Tanzania: Court Ordered to Expedite Hearing 150m/ - Compensation Suit

THE Court of Appeal has ordered the High Court to expedite the hearing of the tenyear old suit lodged by Christian Makondoro, demanding 150m/- compensation from the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General for, among others, malicious prosecution.

Justices Stella Mugasha, Ferdinand Wambali and Barkey Sahel reached into the decision when determining an appeal lodged by Makondoro, the appellant, who challenged the dismissal of the suit on grounds that the High Court lacked pecuniary jurisdiction to determine the matter.

"The judgment is set aside and we direct the case file to be returned to the High Court, placed before the trial judge to determine the point she raised on jurisdiction after hearing parties. This should be expedited as soon as practicable as the matter has been pending for about ten years," they ruled.

Having carefully considered the submission on record, the justices noted that it was not in dispute the issue about the trial court lacking pecuniary jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter was raised suo motu (own motion) and determined by the Court in the course of composing the judgment.

They observed, however, that the burning issue and gist of the appellant's complaint was that since parties were denied the right to be heard, this is irregular and the decision is void.

They said that was cardinal principle of natural justice that a person should not be condemned without being heard.

According to the justices, the Court in a number of decisions has emphasised that the courts should not decide on a matter affecting the rights of the parties without giving them an opportunity to express their views.

"Consistent with the constitutional right to be heard as well as settled law, we are of the firm view that, in the case at hand, the adverse decision of the trial Judge to reject the suit on account of lacking jurisdiction without hearing the parties is a nullity," they said.

The justices also pointed out that such a move by the trial judge was in violation of the basic and fundamental constitutional right to be heard.

During hearing, counsel for the appellant, had submitted that though the question of jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the proceedings including an appeal, he faulted the trial judge's rejection of the suit on account of lacking pecuniary jurisdiction without re-summoning the parties.

Advocate Elias Hezron had contended that the High Court judge should have accorded the parties an opportunity to address the Court on the issue which was raised suo motu.

Before the High Court of Tanzania, at Mwanza, the appellant commenced a civil suit against the respondents for unlawful assault, wrongful confinement and malicious prosecution.

The reliefs claimed by the appellant were, among others, payment of 150m/- being damages; interest on the decretal amount from the date of filing the suit till payment in full and any other reliefs that court may deem just to grant.

After the preliminaries were disposed and mediation marked to have failed, the trial was conducted hinging upon three issues, including whether or not the appellant was wounded prior to his unlawful confinement and whether she was maliciously prosecuted.

After the witnesses from both sides had adduced evidence and counsel filed final submissions, the trial judge dismissed the suit on grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to determine the matter in question.

It was at that point in time when the appellant crossed over to the Court of Appeal.

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