Court name
HC: Civil Division (Uganda)
Case number
Civil Revision 1 of 2013
Judgment date
15 August 2013

Concern Worldwide v Mukasa (Civil Revision 1 of 2013) [2013] UGHCCD 105 (15 August 2013);

Cite this case
[2013] UGHCCD 105

                   THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA

            HIGH COURT OF UGANDA AT SOROTI

                  CIVIL REVISION NO. 1 0F 2013.

(Arising from decision of Chief Magistrate  Moroto dated 21st March, 2013 in  Civil Suit  1 of 2013)

                CONCERN WORLDWIDE ...............................                                                                                                        APPLICANT

                                                                                                                                           VERSUS

                MUKASA KUGONZA .......................................                                                                                                        RESPONDENT

BEFORE HON. LADY JUSTICE H. WOLAYO

REVISION ORDER

Ms Sebalu & Lule Advocates for the applicant complained to the High Court by letter dated 2nd April 2013  about a decision by the Chief Magistrate Moroto , HW Katorogo Moses  in  Moroto Civil Suit  No. 1 of 2013.  The complaint is in two  parts:

  1. That the Chief Magistrate acted without jurisdiction when he entertained an employment dispute  contrary to section 93 of the Employment Act  2006  which confers jurisdiction  on the District Labour Officer.
  2. That the Chief Magistrate  relied on defective service of summons to enter default judgment against the applicant.

The applicant seeks a revision order under section 83 of the Civil Procedure Act.

At  the presentation of arguments, Mr. Segawa appeared for the applicant and Mr. Apo-oroma appeared for the respondent.

Section 83 of the CPA confers  revision  powers on the High Court  to call for proceedings of lower court to :

  1. Satisfy itself that the lower court acted with jurisdiction or
  2. Failed to exercise jurisdiction that is duly vested or
  3. Exercised jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity or injustice.

Where there is lapse of time or some other cause, power of revision shall not be exercised  if  it causes  hardship to any person.

The facts of the case are not in dispute. The  respondent sued the applicant for wrongful dismissal and termination of  an employment contract and prayed for special and general damages. The court entered what it called a default judgment comprised of the following orders

  1. The defendant pays the plaintiff his due salary from the date of termination of service.
  2. The defendant pays the plaintiff his calculated salary for the remaining period.
  3. The defendant pays 6,000,000/ as general damages.
  4. The defendant pays interest at 25 % per annum on the monetary awards.
  5. The defendant pays costs of the suit.

In my opinion, the default judgment  is another area for revision in addition to the grounds articulated by counsel for the applicant, namely, acting without jurisdiction, and entering a judgment based on  defective service.

Acting without jurisdiction

Mr. Segawa for the applicant submitted, rightly, that section 93 of the Employment Act confers jurisdiction in the first instance on district labour officer in these terms:

       ‘ except where the contrary is expressly provided for by this or any other

     Act, the only remedy available to a person who claims infringement of any

      of the rights granted under this Act shall be by way of a complaint to a

      labour officer.

 The respondent was employed as a driver under a written contract of employment. Section 3 of the Act provides that the Act applies to all employees employed under a contract of service. The section exempts some categories of employees but  the respondent’s employment as a driver is clearly governed by the Employment Act.

 Mr. Apo-Oroma’s  submission that section 207 of the Magistrate’s Courts Act  conferred jurisdiction on the CM is not sustainable. Whereas section 208 of the MCA confers civil jurisdiction on magistrates courts, this is only to the extent that that jurisdiction is not expressly or impliedly barred. As  Mr. Segawa rightly submitted, the Employment Act  removes jurisdiction from magistrates courts and confers jurisdiction in employment disputes on district Labour Officers and the Industrial Court on appeal.  The preamble to the  Employment Act  is instructive in this regard.  It states that the Act is to revise and consolidate the laws governing individual employment relationships which Act then sets up structures and procedures for dealing with employment disputes.

I therefore find that the CM acted without jurisdiction when he entertained the suit  based on breach of employment relations.

However, in order not to deny the respondent a right to  be heard, the suit will be registered in the High Court at Soroti  which has unlimited jurisdiction  irrespective of section 93 of the Employment Act. This  order is made bearing in mind that the Industrial Court  is not yet in place to handle appeals from district labour officers.

Default judgment

Although the issue of jurisdiction disposes of the complaint, i wish to comment on the character and content of the default judgment.   A default judgment is entered  where there is proof of service and the defendant has not filed a defence within the specified time. Rules 6 and 8 of  order IX  of the CPR are relevant. Under rule 6, where  plaint is for a liquidated demand, judgment will be entered for the sums claimed. However under rule 8, where the claim is for pecuniary damages, the rule requires that an interlocutory judgment is entered and the suit set down for  formal proof.

In the instant case, the claim  was for unspecified sums of money  and for general damages for wrongful dismissal. Clearly, there was need for the respondent to adduce evidence  of wrongful  dismissal and  for his entitlements under the contract, that is if the CM had jurisdiction. It was not up to the magistrate to interpret the contract  when the plaintiff had not specified what he was demanding in the plaint.

The awards in the default judgment  are not based on any evidence . I find that in making the awards in the default judgment, the magistrate acted with material irregularity. I also find that the magistrate erroneously entered a  default judgment  when the correct entry should have been  an interlocutory judgment.

Defective service of summons

As the  findings on jurisdiction and default judgment  are sufficient basis for a revision order, i shall not go into the defective service.  Suffice it to say, the court must satisfy  itself that the service of summons is delivered to the defendant in person or if it is a corporate entity, to the officials authorised to receive service. Order V of the CPR  gives clear guidance on service of  summons.

 

In the premises, i make the following orders.

  1. The default judgment  is set aside
  2. The vehicles that were attached in execution be released from attachment.
  3. The decretal sum that was ordered to be deposited in court be returned to the applicant.
  4. The suit will be registered in the High Court at Soroti and fresh service of summons will issue.
  5.  A copy of this revision order will be delivered to the Chief Magistrate, Moroto and all magistrates in the circuit .
  6. Costs of this revision in the cause.

DATED AT SOROTI THIS  15TH AUGUST, 2013.

         Hon. Lady Justice H. Wolayo