court against Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union UKSC 5).
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