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.
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 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 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.
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 applicant filed an application for correction of arithmetical error from a consent settlement order. The respondent argued that a party seeking to have an arithmetical or clerical error corrected as it were in this application must do so within sixty days from the date of the decree sought to be corrected.
The question for determination by the court in this application was whether that power could be exercised at any time. To answer the question the court relied on the court of appeal judgment where it was held that "we are satisfied that the phrase 'at any time means just that at anytime' subject to the rights of the parties, there should be no point in limiting the time in which to correct such innocuous mistakes or errors which are merely clerical or arithmetical with absolutely no effect on the substance of the judgment. Hence if what was sought in Misc. Civil Application No. 57 of 1993 was merely to correct clerical or arithmetical mistakes arising from an accidental slip or omission; we agree that such correction can be made at any time subject to the rights of the parties”.
The court then concluded that the phrase ‘at any time’ was not be construed to extend beyond the period after a decree is fully satisfied.
The application was therefore dismissed.
The issues for determination were whether this suit was time barred and whether the suit was bad in law for being in contravention of s 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act [Cap.5 R.E. 2002].
Section 6(2) of the Government Proceedings Act states that ‘no suit against the government shall be instituted, and heard unless the claimant previously submits to the government minister, department or officer concerned a notice of not less than ninety days of his intention to sue the government, specifying the basis of his claim against the government, and he shall send a copy of his claim to the Attorney-General.’
The court held that in determining the question of limitation, two principles must be considered. In the first place, the court must look at the whole suit, including the reliefs sought, and see if the suit combines more than one claim based on different causes of action as one of them may be found to be time barred while the others may not. In such circumstances, it is not proper to dismiss the whole suit as time barred. Second, the court, in interpreting the provisions of a law, should read those provisions in their context as a whole. Single sections should not be read or interpreted in isolation.
The court found that the suit against the government, having been prematurely instituted before complying with the mandatory provisions of section 6 (2) of the Government Proceedings Act, was bad in law and incompetent. The suit was dismissed.