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 applicant approached the court to set aside the legal opinion and report of the first and second respondents’ respectively and in turn, the respondents challenged the validity of the application before the court.
The court considered whether the applicant was properly incorporated and whether it had locus standi to bring a petition before the court.
It was held that the applicant indeed did not have locus standi to petition the court to challenge the findings of the respondents due to not being properly incorporated.
The court found that the merger between the entities that formed the applicant was in contravention of both the Constitution and legislation regulating companies. The court held that the Constitution was violated on two occasions. Firstly, when an agreement was entered into with an entity controlled by the government without the approval of the Attorney-General. Secondly, when the entity controlled by the government decided to hold a minority shareholding in the company that assisted in incorporating the applicant, which had the effect of parliament not having control of the funds as required. Legislation regulating companies was not complied with since the requirement for incorporating a private company was not observed.
As a result, the preliminary objection raised by the respondents succeeded. The applicant did not exist in law thus it could not sue or be sued. No costs ordered as the applicant does not exist.
The plaintiff registered its business name as ‘Standard Signs Uganda’, and the defendant incorporated as ‘Shandard Signs (Uganda) Limited’. The court considered whether the defendant had infringed on the plaintiff's trademark, was guilty of passing off and the applicable remedies.
The court held that s 6(1) of the Trade Mark Act grants a registered proprietor exclusive rights of use. The legal basis of passing off is that it is wrong for the defendant to represent for trading purposes that his goods are that of the plaintiff. Also, the plaintiff needs to prove that its business had acquired goodwill. If the defendant is passing off goods, the assumption is that the plaintiff is prevented from selling more goods and damages are a reasonable sum of actual loss.
The court found that the difference was only in the letters ‘t’ and ‘h’; in any event the pronunciation of ‘Standard’/’Shandard’ are similar. The other words in the business names are similar or identical, and the logos are also similar. On this basis, the court concluded that the concurrent use of the two registered trade names and logos are likely to confuse; accordingly they infringe on the plaintiff's trademark. Consequently, the defendant's registration of the name was irregular.
The court concluded that the plaintiff had shown that it had acquired goodwill, therefore, misrepresentation was made out. In that regard, had suffered damages because of erroneous belief endangered by the second defendant's misrepresentation.
The court observed that there was no case against the first defendant under the principle of corporate personality.
The court upheld the plaintiff's complaints and awarded damages, a permanent injunction and costs.
This case looked at the whether the veil of incorporation could be lifted and the defendants held liable for the debt of the company as a result of their alleged fraudulent dealings.
The court considered that when the device of incorporation is used for some illegal or improper purpose, the court may disregard the principle that a company is an independent legal entity and lift the veil of corporate identity. A corporate personality can never be used as a cloak or a mask for fraud. The veil of incorporation will be lifted where it is proved that the company is being misused by its directors to perpetuate fraud.
The standard of proof in fraud cases requires a higher degree of probability than the proof required to demonstrate negligence.
The applicant failed to adequately plead the allegation of fraud. Accordingly, the veil of incorporation could not be lifted. The case was dismissed with costs.
This case considered the instance when the veil of incorporation can be lifted. The mind of a company where guilty intent or responsibility is being considered cannot be separated from the minds of the directors. The corporate veil ought to be lifted where there is proof of involvement of the directors in fraud. Once there has been an allegation of fraud against the company, the directors are ay virtue alleged to be involved. Accordingly, the veil of incorporation will be lifted where it is proved that the directors, acting as the mind and body of the company were involved in an act of dishonesty.
The court was called upon to determine the authority of the Uganda Revenue Authority to transfer tax liability and collect money from bankers holding money for alleged offenders under the VAT Act.
The court decided 2 of 5 agreed points of law. Firstly, the court considered whether the defendant's decision to impose and transfer a tax liability of Uganda Shillings 5,553,634,271/= from SureTelecom Uganda Limited to the 1st plaintiff was legal. The court held that the purported transfer of liability from SureTelecom Uganda Limited was unlawful because it infringed the right of the first Plaintiff to be charged and tried before a court of law or an independent tribunal for the offence which the penal tax was imposed. The court agreed with the defendant that it was acceptable for a director of a company to be held liable for the offences of a company in absence of proof that they lacked knowledge of the offence or had tried to stop the commission thereof. However, the court noted that the Commissioner had compounded the offence prior to court proceedings without having an admission from the first plaintiff and thus violated his fundamental right to a fair hearing as envisaged by section 28 of the Constitution. Accordingly, the court found in favour of the first plaintiff. Secondly, the court considered whether the defendant’s act of issuing agency notices to and subsequently collecting USD 800,000 from the 2nd Plaintiff’s bankers in respect of the 1st Plaintiff’s tax liability is lawful or legal. Based on the determination of the previous issue, the court found in favour of both plaintiffs in this issue.
This case looked at the whether the veil of incorporation could be lifted and the defendants held liable for the debt of the company. The court looked at the instances when lifting of the corporate veil was applicable. There are three instances when the veil of incorporation can be lifted. 1) when a court in construing a statute, contract or other documents; 2) when the court is satisfied that the company is a mere façade concealing the true facts and 3) when it is established that the company is an authorized agent of its members/directors.
Further, the veil of incorporation can be lifted when the veil of incorporation is used as an instrument of fraud. The standard of proof required in cases of fraud is more onerous that the ordinary balance of probabilities. Section 20 of the Companies Act (‘the act’) empowers a court to lift the veil of incorporation against directors where there is any involvement in fraud by the directors. Fraud was defined to mean any act of dishonesty or actual fraud.
The court found in this case that the plaintiff was barred from instituting action against the defendants. Accordingly, the claim was dismissed with costs.
The applicant was directed to use other means to recover a judgment debt. The application was instituted to hold the second to sixth respondents liable for the first respondent’s debt as the controlling company of the first respondent.
The applicant argued that unless the corporate veil was lifted, and the second to sixth respondents were ordered to pay the debt, the applicant would not be able to recover the judgment debt.
The issues before the court were whether corporate veil could be lifted.
The court held that the first respondent company and second respondent company were one and the same. From the evidence, the third to sixth respondents were acting on behalf of the first and second respondents.
Grounds for lifting the veil were provided in section 20 of the Companies Act, and included where a company or its directors are involved in acts of fraud. The court held that the instruments of the first respondent were honestly executed. Failure to execute the court order was not reason for lifting the corporate veil as it was not evidence of fraud. However, a further ground for lifting the corporate veil was to prevent the deliberate evasion of contractual obligations. The court held that the third to sixth respondents’ resolve to sell the properties were attempts to prevent the realization of the judgment debt, and using the first respondent as a mask for fraud.
The application was granted.
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 applicant brought an application for interim order against the respondents disposing of the
suit property fraudulently mortgaged by her husband without spousal consent the same being
matrimonial property. The applicant’s suit was dismissed by the trial court hence the appeal from
which the application arose.
The appellant claimed that he was a partner in a business with the respondent. When the partnership dissolved and the proceeds were shared; the appellant was allegedly not given anything. He then sued the respondent for a declaration that he was a partner and was entitled to the proceeds. The High Court dismissed these claims.
The appellant appealed the judgment of the High Court five months after the judgment had been handed down. He further lodged an application for extension of time to file a notice of appeal. The court below dismissed this application because of inordinate delay.
The appellant appealed to this court. The appellant’s complaint was that the application was dismissed on the basis of technicalities and not substantive justice and this is in contravention of the Constitution. In response, the respondent submitted that the appeal lacks merit.
This court found that the continuation of the proceedings in question would greatly prejudice the respondent. This is because the respondent was holding a decree from the High Court since 1995 which decree the appellant has stubbornly refused to satisfy to date. Accordingly, this application was dismissed.