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 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 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.