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  • 1962-05-26
  • 1 GLR 401-403
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Local courts?-Jurisdiction in land cases?-Defendant counterclaims and states value of land as G3,000?-Counterclaim struck out for want of jurisdiction?-Defendant contests claim and wins?-Plaintiff raises jurisdiction on appeal?-Courts Act, 1960, (C.A. 9) s. 98 (2).


In a land suit in the Ho Local Court Division II, the defendant counterclaimed for title and stated the value of the land as G3,000. He thereafter filed a motion objecting to the jurisdiction of the court. The local court magistrate ruled that in view of the value and the boundaries stated by the defendant, the land being claimed by the plaintiffs could not be the same as that claimed by the defendant, and as the value of defendant's land was over G200 the local court had no jurisdiction. The court struck out the counterclaim, and proceeded to hear the claim. The defendant contested the action, led evidence, and won. The plaintiffs appealed.


APPEAL from a judgment of the Ho Local Court Division II given on the 13th December, 1961.

This is an appeal from the judgment of the Ho Local Court Division II delivered on the 13th December, 1961, in favour of the defendant-respondent herein.

The appellants' claim against the respondent was for a declaration of title to all that piece or parcel of land commonly called Awakpeta in the Awudome state, the boundaries of which are therein described. The defendant-respondent also counterclaimed against the plaintiffs- appellants as follows:

"The defendant-counterclaimant claims against the plaintiffs jointly and severally a declaration of title right interest ownership and recovery of possession of all that piece or parcel of land situate lying and being at Sokode Division commonly known and called Awakpe land found by settlement by the defendant counterclaimant's great-grandfather naturally known and called Afesi of Awapke clan on section of Kwanta Awudome, descended to the defendant by right of inheritance customarily, after the people of Awakpe clan, section or family have perished and defendant-counterclaimant as the only survivor of Afesi and Awakpe family's nephew.

The plaintiffs are now wrongfully claiming this property as their property or land. The boundaries whereof: on the north bounded by the property of Sam B. Attipoe of Ho, on the south by the property of Nicholas Dotse Yaku of Kwanta Awudome, on the west by the property of the defendant counterclaimant's paternal property and on the east by the property of Fia Klu of Anyirawase Awudome, absolutely sold to Sokode people?-and the value is approximately G3,000."

Upon a motion coming before the trial court on the 25th October, 1961, as to its jurisdiction to entertain the suits, the court ruled as follows:

"I am satisfied that the land for which the plaintiffs sued worth G200. This case is within the jurisdiction of this court. The counterclaim filed by defendant is in respect of a land value G3,000. Its boundaries are not exactly those of the land for which the plaintiffs sued and is therefore quite a different land. This court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine the counterclaim. The counterclaim is therefore struck out of the list."

The basis upon which the trial court found that the land claimed in the counterclaim is different from the one claimed by the plaintiffs at that initial stage, without a plan and without an inspection is not shown on the record. By subsection (2) of section 98 of the Courts Act, 1960,1 a local court magistrate could properly strike out a claim for lack of jurisdiction where it appears to him that the value of the land in above G200, and where there is not consent to his jurisdiction; but in this case, the trial court struck out the counterclaim not only because the value of the land was given as G3,000, but because it was in respect of a different land although in the counterclaim the defendant-respondent stated that the appellants were wrongfully asserting title to his land.

Having ruled that the counterclaim is in respect of a different land, and since the appellants did not sue in trespass, it was incumbent upon the trial court to find out what was the respondent's stand in relation to the appellants' claim aside of his own in the counterclaim which had been struck out. This the trial court did not do, and in my view that is the source of the confusion. What is shown on the record is that when called [p.403] upon, the respondent led evidence claiming exactly the same area of land as set out in his counterclaim which had been struck out, and he called evidence in support of this. There is no doubt then on the evidence led by the respondent that the trial court magistrate had adjudicated upon a subject-matter upon which he had himself held he had no jurisdiction, and that the trial was all a confusion. It appears that the trial court was bent on hearing the case although it had been put into difficulty by the value of the land given in the counterclaim, and that in order to give itself jurisdiction, it struck out the counterclaim; but having done so it found itself in further difficulty by the evidence which the respondent led.

It has been submitted that in giving judgment for the respondent, the trial court paid no regard at all to the evidence which the respondent led in defence of the suit. But I am unable to see how in these circumstances the trial court could have found against the appellants as it did without considering the respondent's case at all. Quite apart from this aspect of the trial court's error, it is clear on the evidence that one of the most important features on the land on which the trial court ought to have made a finding and to show on whose portion of the land it was is the stone quarry in respect of which, on the evidence, compensation has been paid to the appellants; but this it omitted to do.

In these circumstances, it is my view that the whole trial was highly unsatisfactory and that the judgment cannot be allowed to stand. Accordingly I do allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the trial court, but remit the case back to the trial court to be heard de novo by a magistrate different from the one who heard this case.

I award the appellants 45 guineas costs in this court; costs of the abortive hearing to abide the result of the re-hearing.


Appeal allowed; case remitted for re-hearing.

Plaintiff / Appellant

Awoonor Williams for G. S. Lassey

Defendant / Respondent

F. T. C. Amorin


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