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 case concerned whether the Supreme Court had the authority to quash a judgment handed down by the court below. The applicant contended that the court below lacked jurisdiction to interpret articles 127 (3) and 161 of the 1992 Constitution. The court considered the difference between interpreting a constitutional provision and applying a constitutional provision. It was found that all courts and adjudicating authorities are obliged to apply the provisions of the Constitution. Therefore, it would be a denial of justice to parties if constitutional provisions are not considered by a court of law or any adjudicating authority. Furthermore, it is only when the issue of interpretation arises that a court must stay its proceedings and refer the matter to the Supreme Court. In this matter, the court below was not called upon to interpret any provisions of the Constitution but merely to ascertain where the Registrar was a holder of a judicial office and whether the holder of a judicial officer had judicial power. The court found that Article 161 of the Constitution did not define judicial power. Therefore, not all judicial officers exercise judicial power. The court found that the court below had not committed and error that destroyed its jurisdiction, thus there was nothing warranting the Supreme Court to be called upon to quash the judgment handed down by the court below. Application dismissed.
The plaintiff sought a writ (being a written order of the court to abstain from acting) against the defendants. The plaintiff asked the court to find that the court below did not have jurisdiction to determine matters involving the interpretation and enforcement of the Constitution. The defendants in turn raised a preliminary objection to the plaintiff’s writ.
This case considered the preliminary objection raised in objection to the writ and whether the court had jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiffs action calling for a writ against the defendants, thus did the plaintiff properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court and whether the proper parties were before the court.
The court found that in determining whether its jurisdiction had been properly invoked, they were obliged to look at the preliminary objection of the writ before them.
The plaintiff argued that a single judge lacked the jurisdiction to determine matters involving the interpretation and or enforcement of the Constitution.
The court found that its jurisdiction had been properly invoked. On the second issue the court found that the Plaintiff had capacity to bring the application before this court.
The court found that the first defendant was properly cited and was a party in this application, however the second defendant was not a party to the action as the plaintiff did not show any act or omission which would justify the plaintiff citing him.
The second defendant was therefore struck out.
Preliminary objection overruled.
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 case related to a petroleum agreement between the Ghanaian government and a Norwegian company. The agreement was ratified by Parliament, but the Minister of Energy thereafter refused the company’s assignment of their Petroleum Agreement to its wholly owned local subsidiary. The question was whether Parliament’s permission is required to terminate a resource exploitation transaction, as they ratify it. The rationale for ratification is for transparency, openness and participation in matters involving natural resources but the exercise of checks and balances does not extend to approving termination of agreements that the executive has jurisdiction over. The court held that whereas Parliament ratified these agreements, the act remains an act of the executive and Parliament’s approval is not needed to terminate the agreement.
The court was called upon to determine who was entitled to ownership and possession of property in dispute between two purchasers. One purchaser claimed the property because they executed a writ of fieri facias (writ of fifa) attaching the property to recover a debt but this was not executed. A writ of fifa is a document issued by the court for the purpose of enforcing a judgment debt by permitting a judgment debtor to have a legal right to seize the losing party’s property to recover the amount due to them
Sometime later another party attended an auction, another purchaser purchased the same piece of property.
The court held that the sale at the auction was illegal because of the principle of nemo dat which provides that the first person to get title is entitled to that property notwithstanding any subsequent sale. Therefore even though the writ of fifa has expired, the party who got judgment get title to the property as judgment debtor.
The High Court gave a summary judgment in favour of a party relating to a declaration of title to a house, payment of accumulated rent and an order of ejection. The Court of Appeal overturned the judgment but invoked supervisory jurisdiction to make an order compelling issuing of land title to the interested party.
The court held that the interested party could not apply for the supervisory jurisdiction for a judgment that was overturned – and this was impermissible. A party is not permitted to undermine a decision of an appellate court overturning a decision of the trial court to apply for supervisory jurisdiction when the judgment to be supervised has been set aside. For these reasons the application to set aside the supervisory orders was set aside.
The court considered an application for a declaration on how to interpret an order made by the Supreme Court on the subject of a register of voters. The court provided that a party can apply to clarify a previous decision of the court to make it easier to understand, especially in cases where part of the judgment is ambiguous. The court has inherent jurisdiction to clarify a judgment, but such clarification cannot be used to make a substantive change to the existing decision. An application to clarify a judgment cannot be used to ask the court make the same order again as this would amount to suing a party again for the same cause.
The court in this case clarified the issue of what was meant by ‘delete’ names from the register of voters, but refused to clarify the judgment to the extent that would amount to modifying or altering the substance of the judgment.
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.
The dispute emanated from a decision of the appeal court to overturn compensation award given to the appellant by the High Court.
The appellant was offered 6.19 acres of land by the respondent under a lease agreement. The respondent after 10 years was ordered to cede the land leased to the appellant back to its original owners. The respondent took 5 acres from the appellant leaving him with 1.6 acres of the land which was given to him for free. After 11 years the appellant successfully claimed compensation for the 5 acres taken, a decision which was later overturned by the appeal court.
The appellant was now appealing against the decision to overturn the compensation award. He argued that the trial court erred by concluding that the 1.6 acres given to him was compensation. He further contended that there was no evidence to show that as the respondent’s employee he manipulated the system to allocate himself land. The respondent maintained that there was evidence to show that the 1.6 acres allocated to the appellant was compensation and that he manipulated the system to allocate himself large pieces of land.
In deciding the matter, the court held that the appellant was the lessee and not the owner of the land in dispute. He was not entitled to any compensation. It ruled that the 1.6 acres that he received was more than enough compensation. It further ruled that the appeal court never said the appellant manipulated the system. The appeal was thus dismissed.
The matter involves an application brought by judicial service staff’s union (plaintiff) over a dispute about their pension scheme and benefits.
First the court had to determine whether the phrase ‘all persons serving in the Judiciary’ applies in exclusion of non-bench judicial service staff and whether the plaintiff’s members were constitutionally subjected to the CAP 30 pension scheme or the SSNIT scheme. First, it established the consistent meaning of ‘judiciary’ in the constitution as that body that exercises judicial power and administers justice. The constitutional definition of judiciary therefore did not include non-bench judicial staff. The effect thus is that the plaintiff’s members were not placed under the CAP 30 pension scheme since they did not belong to the constitutionally-delineated class constituting the Judiciary. It should be noted, however, a dissenting opinion took on a more expansive approach that included the non-bench staff. Nevertheless, the court concluded the placing of the plaintiff’s members on the SSNIT scheme was not wrongful or in constitutional violation.
On the questions of discrimination, the court reasoned that as employment matters are purely contractual, the conduct of differential treatment in employment conditions did not amount to discrimination. It did, however, in holding for the plaintiff, decry the inconsistencies with best practices in remuneration management and constitutional procedures.
The court also held for the plaintiff by finding that the President could not delegate his function under arts 149 and 158(2) as this would be unconstitutional. Further, it also found ss 213(1)(a) and 220 of Act 766 to be unconstitutional to the extend it conflicts with constitutional provisions.
This case considered whether employees who were claiming compensation for loss of employment were ‘permanent employees’ in terms of an employment contract. The case additionally concerns whether the Court of Appeal had misdirected itself with regards to the weight of evidence.
The plaintiffs contended that they were employed by the respondent as permanent employees in terms of an employment contract. The respondent subsequently went into liquidation and the plaintiffs claimed for loss of compensation.
The court held that for a plaintiff to be entitled to benefits as an ex-employee, they should spell out clearly the terms of their employment as contained in their contract of employment and then prove their entitlements under those terms. The plaintiffs assume the burden of persuasion and producing evidence, however, it was clear that they were unable to produce a written agreement which spells out their terms of employment. The court found that any contract of employment for more than six months which was not in writing was unenforceable.
The plaintiffs had been employed for 10 and 12 years respectively, but failed to obtain letters of appointment. It became apparent that they were only employed for the duration that they were engaged on a particular voyage.
The court found that to be a permanent employee one would need to prove employment through the use of a contract of employment, which was in writing and could be used as evidence to illustrate the terms thereof. In this case, the plaintiffs were only employees when the respondents required their services. Furthermore, the court held that the Court of Appeal had not misdirected itself with regards to the weight of evidence as the plaintiff failed to properly prove their claim.
The case concerned the extent of the National Media Commission’s (‘the Commission’) legal mandate under the National Media Commission Regulations (‘the Regulations’). It was argued that certain provisions amounted to censorship, and control and direction of mass media communication as it required an operator to seek authorization of content prior to publication on a media platform, and were thus unconstitutional.
The issues for determination were: whether the original jurisdiction of the court was properly invoked; whether the cumulative effect of the impugned provisions amounted to censorship; whether the cumulative effect amounted to control and direction over professional functions and operations; and whether the Standard Guidelines issued under the regulations were vague and unconstitutional.
The jurisdictional issue concerned whether the plaintiff sought a striking down of provisions without scrutiny to assist the court in its determination. This issue was to be determined on an examination of the relief sought and the pleadings. What was important was that both raised a case cognizable under the Constitution, which the plaintiff’s documents did.
On the second issue, the court held that some form of censorship was permissible under the Constitution; however where censorship laws are introduced they must be justifiable by being reasonably required in the national security interest, for public order, public morality, or the protection of the rights of another. What the second defendant wanted was akin to prior restraint. With reference to case law, the court held that prior restraint was not legally justifiable. Law must be precise and guide future conduct, which it was not in this case. The regulations were contrary to the Constitution.
On whether the Commission was empowered to impose criminal sanctions, it was held that Parliament could not delegate this function to the Commission.
As regards the third issue, the court had to define ‘direction or control’ in the context of the Constitution. Control or direction as used in the provision had the same meaning and effect as telling operators what they should or should not do in their publications. This function belongs to the media, not the Commission.
The plaintiff’s claim was upheld.
The applicant sought orders from the court against an order made by the same court where one judge presided and the cross-examination of the applicant was ordered.
The court had to consider two issues; whether there was a violation of the applicant’s right to privacy and whether o 46 r 2 was applied appropriately.
The court held that there was no violation of the applicant’s right to privacy and that the aforementioned rule was applied appropriately.
Regarding the alleged violation of the right to privacy, the court stated that the applicant did not make reference to any legislation that prohibits the oral examination of a judgement debtor in an open court. Regarding the rules, the court drew a distinction between Order 42 r 1 and r 2; the former dealt with garnishee proceedings and the latter dealt with proceedings other than those relating to garnishee proceedings. The court went on to say that the rational for the rule was consistent with its application.
The court dismissed the application in its entirety and ordered that the oral examination of the applicant would continue.
This was a matter referred to the court for the interpretation of the right of privacy as provided in the constitution in relation to the admissibility of evidence in form of a secretly recorded telephone conversation.
The court determined whether the secret recording the defendant’s right to privacy. The court held that the recording interfered with the defendant’s right beyond what he had consented. This is because defendant opted for a means of communication that did not record his speech in a permanent form. The court also determined the admissibility of the evidence since it was obtained in violation of human rights. The court noted that Ghana does not contain a provision that provides for circumstances in which a court is required to exclude such evidence. The court was in favor of the discretionary rule approach that takes into account policy considerations when enforcing human rights by excluding evidence. It was held that admission of such evidence would undermine the integrity of court proceedings and bring disrepute to the administration of justice and should be excluded. Accordingly, the court gave an order to the same effect.