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.
This appeal raises the question of admissibility of a document that was alleged to be a privileged document. The petitioner sought to have this document admitted as evidence, while the respondent argued that it should be excluded as the security of the state would be impaired.
The petitioner argued that that if this document was excluded, his constitutional right to fair trial would be violated. He further claimed that if the security of the state would be impaired by such conduct. Section 23(2) of the Constitution allows the court to hear the matters that touch on the security of the state, away from the public.
The respondent relied on s 121 of the Evidence Act. He claimed that this document relates to affairs of state and was therefore inadmissible without the consent of the head of department.
This court stated that when an act of Congress conflicts with constitutionally enshrined provisions; the Constitution prevails because it holds the paramount commands. Furthermore, it was held that the court that has the power to determine whether a matter falls within the exceptions or not. In order to do this, the state must produce evidence upon which the court can act. The state never did so.
The court examined the document in dispute and found it to relate to state security. However, the court overruled the respondent’s objection. The document was admitted as evidence in closed court.
The court considered an application by way of notice on motion for an interlocutory injunction restraining the respondents from enforcing the National Media Regulations pending the court’s determination of the substantive suit. The substantive suit related to declarations that the requirement for prior authorization of consent as well as the criminal sanctions were contrary to the Constitution.
The court confirmed that whereas in public law, a court ought to be slow in granting interlocutory injunction, it still has the power to grant one. This is especially so in exceptional cases where there is a need to restrain enforcement of legislation that is being challenged on substantial grounds. The courts will grant an injunction to avoid irreparable injury being caused by the enforcement of a potentially unconstitutional piece of legislation that is being challenged. On this basis, the application was granted.
The matter involve a ruling of contempt of court against the third and fourth respondents for their conduct in attacking the Chief Justice with an accusation of bias.
The court emphasised the importance of judicial independence as enshrined in the Constitution as a necessary element in maintaining judicial dignity and effectiveness, attributes that are crucial in upholding the democratic enterprise. Any attempt to disrespect the courts therefore amounts to an attack on the role of the courts and the community at large.
The court also emphasised the right to criticise the judiciary and its circumspection in exercising its power to charge citizens with contempt. However, should the conduct be of such gross a nature as to indicate a calculated attack, as in the present matter, the court would not refrain from the charge.
The court, however, acknowledged the harsh nature of the summary powers to charge for contempt, powers it accepted required circumspection. Nevertheless, the court considered the need to send a message to remind people to refrain from crossing the line between utilizing their freedom of expression and attacking the dignity of the court. It also invoked the principles of state policy which place duties to the citizenry to ensure the exercise of their freedoms upheld fundamental democratic principles. In the view of the court, the contemnors in question had dismally failed the above and therefore they were sentenced for contempt.