Purposive Interpretation

Concorp International Ltd. Vs. East and Southern Development Bank ((Civil Appeal No 11 Of 2009)) [2010] UGSC 19 (18 October 2010);


Headnote and Holding: 

The first issue was whether the appellate court erred in law and in fact to conclude that the respondent could not be sued. The court observed a difference in the extent of immunity accorded in the domestic act and that granted in the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank Charter of the Preferential Trade Area (PTA) for Eastern and Southern African States (the charter) and Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank Act (the act), with the charter providing for absolute immunity whilst the act offered functional immunity. It reasoned that the intention of the act is to govern the relationship between Uganda and the respondent. Applying the ejusdem generis rule (that a general term describing a list of specific terms denotes other things that are like the specific elements) to interpret the objectives of the act, the court concluded that immunity was not intended to extend to third party relationships as these are not covered by the functionality principle underpinning the act. The court held the appellate court erred in its finding and instead concluded against immunity.

The second question was whether it was a procedural requirement to obtain a waiver before instituting suit against the respondent. Reiterating the functionality basis of the respondent’s immunity and the fact that it did not extent to suits from third parties for contractual breach, the court reasoned that the waiver requirement was inapplicable and unnecessary. It thus concluded that there was no need to obtain a waiver before commencing suit and allowed the appeal. 

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