The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by browsing the topic list on the left of the screen. Click the arrows next to the topic names to reveal a detailed list of sub-topics. Most judgments are accompanied by a short summary written by subject-matter expert postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town.
The applicants sought a temporary injunction against the respondents implementing or enforcing regulations 3(1), 4(4), 20(1), and 20(2) of the National Council of Sports Regulations until the disposal of related litigation. The applicants sought to prevent the implementation of the regulations on the grounds that they were the result of illegal, irrational and unconstitutional action on the part of the Minister of Sports. Implementation of the regulations, it was contended, would irreparably affect the operations and fundamental rights of National Sports Associations.
The court set out the requirements for an injunction: unless granted, the damage occasioned would be such that an award of damages would not adequately compensate the applicant; the applicant must show that their case has a probability of success; if the court is in doubt, the application will be decided on the balance of convenience; and the applicant must prove that the aim of the injunction is to maintain the status quo until the determination of the whole dispute.
Whether there was a prima facie case with a probability of success, the court held that it must be satisfied the claim is not frivolous or vexatious, and that there is a serious question to be tried. The court found that this ground was met.
As regards the grounds of irreparable damages, the court held that the applicants succeeded on this ground. In terms of the requirement of balance of convenience, the term meant that if the risk of doing an injustice is going to cause the applicant to suffer, then the balance of convenience favours them to be granted the application. The court held that the applicant met their case and allowed the application on this ground. The applicant was granted the temporary injunction.
The plaintiff sought a permanent injunction against the defendant to prevent it from selling, offering for sale, or dealing in goods bearing the plaintiff’s registered trademark.
The court considered whether the defendant infringed the plaintiff’s registered trademark and whether the defendant was a bona fide user of the trademark. The court also considered whether the defendant had locus standi (standing) to challenge the registration of the plaintiff’s trademark.
Held, the defendant did not have locus standi to challenge the plaintiff’s trademark registration. Held, although the defendant was a trader, it could not claim innocence by virtue of advertising the plaintiff’s trademarks. The court stated that points of law had to be argued and evidence adduced by the plaintiff in so far as infringement is concerned in order for final judgement to be granted.
The court extensively examined existing trademark legislation and decided cases and concluded that the defendant did not have locus standi to challenge the plaintiff’s registration as the plaintiff enjoyed statutory protection due to registering its mark in Uganda first.
Interim injunction granted in favour of the plaintiff until the trial.
This was an appeal from decision of the Court of Appeal on grounds that;
The Justices of Appeal erred in law and fact when they granted orders for
cancellation of the fifth appellant’s title to the suit property which was neither
sought nor pleaded by the respondents, thereby occasioning miscarriage of
The matter involved an application for the setting aside of an order for default judgment and the order of execution of the default decree. It also involved an application for unconditional leave to defend the underlying suit that gave rise to the default judgment.
Substantively, the first issue was whether the applicant had been aware of the summons to defend the suit for the amount claimed. It was established that there was a serious flaw in the service by respondents particularly in the absence of a return of service summons. There was therefore no evidence of summons or a court order being served to the applicant on the court record and the application for leave to defend outside the stipulated timeframe could not be said to be in breach of a court order. Further, it was also held that the absence of effective summons justified the setting aside of the default decree.
Secondly, there was a question of the legality of the suit brought against the appellant for default as it was argued that the basis was an illegal instrument. As there was an argument that the cheque and acknowledgement the suit was based on were forged, the court reasoned that there was no difference between the signature on the cheque and on the acknowledgment. However, as there was no forensic evidence supporting this, the court offered the applicant conditional leave to defend the underlying suit against him. The court therefore concluded under a conditional pretext of the suit’s illegality and thus allowed the application for conditional leave to defend.
The applicant instituted a civil suit against the respondent in 2013 in a lower court. This suit was in relation to a consulting and ICT support services fees provided by the applicant for the respondent. With the applicant having not taken any step to prosecute the matter since 2013, the respondent applied to have the suit dismissed for want of prosecution. The court accordingly dismissed the suit.
In this court, the applicant sought an order to reinstate this civil suit and set aside the dismissal. The respondent contended that the applicant’s failure to take steps to prosecute the suit against the respondent for over three years, was justification for dismissal of want of prosecution. Furthermore, the applicant had not shown any justification for failure to take these requisite steps.
The respondent thus claimed that this application would prejudice him as he had been burdened by the suit since 2013.
This court held that the reinstatement of this civil suit would indeed prejudice the respondent. The application was dismissed on the grounds that it defeats the defence of limitation (as the claim or suit proceeded out of time) available to the respondent.
The plaintiff supplier sued the defendant – its Local Technical Representative (LTR) in accordance with the National Drug Authority Act for the distribution of pharmaceutical products – for breach of contract. The defendant failed to pay the plaintiff for the assorted products it supplied. The plaintiff consequently claimed for loss of income, damages, interest and costs of suit. The defendant lodged a counter-claim alleging that the plaintiff/first counter-defendant had breached the memorandum of understanding concluded between the parties and had, through various means, attempted to cripple the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s enterprise. It alleged further, as the basis of its challenge to the legality of the arrangement between the first and second counter-defendants, that the just-mentioned parties had colluded in this endeavour so as allow the latter to become the new LTR.
The defendants/counter-claimants successfully raised the procedural bar of res judicata – which prohibits judicially-decided matters from being heard afresh a second time – concerning the plaintiff’s claim, given that the matter of their indebtedness thereto had been resolved in the settlement of antecedent winding-up proceedings. To what extent ought the defendant’s/counter-claimant’s challenge have been raised as part of the previous lawsuit? Suggesting that res judicata was applicable to both parties’ claims, the court nevertheless considered the counter-claimant’s’ case in respect of the first and second counter-defendants and found no measure of illegality or bad faith on the evidence. The counter-claimant was additionally time-barred from seeking review of the National Drug Authority’s decision over the LTR change.
The plaintiff’s suit and defendants’ counter-claims were accordingly dismissed with costs.
The application was based on the fact that the applicant had been prevented by sufficient cause from filing a defence in a civil suit which according to the court had a meritorious defence that had a high chance of success.
The main issue was whether the default judgment issued by the lower court pursuant to failure to file a written statement of defence should be set aside.
The court reiterated that the burden is on the process server to indicate whether a principal officer or director or secretary of the corporation has been served or to indicate whether he or she was unable to establish who was being served. The serving officer, in this case, was simply quiet about who was served notwithstanding that there is a stamp of the applicant on the signature of the person served. Moreover, the provisions as to service support are a fundamental rule of justice which is that of fair trial. Fair trial includes due notice of the summons on the defendant or persons sought to be summoned to appear in court.
The court held that due to the fundamental requirements of service of process on the secretary, director or other principal officer of the company, the default decree and judgment was set aside. The court held that civil procedure rules makes it necessary to identify the person served in the corporation sufficiently to fulfill the requirements for service on a corporation.
The applicant is appealing the judgment in its favour from a civil suit it instituted against the respondent. The review was brought on the ground of mistake or error apparent on the face of the record.
The civil suit sought a declaration that the respondents’ auction of the applicants’ 6990 beds of sugar was unlawful, and the court held that it was. However, the court awarded damages for the sale 736 unaccounted bags instead of 6990 unaccounted bags, which was the evidence on record and finding of the court. The sales were in breach of s 57(2) of the East African Community Customs Management Act.
The respondents filed a notice of appeal against the judgment, and contended that there was no error apparent on the face of the record. The award for 736 bags was based on evidence in which the applicant acknowledged that the respondent had accounted for 6254 bags. It was held that the applicant was entitled to file an application for review pending the appeal by the respondent.
The issue for determination was whether there was an error or mistake apparent on the face of the record.
The court held that the judgment was reviewed to the extent that it was erroneous to order special damages for 736 bags, which number was correct. The correct order was the difference between the applicant’s claim and the amount at which the sugar was auctioned; not special damages. The court substituted the amount with the sum of the difference, which was approximate 190 million Ugandan shillings.
This was an application for leave to appear and defend a summary suit brought under the provisions of Order 36 rule 1 and Order 52 rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The main issue before the court was whether the applicants’ defence was genuine and in good faith to warrant the leave. The respondents raised a preliminary objection to the application claiming that the application was filed out of time. They also accused the first and fourth applicants of forgery and submitted that representation by the applicants’ counsel was illegal since she had signed the supporting affidavit.
The court held that the application was filed in time due to lack of evidence to prove a false endorsement or forgery of the filed application. The court relied on Rule 9 of the Advocates (Professional Conduct) Regulations SI 267 – 2 in holding that the rule was not violated since the court was addressed in written submissions and this reduced the likelihood of counsel for the applicants to appear as a witness in the case. The court also applied the principle of company law that shareholders are separate from the company and declared that there was a misjoinder of the first to fourth applicants.
In conclusion, the court held that the application succeeded since the applicants raised a plausible defence to the claim. Accordingly, the applicants were given an unconditional leave to file a defence against the respondent’s suit within 14 days from the date of the order.
The appellant was dissatisfied with the
decision and orders of the court of appeal
hence this appeal on the grounds of the right of
appeal from the orders under arbitration and
conciliation, reliance on the commission of
inquiry report, decision to set aside the
decision of the high court.
The background is that the appellant had a
contract to construct an annex to the existing
Mbale Resort. The construction wasn’t
complete and the matter was referred to
arbitration and several orders and awards were
made. The arbitral award was contested and at
appeal, an objection on a point of law was
raised that there was no right of appeal as the
award arose out of arbitration.
The court made a ruling on a preliminary objection raised against a suit filed by the respondent to review a consent judgment executed between the applicants and the Uganda Revenue Authority. The applicants submitted that the respondent lacked locus standi to make the application according to Order 46 rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The court went into some detail and examined who a ‘person aggrieved’ is. It was held that the expression referred to a person who suffered a legal grievance. However, the court in its interpretation followed English law and held that the expression cannot be restricted to definite categories with sharp definitive lines (restrictive interpretation). Consequently, the court held that the expression would also cover public interest litigation as embodied in the Ugandan Constitution, to include a member of the public who brings an action to ensure that the law is enforced or upheld.
The court noted that the objection was procedural and that the respondent’s application for review was procedurally incorrect since it was framed as a public interest litigation application. The court therefore determined that the main issue before it was whether a wrong procedure invalidates the proceedings. The court relied on article 126(2)(e) of the constitution in making a holding that the court had jurisdiction to determine the matter without undue regard to the technicalities.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the application with costs.
The issue was whether a failure to comply with court rules directing a witness to file statements in time affects the litigation process.
The plaintiff claimed US $14,000 being money paid to the defendant for an apartment. The plaintiff rescinded the agreement and claimed a refund. The defendants raised an objection to one of witness statements arguing that it was filed out of time limits set by court rules. The defendants’ objection was based on the grounds that admitting the statement was prejudicial to the defendant’s case.
The plaintiff opposed the preliminary objection arguing that statement was filed to expedite the hearing rather than to leave the witness out of court, and the witness’ statement was not part of civil procedure. The plaintiff argued that there was no prejudice caused because the statement was not different substantially from the one submitted by the plaintiff.
The court held that rule 6(4) of the Constitution (Commercial Court) Practice Directions sets time limits that should be adhered to; extensions should be granted in special circumstances. It ruled that in the interest of justice the plaintiff’s witness should be heard and must be granted leave to file the witness statement out of time.
The plaintiffs sued the defendant for breach of contract. The first plaintiff claimed US $190,747 for services rendered to the defendant. The second plaintiff claimed US $3,085 being the outstanding balance for provision of services to the defendant before their contract was terminated. The plaintiffs each reached a settlement agreement in which the defendant was going to pay a portion of the claimed amount.
The plaintiffs later claimed they concluded the first payment under duress, and sought the full amounts originally claimed plus interest.
The defended raised a defence of res judicata on the grounds that the case was premised on a subject matter which has been previously decided. It produced letters of acknowledgment of full payment.
The court dismissed the res judicata defence on the basis that this was a different case because there were new parties and that the plaintiffs were now seeking interest. However, the court held that there was no evidence of duress and if the plaintiffs were assaulted they should have made a police report. The court ruled that it cannot ignore the letter of acknowledgement of full payment on the grounds that a contract entered by parties should be respected.
The case was dismissed with costs.
The court considered an appeal from a High Court decision that dismissed an application to set aside part of a previous judgment. The broad circumstances related to a series of judgments that related to who was entitled to vacant possession of land. However, the time within which to lodge the appeal had lapsed. The court restated the position on what the court must consider when dealing with an application for the extension of time. Such an enquiry is three-pronged involving three questions namely: (1) establishing sufficient reasons for the court to extend the time to lodge the appeal; (2) whether the applicant is guilty or not of dilatory conduct; and (3) whether any injustice will result from the application not being granted.
The court held that because the matter in this case raised serious questions of law that need to be addressed, it would be in the interests of justice to extend the time to file their appeal.
The court also dealt with affidavits as evidence and provided that just because they were not duly endorsed, does not mean the court will reject them. Further, where it is alleged that part of an affidavit is false, a court can sever that part and rely on remaining paragraphs.
The applicant sought a declaratory order stating that the first respondent was in contempt of a court order which restricted him from transferring, alienating and or disposing of the 60% shareholding in the third respondent company.
The court considered whether the first respondent was in contempt of court. It was held that the first respondent was indeed in contempt of an order issued by the same court in 2015.
When the first respondent argued that the transfer of shared occurred in 1997, the court examined the third respondent company’s annual returns from 2008 to 2015 which reflected share ownership to belong to two entities; Tanwood Ltd and Garwood Ltd. At the time neither Busa Ltd nor Queen Foreign Ltd appeared as shareholders. The court also examined a company search that was conducted in 2016 which reflected a change in shareholding; Queen Foreign Ltd was a majority shareholder. The court accepted the above as prima facie proof of contempt of court. The court relied on previous judgments that outlined the conditions that have to be met in order to legally prove that contempt of court occurred; it was held that all conditions were met.
As a result of contempt, the court disregarded the purported transfer of shares in the third respondent company and stated that the power of attorney had no effect whatsoever. The court awarded costs to the applicant. No fine was imposed.
The appellant who undertook to invest and acquire shares in a telecom company brought an action
against the respondents for breach of contract, damages and interest. The appellant’s suit was dismissed
on a preliminary point of law as it disclosed no cause of action against the 2 nd and 3 rd respondents.
The applicants brought suits which were later consolidated against the respondents alleging that they were
acquired through fraud. The trial judge entered judgment against the applicant and declared her trespasser
without interest in the suit land. The applicant brought an application for stay of execution pending
disposal of appeal.
The court considered an application where the applicant argued that the Court of Appeal, in an earlier judgment in the same case, erroneously misconstrued s 272 of the Succession Act. The court held that an appeal could be re-heard if the matter is of great public importance. The court confirmed that great public importance and general importance depends on the facts and circumstances and may vary from case-to-case.
The guidelines for what would constitute public or general importance in certain cases are statements of law which affect
(1) a considerable number of people in their commercial practice;
(2) enjoyment of fundamental rights;
(3) the proper functioning of public institutions;
(4) the court’s scope to dispense redress; or (4) the discharge of duties of public officers.
If an appeal meets one of the criteria constituting public or general importance, the court will be permitted to re-hear an appeal on its merits. The court in this case held that this case raised a question of law of general importance and could be reheard.
The applicant and respondent contested in a parliamentary election, the
respondent was aggrieved by the outcome of the election petitioned court
which dismissed the petition hence the appeal from which the application
arises. The applicant sought the notice of appeal struck out of court for being
filed out of time without leave of court.
In this case the appellant sought an order of Supreme Court extending the time within which to serve a notice of appeal. Counsel for the applicant lodged a notice of appeal well within the time prescribed by the law but the respondent’s counsel was served three days out of time. The applicant apportioned the blame for this delay on the staff of the Court of Appeal which, according to the applicant, failed to make available a signed notice of appeal on time.
The court considered the application for extension of the prescribed time in light of Rule 5 of the Rules of the Supreme Court. According to this rule, the court may grant such an extension if it finds sufficient reason to do so. The court found that the fact that the applicant promptly filed the notice of appeal demonstrated zeal on the applicant’s part. However, counsel for the applicant failed to demonstrate that the court staff caused the delay and did not explain why it took nearly four months to file the application for extension before the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the court found that refusing the application would amount to denying the applicant’s right to present and prosecute his appeal and would have disproportionately negative consequences on the applicant. The court, therefore, used its discretionary powers to grant the extension sought, thereby validating the notice of appeal and the appeal itself.
In 2009, the appellants brought an action
before the High Court on behalf of former
employees of National Sugar Works Ltd,
alleging unlawful termination of their services.
The respondents raised a preliminary objection
claiming that the suit was time barred. This
claim was dismissed by the High Court but
accepted in second instance by the Court of
Appeal. Being dissatisfied with the decision of
the Court of Appeal, the appellants filed a
further appeal before the Supreme Court. The
appellants argued that their suit against the
respondents was not time barred because they
were under disability due to war and rebel
The court considered the issue of jurisdiction and whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter based on a contract which was concluded to be governed under Dutch law.
The defendants breached their contract as a result of not being able to fulfil their obligations in terms of the contract, and subsequently they unilaterally terminated the contracts.
The defendant contended that the application should be dismissed as the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the suit.
The court found that where parties have bound themselves to an exclusive jurisdiction clause, they ought to comply with that obligation, unless the party who is suing outside the scope of the prescribed jurisdiction gives adequate justification for doing so.
The court found that in order to dispute a jurisdiction, you have to show that the intention was to evade the operation of the provision in the relevant law, and that there was an element of fraud or duress or other evidence of mala fides (meaning an act done in bad faith). If these elements cannot be proved, then the selected forum will be upheld.
The court held that the contract was drawn and executed in Uganda, the plaintiffs reside in Uganda and if the matter was heard in a different jurisdiction the cost of housing, transporting and feeding a number of witnesses, including cost of counsel in a different jurisdiction would be nonsensical and would deny the defendants access to court.
The court found that the expertise of courts in Uganda are competent to deal with the matter, and as a result they had the required jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Application is denied.
The respondent successfully brought a suit against the appellants for
declaration that she was the rightful owner of the suit land, vacant
possession, permanent injunction and damages. The appellants were
dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court hence this appeal.
The issue before the court was an application for extension of time to file an appeal.
The applicant was seeking condonation from the court after he failed to file an appeal within the time prescribed by court rules. He based his appeal on the grounds that he was not aware of the judgment and blamed his lawyer for not informing him of the judgment. He argued that it was just and equitable for the court to extend the time to file the appeal and that there was likelihood of success.
The respondent on the other hand opposed the application arguing that the applicant failed to produce evidence to support its application.
In deciding the case, the court held that court rules empower the court to extend time limits if there are sufficient reasons. It ruled that negligence on the part of the applicant’s counsel amounts to sufficient reason for extension of time limits. The court found that refusal to extend the time limits will cause injustice to the applicant.
The application for extension of time was granted.
The appellant sought a declaration that it was the lawful owner of a piece of land in dispute, and that the respondent has been a trespasser. The respondent filed seeking to strike out the appellant’s suit for being time-barred. The trial judge allowed the application. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against the dismissal. The Court of Appeal found no merit in the appeal and dismissed the same, hence this appeal.
The issue for determination for the appeal was whether the appellant could appeal to the Court of Appeal against the order of the trial court without the leave of court.
The court applied the principle that if the decision conclusively determines the rights of the parties, then it would be a decree; otherwise it would be an order. If for instance portions of a plaint are struck out as being frivolous, or if a suit is stayed, such a decision would be an order, whereas if a suit is dismissed with costs, that would be a decree. A decree is appealable as of right, whereas under the Civil Procedure Rules most orders are only appealable with leave of the court.
In applying the principle, the court found that the High Court decision disposed of the suit conclusively and the decision was therefore a decree within the meaning of s 2(c) of the Civil Procedure Act, even though it was worded as an order. It held that the appellant therefore had a right of appeal as against the decision and did not need to apply for leave to appeal to the court of appeal.
The appeal succeeded.
The appellant applied to the supreme court seeking an enlargement time within which he should have filed his notice of appeal against the decision of the court of appeal.
The issues were whether leave to appeal could be granted to the applicant and serve the notice of appeal out of time and whether the applicant had ‘sufficient cause’ for not having been able to bring the appeal within time.
The court noted that it had the discretion to extend and validate pleadings even where there were limits created by statute. The court held that ‘sufficient reason’ must relate to the ability or failure to take particular step in time. It observed that the rule envisaged scenarios in which extension of time for doing an act so authorised or required would be granted namely: before the expiration of a limited time, after the expiration of a limited time, before an act is done and after an act is done.
The court also noted that the appellant was not to be prejudiced since the machinery which formed the core subject of the dispute between the two parties was still in possession. In the result, the court was satisfied that the appellant had established sufficient reasons for having failed to apply on time.
The appeal succeeded.
The court considered a review application arising from an application surrounding a facilitation agreement between the parties.
A receiver was appointed and it was alleged that there was a conflict of interest. The first respondent was appointed, but the directors refused to hand over the management of the company. An order was sought, to declare the duties and functions of the receiver.
The court held that it was the receiver’s duty to make returns and accounts, to uphold his fiduciary duty to the company and investigate the causes of the company’s failure. Therefore, the receiver was expected to take charge of the business.
It was found that there was nothing prohibiting the appointment of a receiver from the same firm representing the creditor. The applicant argued that it was an error on the face of it to appoint the advocate of the second respondent as the Receiver as it was a conflict of interest.
The court found that an error on the face of it must be an error on a substantial point of law staring one in the face, leaving one with no other options. Whereas, an error which has to be established by a process of reasoning, cannot be said to be an error on the face of the record.
The court found that the applicant was asking the court to review something that was never an issue in the original application.
The court held that to bring an application for review on a prayer which did not form part of the original application is improper and would cause an injustice.