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 plaintiff won a tender for the supply of various medical supplies and equipment to be distributed by the first defendant. The framework agreement specified that the delivery thereof depended on ‘call off orders’, which were written instructions issued by the first defendant requiring the plaintiff to deliver stipulated numbers of medical supplies on specified dates.
When the first defendant unexpectedly deferred an order for additional supplies, the plaintiff incurred significant unforeseen costs with respect to the storage and security of the delayed goods. The plaintiff therefore instituted a claim against the first defendant for breach of contract.
The issues were common cause. First, whether the order of the goods as agreed was indeed deferred by the defendant. Secondly, whether the defendant delayed its payment for the goods delivered under the contract. These issues were simultaneously dispensed with, the court quickly finding on the evidence before it that the answer two both questions was affirmative.
The third issue, in light of this finding, was whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to a breach. This was also answered in the affirmative as the alterations made by the defendant were a departure from the specified dates and quantities required by the contract’s call off order protocol.
The establishing of loss on the part of the plaintiff to found its claim for damages emerged fourthly. That the record clearly demonstrated the costs incurred by the plaintiff – in the shape of storage and security fees, bank interests and charges from the manufacturer for delayed acceptance of goods – rendered this issue swiftly resolvable by the court.
The fifth issue concerned the determination of relief. The plaintiff was awarded a penalty for delayed payments and further general damages.
Judgment was accordingly entered for the plaintiff.
The essence of the suit was an alleged unjustified refusal by the first defendant to berth resulting in alleged loss to the plaintiff and attaching demurrage charges.
The issue was whether the first defendant deliberately refused to berth a ship, and the court found in the affirmative. The court went on to look at if the refusal was justified. The court found that the master’s refusal to berth was based on unfounded grounds resulting in a two week delay. It was on that basis that the court held that the first and second defendants had not been wrongly sued.
The other issue was whether there was delay in offloading the consignment and whether the plaintiff suffered economic loss. These losses were in a form of demurrage charges, drop in sales as a result of closure of the factory, salaries to workers and bank charges. The court relied on the principle of general damages which states that damages in law presumes follow from the type of wrong complained of. General damages do not need to be specifically have been sustained.
In the result, the suit succeeded and the plaintiff was awarded damages.
The appellant contended that the respondent had wrongly rejected the deductibility of bad debts which the appellant believed warranted to be written off.
The appeal centred on the identification and interpretation of provisions governing losses arising from bad debts which are deductable for income tax purposes.
The court reiterated that it was bound to apply plain language of a statute to give effect to the intention of the legislature. It went on to state that statutes are to be read as a whole in context, and, if possible the court is to give effect to every word of the statute.
The intention of the legislature was to devote the area of the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 2004 (ITA) covering sections 20 to 26 for purpose of providing guidance to tax payers like the appellant. In other words section 25(4) and 25(5) (a) of the ITA shows one gets the impression that in the preparations of its tax accounts to be assessed by the respondent, the appellant was given the opportunity to indicate therein, what debt claim had in the appellant's accounting, become a bad debt ripe for deduction by the respondent.
The court pointed out that the appellant did not discharge its evidential burden to prove that it complied with any one of the two options the appellant claimed to have complied with under section 25 (5) (a) of the ITA.
It was for the above mentioned reasons that the appeal was dismissed.
The appellant, a limited liability company dealing with the business of production and supply of natural gas, was involved in a tax dispute with the respondent.
The main issue for determination was whether or not the tribunal erred in upholding the board’s interpretation of s17 of the Income Tax Act (ITA) thereby agreeing with the disallowance by the respondent, of depreciation allowance sought to be deducted by the appellant from the income.
The court held that a person is entitled to depreciation allowance only upon meeting the two conditions stipulated in s17 of the ITA. The depreciable assets must be owned and employed in the production of the income in question.
The court stated that although the expenditure incurred in the production of the income from the business of natural resource prospecting, exploration and development shall be treated as if it were incurred in securing the acquisition of an asset, hence entitling the person to depreciation allowance on that asset, such an asset must have been in production of the income. The deduction of depreciation is based on capped life of the asset as from the first year of the production of the income.
In the result the appeal was dismissed as it was devoid of merit.
The issue was whether the eviction of the plaintiff from her house was a result of any wrongful and/or fraudulent order by the defendant.
The plaintiff's suit was founded on the tort of misfeasance in public office. The tort of misfeasance in public office had two forms, namely (i) cases where a public power was exercised for an improper purpose with the specific intention of injuring a person or persons, and (ii) cases where a public officer acted in the knowledge that he had no power to do the act complained of and that it would probably injure the claimant
The court held that the plaintiff had to prove that the first defendant exercised his power in execution of the decree in the matter for an improper purpose with the specific intention of causing injury to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff however, as held by the court, failed to discharge her burden of proof required of her that the first defendant made any wrongful or fraudulent order resulting into evection of the plaintiff from her house in execution of a decree in case. Simply stated, the evidence led by the plaintiff was too insufficient to discharge a burden of proof on the tort of misfeasance in public office.
In the result, the plaintiff's evidence alleging fraudulent acts fell short of the standard required and the suit 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 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 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.
The plaintiff was a tenant in the defendant’s premises when the tenancy agreement was terminated by the defendant.
The main issue was whether the termination of the lease agreement between the parties was illegal because the plaintiff was not served with notice of termination of the lease agreement.
The court found that the plaintiff breached the terms and conditions of the lease agreement by failing to renew the lease agreement and defaulting on payment of the rent on time.
The court considered a clause of the parties' lease agreement, finding that the parties had agreed in their lease agreement that notices relating to their lease agreement would be served to each of them in various modes. One of those modes was service by hand to the last official address of the party. Since the clause did not state that the notice must be served to the party in person or physically but to be served through his last official address the court found that service to the last official place of business of the plaintiff could not be said to have failed to meet the agreement of the parties.
Therefore, since the plaintiff was a tenant in the premises where the notice was served as he was doing his business there it cannot be said he was not served with notice to terminate the lease agreement because the notice was served to him through his last official place of business.
The court decided in favour of the respondent.
The main question of contention was who the rightful owner of the land in the dispute was and whether the person who distributed the farms to the plaintiffs had authority to do so.
The court considered the evidence adduced before it by both sides in an attempt to prove who is the rightful owner of the land. The court observed that despite the fact that the plaintiffs in the matter at hand were 51, only two out of all the plaintiffs testified before the court.
The law as provided under section 110 (1) of the Evidence Act, Cap 11 R.E 2002 states that whoever desires any court to give judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts must prove that those facts exist. The court held that when the question is whether any person is owner of anything to which he is shown to be in possession, the burden of proving that he is not the owner is on the person who asserts that he is not the owner. Since the plaintiffs asserted in the plaint are the rightful owner of the land in dispute it was their duty to prove the first defendant is not the owner of the land.
In the result the plaintiffs were found to have failed to prove the claims they filed to court against the defendants. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ suit was dismissed.
The applicant sought an order for a temporary injunction against the intended sale of a mortgaged property pending final disposal of a suit pending. The applicant's complaint was that his inability to service the loan was a result of the respondent's freezing of his account which made it impossible for him to perform his obligations under the credit facilities agreement.
The main issue was whether the applicant had established sufficient grounds to have the temporary injunction granted.
The court held that there were certain preconditions which a litigant had to meet before the court exercised its discretion to grant an application; for example demonstration that the applicant stood to suffer irreparable loss requiring the court’s intervention before the applicant’s legal right was established and proof of greater hardship and mischief suffered by the applicant if the injunction was not granted than the respondent will suffer if the order is granted.
The court also held that the conditions set out must all be met. Meeting one or two of the conditions will not be sufficient for the purpose of the court exercising its discretion to grant an injunction.
It is settled law that courts will only grant injunctions if there is evidence that there will be irreparable loss which cannot be adequately compensated by award of general damages. The court concluded that particulars of irreparable loss had not been given for the court's exercise of its discretion in the applicant's favour and so the application was dismissed.
The appellant claimed from the respondents jointly and severally for general damages for physical injuries he sustained after being involved in the accident caused by the motor vehicle owned by the first respondent and insured by the second respondent.
The issue was whether the magistrate erred in law and fact by considering false evidence tendered by the witness of the respondents.
The court held that the appellant did not state if it was all evidence tendered in court which was false or which part of it is false and was considered by the trial court’s magistrate and used in making the decision of the trial court.
The court noted that it had the duty as an appellate court to review the record of evidence of the trial court in order to determine whether the conclusion reached upon the evidence received by the trial court should stand. Though the court was in agreement with the appellant that motor vehicle insurance companies were statutorily duty bound to pay compensation to the victims of the accident caused by the motor vehicles of their clients but the compensation to be paid must be proved to the standard required by the law.
The court found that there was also no evidence tendered to the trial court to establish the appellant sustained permanent incapacity but he sustained temporary disability as indicated in the said exhibit.
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.
The case is an appeal by Media 24 Property Ltd which owns Forum and Vista community newspapers distributed in Welkom town against a decision of the Competition Commission Tribunal (the tribunal) which found that the selling of Forum newspaper in Welkom was predatory in contravention of s 8(c) of the Competition Act (the act). The tribunal ruled that the Forum newspaper was priced below the average cost to the detriment of other newspapers. In order to reach its decision, the tribunal employed the Average Total Cost concept (ATC).
On appeal, the appellant was challenging the use of the ATC concept as an appropriate benchmark for determining predatory pricing under the act. The court held that there are two tests for determining predatory pricing under s 8(d)(iv) being the benchmark of marginal cost and the Average Value Cost (AVC). It ruled that in order for the respondent (the commission) to show that the conduct of the appellant was predatory in nature, it needed to establish that the appellant is the dominant firm involved in selling goods below the marginal or (AVC). The court found that the ATC standard cannot be used to measure predatory pricing. It ruled that the Average Avoidable Cost (AAC) was the appropriate cost benchmark to determine predatory pricing. In light of evidence provided by the parties, the court found that the respondent failed to prove that Forum’s AAC exceeded its revenue hence the appeal was upheld.
Competition – Shareholders agreement – Non-compete clause – Whether a violation of horizontal restraints under the Competition Act
The applicants sought an interim interdict against the respondent bank, with which they had a bank-client relationship, to restrain it from terminating the operations of the applicants’ banking facilities.
The court considered whether courts could direct the respondent to continue its operations in the country against its will. The court held that the respondent’s decision to exit the country’s banking sector is one that the courts cannot interfere with.
The court relied on the respondent’s constitutional right to trade, which also entails the election of not utilising such right. The court remarked that the respondent’s decision to cease operations in the country rested on commercial considerations which were highlighted in para 15 of the judgement.
The respondents right to or not trade supersedes any right the applicant may have, thus the application was dismissed with costs.
The issue was whether a donation of an interest in a close corporation to the third respondent by the deceased could be declared unlawful and void for lack of consent in terms of s 15(2) and (3) of the Matrimonial Property Act (MPA). Further, if failure to set aside the donation timeously amounted to ratification in terms of s 15(4) of the MPA.
The court held in terms of s 15(4) that consent may be given by way of ratification within a reasonable time. If there was a lack of consent when entering into the transaction, the question is whether objectively, the benefiting party could have reasonably known that consent was required.
The court found that failure of the applicant to institute proceedings timeously does not support the conclusion that it was ratification in terms of s 15(4). The court also found that the conclusion of the transaction lacked the required consent. In that light, objectively, it was not incumbent for the third respondent to investigate the legal character of the deceased's first marriage before she accepted the donation. Therefore, deemed that there was consent in terms of s 15(3).
The court accordingly dismissed the application
The matter involved a dispute over the defendants’ refusal to release a certificate of title pursuant to an agreement to do so.
The first issue was whether the defendant was justified in not releasing the certificate of title belonging to the plaintiffs. The court observed that the defendant’s conduct in refusing to release the title created an impression of premeditated non-performance with the defendant only using the purported mala fides (bad faith) conduct as a farcical reason. The court thus concluded the defendants' conduct was unjustifiable.
The second issue was whether the conduct led to loss for the plaintiffs. Concerning whether there was loss of profits due to the plaintiffs being detracted from clearing their indebtedness the court found there was insufficient evidence to support it.Similarly, on the corresponding allegation that the conduct resulted in the incurring of interests due to another creditor, the court held that payment of interests had not been proved by the plaintiff. It thus denied the claim for both loss of profits and interest payments.
However, the court did accept that the actions of the defendant prevented them from discharging their indebtedness and thus resulted in the incurral of interest. It thus absolved the payment of the interests that arose within the affected period and consequently snuffed the corresponding counter-claimed interests for the period.
Regarding damages, the court reasoned that the plaintiffs had acted on the impression that the title would be released to enter into some arrangements which were frustrated by the defendants' unjustified conduct. It therefore granted general damages. Similarly, because of the defendants' oppressive and high-handed conduct, the court granted punitive damages.
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.
The court concerned whether the goods seized by the defendants were all released pursuant to a consent to judgment being signed, and payment being fulfilled.
The plaintiff instituted action against the defendants for a declaration that they had breach a consent order. The defendants, without the plaintiff being present, entered a warehouse and seized a substantial number of goods.
A consent to judgment was entered into, wherein it was alleged that the defendant had breached the consent by not releasing all the goods. The plaintiff sought recovery of the goods and said that the seizure was unlawful.
The court found that the test to be applied is as follows: 1) whether all goods were released? 2) If not, what is the value of the goods not released and the potential remedies available?
The court found that the burden of proof lies on the party who asserts that the truth of the issue is in dispute. When that party adduces evidence, which is sufficient to raise a presumption that what he alleges is true, the burden of proof shifts to the other party to counter allege and produce evidence to rebut the presumption.
The court found that a substantial portion of the goods were not released as a result of the defendant being overburdened in their workforce, which deprived the plaintiff from use of the proceeds of the goods. Therefore, the plaintiff should be compensated for the economic inconvenience and awarded general damages.
The plaintiff tried to claim exemplary damages for breach of consent to judgment, however this was denied as it was not proven that the conduct of the defendants amounted to oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional behaviour.
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
This case concerns the award of damages, or not, to compensate for the negative consequences of the respondent’s repudiation of a procurement contract. In the first instance, the trial court dismissed the suit with costs after finding that there was no contract between the parties. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court decision and awarded damages. The appellant, however, was dissatisfied with the quantum of damages awarded by the Court of Appeal and filed a further appeal to the Supreme Court, seeking damages for lost profits in addition to general damages. The respondent filed a cross-appeal proposing that the appellant’s appeal be dismissed, the decision of the Court of Appeal be reversed in part and the High court judgment and orders be restored. The respondent argued that no valid contract was entered into by the parties.
The court first considered whether there was a valid contract entered into between or executed between the parties under the 2003 PPDA Act and Regulations. PPDA section 76(3) requires that formal contracts be in writing. This requirement was not fulfilled. Consequently, no binding obligation arose out of the letter of bid acceptance. The court, therefore, dismissed the appeal filed by the appellant.
In this appeal, the first respondent filed a suit in the lower court against the appellants claiming damages for trespass on his access road and a permanent injunction from blocking the access road. Court awarded him damages and in enforcing it a warrant of attachment was issued of the appellants’ property with his school properties. The same was purchased by the second respondent by auction despite the attempt to block the sale. The grounds of appeal are premised on failure to evaluate evidence and to nullify the illegal sale.
The respondent successfully brought a suit against the appellants for
declaration that she was the rightful owner of the suit land, vacant
possession, permanent injunction and damages. The appellants were
dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court hence this appeal.
The court considered the issue of jurisdiction and whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the matter based on a contract which was concluded to be governed under Dutch law.
The defendants breached their contract as a result of not being able to fulfil their obligations in terms of the contract, and subsequently they unilaterally terminated the contracts.
The defendant contended that the application should be dismissed as the court does not have jurisdiction to hear the suit.
The court found that where parties have bound themselves to an exclusive jurisdiction clause, they ought to comply with that obligation, unless the party who is suing outside the scope of the prescribed jurisdiction gives adequate justification for doing so.
The court found that in order to dispute a jurisdiction, you have to show that the intention was to evade the operation of the provision in the relevant law, and that there was an element of fraud or duress or other evidence of mala fides (meaning an act done in bad faith). If these elements cannot be proved, then the selected forum will be upheld.
The court held that the contract was drawn and executed in Uganda, the plaintiffs reside in Uganda and if the matter was heard in a different jurisdiction the cost of housing, transporting and feeding a number of witnesses, including cost of counsel in a different jurisdiction would be nonsensical and would deny the defendants access to court.
The court found that the expertise of courts in Uganda are competent to deal with the matter, and as a result they had the required jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
Application is denied.
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 sought a declaration against the respondent that the Constitutional Court erred in refusing to award the appellant costs as a successful party and that it also based that refusal to award costs on incorrect principles.
The reference on taxation can be made to the Supreme Court on two grounds namely; on a matter of law or principle or on the ground that the bill of costs as taxed is in all circumstances manifestly excessive or manifestly inadequate.
The court held that there was no principle of law to the effect that the decision of the taxing officer must be subjected to the application of a ‘magic formula’ which when applied would result in a precise figure being arrived at in an almost automatic manner. Every case must be decided on its own merits and its peculiar circumstances, such as prolixity of the case in its preparation and any other peculiar complications in its presentation to the court.
The court held that, due to the difference in cases, uniformity and consistency may at times be defeated. Moreover, other factors ought to be considered by the taxing master. The fund or person bearing the costs must be considered before setting the award. A balance has to be struck between keeping the costs of litigation as reasonable as possible so as not to restrict access to court to only the wealthy, and the need to allow reasonable level of remuneration of advocates to attract worthy recruits to the profession.
In the result, the application was upheld.