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 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 defendants applied for credit facilities to obtain steel products from the plaintiff. The second and third defendants stood surety. The plaintiff contended that the defendants refused to pay for the steel products. The proceedings were for breach of contract, and special and general damages. The defendants denied concluding the contract, and argued the matter ought to be heard in South Africa.
The issues for determination were whether the court lacked jurisdiction; whether there was a contract between the parties; whether the defendants breached the contract; and whether second and third defendants were liable.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the court considered the agreement. It was clear that the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the High Court of South Africa, however the court held that the Constitution and Judicature Act provided it with unlimited original jurisdiction in all matters. Even when parties had an exclusive jurisdiction agreement, the High Court of Uganda still had jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter before it.
Regarding the existence of the contract, the law required the plaintiff to prove the documents were signed by the second and third defendants. The court found that the plaintiff proved it entered into a valid contract with the defendants.
Whether the defendants breached the contract, the court held that the first defendant breached the contract by failing to pay for the goods, and that the second and third defendants were liable as sureties.
Plaintiff was awarded special and general damages.
This is an application to annul the consent order that was executed between the respondents and the cancellation of the third respondent’s title. The appeal was issued by the registrar against the decision of a judge who dismissed an application by the first respondent against the second and third respondents. The appeal is premised on grounds that the registrar had no jurisdiction not issue the orders and the consent is illegal.
The appellant appealed against a taxing officer’s order awarding the second respondent costs of 1, 900, 739/= contending that the instruction fee awarded was based on an incorrect value of the suit. The respondents’ counsel raised preliminary objections inter alia that couldn’t be permitted to raise a new point of law that was not argued in the lower court.
The matter involved a claim by the applicant against the defendant’s conduct of unlawfully blocking and deducting monies from his salary account.
First, was whether the court, as a commercial division, had jurisdiction over the matter. The court reasoned that as it dealt with crediting and debiting of the applicant’s account, the matter therefore lay in the ambit of a banker customer relationship. The court was therefore had jurisdiction as it was a commercial matter.
Next, was whether the applicant’s account had been unlawfully deducted and consequently who was liable, considering that the defendant had assumed the obligations of Crane Bank, the applicant’s original employer. The court found there was evidence that the applicant’s account had been credited with less money than he was earning for some time.
On the issue of liability, the court reasoned that despite the contractual exemption of liability upon assumption of Crane’s obligations by the defendant, the Employment Act required the employment obligations to transfer to the defendant as a matter of law. The effect was that the defendant was liable for the unlawful deductions.
Finally, the court dealt with the question of damages. The court used its discretion to put the plaintiff in the position he would have been but for the wrong, as required by law. The court, using its discretion, also awarded interest to the applicant on the basis that applicant had been deprived from own monies. It however denied the claim for exemplary damages as it could not establish malice, outrage or impunity in the conduct of the defendant.
The matter involved an appeal against the decision of the High Court, a decision the appellant contends was arrived at under error of procedural law.
The main issue was whether the decision of the lower court was defective for its failure to afford the appellant her right to be heard. The court relied on case law to establish that it is necessary to afford a party a fair hearing upon making an adverse decision. It accepted the position in Scan - Tan Tours Ltd v the Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Mbulu Civil Appeal No. 78 of 2012 that when an issue that is pivotal to the whole case is introduced the parties should be given a chance to address the matter before the court. In addition, the court relied on the Rukwa Auto Parts and Transport Ltd v Jestina George Mwakyoma Civil Appeal No. 45 and Abbas Sherally and Another v Abdul Fazalboy Civil Application No. 33 of 2002 cases as authority for the proposition that failure to allow for the right to be heard constituted a breach of natural justice, a fundamental constitutional right.
The court reasoned that the trial court had failed to uphold the appellant’s right to be heard when it arrived at its decision and therefore violated a constitutional right. Hence, the court concluded that the decision could not be allowed and consequently nullified the impugned decision.
The matter involved a dispute over an order of suit property sale as a remedy for breach of a loan agreement granted by the trial court against the appellant.
The first question was whether the responded had paid the whole stipulated loan amount to the appellant. Assessing the evidence in the record from the trial court, the court reasoned that the trial court’s assessment had failed to evaluate crucial evidence that showed doubt in the respondent’s claim that the whole stipulated amount had been paid. The court thus concluded that the evidence indicated that the responded had failed to fully honor its performance obligation. As a result, the responded could not pursue the remedy of obliging the appellant to transfer the property for failure to repay the loan.
The second issue concerned the right to mesne profits (i.e. profits received by tenant in wrongful possession and which are recoverable by the landlord) by the appellant and the amounts due. The court did not dwell much on the question of entitlement, instead accepting the trial court’s finding of indisputable occupation and rental collection by responded as a basis together with the fact that responded could not justify the occupation.
The court thus concluded that mesne profits were owed but order that they be set-off to the amount of the loan that the appellant still owed. The decision of the trial court was therefore set-aside and appeal allowed.
Aggrieved by a High Court decision concerning a dispute with the respondent, the applicant sought leave to escalate the matter to the Court of Appeal. The High Court summarily rejected the application without notice to the parties and prior to the set-down date of the hearing.
The appellate court was wholly convinced by the applicant’s main contention: that the High Court judgment was impugnable because the parties had not yet been heard at the time it was given. Outlining the basic tenets of the audi alterem partem principle, the court affirmed that courts are obligated to afford the parties a full hearing before determining the disputed matter on merit.
The appellate court invoked its revisional powers under section 4(3) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, setting aside the High Court’s decision and directing it to rehear the application.
The respondent sued the appellant for general damages and restoration of the value of certain of its properties, arising from their sale at a public auction, prompted by a warrant of distress issued under the Income Tax Act. The High Court found that the respondent bore no tax liability to the appellant at the time the warrant was issued, and consequently that the vehicles were unlawfully distrained and sold, before making an award of damages, interest and costs of suit in the respondent’s favour.
On appeal, the tax authority successfully challenged the High Court decision on the grounds of jurisdiction. It contended that the relevant tax legislation (primarily the Income Tax Act, 1973) had established fora to preside over tax disputes at the first instance. As the respondent had failed to exhaust these internal statutory remedies before launching court proceedings, the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter. The court had ousted the jurisdiction of the specialised fora designed for that very purpose.
Reiterating that jurisdiction may be raised by the parties or suo moto (by the court itself) at any stage of proceedings – even on appeal – the appellate court quashed and set aside the High Court’s decision and upheld the appeal.
The appellant appealed the decision of the trial court to rely on an affidavit of a court process server, having held that service was properly done. The prime issue for determination was whether the appeal was meritorious.
Order V Rule 16 of the Civil Procedure Code provides that where the serving officer delivers or tenders a copy of summons to the defendant personally or to an agent or other person on his behalf he shall require that person to sign an acknowledgement of service, if refuses to sign the acknowledgement the serving officer shall leave a copy thereof with him and return the original together with an affidavit stating that the person refused to sign the acknowledgement) that he left a copy of the summons with such person and the name and address of the person (if any), by whom the person on whom the summons was served was identified.
The court held that these specifications were not indicated in the process server's affidavit and the trial court never bothered to establish and ascertain if the service was properly done to the appellant to accord her the right to be heard.
The decision of the trial court giving rise to this appeal could not be allowed to stand on account of being arrived at in violation of the constitutional right to be heard. In the result the appeal was granted.
The plaintiffs instituted a land suit against the defendant praying the court declare that the defendant wrongly demolished the Madrassa building without any authority or order from the authorities. On the other side the defendant filed a written statement of defence stating that the suit was bad in law and ought to be dismissed, for lack of a paragraph invoking the court’s original jurisdiction, contrary to a requirement in law. Additionally, the defendant stated that the monetary claim pleaded was based on general damages and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The main issue determined by the court was whether the court had pecuniary jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The court held that it was a mandatory requirement under Order VII Rule 1 (j) of the Civil Procedure Code that a plaint should contain a statement on the monetary value of the subject matter. This was not only for the purposes of determining courts' pecuniary jurisdiction, but also for assessing the court fees. Therefore, the failure by the plaintiffs to indicate in the plaint a statement of the value of the subject matter of the suit had an effect on both the jurisdiction and the court fees.
To conclude the court held that it had no jurisdiction and thus had no need to proceed on and to deliberate on other points of the preliminary objection as its hands were tied.
The base of the suit was defamation whereby the plaintiff averred that the defendants defamed him.
The first issue was whether there was defamation and who was defamed among the two defendants. The court states that it is crucial in the commercial arena to inquire whether the published statement concerns the business itself or someone affiliated with the business in his individual capacity. Generally, the defamation must refer to the person defamed. In this case it had to be specifically pleaded whether the alleged defamation referred to the company business or to plaintiff witness individually.
For the second issue of whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter, it relied the principle contained in section 13 of the Civil Procedure Code that every suit must be instituted in the court of the lowest grade competent to try it. The object and purpose of the said provision is to prevent overcrowding in the court of higher grade where a suit may be filed in a court of lower grade; to avoid multifariousness of litigation and to ensure that case involving huge amount must be heard by a more experienced court. The suit should have been properly instituted either in the District Court or in the Court of the Resident Magistrate which have competent jurisdiction to try the same.
The court concluded that a cause of action arises when facts on which liability is founded exist of which there were none in this instance. Thus the suit was rejected.
This was an application for a revision in respect of execution proceedings and a garnishee order.
The respondent raised preliminary objections: that the court lacked jurisdiction to determine the revision; that the court has not been moved and that the application was bad for not being accompanied with the order sought to be revised.
The court dismissed the final objection since there is no legal requirement for the same.
The court determined that it had jurisdiction, by applying the rule that all revisions of a civil nature in a resident magistrate court shall lie to the high court. The court interpreted this provision to include execution proceedings from resident magistrate courts.
In determining the second objection, the court observed that the applicant had cited non-existent legislation by referring to the Magistrates’ Court Act as the Resident Magistrates Court Act. It applied the rule that when an applicant cites the wrong provision the matter becomes incompetent since the court is not properly moved, to hold that it had not been moved. The court also considered that the applicant wrongly cited s 79 of the Civil Procedure Code. In doing so, it appreciated the difference on revision that may be undertaken per s 79 of the Civil Procedure Code and per ss 43 and 44 of the Magistrates Court Act: s 79 referred to finalized cases while the rest refer to any civil proceedings.
Accordingly, the application was struck out with an order as to costs in favor of the respondent.
The issue was whether the defendant breached a lease agreement. The dispute emanated from a lease agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant. Under the lease, the defendant was supposed to allocate four rooms and a corridor to the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that he was only allocated two rooms instead of the agreed four. He claimed damages for loss of business and general damages for loss suffered as a result of using two rooms. The defendant on the other hand argued that it allocated the four rooms to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff was the one who breached the lease agreement by not paying rent. It pointed out that the two rooms are still available and are vacant.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the defendant was in breach of contract. On damages, it dismissed the claim for special damages on loss of business opportunities pointing out that there was no evidence to support the loss. It however warded general damages of one hundred million shillings and interest of ten percent per year.
Two distinct, but related cases are of relevance in showing the genesis of this application.
The first relates to the respondent seeking to enforce a contract of works. The second relates to the applicant’s claim to enforce an agreement to arbitrate (as per the contract agreement). In this application before the High Court, the applicant sought to have the former case stayed, pending the final determination of the latter.
The applicant claimed that he sought the order to stay the suit as there was an agreement to arbitrate; proceeding with the respondent’s claim would be nugatory. The respondent resisted this application on the basis of procedural correctness.
This court determined that the issue was to verify whether this court had jurisdiction to entertain an application for stay of the respondent’s case, in view of the notice of appeal that was instituted by the applicant.
It was held that this court lacks jurisdiction over the latter case; it is the Court of Appeal which holds jurisdiction. Therefore, the matter was dismissed in its entirety.
The main case was whether the issue before this court was directly and substantially in issue with a matter pending in the court below.
The respondent threatened the applicant to cease any operations and vacate a Lake Natron game controlled area it currently occupies (‘the hunting block’). The applicant filed this application, seeking this court to issue an interim order restraining the respondents from evicting them at the hunting block.
The respondent claimed that this court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain this matter as it was res sub judice, and thus should be dismissed. The reason lodged was that the issue in this matter was directly and substantially related to the pending appeal. The applicant argued against these claims and contended that in the pending appeal, he was challenging different issues in relation to this application.
This court applied s 8 of the Civil Procedure Code in determining that the facts and circumstances of this application where identical with the pending matter below, and as such res sub judice.
This application was stayed pending the outcome of the appeal in the court below.