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AMEGBE v. TEPA


  • appeal
  • 1960-01-19
  • COURT OF APPEAL
  • GLR 7-8
  • Print

KORSAH C.J., VAN LARE J.A. AND GRANVILLE SHARP J.A.


Summary

Defamation?-Customary law?-Innuendo that elected chief an imposter?-Whether "a matter of a constitutional nature"?-Jurisdiction of Native Court.

Headnotes

In an action in the Kpandu District Court "A" for defamation based upon publication of words to the effect that a chief, (an Odikro and declared by a competent tribunal as such) was an imposter, judgment was given for the plaintiff. The defendant applied to the High Court for a writ of certiorari to remove the proceedings and judgment to the High Court for quashing on the ground that the matter raised was a "matter of a constitutional nature" over which the Native Court had no jurisdiction. The application was refused and the applicant appealed to the Court of Appeal against this decision.

Judgement

APPEAL against the decision of Ollennu, J. refusing an application for the issue of a writ of certiorari to remove the proceedings and judgment of the Kpandu District Native Court "A" in an action for slander to the High Court for quashing for want of jurisdiction. The judgment of Ollennu, J. is reported in 3 W.A.L.R. 392, where the facts are fully set out.

JUDGMENT OF KORSAH C.J.

This is an appeal from the decision of the Divisional Court, Accra refusing to grant an order of certiorari to remove and quash the [p.8] proceedings and judgment of the Kpandu District Native Court "A" in a suit in which plaintiff claimed damages for defamation. He alleged that he had been slandered in that the defendant had said at a public meeting:-

(a) that plaintiff must cease applying the title of "Odikro" to himself;

(b) that he (the defendant) would sue plaintiff before any competent court if plaintiff continued using the title of "Odikro".

The plaintiff had, in fact, been elected and installed, and had been known as "odikro" over a period of eight years, and there has been, and is, no dispute as to this fact.

The defendant admitted publishing these words concerning the plaintiff, and explained that he gave this warning because one Katamantu once said in an arbitration that the real post or title of the plaintiff in the Twi language is "mankrado" and not "odikro", Defendant further contended that the predecessors of the plaintiff were called "afetor" and not "odikro". It should be noted that "afetor" means in the Ewe language "head of a house" (that is, of a community). The Twi title "odikro" means precisely the same thing. The Native Court rejected the defendant's explanation, held that the plaintiff had been slandered, and entered judgment for him for 70 damages and costs.

There has been no appeal from that judgment of the Native Court on the merits. Counsel for the defendant elected rather to take his stand upon a contention that the proceedings instituted by the plaintiff raised a question relating to political or constitutional relations (under customary law) between chiefs, which, under the State Councils (Colony and Southern Togoland) Ordinance, is triable only by the State Council. It is enough to say that we accept the contrary view, expressed by the learned judge who heard the application, that it is not such a matter, but is a personal suit over which the Native Court had full jurisdiction.

We would wish to take this opportunity of pointing out that justice may well be defeated by a party who accords too much importance to, and lays an exaggerated and (as in this case) unjustifiable emphasis upon, the impingement of the law relating to constitutional matters on the facts of a case. In the present case, if there was a slander at all (and we for ourselves would say that it is a moot point) it is a slander of such trivial significance as to merit an award of damages much less than was awarded by the Native Court. We are precluded, however, as was also the learned trial judge from passing judgment on the Native Court's award of 70 damages with costs, by reason of the fact that the appellant's advisers have chosen to raise a constitutional issue, and to apply for the prerogative writ of certiorari on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction in the Native Court. It is upon the learned judge's ruling on that application (and on that alone) that the appeal comes before the court.

We therefore dismiss this appeal.

Decision

<P>Appeal dismissed.</P>

Plaintiff / Appellant

Dr. Danquah

Defendant / Respondent

No appearance

Referals

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