Court name
Commercial Court of Uganda
Judgment date
17 September 2013

Kekurutso Syson v Fast Truck Financial Services Ltd (Miscellaneous Application-2013/8) [2013] UGCommC 159 (17 September 2013);

Cite this case
[2013] UGCommC 159

THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA

IN THE HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT KAMPALA

(COMMERCIAL COURT DIVISION)

MISCELLENEOUS APPLICATION NO. 8 OF 2013

(ARISING FROM HCCS NO. 448 OF 2012)

 

KEKURUTSO SYSON:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::APLICANT

VERSUS

FAST TRUCK FINANCIAL SERVICES LTD::::::::::::::::RESPONDENT

 

BEFORE: HON. LADY JUSTICE HELLEN OBURA

RULING

 

This application was brought under Order 36 rule 34 and Order 52 rules 1 & 3 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and Section 98 of the Civil Procedure Act (CPA) for orders that the applicant be granted unconditional leave to appear and defend the suit and the costs of this application be granted to the applicant. The grounds of the application as stated in the motion and the affidavit in support deposed by the applicant are that the respondent has exaggerated its claims. The second ground is that the loan was well secured and the respondent should have resorted to the security.

 

The respondent filed an affidavit in reply to the application deposed by Rwabajungu Ambrose, the Managing Director of the respondent. He deposed, inter-alia, that the applicant has no defence to the suit.

 

Both counsel in the matter filed written submissions hence this ruling. Counsel for the applicant submitted that in applications for leave to appear and defend the applicant must show that there are genuine triable issues either of law and fact in the main suit which calls for court’s intervention. It was argued for the applicant that at this stage the applicant need not prove these issues and it suffices if the applicant just raises them in the affidavit. Accordingly, the applicant’s counsel raised the following issues which in his view are triable in the main suit.

  1. Whether the lending contract was executed under the provisions of the Money Lender’s Act.
  2. Whether the said lending contract violates the provisions of the Stamps Act.
  3. If so, whether it is an illegal contract.
  4. Whether the applicant’s cheques given to the respondent were meant to act as security.
  5. Whether the respondent had a Money Lender’s License, and if not, whether the contract was illegal.

 

In support of his argument in favour of grant of this application, counsel for the applicant relied on Abubakar Kato Kasule v. Tomson Muhwezi HCCS No. 167 of 1990 reported in [1992-1993] HCB 212 and Geoffrey Gatete & Another v. William Kyobe, Supreme Court Civil Appeal No. 7 of 2005 reported in [2007] HCB Vol. 1. 54. He then submitted that the issue of illegality has been pleaded in this application therefore it should be investigated and proved at the trial. He relied on the case of Kirat Singh & Co. v Punja Meghi & Sons Civil Appeal No. 62 of 1951 for the position that the issue of illegality was an arguable one which cannot be dealt with in a summary suit.

 

In his response, counsel for the respondent started by contesting the competence of the application on two grounds, firstly, that the application was brought under the wrong law as rule 34 of Order 36 of the CPR does not exist and secondly that the application was  signed by counsel for the plaintiff instead of counsel for the applicant. He argued that it would be tenaciously wrong in law for court to grant this application brought under the wrong law in the absence of any amendment. For that position this court was referred to the case of Patrick Kawooya v. C. Naava [1975] HCB. However, the above authority was not attached and it appears to have been wrongly cited since I was not able to locate it in the above law report.

 

As far as the merits of the application are concerned, counsel for the respondent summed up the grounds of the motion and argued that the money lending contract was freely executed within the ambit of the law under freedom of contract as the applicant cannot be seen to approbate and reprobate her actions in the face of having never effected a single coin on the loaned monies to deserve this Honorable Court’s empathy as she is estopped by law pursuant to section 114 of the Evidence Act Cap. 6. He cited the case of Lisseden v C.A.V Bosch (1940) A.C 412 at 417 per Lord Maugham who held that:

 

“…it is settled law that in law, a person is not allowed to take the benefits under an instrument and disclaim the liabilities imposed by the same instrument…it is equally settled law that no person can accept and reject the same instrument.”

 

In addition, counsel for the respondent referred to the case of Stanbic Bank Uganda Ltd v Uganda Crocs Ltd [2001-2005] HCB 68 where the Lord Justices of the Supreme Court held, inter alia, that:

“…when a person has by his or her declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act upon that belief, neither he nor she nor his or her representatives shall be allowed in any suit or proceedings between himself or herself and that person or his representatives, to deny the truth of that thing…”

In that regard, counsel for the respondent submitted that the applicant cannot accept having taken the loan and at the same time reject its conditions of re-payment which she freely accepted to comply with. He contended that the applicant did not come to court with clean hands as the maxim of equity resonates that “he who comes to equity comes with clean hands”. It was argued for the respondent that by not demonstrating any good will in ever making any single payment on the loaned monies, equity cannot surely favour the applicant as she has not come to court with clean hands. Counsel cited the case of Vimilla Thakar v. Lalita Minilal Raja & 4 Other SCCA No. 3 of 2003 where the Lord Justices of the Supreme Court observed that neither the appellant nor the respondent’s behavior and acts conform to the old maxim that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

 

While referring to paragraphs 2, 4, 5 and 6 of the affidavit in support of the motion, counsel for the respondent submitted that the applicant clearly admits the debt owed to the respondent and prayed that this court enters judgment on admission of the claim pursuant to Order 13 rule 6 of the CPR. The respondent’s counsel relied on the case of Pan African Insurance Company v. Uganda Airlines [1985] HCB 53, 54 for the position that a plaintiff is entitled to judgment on the defendant’s admission of the claim. The counsel for the respondent also relied on the case of Kampala District Land Board & Anor v National Housing and Construction Corporation S.C.CA. No. 2 OF 2004 where the Lord Justices of the Supreme court held, inter alia, that under section 56 ( now 57) of the Evidence Act, those facts once admitted needed no further proof and were no longer in issue. He contended that the fact of indebtedness is no longer in issue and therefore the application should be rejected for being an abuse of court process.

 

The counsel respondent argued in the alternative and without derogation from the above, that in the event that this court finds it fit to grant leave to the applicant, the same be tied with a condition of paying into court half the monies claimed within fifteen days pursuant to Order 36 rule 8 of the CPR like in the case of Tusker Mattresses (U) Ltd v. Royal Care Pharmaceuticals Ltd HCMA No. 38 of 2010 where this court granted conditional leave to the applicant. He also relied on the case of Kundal Restaurant v. Devshi & Co. [1952] 19 EACA 77 where the Court of Appeal of East Africa held, inter alia, that leave will be given subject to payment into court where there is good ground for believing that the defence is a sham. 

 

In a brief rejoinder, counsel for the applicant reiterated that the contract between the parties was illegal and should be investigated by court. It was also contended for the applicant that the purpose of this application is not to prove the applicant’s defence to the suit but to ask for opportunity to prove it through trial. It was argued on the basis of Geoffrey Gatete & Another v. William Kyobe (supra) that what the court has to determine is whether the defendant has shown good cause to be given leave to defend.

 

Before delving into the merits of this application, I wish to first deal with the two issues raised by counsel for the respondent namely that; this application was brought under a wrong law and the motion was signed off by counsel for the plaintiff. 

 

With regard to the provisions of the law, the applicant brought this application under Order 36 rule 34 of the CPR which does not exist as rightly pointed out by counsel for the applicant. The proper provision that governs applications for leave to appear and defend is Order 36 rules 3 and 4 of the CPR which require the defendant to file an application for leave to appear and defend the suit accompanied with an affidavit. Unfortunately, in his submissions in rejoinder, counsel for the applicant made no response to explain away the anomalies in the application as highlighted. Nonetheless, courts have held that citing a wrong provision of the law or failure to cite a provision of the law under which a party seeks a redress before court is a technicality which should not obstruct the cause of justice. It can safely be ignored in terms of Article 126 (2) (e) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. See: Alcon International Ltd v. The New Vision Printing and Publishing Co. Ltd & The Editor in Chief, New Vision & Sunday Vision, Supreme Court Civil Application No. 4 of 2010 as per Okello G.M. JSC (as he then was).

 

On the basis of the above authority, it is my finding that citing Order 36 rule 34 instead rules 3 and 4 of the CPR is only a matter of procedure which is not fatal and should not be used to frustrate the cause of justice. In any case, the authority of Patrick Kawooya v C Naava (supra) which the respondent’s counsel sought to rely on to support his argument was not availed to this court and it appears to have been wrongly cited. Even if it had been availed to court it would not have been of much assistance because it is a 1975 decision which has been overtaken by more recent decisions based on Article 126 (2) (e) of the Constitution of Uganda that emphasizes administration of substantive justice  without undue regard to technicalities.

 

As regards the error in the notice of motion, it is indeed true that the notice of motion was signed by counsel who described himself as “Counsel for the Plaintiff” instead of “Counsel for the Applicant”. Clearly this was an error in drafting although the applicant’s counsel never made any response to that submission and as such did not own up to it. I therefore do not find any prejudice that would be occasioned to the respondent by that error.

 

For the above reasons, I find no merit in the objections raised by the respondent’s counsel and they are accordingly ignored as I proceed to consider the merits of this application.

 

The Supreme Court of Uganda in the case of Geoffrey Gatete & Another v William Kyobe, (supra) held that:

“In an application for leave to appear and defend a summary suit, the court is not required to determine the merits of the suit. The purpose of the application is not to prove the Applicant’s defence to the suit but to ask for opportunity to prove it through a trial. What the court has to determine is whether the defendant has shown good cause to be given leave to defend.”

 

The applicant’s counsel is of the view that the application meets the test set out above as there are bona fide triable issues of fact or law shown by the affidavit.

    

I have considered the grounds of this application as well as perused the plaint in summary suit and the supporting affidavit and the attachments particularly the Money Lending Agreement. I have also considered the arguments for and against this application based on the affidavits of both parties. The brief background to this application is that by virtue of a Money Lending Agreement executed between the respondent and the applicant on 2nd March 2012, the respondent extended to the applicant a loan of UShs. 50,000,000/= for which the applicant undertook to pay on or before 2nd May 2012 with interest of UShs. 20,000,000/=. As security for the repayment of the loan, the applicant deposited with the respondent a certificate of title for her land comprised in Mengo District, Busiro County, Block 394, Plot 132 measuring 0.754 hectares situated at Sekiwunga. In addition the applicant also issued to the respondent some postdated cheques.

 

It is alleged that the applicant has reneged on her promise to pay back the loan with interest.  The applicant does not deny getting the loan but contends that she was advised by her lawyers that the transaction is illegal and in contravention of the law. She also claims that the respondent has exaggerated its claim yet the loan was well secured by her land which the respondent is at liberty to sell to recover its money as provided in the agreement. Her counsel has raised a number of what he considers triable issues that would merit granting this application. To my mind most of those issues are based on technicalities and do not address the substantive dispute. The applicant has already enjoyed the benefits that accrued from the very agreement she is now challenging.

 

Be that as it may, this court would not ignore the alleged issue of illegality due to failure to comply with some provisions of the law raised by the applicant. This can only be properly investigated in the main suit. Another issue that I see as meriting trial is the alleged inflated claim as stated in paragraph 8 of the affidavit in support of the application. This is because the agreement is clear that the applicant was lent Shs. 50,000,000/= on 2nd March 2012 which amount was payable on or before 2nd May 2012 plus interest thereon of Shs. 20,000,000/=. It was agreed that upon default the total sum or any outstanding amount would become due and payable upon demand and recoverable by the lender at the borrower’s costs. The applicant deposited with the respondent her certificate of title for her land comprised Mengo District, Busiro County, Block 394 Plot 132 measuring 0.754 hectares situated at Sekiwunga. The respondent was given unfettered power to sell that property to realize its money upon default.

 

The respondent has filed a summary suit by which it seeks to recover Shs. 140,000,000/= with interest thereon plus costs of the suit. The respondent refers to interest of Shs. 10,000,000/= per month but I have failed to locate that provision in the agreement which is the basis of its claim. To my mind this would raise a genuine triable issue as to whether the loan agreement provide for such monthly interest which can be claimed beyond the agreed period and on that ground alone I would be inclined to allow this application.

 

As for the issue whether the lending contract was executed under the provisions of the Money Lender’s Act, the Money Lending Agreement which is annexture A to the plaint shows that it was executed under the Money Lender’s Act. I do not therefore see why this would be a triable issue when the document speaks for itself. For that reason, I find that it has no basis and cannot constitute a triable issue in the main suit.

 

On the whole, it is my considered view that the applicant has raised some triable issues as indicated above that merit granting her leave to appear and defend the main suit. In the result, the applicant is granted unconditional leave to appear and defend the suit and she shall file a written statement of defence within ten days from the date of this ruling. Costs of this application shall be in the cause.

 

I so order.

 

Dated this 17th day of September 2013.

 

 

Hellen Obura

JUDGE

 

Ruling delivered in chambers at 3.00 pm in the presence of Mr. James Muhumuza for the applicant and Mr. Eric Kiingi for the respondent whose Managing Director was also present.

 

 

JUDGE

17/09/13