THE Court of Appeal has ordered the High Court's Commercial Division to expedite the hearing of an 8bn/- seven-year-old commercial dispute on infringement of patent rights in modifying bodies of tourist safari vehicles lodged by Moshi-based Company, RSA Limited.
Justices Stella Mugasha, Jacobs Mwambegele and Ferdinand Wambali reached the decision after invoking their revisional jurisdiction under section 4 (2) of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act to nullify the judgment of the High Court, which was challenged by RSA Limited, the appellant.
"We direct the case file to be returned to the High Court to determine the points of objection raised after hearing the parties before proceeding to determine the merits of the case.
This should be expedited considering that the matter has been pending in courts for about seven years," they ruled.
In the impugned judgment, the High Court ruled in favour of Hanspaul Automechs Limited and its director, Mr Govinderajan Senthil Kumal, who were respondents in the appeal, after refusing to grant the reliefs sought by the appellant, who had been claiming to have exclusive patent rights.
The justices noted that during the hearing of the matter before the High Court, the respondents had raised a question of jurisdiction, which was determined by the trial judge when composing the judgment without calling the parties so that they could be heard before determination.
They pointed out that having come across the points of objection to determine a dispute involving copyright infringement, the trial judge ought to have re-summoned the parties to address it, instead of dismissing the preliminary points of objection and proceeding to determine the merits of the case.
According to the justices, an objection on a point of law challenging the jurisdiction of the court could be raised at any stage and has to be determined first before resolving the substantive matter, thus it was disturbing that the parties were not given the opportunity to be heard before dismissal of the point of objection.
They insisted that the Court in a plethora of decisions has emphasized that courts should not decide matters affecting the rights of the parties without according them an opportunity to be heard because it is a cardinal principle of natural justice that a person should not be condemned without being heard.
"We are satisfied that the adverse decision of the trial judge to dismiss the points of objection without hearing the parties is illegal as it was in violation of the fundamental constitutional right to be heard and the parties were prejudiced. This renders the entire judgment a nullity," the justices said.
The appellant, RSA Limited, is a Company dealing in the manufacture of converted bodies of motor vehicles used in tourism safaris, called "War Bus."
He was the plaintiff in the High Court of Tanzania (Commercial Division) at Dar es Salaam in Commercial Case No. 160 of 2014 against the respondents.
He claimed that the respondents infringed his copyright by manufacturing similar motor vehicles' bodies using the drawings designed by him, the RSA Car Model bodies.
The appellant claimed that the infringement caused him to suffer specific damages by way of business and goodwill.